Genesis 16–19: Covenant & Judgment

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 5: Monday

For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him..”
Genesis 18:19

Monday’s Bible reading is Genesis 16–19. These chapters continue to recount the life of Abraham. Two strands of events are covered in these chapters: God’s covenant with Abram and his descendants, and God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Chapter 16: The presumption of Sarai and the birth of Ishmael.
Chapter 17: God restates His covenant with Abraham and gives circumcision as a sign.
Abram and Sarai are renamed Abraham and Sarah.
God promises the birth of Isaac by Sarah.
Chapter 18: God’s promise of Isaac reiterated.
God’s proclamation of His judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah.
Chapter 19: Sodom & Gomorrah destroyed and the sin of Lot’s daughters.

The first strand is God’s covenant with Abram. Sarai’s presumptuous act to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise by giving Hagar to Abram to bear his child, not only brings affliction to Hagar, but will have dire consequences for Sarai’s descendants. God promises Hagar uncounted descendants and tells her of Ishmael’s nature and hostility to come. Kent Hughes writes,

“Note well that there is not a word here about the great promise to Abram. Ishmael’s prophecy is apart from the promised land, apart from the great promise to Abram….

“The historical reality is that Ishmael’s offspring become a thorn to God’s people both under the old and new covenants. Through Ishmael, the firstborn, they claim Abram as their father and affirm that they are his truest representations. Little did Abram and Sarai imagine that their shortcut would run for millennia and that oceans of blood would be spilt. Abram, the father of the faithful, had begotten a wild man instead of a child of grace. How tragic was Abram’s expediency.”1

God reiterates His promise to Abram and promises a son, Isaac, to him and to Sarai. God gives circumcision as a sign of His covenant with Abraham and his descendants. Paul writes about Abraham in Romans 4:

“…he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.

“For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.”
Romans 4:9–13

Later on in the Bible you will also see circumcision of the heart referenced.

The other strand in these chapters is God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 13:13 states the men of Sodom were “wicked exceedingly.” God says in Genesis 18:20, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.” It’s clear from Genesis 19 that their sin is the sexual immorality of homosexuality, and not the sin of inhospitality as some have claimed. To attempt to make such a case is a mockery of the seriousness of their sin and of the righteousness and mercy of God.

Abraham pleas for mercy for the cities in chapter 18, and God agrees to spare them if only ten who are righteous can be found. Not even ten can be found, however, and Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed. Lot’s family lingered and would have all died if not for the angels seizing them and getting them out of the city. In the aftermath, Lot’s wife looks back and becomes salt while Lot’s daughters, obviously having become acclimatized to the practice of perverse sexual sin, each commit incest with their father in order to bear children. Their sons’ descendants, the Moabites and the Ammonites, will become enemies of Israel.

After you read of Sarah and Abraham presuming to take matters upon themselves and of the sordid sin of Sodom, Gomorrah and Lot and his daughters, the faithfulness of God and the wonder of His mercy is truly worthy of wonder and praise.

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
ESV: English Standard Version
1R. Kent Hughes, Genesis, pp. 242–243.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

One thought on “Genesis 16–19: Covenant & Judgment

  1. Although I read this yesterday, it took me until today to finish the post. Keep reading the Bible—don’t wait for me!

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