Genesis 17-20: Abram’s covenant & rape

When Abram is 99, God establishes a covenant with him.  Abram will be the father of a multitude of nations, but every male among his descendents must be circumcised as a sign of the covenant–including all slaves.  Abram’s name is changed to Abraham, Sarai’s to Sarah, and Abram has all males in his household circumcised.  Afterwards, when Abraham is sitting beside Mamre, three men approach; Abraham treat them with extraordinary hospitality and they leave for Sodom.  The LORD informs Abraham of his intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their grave sin.  Abraham bargains with God, until he eventually promises to spare the city if 10 righteous people could be found inside.

The two angels arrive in Sodom in the evening, and Lot invites them to spend the night in his house.  During the night, all the men of Sodom demand that Lot give them the guests to rape.  Lot offers to let them rape his daughters instead, but they refuse.  The LORD strikes the men with blindness and the guests tell Lot to leave the city with his family, which he does.  During his flight, his wife looked back upon Sodom and was turned into a pillar of salt.  After the flight, Lot’s two daughters get him drunk and rape him to produce children.  Abraham sojourns in Gerar with Sarah, claiming Sarah is his wife.  King Abimelech takes Sarah to be his wife, after which the LORD threatens him with death.  Abimelech reprimands Abraham for deceiving him and restores his wife to him.

Commentary:

  • Chapter 17 is the second account of God’s covenant with Abram, the first being chapter 16.  The two accounts are not aware of each other, differ in many details, and are from different sources: 17 is from P, while 16 is from J.
  • The LORD presents himself to Abram as El Shaddai in 17:1.  El Shaddai probably originally meant “God, the One of the Mountain.”  Canaanite deities are commonly associated with mountain abodes.
  • After Lot’s daughters rape him, they produce two sons: Moab, the father of the “Moabites of today”, and Ben-ammi, “the father of the Ammonites of today”.  The Moabites and Ammonites were Israel’s enemies.
  • Notice that 3 angels appear to Abram, but when they arrive at Sodom, there are only two angels (19:1).
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