The Bible Project

The Abraham Experiment - Generosity E3

Episode Summary

Welcome to our third episode discussing the theme of generosity in the Bible!

Episode Notes

In this episode, Tim and Jon trace this theme through the Old Testament.

In part 1 (0-19:45), the guys briefly recap their discussion so far. Tim notes that Eve’s reaction in Hebrew between the birth of Cain and the birth of Seth are decidedly different. Tim says that Eve takes an arrogant stance by naming Cain, seeming to place herself alongside God. However, she takes a humble stance when she names Seth, seeing that God has granted her a son. Tim quotes scholar Umberto Cassuto:

“The first woman in her joy at giving birth to her first son, boasts of her generative power, which in her estimation approximates the divine creative power. The Lord formed the first man, and I have formed the second man. Literally, ‘I have created a man with the Lord,’ by which she means, ‘I stand together equally with the Creator in the rank of creators.’”
(Umberto Cassuto, Commentary on the Book of Genesis: Part I - From Adam to Noah)

Tim notes that in the Bible, there are many stories of parents who abuse the gifts that God gives them in the ability to reproduce and have children, or they take undue parental pride in the gift of children.

In part 2 (19:45-25:45), Tim and Jon discuss the theme of God choosing one over another. Tim points out that God’s choosing of one over another is actually a desire to bless all through the exaltation of the one. God says Cain will be exalted if he only obeys. Instead, Cain chooses to bow to his sinful desires.

In part 3 (25:45-32:30), Tim moves onto the story of the Tower of Babel. Humans were called to spread out and rule the earth. Instead of embracing that gift, the humans decide to build a towering city.

In part 4 (32:30-44:15), Tim dives into the story of Abraham. God chooses one family, the family of Abraham. Tim says that the Promised Land is God’s “gift” to Abraham’s family:

Genesis 12:1-3

Now the Lord said to Abram,

“Go forth from your country,
And from your family

And from your father’s house,

To the land which I will show you;

And I will make you a great nation,

And I will bless you,

And make your name great;

And you shall be a blessing;

And I will bless those who bless you,

And the one who treats you as cursed, I will curse.

And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Genesis 12:7
“To your seed I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to Yahweh who appeared to him.”

Jon points out that sometimes famines come along. Sometimes, there isn’t enough. This tension does exist in the Bible, Tim notes, between God’s abundance and the existence of chaos. God didn’t create a perfectly safe world. He created a world where humans were to learn to co-rule with him, creating order from chaos.

In part 5 (44:15-end), Tim notes that God keeps giving the Promised Land to Israel, and they keep misusing the gift. He cites two passages from Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 11:8-14
“You all shall therefore keep every commandment which I am commanding you today, so that you may be strong and go in and possess the land... so that you may prolong your days on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give to them and to their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. For the land, into which you are entering to possess it, is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed and water it with your foot like a vegetable garden. But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year.


“It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul, that he will give the rain for your land in its season, the barley and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil.”

Tim then cites scholar Joshua Berman, saying that Israel’s economy was an “Exodus-style” economy:

“A key theological claim at work in these laws is that of God’s identity as the liberator of slaves. He forms a people out of those who were deemed to be people of no standing at all by the political and economic leaders who oppressed them. The egalitarian streak within Pentateuchal law codes accords with the portrayal of the Exodus as the prime experience of Israel’s self-understanding. Indeed, no Israelite can lay claim to any greater status than another, because all emanate from the Exodus—a common seminal, liberating, and equalizing event… This notion of God’s sovereignty as creator and liberator animated the biblical laws aimed at preventing Israelites from descending into the cycle of poverty and debt.”
(Joshua Berman, Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought, 88)

Deuteronomy 24:19-22
“When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the immigrant, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the immigrant, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.”

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Show Music:
Defender Instrumental by Tents
Quietly by blnkspc_
Mind Your Time by Me.So
The Pilgrim by Greyflood

Show Resources:
Umberto Cassuto, Commentary on the Book of Genesis: Part I - From Adam to Noah
Joshua Berman, Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought

Show Produced by:
Dan Gummel

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