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A Limited God?
Genesis 18:20-33 and 22:1-12

Doug Ward
Edited by Dennis Bratcher

For centuries of Christian thought and tradition, the Genesis narratives have usually been understood to reveal an all-knowing, transcendent God.  This understanding is well attested by the church fathers, and theologians of the church throughout the centuries. -1-  Yet upon closer examination perhaps the Genesis narrative reveals a different kind of God altogether – a God who responds to and with His people, and a God who can change His mind and genuinely be surprised. The reader may even find a God who discovers new things in relationship to His creation.

While there are various ways to approach this issue, here we will look at two different accounts from the Genesis narrative - Genesis 18:20-33 and Genesis 22:1-12.  Theological and dogmatic traditions tend to provide a filter or a lens through which we read many biblical passages, and sometimes obscure what the text actually says (for various articles dealing with such assumptions see Issues and Methods in Interpreting Scripture). I propose looking at these two passages very carefully for what they tell us about God apart from those theological traditions and categories.

I will argue that a plain reading of these accounts leads to a slightly different understanding of God than the all-knowing, transcendent God with which we are so familiar from our theological confessions. In these texts we find a God who discovers things anew in relationship to His people, who acts in relation to human decisions, and who adapts his course of interaction in response to circumstances.  Perhaps if we listen carefully to the text, it allows, even encourages this kind of reading. -2-

Genesis 18:20-33 (NIV)

20 Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know." 22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD.  23 Then Abraham approached him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge  of all the earth do right?"

26 The LORD said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake."  27 Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?"  "If I find forty-five there," he said, "I will not destroy it." 29 Once again he spoke to him, "What if only forty are found there?"  He said, "For the sake of forty, I will not do it." 30 Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?"  He answered, "I will not do it if I find thirty there." 31 Abraham said, "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?" He said, "For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it." 32 Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?"  He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." 33 When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

Our first text is a part of the larger Sodom and Gomorrah story. The opening lines should reveal to us that this is no ordinary story. In this opening refrain the writer shows us a different side of God than we have come to expect.  Note that God, here called by his proper name YHWH (usually pronounced as YAH-weh) by the author, does not declare that Sodom or Gomorrah is guilty (see YHVH: The Proper Name of God in Hebrew). He merely declares in a conversational manner, "I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know." (NIV, 18:21) 

These are not the words of a deity who has certain knowledge of what has transpired, let alone a God who has made up His mind concerning His actions. Rather, a plain reading shows the reader that YHWH is seeking to discover exactly what is happening. What the text reveals is an active God with tremendous knowledge. However, in this text God's knowledge does not reach the level of the classical description of omniscient, as we tend to use the term. There is clearly something here that God does not know and decides to find out: "I must go down and see" (18:21).

Several passages in the Old Testament seem to depict God as less than omniscient. Most of these pertain to God's knowledge of the future, but some seem to indicate that even His knowledge of present realities is less than exhaustive. -3- 

For many readers of the Bible, we have now moved beyond confident ground and into a world that is rarely contemplated.  Many try to blame this on anthropomorphic language, speaking of God in purely human terms. They would assert this is only the limitation of human speech and conceptions that does not really describe how God really is (ontology).  Yet a plain reading of this passage shows a God who is seeking this information.

What is one to make of these texts, which seem to fly in the face of the classic understanding of God's omniscience? Traditionally most theologians have labeled this presentation of God as anthropomorphic. But some respected Old Testament theologians argue that these passages are ontological windows into the divine nature that must be taken at face value. -4-

Yet this text is often ignored, and it is ignored because of what it suggests about God.  It is ignored because a decision has already been made by some about God’s foreknowledge, working largely from categories outside the biblical text itself. Taking this verse for what it actually says would contradict those presuppositions.

So if we decide to take this text with any level of face value at all, within the context of the narrative, what does this reveal about God?  Perhaps even more importantly we may ask, what does the rest of this account tell us about God?  Are we taking a snapshot of the narrative too far, or does the rest of the story validate this reading?  This is an important topic. 

Sometimes we, as readers of the text, allow our pre-conceived notions to determine our reading.  What does not match with our notions gets abandoned, while anything that seems to affirm our position as we approach the text is embraced.

In dialogue with Greek thinking, Christian tradition let God's possession of supernatural knowledge turn into God's possession of all knowledge. It thereby lets that override the good news of the correlative evidence in Scripture that God does not always know everything and that God finds things out. -5-

So a God who discovers things with His people may be an entirely new concept to some. Yet, to others who ask question about the disjunction between a God who knows everything and the existence of evil in the world, this may be considered "good news." (see The Problem of Natural "Evil")

At the close of this scene the reader moves on to verse 23: "The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD."  While this seems relatively straightforward, many scholars have long noted a textual variant that we should at least note.  In Hebrew manuscripts, this verse is marked as a tiqqun sopherim, a scribal correction to the original text. A tiqqun sopherim is an instance where words or phrases were traditionally understood to have been deliberately changed by the scribes because they thought the original words sounded irreverent in some way. That change is marked in the manuscript margin.

According to this tradition, the original reading, "YHWH remained standing before Abraham," has YHWH taking the subordinate position. It was this idea of YHWH being accountable to Abraham that was so unacceptable to the early scribes. So they reversed the subject and predicate and had Abraham standing before God. The manuscript notations preserves the tradition of this scribal "correction."  Walter Brueggemann has been among the loudest voices on this issue.  Brueggemann accepts the ancient Jewish tradition of the tiqqun sopherim as valid, and as a result understands the original text to have been "YHWH remained standing before Abraham".  -6-

If this textual reading is correct, God is doing more than responding to Abraham, "It is as though Abraham is presiding over the meeting."  -7- It is this meeting between YHWH and Abraham that makes this text so unique.

Starting with verse 23 Abraham and YHWH are immersed in a conversation over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.  There is no mention by YHWH of His intention to destroy the city, or any comment of what He intends to do. Yet there seems to be an understanding of what is being planned, and the fate of Sodom hangs in the balance.   What begins is an intensive bargaining session between God and Abraham.  "The process, like a barter in a Near Eastern bazaar, moves from fifty to ten."  -8-

We should note the comfort of this conversation, at least in the beginning.  Here is a God who is willing to engage Abraham about the fate of this city.   Remember, this entire passage begins in 18:17 with God openly declaring that whatever His intention, He plans to share His considerations with Abraham.   As surprising as this divine intention is, Abraham’s response to God is even more bold.  Abraham does not merely acquiesce, nor does Abraham meekly petition God for an alteration in plans, instead Abraham aggressively questions God, and challenges Him concerning His intentions.  "Shall not the judge of all the Earth do right?" (18:25) "But what of the question he had put to God when told of the plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah: Clearly, Abraham had challenged God in the most audacious way." -9-

The text seems to support this reading of a bold and audacious Abraham.  As Abraham challenges this understood fate of Sodom, he questions God on the rightness of His plans.  As the numbers dwindle from fifty down to ten, there are hints that this conversation has taken on very real characteristics. 

Abraham starts off with a confident appeal in vv. 23-25 and ends with a hesitant "Do not be angry, my sovereign." On the other hand, while the LORD in each case accepts his plea, the tone of the acceptance perceptibly cools. He begins with the positive pair of words "If I find . . . I shall spare." He ends with two more ominous pairs, "I shall not ruin it . . . for the sake of." So it is not altogether surprising that Abraham ends his intercession where he does; the tone of God's replies conveys the feeling that he cannot be pushed much further. -10- 

It is the genuine portrayal of this conversation that adds so much meaning to this passage.  Far from a dry ritual, or a meek entreaty, there is the real sense of give and take between Abraham and God.  The reader does not know where the conversation is going, and waits to see where it will end.  The reader may be surprised to see that the conversation abruptly ends at ten, instead of five or one.   The issue here is not one of mere numbers, but as presented, it is a story about who God will be.  This strikes the modern ear as presumptuous, but the text leads us in this direction.  Many have seen in this text an important principle taking shape: will the righteous be able to act in behalf of the guilty?  "Should not a small minority of guiltless men be so important before God that this minority should cause a reprieve for the whole community?"  -11-

Gerhard Von Rad takes this point even further.  He sees in this text a new pattern for all of humanity, and claims that Abraham here is not arguing in behalf of Sodom, or even his cousin Lot. -12-  While this point may be overstated, the principle of the righteous acting in behalf of the guilty is evident.  Abraham questions whether acting in this manner would be more God-like. Thus the conversation.  So throughout this whole episode, from the early statement that YHWH needed to see for Himself what was happening in Sodom to the final bargaining session, we see a God who interacts, responds, and even discovers things anew.

If this were a lone text that leads a reader to this conclusion, we might have reason to marginalize this text as an oddity. Yet Genesis does not give us that opportunity.  Just a few chapters later in Genesis 22 we have an even more surprising, some might say troubling, text.

Genesis 22:1-12 (NIV)

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied.  2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."  3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?"  "Yes, my son?" Abraham replied.  "The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" 8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"  "Here I am," he replied.  12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

This has always been a difficult text for many readers.  It is a dark story of a father trudging up a distant mountain to do the unthinkable with a special son who is laden with promise.  This is one of those stories that often seem to come from one strand of the Pentateuchal traditions, known to scholars as the Elohist or E traditions, where God is a benevolent and distant God, but One who is not to be taken lightly. -13- 

In any case, it is safe to say that most approach this text as a test of Abraham’s faith. -14-  This narrative begins with a relatively straightforward statement that God is testing Abraham, and most readers stop with this understanding. Yet this is not the conclusion that the text seems to indicate.  Just as important is the conclusion of this test, where God states plainly and simply, "Now I know that you fear God" (22:12). 

All readers agree that this is a test, but what is being tested?  Our easy answer is the faith of Abraham, but the text reveals more.  This is a test about God’s plan. Can His choice be trusted to carry out this covenant relationship?  The resolution to this test is God's exclamation in verse 12, "Now, I know." 

There are numerous internal reasons to come to this conclusion.  One is the structure of this passage.  Some have noted that this story is structured around a series of 3 calls and responses.  The structure, then, looks like this.

Series 1 – summons by God/Abraham's response/God's commands v. 1-2
Series 2 - summons by Isaac/Abraham's response/Abraham's  statement v. 7-8
Series 3 – summons by Angel/Abraham's response/Angel's release v. 11-12 -15-

This structure becomes important as it serves to bracket this story as a unit.  Verse 12 becomes the climax for what has come before.  Abraham is the object of the test, but the intended result is what God now knows. 

Verse 1 then sets the test, suggesting God wants to know something.  And that is settled in v. 12 with 'now I know.' There is real development in the plot.  The flow of narrative accomplishes something in the awareness of God.  He did not know.  Now He does. -16-

This new knowledge is also demonstrated through a linguistic analysis.  The Hebrew word translated as "now" is  "the temporal adverb 'now' which gives the impression God had discovered information He did not previously know." -17-  Commenting on Genesis 22:12 Brueggemann states, "It is not a game with God.  God genuinely does not know. And that is settled in verse 12, 'Now I know.'" -18-

It is at this point that many readers pull away from the text, nervous about the apparent implications. Yet, the reader must not let these feelings determine the plain and simple implications toward which the text leads us.   Apparently, God is not certain of what Abraham’s response will be until He puts the patriarch to the test.  The covenant is hanging in the balance.  "But the Scripture puts the phrase on the lips of God to let us know the what and the why of this terrible test, and so to tell us how it was, as it were, a clarifying experience for God." -19-

In classrooms and over coffee tables, Christians debate the knowledge of God in certain limited terms.  These discussions usually revolve around the question of what part of life, if any, is foreordained by God.  We need not waste space here describing the battle lines in this debate, for they are well-known and established along Reformed and Arminian lines (see God’s Foreknowledge, Predestination, and Human Freedom).

In smaller circles this debate has revolved around concepts of the future. This is not even so much the question of "does God know the future," but is perhaps better expressed as "can God know the future," or "is the future even knowable?"  These texts take us far beyond even these questions, perhaps into uncomfortable areas.

Referring to Genesis 18 and 22 as well as other passages, Goldingay argues that these texts "will show that God has extraordinary knowledge, but will incorporate no declaration that YHWH is omniscient, and preclude that by the way they portray God acting so as to discover things." -20- These texts take us far beyond a knowledge of the future and reveal a God who does not have exhaustive knowledge of even some present realities.  So God seeks to know in Genesis 18, and discovers new realities in chapter 22. 

Perhaps because of a deep discomfort with what these texts seem to state plainly, many have dismissed this reading as an unfortunate by-product of ancient anthropomorphic descriptions of God. That is, they describe God in finite human terms from limited human perspectives, and not necessarily describe what God really is.  Goldingay answers these objections succinctly. "Talk of God acting to find something out is anthropomorphism," but he quickly adds: "Such anthropomorphisms presumably tell us something true about God's relationship with the world."  -21-  It is even perhaps better stated by Howard Moltz, "Finally, what can be said of God, of his thoughts and feelings not only at the time he ordered the sacrifice but afterwards as well?  Such a question, of course, is strongly anthropomorphic, but then the God of the Hebrew Bible, in the words of James Barr, is a 'strongly anthropomorphic God'."  -22-

The reader is left with an even more unsettling view of God, a request to sacrifice a son so that YHWH would know something of Abraham that He did not know before.  Yet this is precisely where the reader is left at the end of the account.  Because of his faithfulness Abraham is now known as a faithful covenant partner.

Nothing in the text suggests that this was for Abraham’s benefit . . . There also is nothing here to suggest that God already knew the outcome of the test.  Taken at face value, this text certainly seems to teach that God used this test to discover something that He did not know, that He could be sure that Abraham would indeed obey His command. -23-

Even a cursory reading of the life of Abraham in the preceding chapters would demonstrate plenty of reasons for God to have doubted Abraham (see Abraham’s Faith Journey: The Macrostructure of the Abraham Story).  Some have seen an odd linkage in these accounts to the testing of Job.  Abraham, like Job, is being tested with the intent of determining his faithfulness to God.  -24-

In Genesis then are these two prominent texts and both seem to address similar issues.  In both texts there is a crisis, in Genesis 18 it is the fate of Sodom, and in Genesis 22 the reliability of Abraham.   In both texts God does not know present information, and discovers new information as He deals with humanity.  In both "the intent of God is 'to know' which leads to a crisis." -25- In spite of the pre-suppositions that the reader carries into these texts, s/he must take seriously this viewpoint of God – a God that discovers new things in relationship with His people.

For those who understand Genesis to be composed of various strands of earlier tradition, this is especially true. In these two texts we have narratives from two very different strands of those traditions, one from the strand traditionally called J (Genesis 18) and one from another strand usually labeled E.  (Genesis 22). Yet, both strands attest to a God whose knowledge is less than all-encompassing. -26- So we cannot retreat to the notion that this idea is some sort of anomaly limited to a single strand of Hebrew or Israelite tradition, sort of a rogue notion outside of the mainstream of biblical perspectives. Even if we take the position that the various strands of tradition presented very different ideas and emphases, as these texts stand within the final book of Genesis they present very similar ideas about God. The final editor or compiler of the traditions of our Old Testament text obviously felt this presentation of God was so vital, that he incorporated two different strands early in Genesis to proclaim this idea.

Perhaps another question would be about what the greater canonical text says about this matter.  Is this a picture of God that transcends Genesis, or do we see something in these texts that only the early authors, or Moses, struggled with before making a determination once and for all?  So let us look at other texts for guidance on this matter.  If we find a pool of other texts that match this description of God, then we can lend even greater weight to the picture that emerges here in Genesis.

Textual Pool

In a search to find similar descriptions about God, these texts were found.  I will not claim this list is exhaustive, but will list these in an effort to show that our reading of Genesis 18 and 22 is not out of the mainstream.

Exod. 4:8 - Then the LORD said, "If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second.

Deut. 8:2 - Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.

Deut. 13:3 - you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Judges 3:4 - the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo  Hamath. They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD's commands, which he had given their forefathers through Moses.

2 Kings 20:1-20 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, "This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover. . . This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. . . I will add fifteen years to your life.

2 Chron. 32:31 - But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.

Jonah 3:10 - When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

Jeremiah 3:7 - Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. 7 I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it.

Amos 5:14-15 - Seek good, not evil, that you may live.
            Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you,  just as you say he is.

            Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.
            Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

In all of these texts a consistent theme emerges. Perhaps the testing of Abraham in Genesis 22 is not only not an anomaly, but a precursor to a theme that will be seen numerous times in the Old Testament.  God tests His people in an effort to see how they would respond.   A suggestion can be made that this Abraham story stands as an example to the people of Israel when they are undergoing testing.  If God tests Abraham to see if He will stay faithful, then we should stay faithful as well.  

This pool of texts also shows us a synonymous theme:  God is often surprised by the actions of His people.  Whether that means disappointment in Jeremiah 3, or reversal of promised destruction in Jonah, God shifts His reactions to match His people.  "Certainly these passages, like the Abraham passage, seem to indicate that the test had to be performed so that Jehovah [YHWH] could know what they would do, implying that He did not know what they would do until the moment actually came."  -27-

I added the 2 Kings text to further demonstrate the point.  Critics can easily respond, "Wait a minute!  God did not just tell Hezekiah that he would live, but told him he would live another 15 years. That sounds like a God that knows the future."  Of course they would have a point, but we still have to deal with the original change from "you will die" to "you will recover."  The point here is not that Scripture speaks unequivocally, but that there is a rich source of texts that lead us away from a classical omniscience position.

As with many things in Scripture, we stand before the text not with a certainty, but with an even greater range of questions.

Scripture offers us a story, so we are left with the questions.  Can there be for God a before and after lodged in a human life?  A before and after so incorporated into the reality of God that every time is defined by a before and after?  -28-

Perhaps even these questions can be put more simply.  Perhaps our text is more than just laced with anthropomorphic language. Perhaps it expresses the heart of a God who enters into such a relationship with humanity that it is difficult to divide language from experience.  Like the God this language describes, perhaps He has so entered our world, and is in such relationship with His people, that God does experience life with His people.

Conclusion

Admittedly, for most people this is an unfamiliar way to examine these two texts, which reveal a little discussed side of Israel’s God.  In these texts we have seen revealed a God who not only has limited knowledge of the future, but surprisingly even a limited knowledge of the present.  Yet this limited knowledge did not distance God from humanity, but rather was seen in relationship with His people. The God of Genesis 18 and 22 was challenged, debated, and even altered his intended course in relationship to Abraham.

So the reader is left with the question of how to interpret these passages.

Faced with this troubling passage, theological interpreters have a number of options. First, we may recognize that Scripture contains a number of (often dissonant) voices, all of which contribute to what we must now hear as Scripture, and in which we should discern the voice of God. -29-  

And perhaps most surprisingly, the reader can see this is not an isolated passage, but a consistent expression of God's activity in the Old Testament.  While this picture of God might be unsettling, it is an aspect of God that must be considered alongside other pictures of God revealed in the text.

Bibliography

Boice, James. Genesis, Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982.

Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis, Interpretation, Atlanta: John Knox, 1982.

Chisholm, Robert B.  "Anatomy of an Antropomorphism: Does God Discover Facts," Bibliotheca Sacra 164, No. 653, Jan-Mar 2007.

Erickson, Millard. What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

Garrett, Duane.  Rethinking Genesis, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991

Goldingay, John. Israel's Gospel, vol. 1 of Old Testament Theology, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003.

Holt, John. The Patriarchs of Israel. Nashville: Vanderbilt, 1964.

MacDonald, Nathan. "Listening to Abraham – Listening to YHWH," Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 66, No. 1, Jan. 2004.

Mays, James. "Now I Know; An Exposition of Genesis 22:1-19 and Matthew 26:36-46," Theology Today 58, Dec. 2002.

Moltz, Howard. "God and Abraham in the Binding of Isaac." JSOT, no. 96, Dec. 2001

Rosenberg, David. Abraham, New York: Perseus, 2006

Sanders, John. The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998

Spiegel, Shalom. The Last Trial, New York: Pantheon Books, 1967

Von Rad, Gerhard  Genesis, Philadelphia: Westminster, 1972

Wenham, G.J. Genesis 16-50,  Word Biblical Commentary. Waco: Word, 1994

Notes

[1] This view is best represented by Thomas Aquinas, who holds that God stands outside of time and thus knows all without impacting human free will. [Return]

[2] For those who hold to the documentary hypotheses on the construction of Genesis, this thesis will be strengthened by the fact that these two accounts arise from competing strands of the present Book of Genesis. See JEDP: Source Analysis of the Pentateuch.  [Return]

[3] Robert B. Chisholm.  "Anatomy of an Antropomorphism; Does God Discover Facts,"  Bibliotheca Sacra 164, No. 653, Jan-Mar 2007, pp. 3-20. [Return]

[4] John Goldingay. Israel's Gospel, vol. 1 of Old Testament Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003), p. 137. [Return]

[5] Goldingay, Israel's Gospel, pp. 137-38. [Return]

[6] Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, Interpretation (Atlanta: John Knox, 1982), p. 167. Brueggemann is not alone here.  Other scholars agree with him that this was the original text.  Among them is E. A. Speiser. Genesis; Anchor Bible Commentary. (New York, Doubleday, 1964), p. 163. [Return]

[7] Brueggemann, Genesis, p. 168. [Return]

[8] Brueggemann, Genesis, p. 172. [Return]

[9] Howard Moltz, "God and Abraham in the Binding of Isaac," JSOT, No. 96, Dec. 2001,  p. 62. [Return]

[10] G. J. Wenham, Genesis 16-50, Word Biblical Commentary. (Waco, Word, 1994), p. 51. [Return]

[11] Gerhard von Rad, Genesiss (Philadelphia, Westminster, 1972), p. 213. [Return]

[12] von Rad, Genesis, p. 211. [Return]

[13] John Holt, The Patriarchs of Israell (Nashville, Vanderbilt, 1964), p. 141; see JEDP: Source Analysis of the Pentateuch. [Return]

[14] This is the dominant position.  Examples of this would be Boice, Genesis, Vol. 2. (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1987) pgs. 682-688 and Von Rad, Genesis, pp. 239-241. [Return]

[15] Brueggemann, Genesis, p. 187. [Return]

[16] Brueggemann, Genesis, p. 187. [Return]

[17] Chisholm, "Anatomy,"  p. 8. [Return]

[18] Brueggemann, Genesis, p. 188. [Return]

[19] James Mays, "Now I Know; An Exposition of Genesis 22:1-19 and Matthew 26:36-46," Theology Today 58, Dec. 2002, p. 520. [Return]

[20] Goldingay, Israel's Gospel, p. 138. [Return]

[21] Goldingay, Israel's Gospel, p. 138. [Return]

[22] Moltz, "God and Abraham," p. 66. [Return]

[23] Millard Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It? (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2003), p. 24. [Return]

[24] Moltz, "God and Abraham," p 67.  Curiously, Moltz feels that even after this test the matter was not fully resolved, and that God and Abraham still had grave doubts about the other. [Return]

[25] Breuggemann, Genesis,  p 187. [Return]

[26] The designations of these texts as J and E are well attested.  Look to Von Rad, pp. 210-213, and David Rosenberg. Abraham, (New York, Perseus, 2006)  pp. 267-274. [Return]

[27] Erickson, What Does God Know, pp. 25-26. [Return]

[28] Mays, "Now I Know," p. 521. [Return]

[29] Nathan MacDonald, "Listening to Abraham – Listening to YHWH," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 66, No. 1, Jan. 2004, pg. 28. [Return]

--Doug Ward, article Copyright © 2011, Doug Ward -
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