Genesis 17

Some Chronological Help

When we read Genesis 12-22 and as the events unfold in Abraham’s life it may appear that God is speaking audibly to Abraham on a weekly basis.  But the text gives us some clues to let us know that these events transpire over decades.

  • In chapter 12 the promises are initially given to Abraham when he is 75
  • In Genesis 15, the covenant ceremony, takes place when Abraham is in his mid 80’s
  • Ishmael is born to Abraham at about 86 years of age
  • Genesis 17, the immediate foretelling of Isaac’s birth, finds Abraham at 99 (with Ishmael already 13)

Take note of the theme of laughter.  Abraham laughs (17:17): though not as well known as Sarah’s laughter (18:1-15), it is still an important part of the narrative.  And why is Sarah apparently rebuked when Abraham is not?  In part, it is simply that the story is meant to further imprint upon us the importance of the theme.  Notice the progression:

  • Abraham laughs;
  • Sarah laughs;
  • Sarah is confronted:
  • Sarah denies it;
  • Episode climaxes with “No, but you did laugh.”  (See 18:15)

This all forms a marvelous backdrop for Isaac’s birth, the one whose name means “laughter” or “he laughs” (21:1-6). This is a glorious picture of the good news: the laughter of unbelief transforms into the uncontrollable laughter of exhilarating joy and marvel.

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