Bible Challenge: Day 4

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Bible Time Period: Patriarchs

In the time of the Patriarchs, you called Abraham and promised his children land, a royal kingdom, and worldwide blessing: Help me to trust in your promises today.


The second period of salvation history, the “Patriarchs,” is told in the remaining chapters of Genesis.  These chapters leave poetry behind and provide a historical account of the beginnings of the people of Israel, focusing on the forefathers or “Patriarchs” of the nation:  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and also Jacob’s son Joseph.

As you read about Abram (later called Abraham), focus on the promise God makes to him and his descendants.  Pay particular attention to mentions of blessing that go along with that promise.  God is establishing a covenant with Abraham:  a solemn oath that makes Abraham’s family, God’s family.  That covenant forms the backbone of the rest of the story of the Bible.  In fact, our word “Testament” comes from a Greek word that translates the Hebrew for “Covenant.”  The Old Testament is about the “old covenant” – the covenant God makes with the people of Israel – and the New Testament is about the “new covenant” in Jesus Christ that the “old covenant” was a preparation for.  So pay attention: all this promise-making is important to understanding what you’ll read in the rest of the Bible.

Today’s Reading

Genesis 12-16

Today’s Question

Abraham is called our “Father in Faith.”  What evidence of Abraham’s faith do you see in chapters 12 and 15?

Join the discussion below!

About the Author

Sarah Christmyer

Sarah Christmyer is a Catholic Bible teacher, author, and speaker and the co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study Program. She is editor of The Great Adventure Bible Study series , author or co-author of several Great Adventure studies, and author of The Bible Timeline Guided Journal. A Bible study teacher since 1999, Sarah helped launch Catholic Scripture Study (CSS) for Catholic Exchange and is co-author of two Bible studies on Genesis, published by Emmaus Road. She lives near Philadelphia with her husband, Mark, and their four children.

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  • Shannon J

    Abram’s faith was apparent in his following the Lord’s instruction (to leave the land, to offer animals). It’s so easy to ignore the promptings of the Lord, but Abram listened and, more importantly, followed through.

  • Carmen Boyd

    Not only did Abraham follow God’s instructions to leave his land, make offerings, etc. he circumcised every family member and household slave – all in the same day! But I also think it’s interesting to note that Abraham had no shame in prompting the Lord for favors as well – he was able to successfully talk him down regarding the destruction of the 2 cities (to don’t destroy if there’s at least 10 good people) and for blessings regarding Ishmael. Seems to me this is evidence that a covenant works both ways.

  • Baker

    Referringt to day 3 – The word ‘bow’ is now know as ‘rainbow” Who and when was the word ‘rain’ added? Did I miss something. Thanks for all the comments – what a beautiful way for us to share.

  • marla

    Abraham has every intention to place his trust in God. But then he sometimes turns around and takes matters into his own hands. Like pretending Sarah is his sister or having a child with Hagar. How often do I ask God for help and want to place my trust in God, but then take it back and try to control it myself? Glad to know someone as great as Abraham has this same problem it gives me hope.

  • Richie

    I thought Abram lost faith in God by lying that it was not his wife. If he trusted God he would have just went along with everything and let God do his thing. The other thing is it says that Abram saw God. I thought no one has seen the face of God the father at least the living. ROY were are you, need your expertise ??

  • Victor

    I found it interesting that God wanted Abram to settle in the Canaan land, wasn’t that the cursed land from Noah time and now it seems God is making good out of a bad situation.
    Also I don’t think the days are coming to my email right please check, thanks

  • Victor

    Just picture the day Sarah chewed Abraham out for the Hagar problem and bewildered look on Araham’s face while he was thinking who’s idea was it for me to sleep with Hagar………….ice in the land that day….I bet

  • Barbara Brown Harris

    There are a lot of “firsts” in this story. Abram was the first to introduce tythes. And although Cain and Abel brought offerings to God, Abram’s was the first burnt offering; when the smoking brazier and flaming torch passed between the split pieces of animal offerings. There is also the mention of Melchizedek as the first priest, still recognized in our Eucharistic Prayer. As others have mentioned, Abram at times took matters into his own hands; by calling his wife his sister and by joining with his wife’s maidservant to produce Ishmael. However, God found favor in Abram, evident in his repeated promises to him. This isn’t a surprise; throughout the Bible we see that God finds favor in those who need Him. The problem arises when people forget that the successes they have are not their own.

  • Doming Litong

    I cannot help but be impressed with Abraham’s faith! To me, it’s a type of Mary’s faith: really going for the unknown with only the faith in God to hold on to. It’s also a good thing to remember that we need to see how CHRiST figures in the end after all this study. Thanks for the tip in today’s reflection.

  • Doming Litong

    I do like the mention of Melchizedek in our Eucharistic Prayer. Thanks for bringing that up.

  • dew of the sea

    This covenant, as Scott Hahn teaches, is the third covenant initiated by God. The first…Adam and Eve (a couple). Then with Noah (a family). Now with Abram ( a tribe). The Word and Salvation of God is growing and encompassing. Through Abram we are united with all Arab peoples through Ismael (God hears us), Abraham’s son. We share Abraham, the father of a host of nations. We just have a few centuries of Truths to work out and then the world will be one nation under God. Circumcision….establishes identity …..Baptism…..establishes identity in the New Covenant. How perfect the Plan of God.

  • Fran

    First, in answer to today’s question, I am amazed each time I read this portion of Gen. 15:5,12,17. For as long as I have heard/read this portion, I never realized it was daylight when the Lord had Abram look up for the stars! Then it was like Abram just thinks, “OK Lord, whatever,if you say so I believe!” So often in our own life, we need that depth of trust in the Lord. (It was Jeff’s Bible Timeline study where I learned about this section – thanks Jeff!)

    Second, I want to thank you, Sarah, for doing this challenge. At each Bible study I would see the 90 day outline & think, can’t do it. Your daily reminders, focus questions, and discussion board are what makes it happen for me. I can’t wait each morning for your words. Thank you!

  • Terrie Johnson

    Marla, I suffer with that same issue. I give him all my trust and faith in issues and then at some point I take it back to handle myself. I am learning to let it all go. I sometimes feel so stupid. Reading about Abraham and Sarah, gives me hope that I am not alone this issue I have with my father is not new is a comfort to me. I have given him a huge issue in our lives recently and I remind myself daily, REMEMBER Terrie it is his will not yours it is his problem now NOT yours. Trust and patient is a very hard lesson. I thank God daily that when I stumble he picks me up and dusts me off and still loves me.

  • Janice P

    Gen 16.10-12 kind of stood out for me today. God promises Hagar that her descendants will be as numerous as the stars, and they will be on the outside, alongside the promised land but not in it. His hand against everyone, everyone against him. It seems that was still today, with the fighting in the middle east between the Jews and Islam. And honestly (some) of the Muslims against everyone. It is my understanding that the Muslims descended from Abraham and Hagar, and the Jews from Abraham and Sarah.

  • Pam Keseric

    Terrie, it is hard, but we have to remember to “Let Go, Let God.” I am so with you on this.

  • Cindy Ellis

    It is not a normal human response, to let go and give it all up to God. That’s why we have to keep reminding ourselves! I don’t think the human race will ever change in that area but at least we are making inroads to frequently turning to God for guidance, love, and problem-solving! I cannot do this alone – thankfully God is always there for me just as he was for Abrahm and Lot in our reading. His promises are worth more than gold!

  • Jody

    Abrahram took a big step of faith when he went from his country in chapter 12. When he tried to devise his own plans that’s when things didn’t work out. But he kept taking steps of faith, and God was there through it all. I love in Chapter 15 God says Fear not, I am your shield, and your reward shall be very great. I see much hope and promise in these chapters, and have learned so much by all the comments!

  • Jim C

    Free will at work. It takes us all on various journeys, both good and bad. I think at some point, God allows us to go down a sinful path as a teaching, then reminds us how we should really act, and brings us back to Him through confession and repentance.

  • Nancy

    When Abraham was called by God everything else became secondary to Him. Although he lived a ‘regular’ life otherwise, serving God came first.

  • Nancy

    Baker, I’ve never heard that there’s any significance to the change. It may just show how words tend to ‘morph’ over time?

  • Louise Springer

    I was struck by 13:6 – that they had too much wealth to live together! Abram’s handling of that, of giving Lot first pick, was also an act of faith that God would provide. But how sad that their wealth caused them to separate…and how many people wealth has split up since then! humble reliance on God’s providence rather than self-sufficiency is key to peace.

  • Sarah Christmyer

    Fran, you are so welcome. I know it takes a huge effort and am glad this helps. May God bless you as you read!


  • Angela Finnigan

    I am appreciating your references to Scott Hahn’s work and your insights, thank you.

  • Jocelyn

    Thanks Sarah for doing this. It is the first time I sit down and just read the Bible. I am willing to do the whole challenge. Because is the first time I am reading it, is a very new experience for me. In the past I have read only passages or fragments, not the whole story from the beggining. I feel all the Genesis very violent. I am reading the Bible in Spanish while doing the rest in English. When I read in Spanish God sounds very violent. When I read it in English, is exactly the same traslation of words, but God doesn’t sound so harsh. The whole story of Abran and Sarai sounds like women exist only to provide a service to men. It sounds like women were always behind men, just to serve them. I am understanding where the gendre problems started. Maybe is just the reflection of our nature ? I found the reading of Genesis a very difficult reading.

  • Betty

    @facebook-1185709860:disqus they had to separated as the land couldn’t not feed all the animals so they had to go somewhere else to be able to graze

  • HarryW

    I would think that it was very obvious that Abraham had an unwaivering faith in Yahweh and a well developed sense of obedience. After all, here is a man in his seventies that, when asked to by God, moved his entire household a fairly long distance. Abraham
    questioned God about an heir. When told that there would be an heir, Abraham never
    said, How? God went on to make His covenant with Abraham.

  • L.Truong

    First Abram listen to The Lord follow His direction to the land of Canaan, built altar there to th Lord.
    Second even though he was childless, he still listened to The Lord. God took Abram out to ask if he can count how many stars shall yours decendantsbe. Abram put his faith in The Lord.

  • L.Truong

    Look Abram was so bless that he was able to hear what The Lord talk to him.

  • Deb

    What evidence of Abraham’s faith do we see in today’s reading of Genesis? Wow…Giving his wife, Sarai, to Pharaoh was certainly an example of faith…can’t imagine giving my husband to another woman! Then Sarai wants Abram to have an heir, so she offers Hagar to her husband, and Abram, does the deed! A son is conceived…evidence of faith so far from what we can imagine today. I am truly open to reading the Scriptures with this Bible Challenge and look forward to contributing and hearing what others have to say as well….thanks, Sarah, for your challenge!

  • Bob S

    Just a few thoughts on the event in chapter 15 when the animals were split in two and the halves were laid out for God to pass through. This was a sign of the covenant that God made with Abram. Jesus is the new covenant as stated during the consecration of the wine at Mass. At Mass, just prior to the Agnus Dei, the priest breaks the host in half. I think this is an affirmation of the new covenant just as the animal halves were a covenant sign for Abram.

    Also, think of a wedding ceremony. The bride and groom enter into a covenant relationship at the wedding. They walk up the aisle between each of their families. Their new family is seated half on one side and half on the other. Their walk up the aisle between these halves is an affirmation of this covenant.

    So much of the OT can be seen in the church today! By learning about the events in the OT we gain a deeper understanding of the events in the NT as well as a deeper understanding of what Jesus did for us. Like Pope Benedict XVI wrote “It must be said that the message of Jesus is completely misunderstood if it is separated from the context or the faith and hope of the Chosen People”

  • Rose Marie Doyle

    Abraham is a sinner just like all of us, cowardly in asking Sarah to lie about their relationship, willing to take her advice to sleep with her handmaiden even when it contradicts the revelation he received from God. In spite of this, he carried out some amazing acts of faith, taking his household and wandering in a strange land, sending Ishmael and Hagar away by God’s command to appease Sarah, and the biggie – sacrificing Isaac. These acts of faith cover the next reading period, but ought to be pointed out for the sake of this discussion.

  • kevins

    As dew of the sea points out God does have a perfect plan, but man tries it’s hardest at times to ruin that plan. In the chapters we’ve studied today although Abram does as God directed, he still felt like he needed a back up plan and takes his nephew Lot with him. Even though God told him to leave his kinsfolk behind. Abram would run into a famine in the land of Bethal because of his disobedience. Again when he goes to Egypt because of the famine he doesn’t have total faith in God yet and pawns his wife Sari as his sister to safeguard himself, and recieves riches on her account. Because of his deception plagues are sent on pharaoh’s house ( it won’t be the last) which gets himself into trouble with pharaoh and he’s asked to leave. Notice how when Abram travels, he travels in stages, much like God’s covenant’s with man. In Chapter 15, Abram still has doubts about God’s promises since he has no heirs, God asks him to step outside and ” Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.” Abram put his faith in God then even though it was daylight and he couldn’t the stars. It took faith in God, which Abram was finally beginning to understand.

  • BJR

    But God punished Pharoh, who had been deceived by Abram. Then Abram and his household were held harmless and sent away with much more (flocks, herds, camels and slaves) than he had arrived in Egypt with. So was this part of God’s plan?

  • BJR

    I’ve always been troubled by Saria’s treatment of Hagar. Yes, Hagar seemed to be taunting her–but she was the one with the least power in this situation, and it was Saria’s idea to “use” her. Would the relationship between jews/muslims and christians/muslims be different today had Saria been able to rise above and be the bigger person? Before we can have peace among nation, we will have to achieve peace in our own households, and that means sometimes overlooking slights or clarifying intentions before jumping to conclusions.

  • BJR

    I was never aware before that first God promised to make Abram’s descendants “like the dust of the earth: if anyone could count the dust of the earth, your descendants too might be counted.” (13:16) I think I like the star analogy better :)

  • Sarah Christmyer

    Thank you, Bob. I love the way you see God’s covenant reflected in the halves of the host.

  • Sarah Christmyer

    You are welcome!

  • Bob

    I would contend that it is a normal human response but that the normal response has been suppressed ever since original sin. We can’t forget where we came from and that “normal” is to walk with God.

  • Sarah Christmyer

    You are welcome, Jocelyn. I’m glad you’re determined to see this through. Violence is the first thing we read about after the Fall, when Cain killed Abel. What will God do about the violence? We saw after the Flood that it’s not enough just to do away with the violent people. And we will continue to see, throughout the story, that answers are hard to come by. So we ask again – what will God do about the violence? We won’t get to the answer until we get to the time period of Messianic Fulfillment. But in the meantime, we can see (because God has given us this Bible) what gives rise to violence, and where it ends.

    The difficult relationship between men and women we saw happen as a result of the Fall, as well (remember Genesis 3?). When you see that happening in these chapters, it is not God saying “this is how it should be” – rather, it is God letting us see for ourselves that this is the world that came from the choice of our first parents to follow their own ideas of what is right, instead of His ideas. We also will see that humanity by itself can’t come up with a solution. What you WILL see, if you keep on reading, is evidence that God values women greatly. Watch for evidence of that, and let me know when you find it (it may not be for a while in the reading).

  • Sarah Christmyer

    Richie, that is a good question. Think about it for a bit. Abraham today is known for his faith. In fact, he is the father of all who believe. Does his life as a whole – including those times when it looks like he is acting without faith – help us to understand anything about the nature of faith?

  • Sarah Christmyer

    I have never heard when “rain” was added, but I do remember when I first realized that “bow” didn’t mean the kind of bow I tie from my shoelaces, but the bow my sons use to shoot arrows with. What a difference that made to my reading of this passage!

  • Marge

    Bob, I hope to carry that beautiful thought with me tomorrow— that it is normal for mankind to walk with The Lord!

  • Stacie

    For me the main lesson is that even if I slip, God forgives, gives guidance and still blesses me. Blessings are not instant gratification, they are worth waitig for. We must be patient, obedient and have a heart full of love. God is worth it.

    I’m enjoying everyone’s comments, and reconnecting with the bible as an adult. I’m seeing it much differently.


  • Mike S

    Simply put, ‘”Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Because he
    was “strong in his faith”, Abraham became the “father of all who believe”. (Catechism 147).

    Ch 12
    - Abraham obeys God, leaves his family (12:1-4)
    - Built an altar to honor God after reaching (12:7)
    - Built an altar to honor God (12:8)

    Ch 16- Abraham welcomes back Hagar, trusting God as God trusted Hagar, convincing her to return to Abraham. He submits to God as did Sarah and Hagar. He calls his son Ishmail

  • Kris Koehler

    It reinforces to me that, and I can’t remember where I most recently saw this, in the Catechism, or something Pope Benedict said or maybe in one of these postings, that faith is a gift from God. We can do all we can to work at it, to enrich it, but ultimately it comes from God.

  • Debbie Ptak

    thank you for your insight bob,on chapter 15.helps me to understand more.thank all of you for your comments they are helping me,i have to start keeping a journel on this please pray i have the discipline to stick to this bible study.GOD BLESS YOU ALL MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST.WE are like are own little community here.i call you my freinds.Debbie

  • Katrina pratt


  • Katrina pratt

    Not sure if I am missing something obvious but how do we know that it is day time when Abram looks at the stars? I seem to have missed this.

  • Katrina pratt

    ahh that makes some sense then – I find the hardest part of the old testement is understanding the historical flow of tribes etc to what we know now… doesn’t help that many of the words seem foreign to me. Thanks for this.

  • Katrina pratt

    And isn’t Canaan the promised land too?? or am getting confused???

  • CarmenB

    I got excited and kept reading past the day 4 chapters. I should have posted this for day 5. Sorry!

  • CarmenB

    Not to beat a dead horse, but I also thought it referred to a rainbow – that’s why we are reminded after every rainfall. It’s a lovely passage after such a horrifying event.

  • Kate33

    I too took the Great Adventure Bible Study and my favorite part of this lesson is when Abram is taken outside and says is told that his decendants will number as the starts. But we read just a verse or two later that the sun set. So Abram wasn’t look at a night sky full of stars when that promise was made but he was looking at the bright sunny sky where the stars could not be seen. So in essense God was saying, You can’t see the stars and they are there just like you can’t see your decendents but they are still there… I am terrible at spelling without spell check so I hope this all makes sense!

  • Marie

    Yes I the same way it is believing and trusting in God beyond what our eyes can see or beyond our understanding Even if nothing is happening at the present time with our prayers I know God is in control. He is working behind the scene Also another insight is truly believing that Christ is present in the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Sacrament Marie

  • Mo

    Totally understand! I love reading the comments. We are family. Like Abram.

  • Mo

    And even Noah had to keep being prompted by God as he begged God not to cause a flood and kept pausing the building of the ark. (From readings of different Church approved Saints and mystics). Juan Diego even avoided Blessed Mother. I know I avoid doing what He is asking of me. Like you said Marla, it is good to know even the great ones did the same.

  • Mo

    Can’t wait! The lamb and the lion…

  • Mo

    Wow! Thank you!

  • Sarah B

    That’s interesting. I didn’t see Abraham’s insistence as him talking God down necessarily. I saw it as more of Abraham testing the mercifulness of God. I feel as though I question in much the same way. Either way you look at it though, it is comforting to know that God is understanding of our doubts. I read once that the greater the things we ask for the more pleased God is. It’s flattering to Him for us to ask for great things because it shows our trust in his greatness.

  • Sarah B

    Look at 15:17… I missed this too but somebody pointed it out in later comments that later on it becomes dark.

  • Louise Springer

    Yes, and they parted in a loving way, and on good terms…but it was their great success that caused the distance. Same as our current mobile society where promotions often mean relocation, and our difficulties staying close to extended families.

  • Suzie

    Just a little FYI that may help – Abram and Sarah were actually half siblings. They share the same father. So actually, he wasn’t really telling a lie here.

  • Laurie H

    Abraham might have thought it kind of funny that he would be father of many nations and also that he would produce a child when he and Sarah were so old, but he trusted. As I read about Abraham I am amazed at his constant faith and obedience of God wishing I could even have a tiny bit of both in comparison to his. I love the part in this reading where Sarah laughed when she heard she would have a child and when God called her on it, she said “I did not laugh!” and God said yes you did! I like when God’s sense of humor comes out in a reading.

  • MomG

    Victor, one thing to remember is that pharoahs had many, many wives. It was like “take a number” at the deli department. Because of that, it was highly unlikely that Sarai would have ever slept with pharoah. I learned this in a current Patristic Bible Study, where we spent from October to December studying these chapters. We are blessed to be led by a priest who has a Licentiate from Rome to teach Bible History. I can hardly wait for classes to resume in two weeks.

  • Jocelyn

    Thanks Again !

  • Debbie King

    Evidence in both chapters demonstrate Abraham’s willingness to trust The Lord – though not easy and not without questions – Abraham obeys. This is not only great trust but also great humility.

  • Mandi

    Abraham put his full trust and faith into God which is the most humility thing to do. “You have been told, O man, what is good and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) which is exactly what Abraham did when Lord told him that he and his wife, Sarah, would bear a son.

  • Peggy Bowes

    Actually, Abram was never supposed to take Lot with him. Genesis 12:1 reads, “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your *kindred* and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’” Notice that trouble always follows Lot– he’s kidnapped, he takes up too much of the land (and appears to choose the better part of the land despite Abram’s constant generosity), he offers his daughters as rape victims to the Sodomites, and his wife is turned to a pillar of salt because she looked back on Sodom. Finally Lot’s own daughters get him drunk and conceive his own grandchildren. Seems to me that everyone would have been better off if Abram had obeyed God and Lot had stayed back in Haran!