The stories of our Torah family tree tell many good things about the patriarchs, but they also tell of God’s unfailing love when these same Patriarchs failed to live according to God’s precepts.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are our matrix for so many important issues of our faith and obedience to God’s commands. We learn faith from Abraham. We learn peaceful coexistence from Isaac. We learn survival and love for his family from Jacob.
However, there are things that we must take as negative examples that we, today, must avoid and run away from. As the old Bulgarian proverb says, there are no roses without thorns.
God’s Unfailing Love in Our Torah Family Tree Despite Patriarchal Failures
What are the negative things that we don’t need to learn from our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
“And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, ‘indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance, therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, “this is his wife”; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.’” – Genesis 12:11-13
There are a few things wrong in this story. This story is right after the great show of faith that Abraham leaves his homeland in obedience to God’s command and heads with his family to the land of Canaan, land teeming with seven nations warring with each other.
Just a few verses earlier, God promised Abraham:
“I will make you a great nation: I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:2,3 [ESV]
Abraham’s Selfish Fear
Out of selfish fear for his own life, Abraham is teaching his wife Sarah to lie and say that she is his sister, not his wife. This might be according to some scholars only a half lie, or a half truth if you wish. However, the consequences for the fulfillment of God’s promises could have been jeopardized, if it were not for Pharaoh’s wisdom and fairness.
Abraham did not learn from this event and repeated the same mistake a second time:
“Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘she is my sister.’ And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, ‘indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.’ But Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, ‘Lord, will you slay a righteous nation also? Did he not say to me, “she is my sister”? And she, even she herself said, “he is my brother.” In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this.’” – Genesis 20:2-5 [NKJV]
A second time we see that Abimelech king of Gerar, like Pharaoh, discovers through a dream from God that Sarah is Abraham’s wife and not his sister. Abimelech turns out to be more righteous than Abraham in this story.
He wants to take Sarah, but the Lord prevents him with a dream that reveals to him that Sarah is actually Abraham’s wife.
In conclusion to this first point, Abraham, with all of his faith and faithfulness, is a human being and is not immune to sin and making mistakes (even to repeating the same mistake twice). I am inspired by this weak characteristic of Abraham.
I am not upset or discouraged by these two stories about our greatest example of faith in the word of God. On the contrary, I am encouraged because I see that the Lord is not looking for a perfect man that makes no mistakes.
The Lord is looking for a man who can and sometimes does make mistakes but still have a true and honest relationship with God and walk with the Lord and receive God’s grace with all his heart and trust God throughout his days.
Isaac, Abraham and Sarah’s long-awaited son, follows in his father’s footsteps and makes the very same mistake that his father made:
“So, Isaac dwelt in Gerar. And the men of the place asked about his wife. And he said, ‘she is my sister’; for he was afraid to say, ‘she is my wife,’ because he thought, ‘lest the men of the place kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to behold.’ Now it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked through a window, and saw, and there was Isaac, showing endearment to Rebekah his wife. Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, ‘quite obviously she is your wife; so how could you say, “she is my sister”?’” – Genesis 26:6-9 [NKJV]
Here we see the classic principle (that is not true all the time but is often true), “Like father, like son!” Isaac repeats the very same mistake that his father Abraham made with Sarah his wife.
Rebekah and Jacob Sin
A more serious problem was with Rebekah deceiving and teaching her son Jacob to deceive his father Isaac. This act of Rebekah could have jeopardized the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and to Isaac.
“Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt game and to bring it. So Rebekah spoke to Jacob her son, saying, ‘Indeed I heard your father speak to Esau your brother, saying, “Bring me game and make savory food for me, that I may eat it and bless you in the presence of the Lord before my death.” Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to what I command you. Go now to the flock and bring me from there two choice kids of the goats, and I will make savory food from them for your father, such as he loves. Then you shall take it to your father, that he may eat it, and that he may bless you before his death.’ And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, ‘Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.’ But his mother said to him, ‘Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.’ And he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and his mother made savory food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the choice clothes of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she gave the savory food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.” – Genesis 27:5-17 [NKJV]
God Still is Faithful
One of the more curious things in this story is that after all of what we have said about Abraham, the Lord blesses Isaac his son with the same blessings with which He blessed Abraham.
In this occasion, the Lord says to Isaac,
“And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven. I will give to your descendants all these lands, and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” – Genesis 26:4,5 [NKJV]
What can we learn about God and about Abraham and Isaac from this text? God must have forgiven Abraham for his sin with Sarah and Pharaoh. Forgiven and forgotten and not held it against him.
This is a great example of how God forgives and how he also does not hold the past and forgiven sins against a person after he is forgiven.
We don’t have the details of God’s forgiving Abraham. We don’t know if Abraham repented, or offered a sin offering. We don’t know if Abraham asked forgiveness from Sarah his wife.
All we know is that God didn’t hold the sins of Abraham against Isaac his son. We also know that God describes Abraham to Isaac saying, “Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge and my commandments…” (Genesis 25:6)
Encouragement in God’s Unfailing Love
I find these stories extremely encouraging because it shows me how the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the same God that so loved the world that He sent his only begotten Son. I am so encouraged because I see the grace of God and His longsuffering demonstrated in the Torah of Moses.
I am so encouraged because in my lifetime I have not seen one family or individual who is perfect and has not sinned against God and man. I am so encouraged because I see God able to use people who are willing to step onto the stage of history knowing their weakness and yet knowing also God’s goodness and mercy.
The Sins of Moses, David, and Others
If I look at the family life of Moses, the great leader and the shepherd of Israel through 40 years of wilderness wandering, what can we learn about family from him? The first family story that we learn about Moses is that he didn’t circumcise his son and could not do it himself.
Zipporah the daughter of Jethro the priest of Midian had to take the knife and circumcise the son of Moses. This is one of the strangest stories in the Bible, but it briefly features this Gentile Midianite woman, Zipporah, who is ignored through most of the story of the Exodus and apparently was sent to her father’s house through the whole escapade with Moses and Aaron in Egypt.
Only in chapter 19 of Exodus, Jethro returns Zipporah to Moses just before he goes up to the mountain of Sinai to bring down the Torah. Otherwise, we don’t hear much about Zipporah, nor about Moses’ and Zipporah’s two sons.
We could speak about king David, his family life and his children. From looking in the Biblical narrative about king David, one could get the impression that king David was a big-time lover and a family man, but reading the narrative more carefully, we see that his first-born son committed incest with his sister Tamar, and his next son, Absalom, rebelled against his father and was killed by David’s most trusted and right-hand man, Joab.
One thing that can be said about king David was that, as far as we can see in the word of God, David had several wives, but he actually lived with only one wife at a time. He did not multiply wives to himself. He left the one and joined the next one, but never two at the same time.
This might not be a comforting note for David’s wives, but it does show some positive characteristics about David and his relationship to women.
The Lesson From Our Torah Family Tree: God Is Love
The objectives of this article are clear. We read the Bible and we believe every word. It is the word of God. It is inspired, and like Paul says,
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16,17 [NKJV]
We can learn from all the wonderful and faithful things that our patriarchs and heroes have done along the story of salvation, but we can also learn from the mistakes and shortcomings of these great men of God. We can learn to do good from our Biblical heroes, and we can learn from their mistakes.
Above all we can learn about the mercy and longsuffering of our Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Creator of the world identifies Himself with these men, whose greatness was only one: they allowed themselves to be used as servants of the Most High!
The Lord loved them not because they were sinless, or perfect. He loved them because they were faithful to do His will and keep His commandments.
Yes, I believe that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow! He is not looking for perfect men with perfect families. He is looking for men who are willing to live and walk with Him wholeheartedly and fully committed to Him and to his every command.
Sometimes they fall, and sometimes they make big mistakes. But all the time, they stay and sustain the relationship. Don’t be discouraged by your weaknesses and mistakes; take your staff in your hand and follow Him!
This article is not giving you or me a license to do wrong and to not take care of your family. This article is not written to justify the wrongs that you might have done to your family or the wrongs that your family has done to you. On the contrary this article is written to encourage you and tell you that God can use you even though you didn’t have a perfect family.
My cure for my own weaknesses is a constant recommitment to and refocusing on trusting the mercy and grace of God to overcome as well as the blood of Yeshua our Savior and Messiah to clean me and fill me with His Spirit in order to use me.
God used men like our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Let us not forget that He is the same God today, and He is waiting with open arms to welcome us. He knows us and knows our strength and wellness.
Like a great crafter of instruments, He can take a bare piece of wood (representing us and our families) and make out of it a stradivarius violin that makes music for His pleasure. God’s love is unfailing and the stories of our patriarchs, within this Torah family tree, show how deep and unfailing that love actually is!
This article originally appeared on Netivyah, August 10, 2020, and reposted with permission.