Expectant Mother's Bible Companion
Audience: The People of Israel
Genesis is the history of the beginning. It is the beginning of our world, the beginning of mankind, the beginning of human relationships with God and the beginning of family. As a mother, it is interesting for me to see how God parents his children (all humankind and the individuals highlighted in the book). From before sin in the garden God has continued to seek out his children and draw them closer to him. As we watch his creation fall more and more into sin and destruction, we see God's heart break. As we witness the faith of Abraham, God's pure joy is revealed.
We are also given our first glimpse of parenting disasters in Genesis. Adam and Eve's son committed murder, Lot's daughters got their father drunk to commit incest, Abraham sent his son away to make his wife happy, Isaac and Rebekah played favorites to the extent that Rebekah tricked Isaac to bless the son she loved more. Sometimes when we read the Bible we get the mistaken idea that life was easier for the people talked about because they were somehow "perfect." As you read through Genesis you may be relieved to realize they were not perfect, but God loved them and was able to use them and their children to further his purpose anyway.
Genesis is also host to the most births mentioned in any book of the Bible. Included are the births of Cain and Abel (4:1-2), Ishmael (16:15), Isaac (21:1-5), Jacob and Essau (25:21-26) and Leah and Rachael's children (29:31-30:12) among others. We also see in Genesis the first recorded death after giving birth (35:16-18). Remarkably, we are given many details of some of these births. We are told the words of joy spoken by Eve when she gave birth the first time, the way Essau looked red and hairy when he was born, the way Jacob was born holding Essau's heel, the excitement and pride felt by Leah and Rachael as they named their boys, and the struggle to be born first that went on with Tamar's twins (38:27-30).
Through the accounts of Sarah, Leah and Rachael, Lot's Daughter's and Tamar we are able to get a glimpse of the importance having children can mean to a woman. If you have prayed through tears for this child, you are not alone. If you are being judged for the way you became pregnant, you are not alone. If you are unsure your life is ready for this child, you are not alone. If there are not even words to describe your joy at becoming a mother, you are not alone. As God opens and closes wombs throughout Genesis, we see the special tenderness God holds in granting a woman's desire to become a mother.
Genesis 21 Sarah
In Sarah we see exposed two of the strongest emotions of motherhood: pure joy and the intense need to protect.
When her son was born, Sarah was so full of joy Abraham gave him the name Isaac, which means laughter. Her joy and pride are evident in the way she announced "God has brought me laughter," and, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age." (21:6-7) We see similar expressions of Joy in the births of Hannah's son Samuel and Mary's son Jesus. Mother's should feel free to express their joy at the birth of a child.
In the next paragraph, Isaac is weaned and we see the dark side of motherhood emerge in Sarah, the intense need to protect her son taken to the extreme. Sarah has Hagar and Ishmael sent away to prevent Ishmael from having any inheritance that might go to her son, and also to prevent Ishmael from further mocking her and her son. Wanting to protect your child isn't bad, even thinking your child is the best and the brightest ever is pretty normal. But Sarah asked Abraham to send away his son Ishmael, who was by this time was 16 or 17 years old. No doubt Abraham and Ishmael had as typical a father-son closeness as any other parent and child and we are told it hurt Abraham deeply to send his son away. Either Sarah couldn't see the pain she was causing, or didn't care. We must be careful as mother's not to let this "one track mind" prevent us from seeing clearly the whole situation.
Isaac trained to lie (Genesis 26:1-11)
When faced with the dangers of entering a new land, Abraham used deceit as a way to keep himself safe. Both Abraham's trips to Egypt (12:10-20), and Gerar caused him to fear he might be killed so the king could take his wife. Both times he asked Sarah to say instead she was his sister (and indeed they were since they had the same father). What is most interesting is Isaac uses the same tactic when he travels to Gerar. Although Isaac was not alive yet when Abraham deceived Abimelech, he suffered from the same lack of faith and responded with the same mistake.
A good notion I try to keep in mind is that my children will become just like me. It doesn't matter what I say, it matters what I do. It is from my actions my children will learn what I value and what I am willing to do to get my way. My children will learn laziness from the way I put off my work. My children will learn to lie from the way I try to dodge the truth. My children will learn to hold a grudge from the way I withhold forgiveness. If I have any habits or personality characteristics I don't want to see in my children, I need to get rid of it in myself for my efforts at training my children to be effective.
Questions for Reflection:
1. Which mother in Genesis do you most identify with? What can you learn from her experiences?
2. In four consecutive generations, the younger child is honored above the older child (Isaac over Ishmael; Jacob over Esau; and Joseph over Reuben; Ephraim over Manasseh), going against cultural norms. In what ways do you see your parenting going against cultural norms?