Rushing Ahead of God: An Exposition of Genesis 16:1–16 -- By: George Van Pelt Campbell

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 163:651 (Jul 2006)
Article: Rushing Ahead of God: An Exposition of Genesis 16:1–16
Author: George Van Pelt Campbell


Rushing Ahead of God:
An Exposition of Genesis 16:1–16

George Van Pelt Campbell

George Van Pelt Campbell is Associate Professor of Sociology and Religion, Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania.

An old proverb says, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” It articulates the obvious fact that it is foolish to rush ahead when the wise recognize reasons not to do so. The Bible teaches its own version of this sentiment in a story from the life of Abram: it is foolish and dangerous to rush ahead of God; wisdom calls for waiting on Him in faith.

The Idea of the Passage

Genesis 16 shows the consequences of not waiting on God, a message that is important for Christians today. “The narrative of Genesis 16 is the first in a series of stories that portray the tension over the delay of the promise,”1 that is, God’s seeming delay in fulfilling His promise to Abram that he would have a son. This is part of a larger pattern in the Abraham narratives. In Genesis 12:1–3 God promised Abram2 that He would make him a blessing to the

world by making his descendants become a nation in a land. Thus the Abraham narratives are dominated by these two themes: a son from which the nation would come (15:4) and a land in which the nation would dwell. Genesis 12–15 is concerned primarily with God’s promise to Abram regarding the land, while Genesis 16–22 is devoted primarily to God’s promise of a son.

Both sections begin with a situation in which the promise is in jeopardy.3 When a famine occurred in the land to which God had brought Abram (12:10–12), he simply left the land without consulting God and without waiting for Him to supply his needs. This resulted in a number of problems. In Genesis 16 the promise of a son had been delayed for a long time. Again rather than waiting for God to provide, Abram, following Sarai, took the initiative without consulting God. This too resulted in a number of problems. So chapter 16 parallels 12:10–20, with both passages posing the question of h...

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