Sins Of Omission: Searching for the Whole Truth in Genesis 17 and 18 -- By: Camille S. Muir

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 12:1 (Winter 1998)
Article: Sins Of Omission: Searching for the Whole Truth in Genesis 17 and 18
Author: Camille S. Muir

Sins Of Omission:
Searching for the Whole Truth in Genesis 17 and 18

Camille S. Muir

Camille Muir is a professor of Bible and the Library Director at San Jose Christian College, San Jose, CA. Besides a BA in Bible and Theology from San Jose Christian College, she holds the MA in Exegetical Theology from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary and the MLS from San Jose State University. Priscilla Papers 9:3, Summer 1995.

As we study Scripture and hear its exposition, it becomes clear that not only are there sins of commission, there are also sins of omission. The Christian community has long recognized this truth; as the Book of Common Prayer says in its General Confession, “... forgive us for what we have done and what we have left undone.” Even secular law courts recognized this danger by requiring witnesses to swear that they will “tell the whole truth...”

The story in Genesis 17 and 18 of the Lord’s telling first Abraham and then Sarah that they would have a son in their old age is one of the places in Scripture where a “sin of omission” is often committed. Many times a preacher/teacher on this passage will comment only upon Sarah’s laughter of unbelief that such a miracle could occur (Gen. 18:12). Often this story will be presented as an example of lack of faith and doubt that God could perform such a feat, and Sarah is often shamed and taken to task in the process of the teaching.

However, rarely does one hear a preacher/teacher mention that just before Sarah had her “doubt problems” Abraham not only doubted the very idea, but be actually “fell on his face and laughed” (Gen. 17:17). Lest there be any misunderstanding about just what Abraham was laughing at, the verse reads;

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” (NASV)

Many in the conservative, evangelical community make much of the concept of patriarchal headship and how important it is for a husband to be an example for his wife and family to follow. Is it any wonder then, in a patriarchal society such as Abraham’s, that Sarah very naturally followed the example of her already disbelieving husband and so then herself laughed at the idea? In showing his unbelief that God could perform such a “unnatural” feat as making an elderly couple have a child, Abraham was a very poor spiritual role model for his wife.

One teaching on this passage which was presented in a well-known monthly study guide in March 1995 concluded its thorough (albeit condescen...

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