The Iniquity of the Amorites: Reflections on Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

YHWH then takes Abram by the hand (or at least I always picture it like that), and leads him outside under a star-filled night sky. "Look toward the sky, and count the stars, if you can count them. That is how many your descendants will be" (Gen. 15:5). "So, Abram trusted YHWH, and YHWH counted it as righteousness for him" (Gen. 15:6). This famous line, made even more famous by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, is a startling statement of hope in the face of hopelessness. YHWH continues to prattle on about Abram's vast number of offspring, and in the reality of the situation, Abram quite rightly sees nothing of it. How can he have any offspring at all of his own if his wife, Sarai, remains without a child? And in the face of that lack of trust YHWH offers divine assurance. And in the face of divine assurance Abram trusts YHWH and by doing so is counted as having performed a righteous act, becoming thereby a righteous person. (It should be noted that in the ongoing tale of Genesis, Abram remains unconvinced, since he laughs heartily in the face of YHWH's continued announcement of offspring at 17:17, and finally aids his wife in their own attempt to produce a child, thus rejecting YHWH's promise completely. But, as YHWH would have it, they finally do have a child at a hugely old age.)

It could be said that the two parts of this story are quite directly related. In the first part we examined, some author has reverted to an old way of attempting to understand the ways of YHWH by suggesting that evil people deserve punishment and destruction. But in this second part of the tale, Abram overcomes his fear and frustration by trusting in the promise of YHWH, though he has no rational reason for doing so. In the end we can say that the promises of a God of mercy outweigh any notions we may have of trying to right the wrongs of a world we have divided far too simply into good and bad. Rather than calling the Amorites of our own day "evil," and seeking their obliteration, let us trust YHWH's good work among us, not being afraid, but gazing at the creation, believing that God has good in store for all of God's creation.

2/15/2016 5:00:00 AM