Disillusioned Latin students, who cringe at the thought of repeatedly scribbling their grammar, are often told by their teachers, "Per repitio nos studiare," which translates to "through repetition we learn." Though this may seem hard to believe as their hands begin to cramp, it bears a certain amount of truth. As my grandfather once told me, "Experience is often the best teacher." Truly gaining an understanding of something often comes from repeated involvement.
Repetition is also the concept that the Hebrew Creator-God uses throughout the story of Genesis to educate Abram about God's purpose and His nature. God is aware of the doubtful and cynical nature of Abram. Over time, God uses Abram's own repeated mistakes to build a conceptual understanding of Himself for Abram. This model provides Abram with a relevance for God in Abram's own life. Though the classic view depicts the patriarch Abraham as blindly, obedient, there is significant evidence within the story of Abraham to show that he was not so naturally submissive. The text often depicts Abram as doubtful, indignant, and sarcastic to a fault. Taking this side of the text in context illustrates Abraham as the antagonist in a battle against God. In this struggle with God, Abraham achieves excellence by learning, through repetition of his own errors and the reinstatement of God's promise, that it is in his best interest not to fight against his own personal idea of God, but to recognize, respect, and accept the true will of God.
The story of Abram begins when, at age 75, he is called by God to leave his home and all that is familiar to him. In return God promises: "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:3). Although the text offers no quoted verbal response by Abram, the classic theological interpretation of this scene is that he leaves his home land and therefore accepts the mandate of God. The lack of Abram's verbal acquiescence, however, may be interpreted in a different light. Although he leaves his home and moves into the land of Egypt, in apparent acceptance of the promise, once there, he sells his wife Sarai into prostitution out of fear that he will be killed (Gen. 12:11-15). God promised Abram previously that He would protect him: "I will bless them that bless thee and curse those that curse thee" (Gen. 12:3 ). Yet, Abraham fears for his life and exploits Sarai. If Abraham was blindly and fully obedient, as the traditional view assumes, why does he doubt God's promise of protection and consequently bring shame upon Sarai? The text depicts an Abraham who is struggling with personal doubt and who decides to take matters into his own hands rather than trust the possible promises of a God unseen.
Moreover, Sarai is the living symbol, at this point, of God's promise to Abraham. If Abraham is to be "the father of many nations," his barren wife must conceive and bear him a son. The classic...