|The Birth of Isaac
|by Phillip Ratner
ABRAHAM & SARAH 2 ROTATION
Click here for Overview * Background Notes * In the Arts * Questions for Discussion * Workshops * Revu from Abraham & Sarah 1.
This lesson set travels, like Abraham and Sarah, through a narrative that highlights key elements in their story: calls and
promises, leaps of faith, a long trip, kindness to strangers and unexpected blessings.
August Year B
WORKSHOPS & ACTIVITIES:
* Arts -- baby toy for Isaac
* Kitchen -- johnny cakes for travellers
* Drama -- home movie
* Computer -- make your own quiz; new baby card
* Movie -- show home movie from computer lab
• Genesis 12:1 – 8; • Genesis 15: 5 – 6; • Genesis 18: 1 – 15;• Genesis 21: 1 –
7. READ THESE.
GENESIS 12: 1 - 2
Yahweh said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your kindred and your father’s house for a country which I shall show
you; and I shall make you a great nation, I shall bless you and make your name famous; you are to be a blessing!’ (New
BACKGROUND NOTES (& OTHER NEAT INFO):
The call of Abram (Genesis 12: 1 – 8).
Here God tells Abram (the patriarch’s name before God gives him a new one at Gen. 17.5) to pack up everything and leave.
This bolt from the blue command sounds particularly shocking in the phrasing of the King James Version: “Now the Lord
said unto Abram, Get out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will
What’s in it for me?
The big carrot for Abram is that he will be blessed with many children, who will form a great nation through which “shall
all families of the earth be blessed.” (KJV)
It’s kind of old-fashioned, but it has a really neat look to it. Click here . Look for place names from this story, for example Ur, Haran and Canaan.
More of a deal than a present.
The wording in the New Jerusalem Bible, as noted in our key verse in the Overview, highlights the 2-way nature of the deal
between God and Abram (although for sure God initiates it). “You are to be a blessing,” this text says. We get
the distinct impression that Abram is supposed to be more than just a passive recipient of this blessing. This 2-way bargain
forms the beginning of the covenant between God and Abraham.
Example of faith.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament gives mythic proportions to the faith of Abraham . Hebrews 11.8
says: “ By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance;
and he set out, not knowing where he was going.” (NRSV) This is just one verse in a long lyrical section focusing on
the faith of Abraham in the Letter to the Hebrews. The whole section is well worth reading.
There's some great art on Abraham and Sarah, by Chagall, Philip Ratner and others. Click here for a page with links to several great artworks.
TELL THE STARS (GEN. 15: 5)
Here’s the image at the heart of the Abraham story. The old man is fretting about his lack of progeny, and God asks
him to step outside. The King James Version has the more evocative way, I think, of expressing this scene: “And he [God]
brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said
unto him, So shall thy seed be.”
God offers another powerful image for the number of Abraham’s children, at Gen. 12.17: “I will make your offspring
as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.” (NRSV)
At Gen 17.5 & .15, Abram and his wife Sarai get new names from God: Abraham meaning “the exalted ancestor;” and
Sarah meaning “ princess.” (from footnotes in the NRSV.)
THREE VISITORS (GEN. 18: 1 – 15)
Here Abraham and Sarah welcome three guests (generally thought to be angels) to their camp. Abraham gives them the red carpet
treatment, asking Sarah to make ‘cakes,’ which are served to the guests along with cheese curds and meat. In the
midst of all this hospitality, Abraham is told by this time next year Sarah will have given him son.
No spring chickens
Abraham and Sarah have definitely reached ‘ a certain age’ by now. Abraham has already heard about the staggering
possibility of a new baby, and exclaimed at the time: “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can
Sarah, who is 90 years old, bear a child?” (Gen. 17.17)
Lots of laughter
The idea was so preposterous that he “fell on his face and laughed.” Sarah was eavesdropping on the strangers
when she heard the news. It made her ‘laugh to herself’ as well (18.12).
The Hebrews writer reinforces the importance of hospitality. Hebrews 13: 2 reads, “Do not neglect to show hospitality
to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (NRSV)
THE BIRTH OF ISAAC (GEN 21: 1 – 7)
Here God has been mindful of Sarah, and blessed her with the child she craved. Abraham has already been told by God that
the child should be called Isaac, a name meaning “he laughs.” (from footnotes.) The story of Isaac’s birth
concludes with the laughter theme as Sarah declares, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh
For times when things aren’t funny
There’s a terrific presentation of Sarah’s perspective on the whole matter in Mary, Miriam & Me, the excellent
book on women in the Bible by the former moderator of the United Church of Canada, Lois Wilson.
In her introduction to this story, Wilson highlights the reference to Sarah in Isaiah 51:2. These words, Wilson writes, “were
spoken to exiles in Babylon, to despairing Hebrew people who had lost family members, friends, homeland, the magnificent temple
in Jerusalem, the monarchy and the nation. Some thought they had lost God as well...”
“Her [Sarah’s] story was an example and a model of the restoration of Israel out of the bleak and destroyed Jerusalem.
If God could bring new life from Sarah, who is to set limits on God’s creativity?”
In clever contrast to her introduction, Wilson’s own retelling of this story brilliantly highlights its festive mood,
with cake and milk and lots of laughter.
Genesis 18. 14 provides a second key verse for this study unit: “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Have you ever had to move to a new house or new city? How did you feel about leaving the people that
you know & your friends? How do you think Abram & Sarai felt?
2. Have you ever been told you will get a present, gift or treat? What is it like to have to wait for
the time when you will get the present, gift or treat? What gift did God promise to Abram & Sarai? How do you think Abram
& Sarai felt waiting for God’s promise when they did not have any children?
3. Have you ever been asked by someone you trust to do something important, scary and different? How
did you accomplish it? How did things turn out in the end?
ARTS -- baby toy
Activity: make felt teddy bear for Isaac.
Material: felt squares, pen/pencil/marker, scissors, fabric markers, glue (glue gun for leader/older kids), cheap polyfil
Instructions: Make a cereal boxboard template for the size of bear that will fit on a standard craft department square of
felt. Have the kids trace the template on to a double piece of felt. Cut out the bear piece -- little ones may find it easier
to cut out one thickness at a time. (Even littler ones should have felt cut for them.) Draw on eyes, nose, whiskers, etc,
with fabric markers while bear is unstuffed.
Glue most of the way around bear, leaving an opening in side of bear for stuffing. Stuff, then glue side opening shut. (Not
overstuffing will make gluing easier.)
Since this is a baby toy, you can talk as a group about why buttons and other things babies can bite off would make the toy
unsafe for babies.
* You don't have to use felt. Large enough (approx 8 in x 8 in squares of printed cotton would be cool too, giving that old
fashioned calico look.
** Glue is suggested here for time. But if some of your likely girl type students want to sew the bears up, that would be
Kitchen -- johnny cakes.
One name for these corn meal pancakes is "journey cakes."
Served with maple syrup, a perfect treat for our 3 visitors.
Activity: Make johnny cakes for the 3 visitors who break the news about Sarah's new baby.
Ingredients: 1 egg
2 c. white or yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 c. milk
Beat 1 egg. Stir in 2 cups white or yellow corn meal, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups milk (to make batter thick). Drop
spoonfuls of batter onto a well-greased hot griddle and fry to a golden brown on each side. Stir batter occasionally to keep
well mixed. Serve hot with butter.
Makes 12 Johnny cakes.
Drama -- home movie.
Activity: Make a scratchy looking, old-fashioned home movie as one way for Abraham and Sarah to look back on their adventure.
Material: Digital camera that takes video, video cam. (You can also take a series of black and white still photos to capture
key scenes from the trip in a slideshow or photo album.) Costumes -- standard tunics.
Suggested shot list:
1. family portrait -- abe, sarai and lot
2. God tells abe to move it out -- abe looking up at stars, God could be shown as cloud
5. caravan past big tree
6. close in on tent
7. 3 visitors approach abe
8. cut to sarah eavesdropping, chuckling
9. cut to shot of surprised sarah holding baby isaac
10. pull out to new portrait shot of little family (could include ishmael).
Computer -- quiz or new baby card.
Activities: make your own quiz using Fall of Jericho (Sunday software). Or make "Congratulations on your new baby" card
for Sarah and Abraham on Isaac's birth.
Material: Fall of Jericho (or other quiz builder program). Simple card making program.
There are lots of twists and turns in the journey of Abraham and Sarah. Have the children test each other's knowledge by building
quizzes and trying these out on their friends.
Or if you don't have this program, make a card using a simple card program. Or even Ms word and some clipart. Or add stickers
or the children's own artwork.
Movie -- screen your home movie (from drama lab)
Activity: Hold a screening of the home movie (or slideshow) the kids made in their drama workshop.
Material: If you were able to convert the movie to a dvd, you could screen this on the tv at your church. Or maybe you can
set up one of your computers as a viewing location, and hold the screening that way. At any rate, home movies, like albums,
are meant to be shared. Don;t let your class keep this cool project to itself!
Review of Activities from Abraham & Sarah 1
Arts 1 -- Scrapbook of trip
Arts 2 -- doll for Isaac
Kitchen -- ice cream sundaes
Drama -- play
Movie -- scene from Lord of the Rings -- where Frodo first gets his assignment. Discuss any similarities between his assignment
and Abraham's call from God.