Isaac Means Laughter – Genesis 17 Part 3

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If you’ve been in Church for a number of years you’ve probably heard, Isaac’s name means laughter. Do you know the full story? Let’s take a look…

Who Laughed First?

You can find the story we’re looking at today in Genesis 17:15-18:15, concluding in 21:1-7. Many of us remember the story like this: God visits Abraham in the form of three messengers. They tell Abraham that Sarah will be pregnant. Sarah overhears and laughs at such news. When she is confronted with her laughter, Sarah denies that she laughed. Sarah then gives birth to Isaac a little while later. They name him Isaac, which almost every Bible footnotes “means he laughs.”

I hope you read the whole passage, because you’ll already know the answer to the question. Abraham laughed first! In Genesis 17:17 Abraham laughs at the announcement that Sarah will bear a son. Later it is Sarah who laughs (Genesis 18:12), and because the visitor confronts her with it we remember that story (Genesis 18:13-15). There is more to it, Abraham’s reaction is a single word and quickly forgotten.

Who Is Laughing?

Yet Isaac’s name only means, “he laughs.” The “he” could be used generically, any person will do. It could be specific, which then turns our attention away from Sarah. Three candidates come to mind. Abraham did laugh. “How sweet to hold a newborn baby and feel the pride and joy he gives” (Because He Lives), goes the Gaither hymn. Abraham certainly received a lot of joy in the birth of his son through Sarah. A second candidate for “he laughs” could be Isaac himself. It would be somewhat fitting, though a newborn that laughs instead of cries would be interesting to deal with.

Quoting an Old Proverb

The saying goes, “There is an old Yiddish Proverb, if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.” Perhaps that is also said to mean, “Tell him your excuses.” Abraham and Sarah were “too old” to have children. They both laughed. Yet God laughs softer, with more grace and mercy and they perceive. Think about all the plans and expectations you have in your life. Now, turn them over to God. What is God planning for you?

Enjoy the laughter.

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