About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

Home Page

Chapter 12

Previous Section - Chapter 11

Next Section - Chapter 13

ch. 12:1-9   ch. 12:10-22

 

The Call Of Abram (ch. 12:1 - 9)

 

Genesis 12, actually from the last few verses of chapter 11 begins a new section in Genesis.  The first 11 chapters of Genesis stretched out over a period of more than 2000 years.  The rest of Genesis takes place over about 400 years.

 

The first 11 chapters of Genesis seems to be more about the fallen nature of man than anything else.   From Chapter 12 onward we begin to see God's provision for fallen man.

 

The main figure of chapter 12 is Abram.  Abram means "an important father."

 

In Joshua 24:2 and 3 we learn that Terah, the father of Abraham "served other gods."  We thus understand that Abraham served other gods before he served God because that's what he grew up with.  You might ask why did God choose such a man.  Well, as Paul states in Romans 9:16, it doesn't matter about man's desire and efforts, it's all of God's choosing, His sovereign will.  He can choose whoever He wants.  He is God.       

 

Before we get into chapter 12 which is God calling Abram which in turn makes him the father of Israel we need to note one thing.  It is no coincidence that the choosing of Abram to lead a people that were to be set apart of God.   It comes right after man tried to establish the same sort of thing, except that the kingdom man was setting up would be to promote man's own name, not God's.  So since man tried to set up a new world identity, God would now set apart a people for Himself that would promote His name among sinful man.      

 

As Genesis 2 was a further explanation of part of Genesis 1, so Genesis 12 is a further explanation of chapter 11.  I mentioned in the last chapter how Stephen in his defense before the Jewish leadership in Acts 7  spoke of Abraham.  Stephen said that God told Abram to leave the place where he lived and go to a new place where God wanted him. Yet in the last chapter it seemed to be Abram's father Terah that decided to go.  Now in this chapter we get the further details that Stephen spoke about.  Verse 1 tells us just that.

 

Verse 1 tells us that the Lord told Abram to leave his country, his household, and his father's family to go to a land in which He would tell him.  It's uncertain if God told Abram where to go right away, or if He told him later.  That being said, Hebrews 11:8 seems to suggest that God didn't exactly tell Abram right away where he was to relocate.  Abram simply trusted God as he left his country.  If so Abram would have trusted God for his future.  

 

We do know that from Genesis 11:31 that Abraham was to go to Canaan.  We first see the name Canaan as being a son of Ham.   At this point Canaan is a geographical area and a society of people between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.  I can't be certain why God wanted Abraham and his descendents to go to Canaan.  It was a very pagan culture.  Maybe God wanted to redeem that area.  The people were polytheistic.  Baal was one of the most prominent gods. You'll see the name of Baal throughout the Old Testament.  Canaanite worship as I said had many gods. Sexual aberrations were part of the Canaanite worship.  There were female priests who had sex with male priests.  Some suggest the existence of temple prostitutes and the practice of bestiality.  The mixture of sex and religion was common practice among the ancient religions in these days.  It was in this culture that God wanted Abram to live.  The problem is that Abram's descendents, that is Israel, always had problems with the Canaanite religions.  Through much of Jewish history the Jews would mix their religion with the Canaanite religion, something that God detested.  Even king David and king Solomon named some of their children after Baal, that is to say, the word Baal was part of their names.  The Christian community is even influenced by Canaanite religion today.  The word "Easter" is actually a transliteration of a Canaanite god.  The early Catholic church was even influence by the Canaanite religion.  It is said that the firs official pope practiced many things from the Canaanite religion.  Even as late as the 1990's, cults have arisen with Canaanite religious practices.

 

 One other things we should note and that is the Chaldeans that Abram left is sinominous with the early stages Babylon.  God always wants His people to come out of BabylonS, and He wants Babylon out of His people.   Chaldeans were Babylonian priests.                               

 

One thing we can note at this point is the meaning to certain names.  "Ur", where Abram lived means "flame."  The area around Ur called "Chaldeans" means "destruction.  "Haran", where Abram and his family stopped to live instead of moving on to Canaan means, "parched and dry."   You can see then that God wanted Abram to leave the land of flame and destruction to move to the land of milk and honey as Canaan became to be known.  He stayed in  Haran, but Haran was parched and dry and Abram could not and even should not  have stayed in such a place.  But it was only when Terah, Abram's father died, that they moved on, and Terah means "delay".     

 

We see the word "Lord" here.  That's the Hebrew word "Yahweh" which means "I an", which normally is associated with the idea of a "covenant making God."  That is what God is beginning to do with Abram.  He is making promises to Abram.  He is covenanting with Himself to do certain things.  More of this covenant will be seen later.   

 

The first thing that God tells Abram in verse 2 is that He will make him into "a great nation."  It's my belief that what God speaks will take place.  We need to understand that the descendants of Abram would be a great nation as God clearly states here.  Of course, that nation would become known as Israel.  The question is, has Israel become a great nation.  One might answer "yes."   Some believe that Israel became a great nation when David was king.  They were great in those days.  They've never been that great since those days.  So some suggest that what God says here has been fulfilled, and there is no further fulfillment to be realize.  I believe differently.  I believe there is still greatness for Israel that will be realized in the thousand year rule of Christ on earth that will extend into the new earth as seen in the New Jerusalem.

 

God then says, "I will bless you."  The word "bless" in Hebrew means to kneel before.  If God told Abram that his descendants would be blessed, then that suggests that they will be a nation set apart and respected by all other nations.  I don't believe that totally took place in King David's time.  Israel had it's enemies.  I believe when Israel finds the fulfillment of this blessing in the thousand year rule of Christ and well into the days of the new earth, Israel will have no enemies.

 

God then says that "I will make your name great and will make you to be a blessing."  Once again, I don't see this as being fulfilled in King David's day.  But, when you study the New Jerusalem in Revelation, which I feel applies to Israel, the New Jerusalem will be a blessing to all people on the earth.

 

Some have suggested that the blessing spoken of here concerns Jesus because of Paul's explanation of these events in his letter to the Galatians.  I don't believe that to be so.  These promises are specifically spoken to Abraham  about Abraham.  Later we will see specific promises spoken to Abraham about his offspring or seed.  These promises are directed towards Jesus.  We will also see promises spoken to Abraham that are directed towards his descendents.   There are three categories of promises in the Genesis account.

 

In verse 3 God says "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you."  There's no time limit mentioned here, and if we say that the fulfillment of the last two promises are yet to be totally realized, then this promise is still in effect to.  That means those nations and individuals that bless Israel today, even in their fallen state from God's grace, will be blessed.  The curse is still in effect as well.  Those nations and individuals that curse Israel will be cursed themselves.  This is a great warning to the nations of the world today.

 

Some suggest that Israel shouldn't be blessed today because they don't even follow their own God.  They are a secular state.  This is true, yet God blessed Israel many times in the past even though they were rebellious.  Abram, Jacob, David and others are an example of that.  All of these great men had their down falls, but God's blessing doesn't depend on man, but on His word.  God chooses whom He will, despite their problems. Paul states this in His discourse on Israel in Romans 9 through 11.

 

Verse 3 also says that "all people on the earth will be blessed because of Israel."  Once again, some see Jesus in this verse, that all nations are blessed because of Him.  There might be some truth in this interpretation, but I also believe that this will literally happen in the thousand year rule of Christ and then when the New Jerusalem comes to the new earth. 

 

Has all nations of the earth been blessed because of Jesus?  I don't think so.  Not yet.  All nations could be blessed, but they have not chosen this blessing.  When Jesus returns, at that point all nations will be blessed, but still they have to co-operate or else they will receive severe judgment by Jesus in the thousand years.  Only on the new earth will the final fulfillment of this blessing be seen, and Israel has a major rule in this blessing.

 

Verse 4 tells us that Abram left his country at the age of seventy five as God told him.  The verse also says that Lot went with him.  We know from the last chapter that others went with Abram as well.

 

Verse 4 also says that Abram went to Haran, which is west of the Euphrates River, over towards the Mediterranean Sea, north of where modern Lebanon would be, possibly into Turkey. 

 

Verse 5 tells us that after they went to Haran , at some point later, they went to Canaan. It appears that they spent much time in Haran they had accumulated much.  We don't know how long they stayed in Haran, and we don't know why they stayed there in the first place.  Some suggest that Abram backed out on the will of God for a while, and that's why they didn't go to Canaan as they were told.  I can't be sure that this is so.   We do know from Hebrews 11 that Abram stayed in Haran until his father died.  Some suggest that for one reason or another, the death of Abram's father had something to do with Abram continuing on towards Canaan.   

 

One thing to note here about Canaan is that God told Ham, who was Canaan's father that  Canaan would serve Shem.  Both Shem and Ham were sons of  Noah, and since Ham had done something not pleasing to Noah when Noah was drunk, God predicted the servitude  of Canaan, Ham's son.  It is clear that this did not take place right away, but this in my opinion is why God told Abram to go to the land of Canaan.  Canaan at that point would serve Ham's descendents as prophesied in Genesis 9:26.

 

Verse 6 tells us that Abram reached Canaan and the first place he stopped was at Moreh where there was a great tree.  This tree had other important events take place here as well in Jewish history. The blessings and cursing of Deut. 11:26 to 30 took place here. Joshua set in place a stone of memorial here to remember God's covenant (Joshua 24:26).  Judges 7:1 tells us that Gideon reduced his army here.

 

The word Moreh actually means "instruction."   This is appropriate in relation to what God tells Abram at this tree.  

 

In verse 7 the text says that "the Lord appeared to Abram."  I may be making a bigger thing out of this than intended, but you might remember prior to the flood on a couple of occasions the Bible says that God walked with people.  Enoch is one such example.  It might be that God walking with people ended at the flood, and now simply appears to people on occasion.

 

Whatever the case, God told Abram that He would give Abrams descendents this land where he now was.  Once again, some suggest that Israel did get this land and because of their sin, they lost it, never to get it back and any reference to "this land" should be seen as spiritual and directed to the church.  Again, I don't see it this way.  I do believe that this land will one day be given to Israel , and it will happen in the thousand years of Christ's rule on earth, and will possibly extend into the days of the new earth. 

 

This verse is important in the sense that God told Abram that He would give this land to Abram's offspring, as the NIV puts it.  The KJV uses the word "seed" instead of offspring.  Upon first reading you would think the land would be given to Abram's descendents, but Paul comments on the word "seed", or "offspring" in Galatians 3:16.  He points out that the word "seed", or "offspring" is singular, not plural.  By this he means that the promise of the land was given to one man, not many, and this one man is Jesus.  Therefore, what God promised to Abram's seed was promised, and would be fulfilled in Jesus.  I believe this suggests that Jesus Himself will inherit the land at some future point, and for those who believe in the Futurist thinking of prophecy, this will take place in the thousand year rule of Christ on earth, and I believe will possibly carry over into the days of the new earth.  

 

Does this mean that the descendents of Abram, meaning the Jews, or Israel, will not inherit the land?  I believe they will, but they won't inherit it on their own.  As seen in verse 2 and 3, it is God that will make the nation of Israel great, not the Jews.  This greatness will come about when Jesus returns to the earth and He establishes His rule.  It is Jesus that the promise was given to, and it is Jesus that will get the land for both Him and the Jews.

 

You'll also note that the promise of the land is also directed towards Abram's descendents.   The land is promised to both Jesus and the descendents.  Both will get the land in the end.    

 

Some people might think that the Jews will inherit the land prior to the return of Christ, but I don't see that as being the case.  The promise of Genesis 12:7 was made to Abram, a Jew, and would be fulfilled in and by Jesus.  So when Jesus returns, at that point the land will be given to both Jesus and the Jews. 

 

As a result of God's promise, Abram built an altar to the Lord by this tree. 

 

In verse 8 Abram stops at Bethel and once again builds an altar to the Lord God.  Bethel means "house of God."   He also pitched his tent in Bethel .  Hebrews 11:9 picks up the idea that Abram lived in tents, even when he lived in the promised land.  Preachers over the centuries have used this verse for sermon material.  Abram didn't settle down into permanent housing.  He lived in tents, and he lived by faith, as we should today.  The time will come in the next life when we can settle down into more permanent housing, but for now, we live by trusting Jesus, being ready to go or to do as He tells us.

 

Verse 9 tells us that Abram then headed towards the Negev.   The Negev is what we'd call Palestine which incorporates the land east of the  Mediterranean Sea .    

 

Abram In Egypt (ch. 12:10 - 20)

 

Verse 10 says, "now there was a famine in the landů"  We don't know when this famine took place.  Abram might have been in this place a while before the famine came, or, maybe when he got there the famine was already in progress.

 

Because of this very severe famine Abram left Canaan and went to Egypt.  Many Bible teachers at this point suggest that Abram left the will of God.  God told him to go and live in Canaan, but when hard times came he left. 

 

Egypt in the Bible is a literal place, but it often is symbolic for the world.  Abram left the land of promise to go to the land of the world to find what he needed.  You might say that he stopped trusting God and began to trust in the world.  This famine might have been a test for Abram.  Could he stay in the land even when things get rough?  Like many Christians today, we tend to split when things get rough, but often, the rough times are the will of God.  He puts these hard times in our way to test our faith, to produce deep trust in Him.

 

Abram's life is associated with faith, that is, trusting God.  He first trusted God by leaving his home land, but now he fails to trust God by leaving his new promised land.

 

We note that it was Abram's intention just to stay in Egypt for "a while."  This is often the case with us.  Things get rough and we leave God's will for our lives, and we just intend to do this for a while, but often we never come back, and if we do we have scars that last a lifetime.

 

From verse 11 and we note that Sarai, Abram's wife was a beautiful woman.  Abram was thinking ahead and had things well planned out.  He feared for his life once entering this new land. This tells me that Abram's plan to leave God's will to go into Egypt wasn't a fail safe place to be.  He might well have just as many problems in Egypt as he would in Canaan.  The problem was that he'd have a hard time trusting God in Egypt since he was outside of God's will.

 

Abram thought that if the Egyptians saw Sarai and how beautiful she was, they'd kill him to get her.  So the plan was that he and Sarai would tell everyone that she was his sister.  Of course this was not the truth.  Actually it was a half truth.  Sarai was his step sister, but now he was his wife.

 

In verse 13 Abram instructs Sarai to tell everyone that she is his sister.  His is reason is this.  The text says that  "for her sake and my life will be spared because of you."   Abram feared that some men, or the king,  would kill him so they could get Saria.  This plan was strictly for Abram's benefit, not really for Sarai's sake.  He was thinking more of himself than Sarai.   

 

In verse 14 we see what Abram thought could happen, did happen.  The Egyptians saw that his wife was very beautiful. 

 

In verse 15, as a result of Sarai's beauty, certain officials of Pharaoh reported this to the Pharaoh the king, and took her to see him.

 

Verse 16 tells us that because of Sarai, Pharaoh treated Abram well, just as he hoped would be the case.  Abram's deceptive plan worked.  Deceptive plans can work, but it doesn't mean that they are right or part of God's plan. 

 

Pharaoh was good to Abram in that he gave him lots of cattle and even servants from Pharaoh.  So Abram did profit by going to Egypt , but once again, not all profit comes from the Lord, and as we will see later, lasting problems result in Abram leaving God's will.  Abram will end up sleeping with one of Saria's female servants producing a whole new stream of offspring for him that was, or at least appears to be, outside the will of God.

 

For those who teach the prosperity gospel as it has become to be known, this is an example of prosperity that is outside of God's will.  Just because someone prospers, doesn't mean he is in the will of God.

 

Verse 17 tells us that God inflicted serious sickness on Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai.  We learn later that Pharaoh took Sarai in to be one of his wives. Abram was willing to give up Sarai for his own sake, that is, to save his life.  So he not only left the will of God by leaving Canaan, he was willing to give up a beautiful woman as his wife.  Because of this, God judged Pharaoh immediately.  He sent severe sickness to him and his family and Pharaoh soon understood that the sickness came because of Sarai's presence.

 

It is interesting to note that God judged Pharaoh for something that he didn't know was wrong.  Ignorance doesn't seem to be an excuse.

 

Thus we note that as God said in Genesis 2:3, He'd curse those who cursed Abram.  This is interesting.  I believe that Abram was outside the will of God at this time in his life, yet Pharaoh did something that was seen as be a negative thing being done to Abram, therefore He cursed Pharaoh and his family with sickness. 

 

The same principle works today.  When God says that He'd bless those who bless Abram, and curse those who curse Abram, I believe that carries on down through Abram's descendents, meaning Israel .  I believe the same principle works today.  If we as individuals, or a nation bless Israel, we will be blessed, yet if we curse Israel, we will be cursed.  I also believe that history can prove this to be true.

 

One might say that this blessing and cursing doesn't apply today because Israel is not walking with their God.  That's not so.  This passage proves that isn't so, because Abram was outside of God's will as well, and Pharaoh got cursed.   It's not a matter of Abram or Israel being in or out of God's will.  It's a matter of God's sovereign choice.   As the apostle Paul so clearly states in his writings concerning Israel in Romans 9 through 12, God will bless who He wishes and curses who He wishes.  It's not a matter of good or bad works.  It's all a matter of what God wants to do and he wants to bless Israel , and He wants us to bless Israel even though at the moment they are not living as they should.

 

We see in verses 18 and 19 that Pharaoh is upset at Abram because he told him that Sarai was his sister and not his wife.  This resulted in Pharaoh taking Sarai as his wife.  So Pharaoh sent Sarai back and told Abram to leave.   You wonder what his did to Sarai and Abram's relationship.  Sarai had now slept with another man.  It sounds like a mess to me, and a mess it was, and a mess it produced, but still, Abram was God's choice to be the father and founder of Israel , and it didn't matter what Abram did or didn't do.

 

This whole event just goes to show that it is hard to stop at just one sin.  One sin leads to another that leads to another, resulting in a messy situation. 

 

Verse 20 tells us that Pharaoh's men sent Abram and all he had gained in Egypt on his way.  It appears that Pharaoh just wanted Abram to get out of his country as soon as possible Abram returned to Negev.   

 

This ends the first chapter concerning Abraham in Genesis.  What we learn here does not reflect well on Abram.  He could trust God to leave his homeland, but he could not trust God to keep him in Canaan, that's after he delayed his trip to Canaan by staying in Haran. 

 

Abram's trip to Egypt was a disaster.  He lied.  He mistreated his wife.  He prospered from this lie and this mistreatment of his wife.  And, what he experienced in Egypt had long lasting results well beyond his life.       

Next Section - Chapter 13

Previous Section - Chapter 11

Home Page