129 The Call of Abram Genesis 12
We now begin the story of Abram. His family's story comprises the remainder of the book of Genesis. What we have covered up to now has set the stage for the family of Abraham, the Hebrew people. Already we find God making him a promise and not changing that, even when he is unable to trust in God's protection and lies about his relationship with Sarai. Yet God remain faithful.
Genesis 12—The Call of Abram
12 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
Chapters 12 to 50 are the story of Abram and his descendants. Abram is to leave his country, his relatives, and his father’s family.There are five promises made to Abram:
He will become a great nation—Imagine Abraham’s surprise on the resurrection morning!
He will be blessed—He was protected by God from famine and Pharaoh and Abimelech.
He will be famous—He is through three monotheistic religions (between 3 and 4 billion people).
He will be a blessing to others—He was to fatherless Lot and the 5 kings of the valley.
He will bless all families on earth—This comes true through Jesus Christ, who gave us hope of salvation by grace.
These blessings are not exclusively for Abram but for all who follow the invitation of God to leave the kingdom of this world and move to the kingdom of God or heaven.
4 So Abram departed as the LORD had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. 5 He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth—his livestock and all the people he had taken into his household at Haran—and headed for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, 6 Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites.
Lot was taken under Abram’s wing as his father Haran had died. The Oak of Moreh is in the hill country halfway between the sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. He would have travelled down the Kings Highway, east of the Jordan, then crossed the Jordan and ascended the hills from the rift valley in which the Jordan flows. The rift valley runs south to Lake Malawi in eastern Africa.
7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
This is a unilateral or suzerain covenant God made with Abram. He did not ask anything of Abram. Good parents make a similar covenant with a newborn child. They promise to do their best for the child while they are alive.
Some children make it impossible for good parents to fulfil their commitment but moving away and leaving no address.
Abram never owned any land in Israel except the burial plot he bought for Sarai (Genesis 23:19; 25:9; 49:30; 50:13) in Hebron. A resurrection is necessary to make God’s promise come true for Abram.
Abram built 5 altars that we know of: the Oak of Moreh, Bethel (vs 8), Mt. Moriah or Shechem (22:1-19), the Oaks of Mamre or Hebron (13:18) and Beersheba (21:22-24. He built them to announce his trust God’s promises and his loyalty to the LORD. In other words, he worshiped the LORD.
8 After that, Abram traveled south and set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the LORD, and he worshiped the LORD. 9 Then Abram continued traveling south by stages toward the Negev.
The Negev is the southern desert, the barrier between Israel and Egypt. Abram keeped to the hill country and traversed the range from north to south. The use of LORD (YHWH), the personal name of God, indicates the personal relationship between the LORD and Abram. A personal relationship means that the two people listen to each other and authenticity is a major hall mark of their dialogue.Abram and Sarai in Egypt. Abraham’s lack of trust in God.
10 At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner.
It seems famine was a regular occurrence in this part of the world. Isaac experienced famine (26:1). Jacob experienced famine (41:57). 2000 years later Joseph and Mary will go to Egypt to escape the murderous Herod. Egypt is a refuge for the Israelites over the years.
11 As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, you are a very beautiful woman. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ 13 So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.”
Sarai is 65-70 years of age and is a beautiful, attractive woman. Was she a blonde? Abram is telling a half truth because she is his half sister. They share Terah as their father. He is not thinking about Sarai’s welfare but his own. He is acting from self-preservation.
14 And sure enough, when Abram arrived in Egypt, everyone noticed Sarai’s beauty. 15 When the palace officials saw her, they sang her praises to Pharaoh, their king, and Sarai was taken into his palace. 16 Then Pharaoh gave Abram many gifts because of her—sheep, goats, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.
Is Abram sacrificing his wife’s virtue for his own safety? Surely this is a lack of faith. Why do we need faith? Why can’t we live without faith? Faith is the origin of hope. Faith is necessarybecause we do not have all the information so we come to rely on our history together. Faith triumphs over fear.
17 But the LORD sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.
How is it that the LORD punishes Pharaoh and not Abram who is the guilty one? Correlation does not mean causation. How did Pharaoh come to discover the truth about Sarai? There are many gaps in this story. A repeat incident with Abraham and king Abimelech (20:1-18) suggests what could have happened here too.
The LORD appeared to Abimelech in a dream and threatened him with death if he did not return Saria untouched.
18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram and accused him sharply. “What have you done to me?” he demanded. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ and allow me to take her as my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and get out of here!” 20 Pharaoh ordered some of his men to escort them, and he sent Abram out of the country, along with his wife and all his possessions.
Abram has cast his religion and his God in a poor light to say the least but it does not cancel the promise of God to him. From now on Abram will be regarded by the surrounding nations as a deceiver. More of this when he meets Abimelech in chapter 21.
Ian Hartley, January 2023