Genesis 12: The Call of Abram

1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you

-From my own recent history I know this call well. I too left my country, my kindred, and my father’s house to a land that God showed me through the mission trip with my church. Once I saw this place, I knew this was where I was suppose to be. I can’t help but wonder if this is how it happened with Abram. I think we all tend to think more along the lines of God speaking with a voice that can be heard audibly to Abram with this story but I wonder if it was more like my own experience. In my experience, there was no audible voice or a visitation by an angel, there was simply a feeling of assurance. Logically, I could not explain why I would want to sell everything and go to Mexico. I was not impressing anyone, I was not doing it to try to earn favor with God. I simply “knew” like an instinct what to do and was not able to question. I feel like I had no choice, I could not imagine not doing it. And that’s it. No magic, no nothing. I do not want to be guilty of injecting my own personal experience and perspective into the word of God, but I would describe my experience as “the Lord said” as well. So when it it written that “the Lord said”, we shouldn’t assume it was audible although it may very well have been.

2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

-According to the genealogy last chapter, it really hasn’t been that long since the flood. Even though Abram is multiple generations after and 75 years old at the time of leaving Haran, Noah’s son Shem is still alive during this time as he would be 465 years old now. Shem lives until he’s 600 years old. So the idea that a nation will descend from someone at this time probably wasn’t all that shocking since it was happening everywhere in the world. What made this so shocking was the direct communication from God and then the age of Abram. Even though Shem and the earlier generations were living a very long time, we’ve already gotten close to the point where mankind is living closer to the lifespan of today. Abram’s father Terah lives 205 years and Abram 180 years. We see most of Abram’s ancestors have the particular descendant in their 30’s except Abram’s father Terah had all three sons by 70 so being already 75 years old, it was a little on the old side to be having children already. We don’t know how the aging worked at this time if 75 was similar to 75 today and they stayed “old” longer or if it was closer to about 40 or 50 compared to today. But compared to everyone after Shem, it seems like Abram should have got his start sooner. This is what makes this story truly miraculous.

3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

-This is the verse that is used when suggesting gentile nations should support Israel. When God is speaking to Abraham, He also seems to be speaking to the nation that will come from him as well when He says “all the families of the earth”. We don’t see that “all the families of the earth” are blessed during Abram’s lifetime so God definitely seems to be speaking about the nation not specifically him. We see later in the bible that through Israel, we receive the promised Messiah who takes away the sin of the world and we see the role Israel will play in the new earth. We see this play out during the nation of Israel’s time in the old testament, but does it still apply today? Does supporting the nation of Israel today still mean blessing for the nation that does? I think we have to ask ourselves what “supporting Israel” means exactly. Are we talking about the country or are we talking about God and His will? Israel was created to be an example to the nations. So when we support Israel, we are honoring God and declaring our faith in what He has revealed as being “good”. This does not mean that everything Israel does is right. After all, it is a secular country today and most of those who are religious are Orthodox Jewish who deny Jesus as the Son of God. There are many lies and misinformation about Israel, but Israel also has committed sins themselves. So does this verse suggest it is wise to blindly support the country of Israel no matter what they do, even when they are morally wrong and against God themselves? Of course not. In Luke 14:26, Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” I will not get into the specifics and the Greek here but the word “hate” in this instance means “forsake” or to let go. NOTHING is of importance except following God. If Israel does something contrary to what God has declared morally right than do not suport this action. But do not curse her, instead, just like God does for us, forgive in love and go right back to giving nurturing support and aid to her. Love should be the motivation here, not the blessing upon your nation. Enabling bad behavior does nothing to support Israel except to enable her to sin against God more.  Think of it as a parent-child relationship.  When your rebellious teenager does something wrong, you point it out as wrong and you may issue a punishment if appropriate.  But does that mean you have turned your back on your child?  No.  You love your child, that is why you will not condone a sin.  But this is not the same as telling your child everything they do is right because you love and support them.  That will do incredible harm.  When supporting Israel, we must keep in mind to put God first.

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

-Last chapter it says Abram left Ur to go to Canaan but instead stopped in Haran and settled there. Piecing the two bits of information together, it seems Abram disobeyed God and went to Haran first or at the very least stopped short on this not-so-straight path towards Canaan. In Acts 7:2-4 it states, “And Stephen said: ‘Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living.’” So Abraham did obey God, but was delayed because his father was with him. It says Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran but we aren’t given any other information other than his father died at the age of 205 in Haran. Either Abram ended up leaving his father in Haran and he died there by himself at a later date having stayed there the rest of his life or his father was already nearly 205 and in poor health and ended up dying there during the journey and Abram left once he was buried and the affairs were settled. In either case, verse 1 of this chapter said to “go from your kindred and your father’s house”. Even if “father’s house” refers to just the place of Ur and not literally his father’s dwelling place, Abram still did not leave his relatives because he took both his father and Lot with him. Abram was still obedient in the end because after all Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” I am only pointing out the obedience was not perfect to show how Abram’s life is a journey of being molded into the image of an obedient servant to God or the image of Jesus. Abram did obey, but there is evidence of some hesitation and signs Abram obeyed but just in his own way. We see later he tells a lie to the Egyptians. God did not tell him to do so and would never tell him to lie which is a sin, but Abram decides to do it his own way.  One other interesting question is the name of the place “Haran” itself.  That happens to be the name of Abram’s brother, Lot’s father as well.  The name “Haran”  means “mountaineer” in Hebrew.  It might be possible that the group named this area Haran after their loved one since he had passed away in Ur where they were from but this is unknown.

5a And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan.

-He may have left his father’s house, but it seems he took it all with him when he left. Not only that but they had “acquired” people in Haran. Given that Abram had servants, it stands to reason he and his father’s family were quite wealthy in those days. It seems too soon in history for there to be masters and servants rather than simply family clans but some families and nations of people likely faired better than others. Even with only 10 generations from Shem to Abram, we are only seldom told how many children each descendant had. When not stated, they could have had dozens upon dozens who all themselves had dozens upon dozens over the course of a few hundred years and there could be tens of thousands living on the Earth already. There is no telling how many daughters each could have had even when the amount of sons were stated and you would only need one man to impregnate many different women. It’s also possible with so few people, everyone essentially moved in herds. Perhaps if for some reason one person was not welcomed in one family, they joined another and this is where the people came from that Abram acquired. Those who were not blood were servants.

5b When they came to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.

-Shechem is an area in Israel and was the first capital city. The “oak of Moreh” mentioned here could very well be the terebinth tree that Jacob hid all the foreign gods and earrings in Genesis 35:4. Even though we haven’t got there yet, the Israelites in the desert hearing this story may have had that passed down through the generations in Egypt and new this bit of information already.

7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

-As mentioned before with Noah, alter building must have been something passed down going all the way back to Adam and Eve when Cain and Abel made their offerings otherwise how is it that Abram knew to do this without the law? Either that or this became perverted with other teachings and Abram was merely doing what he thought “gods” liked. This is the first time it says the Lord “appeared” to Abram rather than spoke so this could have been the first time Abram knew for sure he was really being told something and wasn’t just going crazy. It is uncertain why he did this.

8 From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. 9 And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

-Despite the fact that the Lord actually appeared to him as a confirmation, it still stands to reason he was being lead by what felt like instinct or else why is he still moving? He was told to go to Canaan and then when he got to Shechum and the Lord said “I will give this land”, why didn’t he stay there and assume this was the land right there where he built the alter? After all, the Lord said to go to the land “that I will show you”. Didn’t He just show him? Instead he keeps moving and ends up building another alter. Did he see the Lord again? There’s so much that we just aren’t told. The only thing important to keep in mind is that God is guiding him to where He wants him to go but what he is being told is very limited. It is vague as to where he is supposed to go. He is wandering around a foreign and probably dangerous land with a whole caravan of people, animals, and supplies not knowing where God wants him to go.

Abram and Sarai in Egypt
10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.

-This is a flash forward to some unstated time after the second alter construction. It could have been shortly after or it could have been years later. The question here is, was Abram disobeying God to go to Egypt? Abram was not told to go to Egypt but he was only told to go to Canaan and that God will give him that land. But if God is to give him that land, he certainly needs to survive long enough to acquire it, doesn’t he? It is important when being lead by the Lord to consider what we know for sure to be of God. God is in control of all things, so if there was a famine so severe that Abram had to temporarily head to Egypt for food just to survive then that must be part of God’s plan, otherwise, God would have prevented or told Abram not to do that. It seems God gives us only enough information to know what to do and as long as we are obedient to that information, we can decide other things for ourselves. This verse says Abram “sojourned” there which means a temporary stay so Abram was not moving on or deciding to permanently settle in Egypt. So there is no reason to assume he is in the wrong yet. Although it could be argued that had he not had such a huge household to feed, he may not have needed to go to Egypt in the first place and there may have been more than enough for just him and his wife.

11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.”

-Here Abram decides to tell a lie to ensure his own safety. Technically, it is not a total lie since she is his half-sister. But a technicality is still a lie and he didn’t say half-sister, he said sister which implies a full sister. The important thing to notice is Abram has not yet learned to trust God in his life completely yet. He knows because God told him that he will have a nation descend from him so therefore he cannot be killed. So Abram forgot his faith to fear that he would be killed on account of his wife.

14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. 17 But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.

-”Taken into Pharaoh’s house” meant that she was added to his harem as his concubine. This would mean the Pharaoh and his princes and whoever else was included in his house had sex with her and the “great plagues” came in the form of a vunerial disease. Why couldn’t he had said that she was his wife? Instead, he allows his wife to become a sex object to a foreign ruler all to save his own life which he should have known was protected by God given the foreknowledge he was given of having descendants. Not only that but while she’s being forced to sleep around against her will (one would assume), Abram is treated like a fellow prince because of her. Not only is he able to get plenty of food, but his household grows substantially from the Pharaoh’s gifts. It seems this was in God’s plan all along to ensure Abram has plenty of wealth for his households health and security until Israel’s sons end up in Egypt. Had Abram not taken is original possession as it seemed God was commanding him to do, God would have provided an abundance anyway.

18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.

-How did Pharaoh find out that she was his wife? Did Abram come clean after the plagues started or did Pharaoh somehow know or guess? We are not told but its very odd that Pharaoh would simply say “take her and go” instead of executing them both or at least Abram like he original feared. We see that God was indeed protecting them both and ensuring His plan will be carried out. Given the lavish gifts, perhaps Abram would have decided to stay and disobey God had this not occurred. I suppose if you ever want to truly know if what you think God’s plan is for you is true, try doing the opposite. God will always ensure his plan works out no matter what. The fact that the Egyptians got these plagues was because had they not, they would have never given up Sarai so that Abram and she could birth Isaac and Abram may have never left without her. If you think God has revealed a plan for your life then rejoice! Because no matter what, that plan will happen. It may not happen the way you think and it may happen at a much later time than you want, but it will happen, so there is never any reason to worry.

Spanish words:

parentela = relatives, kin
engrandecer = to exalt, increase, enlarge
maldecir = to curse
bienes = goods (property)
invocar = to invoke, incite, call
reserve = to book, reserve, set aside
oveja = sheep
asno = donkey
criada = maid
herir = to hurt, injure, inflict with
acompañar = to accompany, keep company

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