Genesis 12:1-32 – The Call of Avram and The Abrahamic Covenant

Genesis 12:1-32 – The Call of Avram and The Abrahamic Covenant

12:1 Abram was told to leave his country his relatives – Though he did not fully do so until years later when “circumstances”, forced him to separate from his nephew Lot.  Initially he left Ur for Haran, which is in the current land of Syria, but his relatives went with him (11:31)   The Lord gives us a similar call; (Luke 14:26)  “”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.” . He was told to leave his father’s house – This meant not only leaving his uncles and cousins but also his own father.  Family relationships in the Middle East even to this day are extremely close.  This was not a simple request asked of Abraham, this involved great faith and a willingness to die to his old life and world.  He was told to go without knowing where he was going.  Imagine the response from family and friends when they questioned him about why and where he was headed.

V. 2-3 – If Abraham began that walk, God promised to make of him a great nation, this was a remarkable promise since Abram and Sarai are childless.  God promised to Bless him – This blessing included material as well as spiritual blessings. Further God would make his name great if he would be lifted in honor and greatness. He would also be a blessing, and not only would he receive blessings but he would be a vehicle for blessing others. God told him that He would bless those who would bless him.This blessing as verse 3 tells us would depend on their attitude toward Abraham, and as Scripture later demonstrates, to his offspring also. (Gen 27:29) “May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.””  (Ex. 23:22) “If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you.” (Mat 25:40) “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'” God goes on to declare that all the families of the earth would be blessed through him – This is a reference to the Messiah who would come through his seed or offspring and who would make it possible for people from every nation, tribe to experience abundant blessings.

V 4 – here we see Abraham leaving Haran for the land of Canaan, but he takes his nephew Lot with him.  This is understandable considering that Lot had become like a son to him at the death of his brother Haran.  Note that he was 75 years of age, and Sarai was 65 years old. Sarai’s name means princess.  Her name was changed in Chap 17 when God confirms that Sarah would give birth to a child and thus be a mother of a multitude of nations who would be her children through the Child (the Messiah) who would eventually come through her. 

V. 5-7 Abram had already been blessed with material possessions from the Lord.  But now he stepped out of his comfort zone and compromised his wealth and security to travel in response to God’s call on him.  He came to Shechem, which would later be rebuilt by the Roman emperor Hadrian and called Neapolis, or Nablus.  In the time of Jesus this was the home of the Samaritans, and the place where Jesus talked with the woman at the well.  It was here in Shechem that the Lord appeared to him and gave Abram the assurance that the land would be given to him.  We learn later of two other times when the Lord would appear to Abram. Gen. 17:1; 18:1, in response Abram builds an altar and there offers a sacrifice to the Lord. Abram was a patriarch, which meant that he operated as a prophet, priest and king.

V. 8 Abram and his company dwelt in tents, living the life of Nomads.  He now moved his tents to Bethel and called on the name of Yahweh or Jehovah. YHWH is God’s name in Hebrew known by the Greek term “Tetragrammaton” (meaning four letters), these are the four Hebrew consonants which make up the name and is found more than 6,000 times in the Old Testament. The written Hebrew language in the Torah did not include vowels, only  consonants were used; thus, readers supplied the vowels as they read (this is true even today in modern Hebrew newspapers). Reverence for the name led to the practice of avoiding the use of the letters to avoid breaking the commands in (Exo 20:7) “”You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” (Lev 24:16) “anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death.”  In time it was thought that the divine name was too holy to pronounce at all. Thus, the practice arose of using the word Adonai which means “master” or “Lord.”  Many Jewish people will not write the name lest it be profaned so they will write L-rd or G-d.  (Exo 3:14-15) “I AM WHO I AM” is a very literal rendering of the Hebrew text, expressing God’s real, perfect, unconditional, independent existence. God exists in a way that no one and nothing else does simultaneously in the past, present and future. He is without beginning or end. He is the only Being who is self-existent. Studying the attributes of God will display the wonders of His glory.

V 9 -10- Abraham now departs from the perfect will of God and enters the realm of God’s permissive will. The permissive will of God will lead to circumstances that can have consequences we will have to deal with.  God had told Abram to go to the land that He would show him, which of course was Canaan.  God promised to bless him if he went. God did not tell him to go to Egypt, but Abraham went because of outward circumstances; a famine in the land of Canaan, this was not uncommon.  Abraham was called to endure a trial or a test, that would have refined his faith, and in this test he failed.  Traveling to Egypt by tent dwellers was not at all uncommon.  Egypt was always well provided with water because of the Nile and its annual surge of water that caused its banks to overflow.  Egypt utilized principles of irrigation to provide for their regular and abundant harvests.  Rarely did Egypt experience famine because of its reliable source of water from the Nile. Perhaps he went because of pressure placed on him by Lot and his wife whose faith remained steadfastly weak.

V 11-16 – When Abram got to Egypt, he was forced to compromise himself and Sarai.  The Egyptians reported to Pharaoh that Sarai was beautiful.  Though Sarai was 65, she doubtless was in her prime since the life span of the patriarchs was about twice that of people today. Sarah was 127 when she died, and Abraham was 175 when he died. The Egyptians were polytheists and noted for their cruelty.  It would be nothing to them to kill Abraham to have Sarai.  Reason told Abraham that it would be far better to let it be known that Sarai was his sister rather than his wife.  This after all was a half-truth (which is a whole lie), for he had the same father as Sarah; When later challenged by Pharoah for his deception he said to him in (Gen 20:12) “Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.”  By having Sarai known as his sister rather than his wife would allow Abram to be treated kindly by any would be suitors.  Tradition in the day was that the family of a perspective bride receive a dowry to compensate for the loss of the daughter and sister.  On the other hand a beautiful woman often would lead to an “accidental death” that would come upon a husband who stood in the way of a kings desire for such a woman.  Consider how David treated Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba one of his loyal military servants when David desired to cover his indiscretion with his wife.  How much more would Pharaoh act toward Abraham in a foreign land. Well instead of being approached by an Egyptian lay person, Sarai came to the attention of Pharaoh.  Her beauty was reported to Pharaoh by his servants, and he invited her to be one of his wives.  So rather than getting killed, Abraham was treated royally as her brother. For a dowery for Sarai “his sister” he was given sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels.  One of the maidservants would turn out not to be such a blessing, Hagar.

V 17-20 – It is a sad thing when unbelievers rebuke believers for their behavior.  This is the case here. God protected Sarah from Pharaoh, but humanly speaking Abraham was not deserving of such protection.  No doubt this caused all kinds of grief and pain to Sarah and Abram.  One wrong decision led to another and to near disaster.  They were helpless and called on the Lord and he delivered them!  Here we see the depths of God’s love and grace.  In some way it was revealed to Pharaoh that Sarah was married to Abram, and that the secret of her great beauty was the God of all Gods.  He rebuked Abraham and Sara for their deception but didn’t dare harm them.  He told them leave his country and instructed his servants to help them go with all their possessions.  I’m sure the journey back was not one of rejoicing because they brought shame on themselves and on the God that they served.  But let’s remember that you and I are often guilty of similar actions.  (1 Cor 10:12-13) Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. {13} No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.

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