- Locate the passage
This section begins a new toledoth following the family of Terah, Abram’s father. This toledoth is one of the longest sections in Genesis and extends through 25:11. This section introduces us to Abram (whose name will alter be changed to Abraham) and begins to chronicle the events that will culminate in a people through Abram who will be God’s Covenant people.
The passage is narrative. Abram does not speak in this pericope, but the Lord twice unfolds His promise to the Patriarch.
- Determine the structure of the passage
11:27-32 – Abram’s family line
12:1-3 – God’s Promise to Abram
12:4-6 – Abram’s Response to God’s Promise
12:7 – God’s Promise on Location
12:7-9 – Abram’s Subsequent Response
- Exegete the passage
The Abrahamic Covenant: This Covenant is based on faithfulness and character of God. The Covenant is made (lit. “cut”) in Genesis 12, repeated in 13:14-17; ratified in 15:1-21; and sealed in 17:1-22.
Throughout the Abram story, there are a number of “threats” to the Covenant that add to the suspense of the story:
- The advanced ages of Abram and Sarai
- The barrenness of Sarai
- Abram’s deceit and Sarai being “taken” into the house of Pharaoh
- Abram’s offer to count Eliezer as his “child of the covenant”
- Abram’s offer to count Ishmael as his “child of the covenant”
- Abram’s deceit and Sarah being “taken” by Abimelech
- God’s command to sacrifice of Isaac
- The barrenness of Rebekah
- Joseph taken as a slave to Egypt
- Jacob traveling to Egypt and the eventual captivity of the Hebrews in Egypt
Abram’s “silence” in this passage underscores the magnitude of God’s promise to and through him.
Abram and Terah: At the first mention of Abram in the Bible, he and his family are leaving their home. The toledoth begins with Terah and not Abram. No explanation is given in the text as to why Abram’s father, Terah, took him and Abram’s nephew, Lot, out of Ur. However, their departure came right on the heels of the judgment at Babel and the death of Abram’s brother Haran. Terah led them as far as Haran. Some have suggested that Haran may have been Terah’s original homeland. It may even be the origin for the name of his deceased son.
Although the text highlights the death of Terah before the departure of Abram, it is clear that Terah was alive when Abram left Haran, which means Terah was alive for much of Abram’s journey. This explains why the pericope begins by introducing Terah and also highlights the impact of God’s command to Abram to leave. Note, the Bible says that Terah took the family from Ur to Haran. Yet, see Gen. 15:7; Neh. 9:7; Acts 7:2-4. God spoke to Abram in Mesopotamia before he went to Haran, but used Terah as the family leader to initiate the move.
Abram and God: The Bible is not clear regarding the nature of Abram’s previous relationship with Yahweh. There is at least the assumption of a prior relationship (Cf. Gen. 12:1). God spoke to Abram revealing His intended will for the would-be Patriarch. This is the first time that the Bible records that God spoke since the judgment at Babel. Juxtaposed in the text are the stories of those who sought to make their own names great (Gen. 11: 4) and Abram, whose name was made great by God. Thus, at the end of Genesis 11, hope seemed lost. But the story of Abram brought a renewal of hope in God.
God’s Call to Abram: God’s call to Abram can be summarized in four movements in the text: Abram’s life before God’s call, the call and promises of God, the response of faith, and the Divine guarantee of His promises. Believers today can learn from Abram’s example, trace the providence of God, and model the obedience of faith in their own lives. There is a sacrifice to the call of Abram. The Lord instructs him to leave Haran — a place perhaps after which Abram’s brother, Haran, was named. The call of Abram meant leaving his family and home to go to an unknown land and undisclosed location (“to a land that I will show you”).
Conditional Promises: Yahweh confirmed His call to Abram through a series of Divine promises. God’s promises to Abram formed the basis for the future relationship not only of Abram and his offspring with Yahweh, but also the entire nation of Israel and indeed believers today.
However, the promises came with a condition. That condition was that Abram had to leave. He was instructed to leave everything that he had known: his home, his family, and his security. Notably, Abram was not told where he would be going, just away from where he was. His only instructions were to “Go to the land that I will show you.” That’s the only roadmap he was given.
God’s promises to Abram included land, descendants, and security. If he would trust God, God would provide for him all that he was being asked to leave.
Abram’s Response: So Abram departed. The text uses the same word in Gen.12:4 to describe Abram’s response to the command given in verse one. Abram was told to “get out,” so he “got out.”
Divine Promise: Yet as great as the faith of the patriarch and the promise of blessing made to him are, they are overshadowed in the text by the Guarantor of the promise. Despite what God asked of Abram, much more was promised to him. And that promise was sealed with a guarantee. Yahweh’s assurance of His promise is revealed in seven “I will” statements He made to Abram. God told him:
- I will show you the land (Gen.12:1)
- I will make you a great nation (Gen.12:2)
- I will bless you (Gen.12:2)
- [I will] make your name great (Gen.12:2)
- I will bless those who bless you (Gen.12:3)
- I will curse those who curse you (Gen.12:3)
- I will give this land (Gen.12:7; Cf. Gen.13:15)
The first six assurances were given by God to Abram at his calling; the last was only received upon his following God’s directions to the land. When he arrived, God told him, “all this is now yours.” There would still be work to accomplish and wars to fight, but the promise was made, and the guarantee was sure.
These are God’s promises to “the Traveler” and to those who would walk this path behind him. God’s promises to Abram were both individual and corporate; they were initiated by God and totally dependent on Him; they were contingent on Abram’s faith, but would pave the way for the faith of many who would follow in the future.
Similarities of Patriarchal narratives
- All these hero’s leave their homelands
- All quarrel with their brothers (13:7, 27:41, 37:4)
- Three go down to Egypt
- 2 Patriarchal wives are seduced; Joseph is attempted
- Their wives are barren
- The younger sons are divinely favored
- Brides met at wells
- Promises from God
- Gentiles acknowledge God’s blessing on them
- Buried in the cave of Machpelah
11:30 – “Sarah was Barren”
- This is the first of a series of stories of barren women in the Old Testament (Cf. Abimelech’s wife and female slaves, Rebekah, Rachel, Manoah’s wife, Hannah, Michal, the Shunammite woman, cf. Elizabeth).
12:1 – “Leave”
- The Divine imperative is not the same Hebrew words as in Gen. 2:24. The word in 2:24 carries the idea of forsake. Here, the word simply means to go.
12:1 – “Your country … your family … your father’s house”
- The instruction is to leave his comfort, his heritage, and his family.
- But, God did not tell Abram where he would be going. Abram was to simply go “to a land that I will show you.”
- to a land I will “cause you to see” (Hb. “ra’ah”)
- The Lord’s guidance is Abram’s compass.
- This is the same word used in Gen. 1 when God “saw” creation and also in Gen. 11:5 when He “saw” the evil of mankind (cf. Gen. 22:12)
12:2 – “I will bless you”
- The word bless renders the Hb. “barak.” In the line of God’s blessing of Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:22, 28; 5:2); the seventh day (2:3), and Noah (9:1) before him, God extended His blessing to Abram.
- The word, “barak” occurs 5 times in Gen. 12:2-3.
- Abram is blessed to BE a blessing.
12:4 – Abram departed
- Abram’s immediate response of faith
- Abram was 75 when God called him
- Similar responses of obedience are recorded of Noah (6:22; 7:9, 16; Heb 11:7), Moses (39:43:40:16); cf. Gen. 22:3.
12:6 – The “Terebinth tree of Moreh”
- A number of significant events in Abram’s life happen at or near oak trees:
- He moved near them (Gen. 13:18)
- The Lord appeared to him there (Gen. 18:1)
- That’s where purchased the burial plot for his family (23:17)See also: Gen. 35:4 – Jacob buried idols under one; Gen. 35:8 – Deborah, Rebekkah’s nurse buried under one; Josh 19:33 – marked borders of towns; Josh 24:26 – the place of making a covenant; Judg. 6:11 – the place where people met messengers of God; Judg. 9:6 – the place of coronation of King Abimelech; 1 Kings 13:4 – a place where prophets sat; 2 Sam. 18:9 – instrument of Judgment on Absalom; and 1 Chron. 10:12 – the bones of Saul and Jonathan buried under one.
12:7 – The Lord appeared to Abram
- This theophany serves as a confirmation of God’s promise to Abraham and specifies the exact location of its fulfillment
12:7 – “So Abram built an altar”
- Abram’s response of worship is the 2nd step of Abram’s faith
- The first was his immediate response in 12:4
12:8 – “He moved … [and] built an altar”
- Abram built a 2nd altar
- Abram’s obedience continues as he follows God’s leadership and continues to express his worship
- Let the structure of the text drive the sermon
God speaks to Abram, promises His blessings, leads him, and appears to him.
Abraham’s response of faith models the faith believers should imitate
- Responding to God in faith means Sacrifice in response to God’s Mission
- Responding to God in faith means Submission in response to God’s Direction
- To a land I will show you
- Responding to God in faith means Confidence in response to God’s Provision
- Abraham claimed God’s Promise – “I will”
- Responding to God in faith means Obedience in response to God’s Instruction
- Abraham departed, took, built an altar, and moved at God’s leading
- Responding to God in faith means Reverence in response to God’s Revelation
- The Lord appeared to Abram
- Abraham twice built an altar to worship the Lord
- There, Abram called on the name of the Lord
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||See also: Gen. 35:4 – Jacob buried idols under one; Gen. 35:8 – Deborah, Rebekkah’s nurse buried under one; Josh 19:33 – marked borders of towns; Josh 24:26 – the place of making a covenant; Judg. 6:11 – the place where people met messengers of God; Judg. 9:6 – the place of coronation of King Abimelech; 1 Kings 13:4 – a place where prophets sat; 2 Sam. 18:9 – instrument of Judgment on Absalom; and 1 Chron. 10:12 – the bones of Saul and Jonathan buried under one.|