● Chapter 12
The Call of Abram
Gen 12:1: Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
Yahweh called Abram when he was 70 years old in Ur of Chaldea. Some time after that his father, Terah, moved his family out of Ur, with the intention of going to Canaan, but found themselves dwelling in Haran (Acts 7:2-4). After his father’s death, the Lord called Abram again, not just to leave his country and kindred, but also his father’s house, to a land that He would show him.
Gen 12:2: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
3: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
In obedience to the Lord’s command, Abram was then promised a blessing. Yahweh promised to bless him and magnify his name, for he was to be a patriarch of a new family of people. Out of him was to come forth a great nation of people, both Jews and Gentiles – believers in the covenant Yahweh made with him. Indeed, he became a blessing to many for in him the Seed, promised for salvation, came (Gen.3:15; 22:18; Acts 3:25; Eph.1:3). With such great blessing bestowed upon Abram, God would bless all who bless him, and would curse those who curse him.
Gen 12:4: So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.
5: And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.
Abram departed out of Haran at the age of 75 years. With him were his wife Sarai and all his household of servants, and all the possessions, that they had acquired in Haran; “…and Lot went with him”, somehow. There’s no denying that Abram had deep respect for Lot who was about his age, more or less. Lot was not only his nephew but also his wife’s brother. So, together with Lot and his family, and his household of servants and possessions, Abram set off for Canaan.
Gen 12:6: And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.
7: And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.
As Abram entered Canaan, he continued his journey until he came to a place in the plain of Moreh, know as Shechem. “And the Canaanite was then in the land”, they had controlled of the land. Surely, it was not comforting for Abram to see a land that God had promised his seed – “Unto thy seed will I give this land” – inhabited by a people of great stature. As fate would have it, Abram’s ‘port’ of entry was named Shechem where a great oak tree of Moreh stood. The word “Shechem” means “between the shoulders”; it speaks of burden. The word “Moreh” means “early, teaching”. So, right from the beginning of his entering the Promised Land, Abram found that his journey in Yahweh’s calling was not an easy road to travel. But he was taught early to trust God’s Word no matter how daunting the journey and the task ahead of him might be; whatever and however great the burden was upon him, God would sustain him. Abram had to learn. God’s promise is never given with just a bed of fragrant rose flowers; he always gives it stalks and all. For true faith and godly character, a saint has to deal with the many thorny issues of life. Nevertheless, Abram believed God that the land was his, and that he would have it. So, he built an altar and worshipped his God. Shechem would later become a hallowed place for his descendants.
Gen 12:8: And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.
From Shechem Abram continued on a southward journey to a mountainous area between Bethel and Ai. Here he built another altar and worshipped the Lord God who called him. Like Shechem, Bethel would also later be a hallowed place for Abram’s people.
Gen 12:9: And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.
10: And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.
Still on a southward course Abram journeyed. But a great famine came upon that land which forced him to go southwestward into Egypt. This part of his journey was the beginning of his faith.
Deception and Iniquity
Gen 12:11: And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:
12: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.
13: Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
14: And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.
15: The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.
16: And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.
17: And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.
18: And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?
19: Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.
20: And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.
Now, the life of Abram and the lives of all whom God had written in the Scripture, concerning their walk before Him, “they are written for our admonition” (1Cor.10:11). God showed us that, like those saints of old, we are all of “like passions”, being born in sin (Jas.5:17; Acts 14:15). We are all similarly affected when it comes to trials. Trials vex our emotion, and emotion can lead to frustration, anxiety and fear. But our Lord wanted us to know that He cares for us even as He cared for Abram when he entered Egypt.
The passage of Scripture revealed that Abram was faced with anxiety as he and his people approached Egypt. He was apprehensive of what the Egyptians would do to him over his wife because Sarai was a beautiful woman to look upon. Abram feared that the Egyptians would kill him. He entreated Sarai to say that she was his sister so that the Egyptians would treat him well by for her sake, and his life would be spared because of her. As they entered Egypt, Sarai caught the attention of the high ranking officers, and they commended her to Pharaoh. Sarai was taken into the king’s palace but before Pharaoh could take her in wedlock, God plagued him and his household with some great diseases. The hand of God touched Pharaoh. It was God’s grace and mercy to both him and Abram. God, later, also touched Abimelech, who was caught in similar way by Abram’s dangerous deception (Gen.20).
Many Christians considered the words and deed of Abram not wrong because he told a truth, which was but a half-truth. They believed he was justified in his words and deed. As pointed out in previous chapter, such half truth was not just a lie but a dangerous lie. Observe carefully Pharaoh’s chastisement of Abram: “What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.” Surely Abram had done a great wrong to Pharaoh by not telling the simple truth that Sarai was his wife. By telling Pharaoh that Sarai was his sister, Abram had caused Pharaoh to unwittingly take Sarai to be his wife. All that time, Abram was well treated by Pharaoh, but he uttered not a word even as Pharaoh prepared for the marriage ceremony. Pharaoh and his household suffered God’s displeasure because of Abram’s deception. Had not the Lord God intervened, Sarai would have been the wife of two men — Abram and Pharaoh. That, then, would be a tragedy.
Had not God promised Abram that he would have a seed and that he would be a great nation? The instability of Abram made him to commit an act of iniquity, and that spirit of instability and iniquity was passed to Isaac and later exploded in Jacob, even to several of his 12 sons in the fourth generation. They all suffered (Exo.34:7). Though our God is merciful, He hates the sin of iniquity above all sins. We should understand that God’s way is always best but often unknown, no doubt. Abram’s failure was our admonition to call upon the Lord for His help whenever need arises.
Nevertheless, as it went, ‘all’s well that ends well’, by God’s grace and mercy. After Pharaoh had upbraided Abram for his deception, he enlightened Abram concerning Sarai, “Behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way”, that is, “Take her and go. She is your wife”. In no uncertain term was Pharaoh impressing upon Abram that Sarai was his wife, not a sister. Then Pharaoh, without any ill-feeling, sent him and his wife and his household on their way out of Egypt to Canaan.
Thus ends the beginning of Abram's journey of faith.
[Note: More chapters will be posted next year.]