God calls Abram, and blesses him with a promise of Christ. (Verse 1-3.)
Abram departs from Haran. (Verse 4,5.)
He journeys through Canaan, and worships God in that land. (Verse 6-9.)
Abram is driven by a famine into Egypt, He feigns his wife to be his sister. (Verse 10-20.)
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:
[Gen 11:26, Josh 24:2, 1st Chron 1:27 Acts 7:3]
Abram had to separate himself from his past as an example to the nation that would eventually come out of his loins.
“had said” – we find at this point that God had given Abram some commands, namely four – to leave his country, his kindred, his father’s house and to go to a land that God would shew him. From 11:31 we note that Abram did leave his country (Ur of the Chaldees), but did not leave his kindred or his father’s house.
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:
[Gen 17:6, Gen 18:18, Gen 46:3, Deut 26:5, 1st Kings 3:8]
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.
[Acts 3:25, Gal 3:8 Gen 18:18, Gen 22:18]
if Abram would obey God, the Lord would tremendously bless him; note how these promises are conditional upon Abram’s obedience. Note that there are seven blessings promised by God in this covenant if Abram will do his part (vs. 1).
- God promised to make a great nation from Abram:
This was a first. With no other person did God make such a promise. If a person or a nation wanted to be blessed by God they would have to bless Abram, or eventually his offspring.
This promise of a nation is later repeated to his son Isaac, and later on to Jacob and then to all twelve tribes that descends from Jacob’s loins. This promise is latter mentioned to Moses concerning the descendants of Abram becoming a great nation. This promise will ultimately be fulfilled in the future Millennial Kingdom.
- God promised to bless Abram:
Up unto this time, God had not given Abram anything according to the scriptures, but that was all about to change. Notice what God’s word says near the end of his life:
Genesis 24:1 And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.
Isaiah 51:1 Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. 2 Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.
- God promised to make Abram’s name great:
Nehemiah 9:7 Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham;
Abraham means: Father of Nations
- God promised that Abram would be a blessing:
Abram blessed his 316 hired servants with food, tents, employment, protection and he blessed Lot and the five kings after he had defeated the army of Chedorlaomer in Genesis 14 by returning all the spoils and those held captive to their families. The list goes on and on but you see other examples as we continue our study.
- God promised to bless them that blessed Abram
Melchizedek blessed Abram with wine and bread after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer and God blessed him for blessing Abram with a tithe of the battle. Genesis 14 This is the only time we read about Abram tithing in the scripture and it was not from his salary but from spoils of war.
- God promised to curse them that cursed Abram
What happened to the five nations that had captured Abram’s nephew Lot, they were cursed. What later happened to the Egyptians? Cursed. Just go down the list, nation after nation that cursed Abram’s offspring were cursed.
- God promised to bless all the families of the earth in Abram.
How could God bless all the families of the earth in Abram? All the families of the earth had not been born yet, but when the promised seed of Genesis 3 (Jesus) dies for mankind, then all families could be blessed in Abram through his seed the Messiah.
in a practical sense, God has always blessed those who blessed the Jews (Abram’s eventual descendants) and cursed those who cursed the Jews
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.
[Gen 11:27, Gen 13:5, Gen 14:12, Gen 19:1, 2nd Pet 2:7]
here is recorded the fact that Abram left his father’s house, but he still had not left his kindred – his nephew Lot was with him
Abram was obedient even though he did not know where he was going. Did Abram obey completely? No, he brought Lot and he went to Haran and stayed there until the death of his father.
Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
These promises made to Abram are not just to Abram but also to his descendants as we shall see later and these promises were unconditional.
God is going to keep his promises because he gave his word regardless of how Abram or his descendants behave. The Calvinist would have us believe that God has fulfilled every promise made to Abram/Abraham and the Jewish Nation. God later would make a conditional covenant with Israel (not a promise) and if they were obedient to that covenant they would be blessed but if they were not they would be punished, but that is also for a later chapter in this study. The Law Covenant however did not disannul the promise:
Galatians 3:17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
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.
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.
[Deut 11:30, Judges 7:1]
And the Canaanite was then in the land. Why did God inspire Moses to write that line in the text? Was it just filler, or something to enhance our image of what it was like in the land at the time Abram arrived in it?
No! It was to remind us of the curse on Canaan which we read about earlier in Genesis and that God, because of their vile sexual practices mentioned in Deuteronomy 18, was going to expel them out of the land because they had defiled.
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.
[Deut 34:4, Psa 105:11 Gen 13:4]
God shewed him the land as promised in 12:1
This is the first time we see in the Bible that God appeared to someone. We read about God talking to man in the Garden or with Noah but not appearing unto man.
We also see a very important statement here that God tells Abram that this promise is not just to Abram himself but that it will pass down unto his seed.
At this time in Abram’s life he had no seed, so this is a two-fold blessing. Abram is going to have a seed and the land of Canaan will belong to his seed as well as him.
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.
9 And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.
Why was Abram constantly journeying around building altars? He was commanded to travel up and down in the land that he would possess and he was doing just that while looking for a city:
Hebrews 11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose buildeand maker is God.
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.
this is the first of many references in the Bible to Egypt – God has very little good to say about Egypt (settled by the descendants of Ham) and is always urging his people to leave or avoid Egypt; Egypt in the Bible is a picture or type of the world system which the believer in Jesus Christ should avoid and have not part in. Compare I John 2:15-17.
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.
Abram wanted his wife to tell a half-truth; Sarai was not only Abram’s wife, but was also his half-sister (see 20:11-12). This should be a lesson to us that anything short of the full truth is a LIE!
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.
Abram is barely in the land anytime at all before a famine comes in the land of Promise and Abram makes a decision without consulting God and he heads down to Egypt, which is seen as a type of the world that is contrary to God throughout the Bible.
17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.
[Gen 20:18, 1st Chron 16:21, Psa 105:14]
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?
[Gen 20:9, Gen 26:10]
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.
Notice that Abram left with his wife and all that he had. Pharaoh let him keep all that he had given him. We don’t know how Pharaoh figured out that Sarai was also Abram’s wife, but we do know that God was not going to allow Sarai to be taken by Pharaoh because she was going to be an integral part of the Promise as she was to be the mother of the Jewish People.
Pharaoh and his house was plagued with great plagues because of her so someone had to tell Pharaoh that it was because of Sarai being the wife of the man to whom God had chosen to do great things that they were being plagued . It was either Sarai, or God, or possibly someone who had seen them together that informed the Pharaoh, but it didn’t matter.
What should have Abram done differently? He should have told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Why? He would have been killed you might think. There is no way Abram could have been killed because God had made a promise to Abram to give him the land of Canaan.
I guess Pharaoh could have killed Abram but God would have just had to resurrect him in order to keep his promise to Abram. Abram should have trusted the God who brought him to the land to provide for him and to protect him, but he was human like you and I and God has consistently showed us that he uses flawed people to do his will.
Abram would not have been killed if he had told the truth because God who spoke to him was bound to protect him. We will learn more about God’s protection in later chapters. We do not have this same type of hedge of protection around us as believers today. We are not the father of a future Kingdom that will one day rule with Christ but Abram was.
Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.
Verse 1-3 – God made choice of Abram, and singled him out from among his fellow-idolaters, that he might reserve a people for himself, among whom his true worship might be maintained till the coming of Christ. From henceforward Abram and his seed are almost the only subject of the history in the Bible. Abram was tried whether he loved God better than all, and whether he could willingly leave all to go with God. His kindred and his father’s house were a constant temptation to him, he could not continue among them without danger of being infected by them. Those who leave their sins, and turn to God, will be unspeakable gainers by the change. The command God gave to Abram, is much the same with the gospel call, for natural affection must give way to Divine grace. Sin, and all the occasions of it, must be forsaken; particularly bad company. Here are many great and precious promises. All God’s precepts are attended with promises to the obedient.
1. I will make of thee a great nation. When God took Abram from his own people, he promised to make him the head of another people.
2. I will bless thee. Obedient believers shall be sure to inherit the blessing.
3. I will make thy name great. The name of obedient believers shall certainly be made great.
4. Thou shalt be a blessing. Good men are the blessings of their country.
5. I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee. God will take care that none are losers, by any service done for his people.
6. In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Jesus Christ is the great blessing of the world, the greatest that ever the world possessed. All the true blessedness the world is now, or ever shall be possessed of, is owing to Abram and his posterity. Through them we have a Bible, a Saviour, and a gospel. They are the stock on which the Christian church is grafted.
Verse 4,5 – Abram believed that the blessing of the Almighty would make up for all he could lose or leave behind, supply all his wants, and answer and exceed all his desires; and he knew that nothing but misery would follow disobedience. Such believers, being justified by faith in Christ, have peace with God. They hold on their way to Canaan. They are not discouraged by the difficulties in their way, nor drawn aside by the delights they meet with. Those who set out for heaven must persevere to the end. What we undertake, in obedience to God’s command, and in humble attendance on his providence, will certainly succeed, and end with comfort at last. Canaan was not, as other lands, a mere outward possession, but a type of heaven, and in this respect the patriarchs so earnestly prized it.
Verse 6-9 – Abram found the country peopled by Canaanites, who were bad neighbours. He journeyed, going on still. Sometimes it is the lot of good men to be unsettled, and often to remove into various states. Believers must look on themselves as strangers and sojourners in this world, Hebrews 11:8,13,14. But observe how much comfort Abram had in God. When he could have little satisfaction in converse with the Canaanites whom he found there, he had abundance of pleasure in communion with that God, who brought him thither, and did not leave him. Communion with God is kept up by the word and by prayer. God reveals himself and his favours to his people by degrees; before, he had promised to show Abram this land, now, to give it to him: as grace is growing, so is comfort. It should seem, Abram understood it also as a grant of a better land, of which this was a type; for he looked for a heavenly country, Hebrews 11:16. As soon as Abram was got to Canaan, though he was but a stranger and sojourner there, yet he set up, and kept up, the worship of God in his family. He not only minded the ceremonial part of religion, the offering of sacrifice; but he made conscience of seeking his God, and calling on his name; that spiritual sacrifice with which God is well pleased. He preached concerning the name of the Lord; he taught his family and neighbours the knowledge of the true God, and his holy religion. The way of family worship is a good old way, no new thing, but the ancient usage of the saints. Abram was rich, and had a numerous family, was now unsettled, and in the midst of enemies; yet, wherever he pitched his tent, he built an altar: wherever we go, let us not fail to take our religion along with us.
Verse 10-20 – There is no state on earth free from trials, nor any character free from blemishes. There was famine in Canaan, the glory of all lands, and unbelief, with the evils it ever brings, in Abram the father of the faithful. Perfect happiness and perfect purity dwell only in heaven. Abram, when he must for a time quit Canaan, goes to Egypt, that he might not seem to look back, and meaning to tarry there no longer than needful. There Abram dissembled his relation to Sarai, equivocated, and taught his wife and his attendants to do so too. He concealed a truth, so as in effect to deny it, and exposed thereby both his wife and the Egyptians to sin. The grace Abram was most noted for, was faith; yet he thus fell through unbelief and distrust of the Divine providence, even after God had appeared to him twice. Alas, what will become of weak faith, when strong faith is thus shaken! If God did not deliver us, many a time, out of straits and distresses which we bring ourselves into, by our own sin and folly, we should be ruined. He deals not with us according to our deserts. Those are happy chastisements that hinder us in a sinful way, and bring us to our duty, particularly to the duty of restoring what we have wrongfully taken or kept. Pharaoh’s reproof of Abram was very just: What is this that thou hast done? How unbecoming a wise and good man! If those who profess religion, do that which is unfair and deceptive, especially if they say that which borders upon a lie, they must expect to hear of it; and they have reason to thank those who will tell them of it. The sending away was kind. Pharaoh was so far from any design to kill Abram, as he feared, that he took particular care of him. We often perplex ourselves with fears which are altogether groundless. Many a time we fear where no fear is. Pharaoh charged his men not to hurt Abram in any thing. It is not enough for those in authority, that they do not hurt themselves; they must keep their servants and those about them from doing hurt.