Jan. 4 Reading: Genesis 12-15 Commentary
“Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation, I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:1-3)
Genesis 12 – God’s Promise to Abram
It’s not an understatement to say that the whole course of history in the Bible (and even human history) changes with the three verses at the beginning of Genesis 12. Here we read that God calls Abram to do something extraordinary – leave his home country and travel to a land he’s never seen.
God promised Abram seven things would happen:
- God would make him a great nation (the Hebrews or Jewish nation)
- God would bless him
- Abram’s name would become great
- Abram would be a blessing
- God would bless those who bless Abram
- God would curse those who cursed Abram
- All the nations of the world would be blessed through Abram
It’s doubtful Abram understood any of this in the moment. Imagine being asked to leave your comfort zone and embark on a journey and life that you are not sure where it is going to lead. Abram showed great faith, courage and trust in uprooting his family and being obedient to God’s calling on his life.
Abram was 75 years old when he set out with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot and all their possessions (vv. 4-5). They resume the journey that began with his father Terah (see Gen. 11:31-32) and reach the land of Canaan (modern day Israel).
Abram Goes to Egypt
At some point a famine occurs in the land and Abram moves to Egypt to find food. Abram is concerned for his own safety out of fear that the Egyptians will see his beautiful wife Sarai and kill him so that they can marry her. So he asks her to lie and say that she is his sister. In this instance, he showed a lack of faith that God would protect them.
Of course when Pharoah sees Sarai he is captivated by her beauty. Thinking she truly is Abram’s sister, Pharoah brings Sarai to live with him. He also treated Abram well by giving him all kinds of provisions and livestock in return.
But God sent a sickness onto Pharoah and his household. It would seem that some investigation occurred for it was discovered that Sarai was indeed Abram’s wife. Pharoah confronts Abram, calling out and questioning his deception. He gives Sarai back to Abram and they are sent away from Egypt, having been protected by God so that they could fulfill their role in history.
Genesis 13 – Abram’s Inheritance
At this point, Abram has accumulated great wealth and possessions. Upon their return from Egypt, Abram and Lot realize the land will not support both of them. The resources needed for their respective livestock is too great. So Abram and Lot go their separate ways and settle in different parts of the land. Lot chose the plain of Jordan, a well-watered region, perfect for raising livestock. Abram settled in the land of Canaan.
Even after the incident in Egypt, God is still with Abram. God reiterates the promise to him regarding land possession and multiplying his descendants (vv. 14-17).
Genesis 14 – Lot’s Rescue
Abram’s nephew Lot had settled in a good land. But the land came with problems. One, wickedness was widespread here. The region was the location of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, of which Sodom we read that “…the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord” (Gen. 13:13).
The other issue is that the land was desirable. And as such, was in constant conflict. In Chap. 14, Lot gets swept up in and captured in a conflict between kings over the land. When Abram finds out, he takes 318 trained and armed servants of his and attacks the forces who have captured Lot and his family. He rescues Lot, routes the opposing forces and brings back all the goods from the opposing armies.
Upon his return from battle, Abram is met by an interesting person, Melchizedek. He is described as the king of Salem and a priest of God. This man brought bread and wine to Abram and blessed him saying:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” (vv. 19-20)
Who was this person? No one really knows. He appears out of nowhere, with no reference to lineage or background. His name means “My King is Righteous” and he clearly worshipped the same God as Abram. These mysterious qualities allow the writer of Hebrews to compare him to another priest, Jesus Christ (Heb. 5-9). In fact, some believe he may have been a preincarnate appearance of Jesus himself.
Whoever he was, Abram gave him a tithe (a tenth) of all the spoils from battle. This is the first mention of the tithe in the Bible as a form of worship.
Genesis 15 – God’s Covenant with Abram
God comes to Abram again in Gen. 15:1 saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Abram wonders how all these promises are going to happen because he has no son to carry on the family line. God promises that indeed an heir will come. In fact, He takes Abram outside and asks him to look into the night sky:
“Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them…so shall your descendants be.” (v. 5)
In the face of what must have seemed like incalculable odds at the time, Gen. 15:6 says Abram,
“…believed the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”
In other words, Abram’s belief – his faith in God – was THE factor that led him into a right relationship with God.
The discussion concludes with God putting His seal on the covenant with Abram through a special ceremony (vv. 9-21)
Questions to Consider: How is God working to draw you out of your comfort zone? Would you be able to leave everything you’ve known behind to answer the call of the Lord? If “No”, why not? If “Yes”, how come? Has there been a moment when you doubted what God was doing in your life? If so, how did you work that through?
What other points would you want to know about in our Genesis 12-15 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.