Genesis Chapter 12  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Genesis 12
Gen 12:1

“and from your relatives and from your father’s house.” Normally family would stick together, so this is an unusual request that God made of Abraham. The likely reason for it is that Abraham’s ancestors did not worship Yahweh. They worshiped pagan gods (Josh. 24:2). God did not want Abraham’s family taking their pagan gods with them into the Promised Land, so He told Abraham to leave his family behind. God wanted to start a line of believers that could be “His people,” and He decided to start it with Abraham, the Father of those who believe, so He told Abraham to leave his family behind, and Abraham obeyed.

Gen 12:2

“I will make of you a great nation.” God promised Abraham that his seed would be a great multitude on a number of different occasions (Gen. 12:2; 13:16; 15:5; 16:10 (via Hagar); Gen. 17:6; 22:17).

Gen 12:3

“clans.” The term generally refers to a group larger than a “family” (a father, mother, and children) but smaller than a tribe. The point is that the blessing of the Messiah will be available for every family group, every clan.

“will be blessed in you.” This is a promise from God to Abraham that the Messiah would be one of his descendants. This is the first time that the Bible tells us that God told Abraham that the Messiah would come through him, but God repeated that to Abraham at various times and ways. It seems unlikely that Abraham would forget God telling him that the Messiah would be one of his descendants, but God no doubt told him that a number of times to bless him and because of the magnitude of the promise. Also, since it is repeated in the Bible, we are not likely to miss it either. This promise in Genesis 12:3 is repeated (and expanded) in Gen. 18:18 and 22:18, and referred to in Galatians 3:8. Peter referred to this promise in Acts 3:25.

Gen 12:4(top)
Gen 12:5(top)
Gen 12:6

“And the Canaanite was already in the land.” This is much more than just a statement telling us that the children of Ham via Canaan settled in the Promised Land. In this case, the word “Canaanite” was being used as it will be later in Joshua when the Canaanites were known to be a race that had been genetically marred by demons and had to be destroyed completely (cp. Deut. 7:1; 20:16-18). Genesis 6:4, along with evidence from many other verses, shows that Satan, in order to destroy the human race that could produce the Savior who would destroy him, created a humanoid race of evil people called the Nephilim, the “fallen ones,” who made the earth so corrupt that God had to save it via a worldwide flood. But by the time of Abraham, Satan understood that God had his eye on the land of Israel and Satan wanted to claim that land for himself and destroy God’s people. So Satan made a second attempt at creating the fallen race, and that is why there were Nephilim in the Promised Land when Moses got to the edge of it (Num. 13:33).

E. W. Bullinger writes: “It is evident that from Terah’s and Abraham’s call, Satan knew the line by which ‘the seed of the woman’ (Gen. 3:15) was coming into the world. In [Gen.] chapter 6 he aimed at the whole human race. Now he aims at Abraham and his land. Here is the second explanation of ‘after that’ in [Gen.] 6:4. He [Satan] preoccupies the territory ready to dispute the advance. The Canaanite ‘was then’ – ‘being already’ there (cp. Gen. 13:7). The progeny of the latter attempt to corrupt the race had to be destroyed by the sword of Israel, as those ‘in the days of Noah’ had been by the Flood.”a

Satan is crafty, ruthless, and deadly, and believers are ignorant to him and his devices to their peril. The Bible says Christians are not to be ignorant of Satan and his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). Although Christians will never defeat Satan in this life, we are called to stand against him and those who follow him in the same way that Jesus did. Although many Christians try to avoid conflict (and it is generally difficult and distasteful), the world is a battleground between Good and Evil, and we are called to “wrestle” against evil (Eph. 6:12) and be good soldiers for the Lord (2 Tim. 2:3). In chapter after chapter in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, believers take a stand against evil, and if evil is to be exposed and held in check, today’s believers must do the same.

[For more on the Nephilim, see commentary on Gen. 6:4.]

Bullinger, Companion Bible, note on Gen. 12:6, 18.
Gen 12:7

“I will give this land.” God repeated the promise that He would give the land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants many times, and said it in slightly different ways. He told Abraham that he and his descendants would get the land (Gen. 12:7; 13:15-17; 15:7, 18; 17:8). He told it to Isaac (Gen. 26:3). He told it to Jacob (Gen. 28:13; 35:12; 48:4). Then over and over He told Israel about the promise or that He would give them the land (cp. Exod. 6:4, 8; 12:25; 13:5, 11; Lev. 14:34; 20:24; 23:10; 25:2).

[For more on the promise God made to give the land to Abraham and his descendants, see commentary on Genesis 15:18.]

Gen 12:8

“having Bethel on the west and Ai on the east.” Bethel is slightly more than two miles to the west (actually somewhat northwest) of Ai, and Abraham pitched his tent and built an altar just to the east of Bethel and thus just west of Ai. Many years later, Joshua would stage his attack on Ai from almost exactly the same spot (Josh. 8:9). The locations of both Bethel and Ai may not be exactly known and are disputed by some archaeologists (although there is mainly agreement about the cities, especially Ai), but even if we today are not exactly sure where they are, Abraham did and so did Joshua, and Abraham’s camp and Joshua’s troops were in basically the same area.

“He built an altar to Yahweh there.” Abraham’s building an altar between Bethel and Ai was more than a simple act of worship. We know that because he traveled through much of the land but only built altars in a few places. The fact that Abraham took the time to build an altar of sacrifice to Yahweh between Bethel and Ai in the heart of the Promised Land was an act of trust that God would make good on His promise that he had given the land to Abraham, even though Abraham was still a wandering sheik, traveling with herds and flocks.

“called on the name of Yahweh.” The phrase “call on the name of Yahweh” refers to prayer and supplication. Abraham and others called on Yahweh to get His help and support in life just as we do. It was certainly appropriate at this time, just as Abraham was entering the land and not knowing exactly what he would be facing, that He prayed to Yahweh for guidance and support.

Gen 12:9

“Abram traveled, going on by stages toward the Negev.” The Hebrew text is brief, and involves the custom that Abraham lived in a tent and traveled with it. A much more literal translation of Genesis 12:9 could be: “And Abraham pulled up [his tent pegs] going on and pulling up [his tent pegs] toward the Negev.” The picture in the Bible is that Abraham traveled and as he did he pulled up his tent pegs and moved himself and his extended family from tent site to tent site, moving south toward the Negev in the south of Israel. Esau used the same terminology about pulling up tent stakes (Gen. 33:12).

Gen 12:10

“famine in the land.” There are a number of times in the Bible that Israel had a famine. God wants to bless the land we live on, and the Devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). There is a war going on between Good and Evil, and, because of the sin of Adam and Eve, the Devil has control of much of what happens on the earth. That is why he is called the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), and the “ruler of this world” (John 14:30), and controls or influences everything that happens on it (1 John 5:19).

The Devil was occasionally able to cause a famine that affected the people of God, and at least for some of these famines, godly people left the land of Israel. Abraham left the land because of a famine (Gen. 12:10). So did Isaac (Gen. 26:1). So did Jacob, who went to Egypt (Gen. 45-46). So did Elimelech (Ruth 1:1). Was it the right thing to do for them to leave Israel? Life is difficult, and God gave every one of us different ministries and different levels of risk tolerance. There are many things in life that are not “right” or “wrong,” simply different. Some people prefer to stay where they are in hard times and “tough it out.” Other people see the wisdom in trying to mitigate difficult circumstances by doing different things, one of which is moving.

Although some Christians assert that moving out of the land demonstrates a “lack of faith,” that is not true. It was often the wise choice, and Proverbs tells us that “wisdom is supreme” (Prov. 4:7 NIV84; HCSB). It is wise to move from danger. Abraham and the others saved their flocks and fortune. Jacob moved out of Israel due to a famine, but then his descendants made the mistake of not going back when the famine was over, and eventually they became enslaved. Moving once saved them, if they had moved twice they would have been saved again.

Life is uncertain and there is danger everywhere. To do our best for God we have to be convinced that this world is not our home. We cannot become too attached to any property here. We have to be ready to move if the situation calls for it. Often we are not sure. For example, a believer standing alone without a fellowship faces a difficult decision. He or she can go to the trouble of moving to be near a fellowship; or, he or she can stay and keep witnessing in the hope that there will be fruit and a fellowship will develop. What is the right decision? Often, we don’t know, we just make the best decision we can and pray for God’s blessings. In the same situation, someone else might make the opposite decision. One thing is certain in these difficult situations; what we need from other Christians is understanding and support, not criticism for the decision we have made.

Gen 12:11(top)
Gen 12:12(top)
Gen 12:13

“Please say that you are my sister.” This record in Genesis 12:10-20 is the first time Abraham asked Sarah to lie about being his wife in order to protect his life. He did it again later, and the situation is explained in more detail there (Gen. 20:1-18).

Gen 12:14(top)
Gen 12:15

“Pharaoh’s house.” Pharaoh’s “house” was the palace, but the palace was commonly called the “house” of the king.

Gen 12:16(top)
Gen 12:17(top)
Gen 12:18

“Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this that you have done to me?” The Bible never says how Pharaoh found out that the plagues he was suffering were related to Abraham. It is enough for us to know that he did.

Gen 12:19(top)
Gen 12:20(top)

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