12 November 2012

Genesis 12:1-20

"I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great so that you will be a blessing." (v. 2)


Today's passage is the beginnings of the second half of the book of Genesis, which tells the story of God's dealings with one man, Abram, and the covenant promise that God makes with him. Here we discover the history of divine revelation up to the beginning of the national life of Israel. It is a story that has been passed on orally through generations and was perhaps first written down around 1445BC, 3,000 years ago.

After the flood (Genesis 6-9) God needs to start again and promises to bless Abram so that he will be a blessing to others and a great nation will be born (verse 2). But Abram is also told that God will curse those who curse Abram (verse 3). So he is the special person with a unique role in early history.

Abram, an elderly, wealthy man sets off with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot in response to the 'call', to find this new land that the Lord has promised to show him. It is very clear that it is not a straightforward journey. But it begins with a step of faith.

Canaan was hit by a famine. According to Egyptian records, it was the custom of that time for the people of Palestine and Syria to turn to Egypt for help. (The River Nile provided a stable agricultural environment for Egypt, whereas Canaan was entirely dependent on rainfall.) The danger in Egypt arose when Sarai's beauty was spotted by the Pharaoh. Abram was worried that he would want to marry Sarai, and would order Abram to be killed so that there would be no obstacle to the union. So he asked Sarai to pose as his sister. In the ancient Near East there was a well-known sociolegal institution of fratriarchy that existed over a long period of time. Where there is no father, the brother assumes legal guardianship of his sister, particularly with respect to obligations and responsibilities in arranging marriage on her behalf. Therefore, whoever wished to take Sarai to be his wife would have to negotiate with her 'brother'. In this way, Abram could gain time to plan escape.

Today's passage ends with the Lord afflicting Pharaoh with plagues because of Sarai, and the truth was revealed. Abram and Sari were immediately sent away from Egypt by the Pharaoh into the Negeb.

To Ponder

  • Abram sets off on his journey in obedience not knowing what the future might hold. Has something similar ever happened to you? What was the outcome?
  • We could say that Abram was blessed to be a blessing. Are you able to describe 'being blessed' and is there any way you could be a blessing to others today?
  • Abram appears to be the Lord chosen one and yet he lies, and sends his wife away thus involving others in his deception. We see a generous Pharaoh who sends Abram on his way with 'his wife and all that he had" (v. 20). Why do you think this story is included here?

Bible notes author

Susan Johnson

Susan has recently moved house from the north east coast in Durham to the west coast in Cumbria. After completing eight years as the Darlington Methodist District mission and development enabler she is taking time out to explore what next, but hopes to get involved with the local foodbanks in the area.