Genesis 12

Sunday Morning Bible Study

January 21, 2007


We now enter a new section of Genesis, the history of the patriarchs, the ancestors of the Israelites, the men who learned to trust in God.

:1-9 God’s promise to Abram

:1 Now the LORD had said to Abram:

Abramexalted father”; we usually call this man “Abraham”, which means “father of a multitude”.  God will change his name from Abram to Abraham in Genesis 17.

:1 "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house,

A verse we skipped last week tells us:

(Gen 11:31 NKJV)  And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram's wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.

Abram was originally from “Ur of the Chaldeans”, a famous, powerful, and wealthy city on the Euphrates River, about 175 miles southeast of Babylon (in modern Iraq).  One source said that Ur was where they first invented the bathtub. 

Joshua tells us that Abram’s father, Terah, served other gods (Josh. 24:2) while at Ur.  Ur was known for its worship of the Sumerian moon god named “Nanna” (who looked like an English Sheepdog?).  Archaeologists have uncovered a ziggurat from this time built for Nanna that towers 70 feet over the desert.

Originally, Abram left Ur with a group led by his father, Terah.  When they left “Ur”, they went northwest along the River Euphrates about 600 miles to the city of Haran (in modern Syria). 

It’s in Haran that Abram will get this call (Gen. 12:4) to leave Haran and go to the Promised Land.

But in the New Testament, Stephen tells us that there was an earlier call of God for Abram to go to the Promised Land, and it actually came to Abram in Ur, not Haran.

(Acts 7:2-4 NKJV)  And he said, "Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, {3} "and said to him, 'Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.' {4} "Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.

It seems that when God originally called Abram, Terah was willing to go along and so Terah led the group as far as Haran where Terah wanted to settle down.

But Haran wasn’t the promised land.  And it seems that Abram got stuck for awhile in Haran.  It’s not until Abram’s father Terah dies, that God reiterated the original call to leave and go to a land God would show him.

Terah understood part of Abram’s call, but for some reason he was unwilling to go all the way.

Terah’s name means “delay”.  It seems that Terah became a “delay” in God’s plans for Abram.


God doesn’t give up

God spoke to Abram while he was in Ur, and God said “Go”.  God promised to lead Abram to a special place.  It won’t be until Abram arrives in the land of the Canaanites that God will say, “This is the place”.
But along the way, Abram got sidetracked.  He got stuck in Haran.  He got “delayed”.
I don’t know how long it was in between the time that God first called Abram while he was living in Ur until the time when God called again to him at Haran, but it had to have been some time since they had to have traveled 600 miles, and apparently they had settled down in Haran until Terah died.  One commentator suggested it was 25 years between Abram’s first call and his second call.
I find it incredibly gracious of God to not give up on Abram.
Is there something that God has asked you to do?  Have you been sidetracked?  Maybe today God would want to remind you of your calling.


Leaving the old life

God’s call often requires us to make a choice between people and God.  Jesus said,
(Mat 10:37 NKJV)  "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
It seems important for God to tell Abram to leave his “father’s house”.  He needed to leave behind this house that worshipped the moon god.  Yahweh wanted Abram to follow Him.
God’s call requires us to leave the old life behind.
(Mat 16:24 NKJV)  Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
God doesn’t want you to be a half-hearted disciple who only goes part of the way with Him. God wants us to be serious, completely serious about following Him.
A drug addict that leaves a stash of drugs just in case they really need it is going to “really need it”.

:1 To a land that I will show you.



God doesn’t say where they were going, He just says, “Go”
(Heb 11:8 NKJV)  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Sometimes the “go” comes before the “where”.
We want to know all the details of the trip before we go.  We want to feel comfortable.  But God often doesn’t give us the details because He wants us to trust Him.
When we were struggling with whether or not to leave the comfort of Calvary Anaheim and plant a church in Fullerton, this verse in Hebrews was the one that God used to push us out the door.  I wanted to know what was up ahead.  I wanted to have written guarantees that everything was going to be okay.  But the Sunday before we made up our minds, I was teaching in Hebrews 11:8, and God reminded me that I didn’t need to have a written guarantee.  I had His command to go.
You can only change the direction of a car when it’s moving.
If you’re looking for God’s direction in your life and you aren’t sure what He wants you to do, perhaps you need to just start moving.  Maybe do the last thing God asked you to do.  Maybe just start serving.

:2 I will make you a great nation;

This promise is fulfilled in the nation of Israel.  Even though several other nations will also come from Abraham, the promise of God would go from Abraham to Isaac, to Israel.

:2 I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.

:3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you;

This is one reason why we ought to “bless” the nation of Israel.

:3 And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

There would be something coming from Abram that would not just bless his own descendants, but the entire world.

This is the promise of a Messiah, a Savior.

Paul wrote,

(Gal 3:8-9 NLT)  What's more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would accept the Gentiles, too, on the basis of their faith. God promised this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, "All nations will be blessed through you." {9} And so it is: All who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith.


William Engebretsen from Nebraska writes, “For three years, we had a sheep ranch in western Nebraska. Each year, we sheared some sheep, sold some, and butchered a few lambs for leg-of-lamb for our family and our cattle-raising relatives. In 1990, we moved to Indiana, so I could attend seminary. One Sunday, my three-year-old son Ian was learning about the Good Shepherd in his class. “Ian, your dad was a shepherd,” the teacher said. “What did he do with the little lambs?” She expected to hear about the care and protection I provided them. “He kills them and cuts off their heads,” was Ian’s blunt reply. The teacher was dumbstruck. Later, I “sheepishly” suggested that next time she could tie it in with Jesus’ role as the sacrificial Lamb.”

We might think that God blessing the world through Abram might mean something nice like Abram winning the lottery and sharing his winnings with everyone.  In reality, God blessed the world through the slaughter of a lamb.  God saw that we had a terminal disease – you and I are sinners and our sin is taking us to hell.  And God loved you and I so much that He allowed His own Son to die a horrible death on the cross and take the penalty for our sins.  And it’s this same Son, a descendant of Abram, that opens up heaven for us if we’ll only trust him.

God has blessed the world through Abram.

:4 So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

:5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.

SaraiSaray – “princess”; she too will get a new name from God, “Sarah” which means “noblewoman”.  Her name change takes place at Gen. 17:15.

:6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land.

Shechem – Shechem is 360 miles southwest of Haran.

terebinth tree‘elown – terebinth (which is a tree that terpentine is made from); other translations are “oak tree” (NLT, NAS), “great tree” (NIV).

Canaanites – the same people that the people in Moses’ and Joshua’s day would be conquering.

The Canaanites were known to have had pagan shrines in groves of oak trees.

Abram has left his pagan family to follow God.  And he’s arrived in the land of the pagan, idolatrous Canaanites.

:7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

It isn’t until they get to Shechem that God says “this is the place”.

:8 And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.

Bethel – another 20 miles further south of Shechem.

pitched his tent – Even though God promised to give him the land, he was still basically a wandering nomad.

Abram would be known as a man of great wealth.  And yet after he left Haran, he never owned a home.  He just lived in tents.

(Heb 11:13-16 NKJV)  These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. {14} For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. {15} And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. {16} But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

It’s not wrong to own a home.  But keep a light touch on the things of this world.  Don’t hold on to them too tightly.  Heaven is the place we’re headed.

Abram knew that his real home was in heaven.  Heaven is where Abram wanted to settle down.

I find it interesting that at the time of Jesus, when a righteous person died, their soul went to paradise, a place referred to as “Abraham’s Bosom”.

:9 So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.

:10-20 Abram goes to Egypt

:10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land.

What do you do when a crisis hits?

Part of me can’t find fault with Abram.  He’s just taking care of his family.

But when you see what happens on this trip to Egypt, I can’t help but think that he might have made a mistake in going.

:11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, "Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance.

beautiful – she’s at least 65 years old at this time.

:12 "Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, 'This is his wife'; and they will kill me, but they will let you live.

Because the Egyptians respected marriage, they wouldn’t just steal Sarai, they’d kill Abraham first.

I know Abram is not trusting God here, but I also see a man who sees his wife as a beautiful woman.


Beautiful wife

He doesn’t just “think” she’s nice on the eyes, he’s so convinced of her beauty that he’s afraid for his own life because of what the unprincipled Egyptians might do to him in order to get her!
Husbands, is your wife beautiful?
If not, it’s not her fault, it’s yours.

(Eph 5:25-28 NKJV)  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, {26} that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, {27} that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. {28} So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.

Read this carefully gentlemen.  This tells us to imitate Jesus in loving our wives.  This tells us that when Jesus loves His bride, she becomes more beautiful.

Some men have the idea that if their wife would look a little nicer, they might love them a little more.

God’s Word says that if you love them a little more, they will look a little nicer.

:13 "Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you."

Technically Sarai was Abram’s sister, his half-sister.  They had the same father but different mothers (Gen. 20:12).

:14 So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful.

:15 The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh's house.

:16 He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels.

Pharaoh gave Abram presents in exchange for his “sister”. I wonder if Abram is thinking about now, “Well, it looks like my plan is working out okay!”

:17 But the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife.

We aren’t told what kind of “plagues” hit Pharaoh and his house.  It’s pretty sad when an unbeliever has to suffer because or our sin.

:18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?

:19 "Why did you say, 'She is my sister'? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way."

:20 So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had.


Abram’s lack of faith

Look at what he does:
He’s telling a half-truth about Sarai.
He’s putting his wife in danger to protect himself, yet Jesus’ example is for a husband to lay down his life for his wife.
His conduct results in some sort of “plague” affecting Pharaoh and his household, resulting in Pharaoh kicking Abram out the door.  Instead of Abram’s conduct being a light to the unbeliever, he’s brought a curse.
When they leave Egypt, it’s not without consequences.  Abram has sowed seeds that he will reap from for the rest of his life.  It seems they picked up a souvenir from their visit, a treat for Sarai, some help around the house.  They return to the Promised Land with a maidservant named Hagar (Gen. 16).


Sarai’s submission

We live in a society where women are often more able to take charge of things then the men around them.
A butcher writes, “One of the busiest times for a meat-department manager in a supermarket occurs when there is a sale on particular cuts. When we put cross-rib roasts on sale one day the result was predictable. I’d bring out a cart of roasts and before I could get them on display, women customers were jostling for their share. Three times I returned with a cart of roasts and three times they were gone before I got to the counter.  The fourth time out I noticed that a man who had quietly been watching began to approach my cart. He elbowed his way in, pushing and shoving, and finally grasped a roast. Before he could retreat from the crush, an irate woman glared at him and said, “Sir, how about being a gentleman!”  The fellow turned and said, “Ma’am, for twenty minutes I’ve been a gentleman, now I’m going to be a lady!” And with that he smiled, took his roast and walked away.”
Sarah is held up in the New Testament as an example for Christian women to follow.
(1 Pet 3:5-6 NKJV)  For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, {6} as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
She isn’t an example just because she called Abraham “lord”.  She is an example of a woman who who submitted to her husband, even when he was doing a stupid thing.
(1 Pet 3:1-2 NKJV)  Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, {2} when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.

Gals, I know it’s hard to know just how far to go with this “submission” thing, but look at Sarai’s example.  God did take care of her.  God did teach Abram a lesson.  It wasn’t Sarai’s words that taught Abram, it was Pharaoh’s rebuke.

Gals, don’t be quick to dismiss the value of submission.  Let God be the one to teach your husband.