- “The Call of Abraham” ceramic relief by Richard McBee, 1980
Genesis 12 (NRSV)
The Call of Abram
This chapter is a turning point in the narrative of the Book of Genesis. The story of the human family in Genesis has gradually narrowed its focus from all the world’s families (Genesis 10:1-32), to one particular family (Genesis 11:10-32), then to one particular man (Genesis 12:1).
–Linda B. Hinton
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
A three-fold promise of land, descendants, and blessing. The remainder of the Old Testament is the great story of Abraham’s children, the Jewish people, living in the land that God promised to Abraham. And the New Testament is the story of the greatest blessing from God, which he sent to all people through Abraham’s genealogical line, his Son Jesus Christ.
4So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan,6Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.
7Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. 9And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.
Hebrews 11:8-10 (Contemporary English Version)
Abraham had faith and obeyed God. He was told to go to the land that God had said would be his, and he left for a country he had never seen. Because Abraham had faith, he lived as a stranger in the promised land. He lived there in a tent, and so did Isaac and Jacob, who were later given the same promise. Abraham did this, because he was waiting for the eternal city that God had planned and built.
Bruce Feiler. Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land through the Five Books of Moses (Book I, Chapter 1 “In the Land of Canaan”).
HERE is a clear and interesting map of Abraham’s journeys.
Abram and Sarai in Egypt
10Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land. 11When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance;
A Jewish legend says when Abram went into Egypt, he tried to hide Sarai in a casket. When Egyptian customs officials asked what he had in the casket, he said, “barley.” “No,” they said, “it contains wheat.” “Very well,” answered Abram. “I’ll pay the custom on wheat.” Then the officers said it contained pepper. Abram said he would pay the custom charges on pepper. Then the officers said it contained gold. Abram said he would pay the custom charges on gold. Then the officers said it contained precious stones. Abram said he would pay the custom charges on precious stones. By this time, the officers insisted on opening the casket. When they did, all of Egypt shone because of the beauty of Sarai. These same legends say that in comparison to Sarai, all other women looked like monkeys. She was even more beautiful than Eve.
12and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.”
14When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels. 17But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.
18So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone.” 20And Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had.
Memo #1 to Abram:
“Better a poor man whose walk is blameless
than a rich man whose ways are perverse.”
–Proverbs 28:6 (NIV)
In this chapter God calls Abram. Later we will read of God calling Moses at the burning bush. Calling Jonah to go to the city of Ninevah. Calling Saul on the road to Damascus. And God is still calling disciples, calling them by name, calling you, calling me . . . HERE is Paul Baloche’s “The Same Love.”
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.