- “The Call of Abraham” ceramic relief by Richard McBee, 1980
Genesis 12 and 13 (NRSV)
The Call of Abram
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”).
map of Abraham’s journeys. http://www.originofnations.org/books,%20papers/maps/patriarchs.jpg
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)
Abram and Lot Separate
13) So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb. 2Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. 3He journeyed on by stages from the Negeb as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4to the place where he had made an altar at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.
5Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, 6so that the land could not support both of them living together; for their possessions were so great that they could not live together, 7and there was strife between the herders of Abram’s livestock and the herders of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites lived in the land. 8Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herders and my herders; for we are kindred. 9Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.”
“As soon as you begin to live the life of faith in God, fascinating and luxurious prospects will open up before you, and these things are yours by right; but if you are living the life of faith you will exercise your right to waive your rights, and let God choose for you. God sometimes allows you to get into a place of testing where your own welfare would be the right and proper thing to consider if you were not living a life of faith; but if you are, you will joyfully waive your right and leave God to choose for you. This is the discipline by means of which the natural is transformed into the spiritual by obedience to the voice of God.”
10Lot looked about him, and saw that the plain of the Jordan was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar; this was before the Lord had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. 11So Lot chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward; thus they separated from each other.
Lot! Rudely and selfishly grabbing what looks like the best for yourself, in the face of Abram’s generosity and kindness! You are showing your true colors, and it isn’t pretty!
12Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the Plain and moved his tent as far as Sodom. 13Now the people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.
14The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever.
Abraham looked N and S and E and W — “Shout to the North” by the British band Delirious, released in 2001. (The music starts at about 14 seconds.)
16I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. 17Rise up, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”
“Arise, walk!” According to ancient custom, a property transfer was finalized by the new owner’s visit to the tract. God commands Abram to walk his land and lay symbolic claim to it.
18So Abram moved his tent, and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron; and there he built an altar to the Lord.
Click on the link to see “The Oaks of Mamre,” a painting by Marguerite Fletcher, courtesy of First Lutheran Church, Palo Alto, CA.
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.