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Genesis 12 -- Sunday 03APR11

Until this time, we have just been reading little episodes, a sort of "coming attractions" for the rest of the book of Genesis. Now we are come to the single narrative that will take us all the way to the settling of the Israelites in Egypt and a happy ending. And the bouncing ball I will follow is the Blessing which originated with Adam and now rests in the person of Abram, a Chaldean who has grown disgusted with the variety of (to him) meaningless religious practices in his city of Haran.

  • 1-3 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

This is the Creator calling Abram, and Abram responds by leaving home as Yahweh commanded. He did this in an act of trust, believing in the divine promises sight unseen. Many years later, he will be held up by St. Paul as the very model of faith. Jesus would disparage the claim that certain haughty and unruly people made that they were children of Abram by blood, saying that God was able to raise children unto Abram from stones. Paul in turn would assert that everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, who responds to God in faith is considered a child of Abraham.

  • 4-7 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

The fact that Abram marked this spot makes me think that it was here that Yahweh first appeared to Abram in person rather than just a voice. And this seems to a very different God than the one who appears later to Moses as a burning bush or a pillar of fire or hidden in thundering clouds. That God makes Moses' face glow with light just by talking to him.

  • 8-10 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south. And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.

Abram has got to be scratching his head at this point. God told him to leave Harah to see this wonderful land that he will give to him and his descendants, but so far all Abraham has seen is desert, and he has to move his herds and people down to Egypt just to keep body and soul together.

  • 11-13 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

Abraham didn't trust Yahweh to keep him safe from anyone who might want to take his supermodel wife.

  • 14-17 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.

When Abram and Sarai got to Egypt, the sons of Pharoah all said, "You gotta see this Sarai chick, Pop, she's a real looker," and Sarai was brought into the household of Pharaoh to be wooed as his wife. As part of the wooing process Pharaoh loaded her "brother" Abram down with a lot of material goods. But Yahweh did a sort of trial run of the Ten Plagues, and sent some plagues to plague Pharaoh before he could lay a hand on Sarai.

  • 18-20 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way. And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

Close call there. This first adventure didn't really reflect all that well on Abram. He didn't trust Yahweh to protect his life from the Egyptians, and he lied to Pharaoh and put his wife in the position of being forced to give her affections to a man who was not her husband. I really hope that Abram learned his lesson this time and never does this thing about calling his wife his sister ever again. And I hope when he has kids he tells them never to do it either.

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