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Abram's Shaky Start (Genesis 11,12)

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Terah And Abram

The Call Of Abram

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CHAPTER 12 Jan. 6 
Abram and Lot Travel to Canaan
Now Yahweh had said to Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you. 4So Abram went, as Yahweh had spoken to him. Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed out of Haran. 5Abram took Sarai his wife, Lot his brother’s son, all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls whom they had gotten in Haran, and they went to go into the land of Canaan. Into the land of Canaan they came. 6Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. The Canaanite was then in the land. 7Yahweh appeared to Abram and said, I will give this land to your seed. He built an altar there to Yahweh, who appeared to him. 8He left from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to Yahweh and called on the name of Yahweh. 9Abram travelled, going on further toward the south. 10There was a famine in the land. 
Abram and Sarai in Egypt
Abram went down into Egypt to live as a foreigner there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11It happened, when he had come near to enter Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman to look at. 12It will happen, when the Egyptians will see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; they will kill me, but they will save you alive. 13Please say that you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that my soul may live because of you. 14It happened that when Abram had come into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15The princes of Pharaoh saw her, and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16He dealt well with Abram for her sake. He had sheep, cattle, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. 17Yahweh plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18Pharaoh called Abram and said, What is this that you have done to me? Why didn’t you tell me that she was your wife? 19Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’, so that I took her to be my wife? Now therefore, see your wife, take her, and go your way. 20Pharaoh commanded men concerning him, and they brought him on the way with his wife and all that he had.


12:3 Grammatically, this can be read as passive (“be blessed”) or reflexive “bless themselves” (as RSV), implying those blessed have to do something to appropriate the blessing. In this we see how God will play His part, but we must play our part. And yet the covenant in Gen. 15 was one way, unconditional, from God to us. It's as if His part in our salvation is so much greater than our response. Yet there is still an obvious element of choice which we have to make. The way Gen. 12:1-3 is structured implies that Abraham receives an unconditional blessing, yet he therefore is to go forth and “be a blessing”. And it's the same for us- and note how the “blessing” is interpreted as forgiveness in Acts 3:27-29. We are to forgive and generally bless others, in all forms of gracious generosity, as God has blessed us.
12:5 Abram had “gathered” much in the years of staying in Haran (Gen. 12:5). According to Jewish tradition, Abraham stayed 23 years in Haran. All he had to go on was a word from the Lord which he'd received some years ago whilst living in Ur. There's no reason to think that Angels regularly appeared to him and kept urging him to leave, or that he could read the Lord's word in written form as we can. Presumably that one word which he received worked in his conscience, until he said to the family “Right, we're quitting this nice life for a wilderness journey to some place I don't know”. We can underestimate the power of “just” one word from the Lord. We're so familiar with possessing His entire word in written form that we can forget the need to be obedient to just one of those words, to the extent of losing all we once held dear.
12:6 God's promise to Abraham was made more specifically at “the oak of Moreh”- a Canaanite shrine; and it's emphasized that “the Canaanite was then in the land”. It's as if God's invitation to Abraham [as to us] to have a unique relationship with Him was made amidst the calls and presence of many other gods, and in the thick of the Gentile world.