Genesis 12–15: God & Abram

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 4: Monday

Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Genesis 15:6

The end of Genesis 11 recorded the birth of Abram and his marriage. Genesis 12–15, introduces us to him, a man who is one of the most important persons in the Bible.

Genesis 12 opens with God’s command to Abram to leave his country, his relatives and his father’s house and go to the land God will show him.  God promises Abram that He will make him a great nation and bless him and make his name great.  He also promises to bless those who bless him and to curse those who curse him.  God finishes with the incredible promise that in Abram all the families of the earth will be blessed.  In one of the numerous places in which the New Testament looks back to Abraham, Paul writes in Galatians 3:8:

“The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.””

Abram is 75 years old when God speaks to him.  He does as God commands, taking his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot and all their possessions and persons and travels to Canaan.  The Lord appears to Abram again, and reiterates His promise to give the land to Abram’s descendants.  Abram builds an altar there at the Oak of Moreh, travels on to a mountain between Bethel and Ai, builds another altar, and there begins to call on the name of the Lord. The end of chapter 12 is not Abram’s finest hour as it reveals his fear and deception in his travels to Egypt, but even here God’s protecting hand is seen on Abram.

Upon returning to Canaan, in chapter 13, Abram’s graciousness is seen as he allows Lot to have first choice of lands for his herds.  Lot chooses to go to Sodom.  God again reiterates His promise of the land to Abram, who travels to Hebron, and there builds another altar to the Lord.

Genesis 14 records the war of nine kings.  Because the king of Sodom is one of the kings, Lot is captured and carried off with his possessions. Upon hearing this, Abram takes his men, defeats Lot’s captors and brings Lot and his household back.

At this point a fascinating person appears, Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God. He brings Abram bread and wine and blesses him.  Abram gives Melchizedek a tenth. Melchizedek is mentioned in the Old Testament only in Genesis 14, and Psalm 110. Psalm 110:5, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek,” is quoted in the New Testament in Hebrews 5–7, as a prophecy of Christ, and several parallels are made between the Melchizedek and Christ.

In Genesis 15, God appears again to Abram.  In answer to his statement that because he is childless, one born in his household will be his heir, God specifically tells him that Abram’s own son will be his heir.

“And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
Genesis 15:5–6

In Romans 4, Paul will use Genesis 15:6, to explain how God’s righteousness is revealed through faith in Christ Jesus for all who believe (see Romans 3–4).  Abraham believed God, and God reckoned (or credited) it to him as righteousness:

“Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”
Romans 4:23–25

At the end of Genesis 15, God ratifies His covenant with Abram through a solemn ceremony.  God commands Abram to take three animals and two birds; cut the animals in two and lay the halves opposite each other.  Meredith Kline explains the ceremony:

“The oath ritual for which Abram prepared was customary in treaty ratifications. From it derived various idioms for making a covenant, like the Hebrew ‘cut a covenant’ (so v. 18, lit.). The curse conditionally invoked in the oath was symbolized by this slaying and sundering of the animals, signifying ‘so it may be done to him who breaks this covenant’ (cf. 1 Sa. 11:7)….

“By passing alone between the pieces God swore fidelity to His covenant promises, and took upon Himself all the curses symbolized by the carcasses.”1

Kent Hughes emphasizes that this was not the usual covenant in which all parties passed between the animals.

“It was God alone.  This was an unconditional, unilateral covenant.”2

Do you begin to see why Abram (he will be renamed Abraham) is one of the most important persons in the Bible?

“Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.”
Galatians 3:6–7

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1Meredith G. Kline, “Genesis,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie,
J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., p. 95.
2R. Kent Hughes, Genesis, pp. 230, 234.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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