Genesis 12–15: God & Abram

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 4: Monday

And Yahweh said to Abram,
“Go forth from your land,
And from your kin
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1–3 LSB

The end of Genesis 11 recorded the birth of Abram and his marriage. Today’s reading, Genesis 12–15, introduces us to Abram, 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 makes a series of promises to him, and 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:

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.”
Genesis 12:1–3 LSB

The author of Hebrews wrote:

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise, for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Hebrews 11:8–10 LSB

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 (its men known to be evil and sinners, exceedingly so, against Yahweh). 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 because he is living in Sodom and is 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. Melchizedek is mentioned in the Old Testament here in Genesis 14, and Psalm 110. Psalm 110 is a Messianic psalm and different verses are quoted numerous times in both the Old and New Testament. Melchizedek is not named in Zechariah 6:12–13, but the verses state Messiah will also be both priest and king. In Hebrews 5–7 when the author writes about Jesus as our High Priest, he quotes both Genesis 14 and Psalm 110 on Melchizedek. A. M. Stibbs comments:

“The OT Scriptures themselves both provide and authorize the use of the illustration or pattern, namely, the priesthood of Melchizedek, after whose order the Messiah is by divine oath declared to be a priest for ever (see Gn. 14:17–20; Ps. 110:4).”1

In Genesis 15, God appears again to Abram. In answer to Abram saying 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 brought him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your seed be.” Then he believed in Yahweh; and He counted it to him as righteousness.
Genesis 15:1-6 LSB

In Romans 3–4: Righteousness & Faith I discussed how in Romans 4 Paul used Abraham to explain how God’s righteousness is revealed through faith in Christ Jesus for all who believe.

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.”2

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.”3

Genesis 15 closes with God telling Abram about the future: his descendants will sojourn in Egypt, before returning to the land God has promised, and Abram, himself, will live to be old. Finally, God once more tells him the extent of the land God has promosed to his descendents.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
The Caravan of Abraham, James Tissot: Public Domain.
1A. M. Stibbs, “Hebrews,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 1202. For more on Melchizedek, see John MacArthur’s sermon, “Melchizedek: A Type of Christ,” at Grace to You.
2Meredith G. Kline, “Genesis,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 95.
3R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning & Blessing (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 2004) 230, 234.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2021–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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