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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 12

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-5


Verses 1-5:

The Sacred Record now turns to that Semite known as the "Father of the Faithful" (Ro 4:16, 17); Abram (Abraham). God selected this son of Terah to be the founder of a new lineage or nation, to be the repository and guardian of Truth until the "fulness of time" (Ga 4:4), and through whom the promised Seed would be born.

Jehovah appeared to Abram while he lived in Ur of Chaldea, see Ac 7:1-4; Heb 11:8. Although reared in idolatry, Abram rejected the religion of his father (Jos 24:2), and trusted in God. At the point of faith, God imputed righteousness to Abram, Ge 15:6; Ro 4:4; Ga 3:6. Abram’s faith was more than an intellectual assent. It was a spiritual conviction which led him to act, Jas 2:23; Heb 11:8-10. The first step of action was to leave Ur of Chaldea. The fact that Abram’s father, brother, and nephew accompanied him on his odyssey implies that they came to share his faith in Jehovah and forsake their idolatry. Jehovah did not at first reveal the destination to which He would lead Abram. It was enough for Abram that Jehovah promised to "show him" this land at the proper time.

The first stop out of Ur was Haran. How long Abram remained there is not known. During that stay, Terah died and was buried. Following this, Abram resumed his journey. He was seventy-five years of age at this time.

Jehovah made a covenant with Abram, in response to Abram’s faith. The initial covenant included three basic provisions: (1) a land; (2) a great nation; and (3) a blessing. Jehovah later provided additional details regarding each of these three.

1. A Land: the extent of this territory is outlined in chapter 15.

2. A Great Nation: to be realized through the child who would be born to Abram and Sarai, and whose offspring would multiply as the "sand of the sea."

3. A Blessing: one that would affect all nations, primarily through the promised Seed, the Christ, see Ga 3:16. The "blessing" is primarily spiritual in nature, in which all people can reap the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant through Christ. But it includes blessings that are social, educational, artistic, political, scientific in nature as well. A roster of the leading scientists and doctors and authors and artists throughout history includes a vast number of the descendants of Abraham.

"Fringe benefits" of the promised blessing includes the provision of God’s blessings upon any nation which would "bless" or show kindness toward Abram’s descendants. On the negative side, God’s curse lies heavily upon any nation or people that persecutes or harms them. History confirms the validity of this provision.

Abram was a wealthy man. Wherever he went, his wealth increased. This was true of his stay in Haran. After the death of Terah, Abram and his wife, accompanied by Lot, set out on their westward trek to the Land God had promised him. This was a journey of some 300 miles, likely across the Euphrates and over the Syrian desert, through Lebanon and to Damascus. Josephus ("Antiquities" Vol. 1, 7) says that Abram remained in Damascus a considerable time, as a ruler of that territory. Ge 15:2 lends credence to this. From Damascus, Abram continued westward into the territory occupied by tribes descended from Canaan, Ham’s son.

Verses 6-9

Verses 6-9:

After leaving Damascus, Abram "passed through" (literally, travelled about as a pilgrim, Heb 11:9) the Land of Canaan to Sichem. The modern name of this site is Nablus. From there he traveled to a plain or level land filled with trees, called Moreh. Jehovah identified this "land" as that country He had promised to Abram’s descendants. At this site Abram built the first of a series of altars unto Jehovah. This was a way of taking possession of the Land on the basis of his faith.

Abram left his camp-site on Moreh’s plains and traveled to the mountain "east of Bethel." In Abram’s time and later years, the city of this region was known as Luz. It lies between Ai and the Mediterranean Sea. There He built another altar to the Lord, and remained there for an undetermined time. From this site he journeyed still further south.

Verses 10-13

Verses 10-13:

Normally the Land of Canaan was rich and productive. However, on the occasions when the November and December rains failed, the poorly-cultivated land would experience periods of drought and famine. It was on such an occasion that Abram arrived in the south part of the Land, in time to feel the brunt of a famine. He determined to continue this journey on down into Egypt. Perhaps tie feared that he would be unable to find sustenance in the Land which God had promised him. The language implies he had no intention of remaining in Egypt permanently. It is not clear if he went to Egypt by Divine order, or if he merely chose on his own to go there.

Abram was aware of the Egyptians’ reputation. They were notorious in the ancient world for their licentiousness. Likely he had misgivings about being in Egypt and the dangers he might face there. Particularly he was concerned over Sarai his wife. Although she was well over sixty-five years of age, she was still fair and beautiful. Her clear complexion would be especially attractive to the Egyptians. Ancient inscriptions reveal that a fair complexion was a high recommendation during the time of the Pharaohs. Abram feared that in order to possess Sarai, the Egyptians might order him killed if they thought she was his wife. But if they thought she was his sister, they might try to negotiate for her and this give him time to escape the country.

Abram’s story that Sarai .was his sister was a half-truth. She was his half-sister, the daughter of his father, but not of his mother, Ge 20:12. But this half-truth became a lie because it was calculated to deceive. Abram’s primary concern appears to have been not so much for Sarai’s well being as for his own safety.

"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. 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."

Pharaoh is a title, not a proper name. It was the official designation of Egypt’s rulers, in the same way that Caesar was the official title of Rome’s emperors. The Pentateuch never identifies the Pharaohs by their individual names. The title continued in use until after the Persian invasion. It was discontinued under the Greeks. The term comes from the Egyptian per-o, or "great house," and refers to the government of Egypt and the supreme monarch in whom all its powers were vested. History records twenty-six separate dynasties of Pharaohs, extending from Menes, BC 3400, to Psamtik 111, who was deposed by the Persians in BC 525.

Historians disagree as to the identity of the Pharaoh who ruled Egypt when Abram visited that land. He is identified variously as Necao, Ramessemenes, Harethones, Apappus, Achthoes, or Salatis. It seems safe to say he was one of the Hyksos (Shepherd) kings who ruled Egypt, because of his friendly reception of Abram. But it is impossible to determine with any exactitude the date of Abram’s visit, hence the identity of the Pharaoh.

Pharaoh’s servants reported the arrival of the wealthy wanderer Abram. They also commented on the fair beauty of Sarai. Pharaoh became interested, and set about to take Sarai into his royal harem. In keeping with custom, he showered gifts of livestock upon Abram, as a part of the marriage negotiations. Perhaps the king saw in this not only an opportunity to gain a beautiful wife. but also to enrich his own personal fortunes by forming an alliance with one as wealthy as Abram.

The Lord "plagued," literally "struck" Pharaoh and his house with severe "plagues" or "strokes." This led to the discovery that Sarai was Abram’s wife, not his sister. Likely this came as the result of a Divine revelation. The language implies that Pharaoh was an honorable man, and that he would do nothing to violate the honor of Sarai nor to harm Abram.

Abram’s lack of faith led to his lie. This lie led to his disgrace in the eyes of Pharaoh. It also brought a blight upon the reputation of Jehovah. The pagan king showed more honor than the man of Jehovah on this occasion. Abram’s lie led to his expulsion from Egypt.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 12". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/genesis-12.html. 1985.
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