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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 12

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-20


The Genesis of the patriarchal faith in the promise and of the covenant religion; of the antagonistic relation, between the faith in the promise and heathenism; of the harmonious oppositions between the patriarchs and the human civilization of the heathen world. Patriarchal religion and patriarchal customs.—Genesis 12:1 to Genesis 36:43



ABRAHAM, THE FRIEND OF GOD, AND HIS ACTS OF FAITH. Genesis 12:1 to Genesis 25:10


The call of Abram. The emigration to Canaan. The first promise of God. His companionship with Lot. The first manifestation of God in Canaan, and the first homeless alienage in the land of promise. Abram in Egypt and Pharaoh

Genesis 12:1-20

1Now the Lord had said [rather, said] to Abram, Get thee [for thyself, לְךָ] out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee [through a revelation]. 2And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed [not bless themselves, which is expressed by the use of the Hithpael, Genesis 22:18]. 4So Abram departed [went forth] 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. 5And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance [gains] that they had gathered, and the souls [all the living] 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.

6And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem [shoulder, ridge or water-shed] unto the plain [grove] of Moreh [teacher, owner]. And [Although] the Canaanite was then [already] in the land. 7And 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. 8And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel [house of God] and pitched his tent, having Bethel [now Beitin] on the west [seawards], and Hai [heaps] on the east; and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord. 9And Abram journeyed, going on still [gradually further and further] toward the south. 10And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. 11And 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 [or of fair appearance]: 12Therefore 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. 13Say, 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.

14And it came to pass, that when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. 15The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh [Fürst, פֶרַע]: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep [small cattle] and oxen, and he-asses, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and she-asses and camels. 17And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18And 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? 19Why 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. 20And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.


1. The age and state of the world at the patriarchal period. A multitude of nations who were to share in the salvation, through the faith of Abram, were not yet born into the world, especially the Roman and English people. The Germanic tribes lay still in the bosom of the Scythian nomadic life. A thousand years must roll away before the development of the Greek life, and a much longer period before the historical appearance of Rome. The foundation of the patriarchal family, out of whose fuller development into the twelve tribes the Jewish people sprang, begins with Abram. Patriarchalism appears still as the fundamental form under which the popular life exists and works. But out of this constitution a multitude of small kingdoms have grown up in Canaan and Syria. The first feeble attempt at founding a grand world-monarchy was made by Nimrod at Babel and Nineveh. In Egypt the kingdom of the Pharaohs already existed. The formation of national divisions began with the migrations of the people, and to these we may probably trace the rise of castes. The mechanical resemblance of the kingdom of heaven in the dynasty Hia in China appears to have been complete in its outline and characteristic features, before the definite foundation of the organic and living kingdom of heaven was begun in Abram.
2. The Biblework will treat more fully of the land of Canaan in the division, “Book of Joshua.” We refer in passing to the Bible-dictionaries, the geographies, and journals of travellers. See also Zahn: “The Kingdom of God,” i. p. 105. In this section we notice especially Sichem, Bethel, Ai, and the central part of Palestine; the South, especially the vicinity of Hebron and Sichem (now Nablous) lying between Gerizim and Ebal, about eighteen hours from Jerusalem and sixteen from Nazareth, marks the northern principal residence of the patriarchs. Hebron (also Kirjath-Arba, from the giant Arba, now El Kalil, i. e., friend, beloved, in honor of Abram), southerly about eight hours from Jerusalem, a very old city, the city of Abram and David, lying in a blooming and beautiful region, was their principal dwelling-place in the south. Their central residence is the region of Bethel (the name is here anticipated—originally Luz, Genesis 28:19, now the ruins of Beitin), and Ai (the old Canaanitish royal city, Joshua 7:2, two hours easterly from Beitin, northerly from Jerusalem, now Medineh), an elevated rich pasture-ground.

3. The nomadic life forms the natural basis of the patriarchal society. The Greek term nomad (νομάς from νομός pasture-ground) designates the herdsman in a specific sense, as one who roams with his herds over uncultivated tracts, which as commons are in one aspect wastes, in another pasture-grounds. The nomads are thus pastoral tribes and nations which have no fixed dwelling-place. According to the Conversations-lexicon, “they stand higher in the scale of human society than the tribes who live by hunting and fishing, and lower than those who follow agriculture and trade, and belong essentially to the grade of barbarians.” But as an original form of human life, and indeed as the form of the most quiet and retired life, the nomadic state is the basis upon which both the highest human culture and the most extreme savage wildness rest. Original thoughtful minds grew up to be the spiritual princes of humanity in the quietude of the nomadic life; mere common natures grew wild and savage under the same influences. The nomadic state still covers large portions of the race. “In Europe we find only weak nomadic tribes on the great steppes skirting the Black sea, and in the high uncultivated northern latitudes, there Tartar and Turkish, here Finnish tribes. Asia and Africa are the congenial homes of the nomadic life. Nearly all the Finnish, Mongolian, and Turkish tribes, and the mixed tribes which have sprung from them, in the steppes and wastes in the northern, central, and border Asia are nomads; so also the Kurds and Bedouin Arabs of border Asia and North Africa, and nearly all the tribes of Southern Africa, Caffres, Betschuanas, Koranas, and the Hottentots. In South America the Gauchos, and in many respects some Indian tribes, are to be regarded as nomads.” For the nomadic tribes of the East see Schröder, p. 273, Kohlrausch, a description of the Caravan March, p. 282. For the shepherd, headsman, wilderness, tents, see the articles in Winer [Kitto, Smith, Bible dictionaries.—A. G.]

4. The Period of the Patriarchal Religion, and Form of Religion. “In the New Testament the term πατριάρχης is applied to Abraham, Hebrews 7:4, to the twelve sons of Jacob, Acts 7:8 f., and to David, Acts 2:29. Generally it designates the sacred ancestors of the early periods of the Israelites (Tob. 6:21, Vulgate) whom Paul, Romans 9:5; Romans 11:28, calls οἱ πατέρες. Hence it has become customary even in historical language to call all the fathers of the early human races, and especially of the Israelitish people (including the twelve sons of Jacob), who are referred to and distinguished in biblical history, Patriarchs (German Erzvater). Its history, from the old theological point of view, is given by J. H. Heidegger, exercitat. select. de historia sacra patriarchar. (Amsterdam, 1667–8, Zürich, 1729), and is, perhaps, more critically treated by J. Jak. Hess: “History of the Patriarchs” (Zürich, 1776). Winer. The patriarch is the beginner or founder of a race or family (the word is formed from ἄρχω and πατριά). The Hebrew designation רֹאשׁ אָבוֹת, which the Septuagint translates ἄρχοντες τῶν πατριῶν (1 Chronicles 9:9; 1 Chronicles 24:31), but in 1 Chronicles 27:22, where the Hebrew term is שָׂרֵי שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, and 2 Chronicles 19:8, ὁ πατριάρχης, does not refer to our patriarchs (which Bretschneider labors in his lexicon to authorize), but to the heads of individual branches of the tribes of Israel. Even in the New Testament, as is clear from Acts 2:29, the word has a more comprehensive meaning. In Herzog’s Real-Encyclopedia, article Patriarchs, there is a threefold distinction drawn between the biblical and theological, the Jewish usage as to the synagogue officers, and the churchly and official idea of the word. The Jews, e. g., even after the destruction of Jerusalem, call the presidents of the two schools at Tiberias and Babylon, patriarchs. In the Christian Church all bishops were originally termed patriarchs, but the council of Chalcedon limited the name to those renowned bishops who had raised themselves above bishops, and metropolitans. Here we are dealing only with the biblical and theological meaning of the term. In this relation we must distinguish the general, the narrower, and the most restricted idea of the word. In the general and widest sense, all the theocratic ancestors are included in the term, since the patriarchal faith, as the faith of salvation, forms the highest unity running through the Old and New Testaments. In the wider, earlier usual acceptation, the patriarchal period is viewed as including the pious ancestors of biblical history, from Adam to the twelve sons of Jacob, or to the Mosaic era. See Winer, the article in question, the work of Heidegger above referred to, and Hase’s Hutterus redivivus (Religio patriarchalis antediluviana et postdiluviana). Still, Hess, in his history of the patriarchs, has correctly placed the patriarchs before Abram in an introductory history, and begins the history itself with Abram. The earlier division of the Old Testament revelation into patriarchal, Mosaic, and prophetic religion (i. e., form of religion) is not now at all satisfactory. This division must be completed in one direction through the period of the national Israelitish piety or religiousness (from Malachi to Christ), and in the other through the period of the symbolic original monotheism from Adam to Abram, which may be again divided into the two halves of the antediluvian and postdiluvian primitive history. The symbolic monotheism is distinguished from the patriarchal period both as to form and essence. As to the form of the revelation, the symbol has there the first place, the explanatory word the second (paradise and the paradisaic word, the rainbow and the covenant with Noah); but in the history of the patriarchs the word of revelation holds the first rank, and the signs of the theophany enter in a second line, as its confirmation. Thus also the patriarchal religion stands in a relation of opposition and coherence with the Mosaic system. “The Mosaic system is a remoulding of the patriarchal religion so far as Israel, grown into a people in Egypt, may require a preparatory, and thus a legal and symbolic instruction as to the nature of the faith of Abram and to receive that faith; it is a lower form of that religion so far as the religious life, which already in the patriarchs began to be viewed as an inward life, is here set before the people, who are strangers to it, as an external law; but is also a higher form of that religion so far as the ideas of the religion of promise are unfolded in the law, and in this explicit form are introduced into the life of the people. The law, however, is not the fundamental type of the Old Testament, but the faith of Abram. In the patriarchal religion the word of God is prominent, the symbol is subordinate; the Mosaic system, as also the primitive religion, brings the symbol into prominence (although the symbol as an institution). In Abram the divine promise occupies the foreground, the divine command rests upon it; in the legal period, as to the outward appearance the relation is just the reverse. Evidently the patriarchal religion, as also the prophetic period succeeding to the Mosaic system, regarded in a narrower sense, bears a marked resemblance to Protestantism, while the Mosaic system appears as the primitive type of the Mediæval Catholic Church.” (See Herzog’s Encyclopedia, article Patriarchs.)

As to its nature, the faith of Abram is distinguished from the faith of the pious ancestors in this, that he obtains and holds the promise of salvation, not only for himself, but for his family; and from the Mosaic system, by the fact that it expressly holds the promised blessing, in the seed of Abram, as a blessing for all people. In reference to the first, there were earlier lines of the promise: the line of Seth in contrast to that of Cain, the line of Shem in opposition to those of Japheth and Ham. But the line of Seth, through its corruption, is gradually lost in the line of Cain, and the line of Shem forms no well-defined opposition to the one all-prevailing heathenism. It is gradually infected with the taint of heathenism, while on the other hand pious believing lives appear in the descendants of Japheth and Ham. Melchisedec, with his eminent piety, belongs to the Canaanitish people, and thus to the family of Ham. During the whole period of the symbolic primitive religion, the theocratic and heathen elements are mingled together. The dark aspect of this religion is a mythological, ever-growing heathenism; its light side the symbolical, ever-waning, primeval monotheism. Heathenism gathers gradually, as a general twilight, through which glimmer the men of God, as individual stars. Thus Melchisedec stands in the surrounding heathenism. In a religious point of view he is ἀπάτωρ, ἀμήτωρ, ἀγενεαλόγητος. And he is so far greater than Abram, as he stands as the last shining representative in the Old Testament of the primitive religion looking backwards to the lost paradise (which, however, did not entirely cease in the whole Old Testament period, and is not absolutely extinguished even in later periods of the world); while Abram stands as the first representative of the decided religion of the future, who, as such, has already the promise, that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed, who is neither ἀγενεαλόγητος nor ἀπάτωρ, since the beginning of his calling appears already in his father, Terah. But the old religion develops itself more definitely into the religion of the future at every step, when the corruption for the time has reached such a degree, that faith, looking out beyond the present and the judgment resting upon it, must fix in its eye a new beginning of salvation. Thus it was in Noah, thus also later in the Messianic prophets. But while Noah out of the flood of waters saved a new race of men, Abram has, through the overflowing flood of heathenism, to found a new particular people of faith, who should be a blessing for all. The blessing is already a very advanced idea of the salvation. For Eve the salvation assumes the idea of victory, for Lamech, rest, for Noah, the preservation of the divine name and the human race; for Abram, it forms the opposition to the curse. For as the curse is the endless, mysterious, progressive destruction of life, so the blessing is the endless, mysterious, progressive enriching and conservation of life. As the condition, indeed, Abram must go out from the heathen world. It is only as in opposition to it, that he can introduce the blessing which is promised in his seed. The pious forefathers had indeed already taken the first step of faith (Hebrews 11:0). They have, by faith in the creation of the world, uttered the denial of the independence of matter, the fundamental dogma of heathenism (Hebrews 11:3). Abel has taken the second step of faith; he has introduced the sacrifice of faith into the world, and on account of it sacrificed his own life. Enoch has taken the third; he sealed the faith in the new life and rewards beyond the present. Noah carried faith on to the salvation of God in the divine judgments. Abram, through the required renunciation of the world, introduced the Israelitish faith of the future, the hope for the eternal inheritance of God, and its introduction through the inheritance of his blessing. It was the legitimate result of his renunciation of the world that he sealed it through the sacrifice of Isaac. The succeeding patriarchs have developed this faith more fully, each in his own way. Isaac learned to prefer the first-born of the spirit before the first-born of blood; Jacob pointed out Judah as the central line of blessing within the blessings of his sons; Joseph proved his fidelity to the promise until his death. Thus was prepared the renunciation and the calling of Moses. (Taken from Lange’s article in Herzog’s Encyclopedia.)

With the introduction of the Abrahamic religion (see the foregoing section) correspond its mild nature and form, and its rich development. As to the first, it must be observed that Abram, notwithstanding the decisive character of his separation from heathenism, still opposes himself to the heathen without any fanaticism. Hence it is said indeed, “Get thee out!” but the second word follows immediately: “thou shalt be a blessing, and in thee shall be blessed, or shall bless themselves, all the families of the earth.” Hence the patriarchs stand upon a friendly footing with the princes of Canaan. In the point of marriage alone, warned by the history of the Sethites, they dreaded theocratic misalliances (Genesis 24:3; Genesis 27:46). In the fourth generation the first historical characteristic type of fanaticism appears in the deed of Simeon and Levi (Genesis 34:0). The judicial and solemn disapproval of this deed by Jacob (Genesis 49:5) marks the true spirit of the Israelitish religion; the bold commendation of this deed in the book Judith (Genesis 9:2) reveals the later pharisaic Judaism. Even the mixed marriage is legal except in the case of the proscribed Canaanites; and to the questionable and unhappy connections, e. g. of Esau, there are opposed the blessed connections of Joseph and Moses. The only matter of question is whether there is such a certainty of faith that the believing party may raise the unbelieving into the sphere of faith. This was precisely that which modified the crime of Thamar; her fanatical attachment to the house of Jacob, or the tribe of Judah. Mild as was this patriarchal spirit of separation (because it was actually spirit) it was just as strict in the other aspect. Hence there are relative distinctions of the elect from those who are less strictly the chosen, running down through the family of Abram, first in the opposition between Isaac and Ishmael, then in that between Jacob and Esau, finally in the sharp distinctions in the blessings of Jacob. (From the same article.)

As to the development of faith in the patriarchal period, it proceeds from the acts of faith in the life of Abram, through the endurance (or patience) of faith in the life of Isaac, to the conflicts of faith in the life of Jacob; but in the life of Joseph the opposition between the sufferings and the glory on account of faith, comes into clear and distinct relief. The promise also unfolds itself more and more widely. The blessing of the descendants of Abram, who should inherit Palestine, divides itself already in the blessing of Isaac upon Jacob, into a blessing of the heavens and the earth, and Jacob’s authority to rule announces more definitely the theocratic kingdom. But in the blessing of Jacob upon Judah, the Shiloh is designated, as the prince of war and peace, to whom the people should be gathered (a further extract from the article in question, p. 199). For the periods of the history of the covenant, see Kurtz, p. 135. For the nature of the patriarchal history, Delitzsch, p. 241–249; [also Baumgarten, Commentary, p. 165–168: Keil, p. 123–125.—A. G.]

[Kurtz arranges the history of the covenant under the following periods or stages: the period of the family, including the triad of patriarchs with the twelve sons of Jacob; the period of the people, having its starting point in the twelve sons of Jacob, and running through the Judges; the period of the kingdom; the period of the exile and restoration; the period of expectancy; and the period of the fulfilment.—A. G.]

[Delitzsch holds, as we may abridge and condense his views, that the patriarchal history is introductory to the history of Israel, and is completed in three parts—the histories of the three patriarchs. The personal history of the patriarchs revolves around the promise as to Israel, and Canaan its inheritance. The characteristic trait of the patriarchs is faith. This faith shows itself in the whole mighty fulness of its particular elements in Abram; ceaselessly struggling, resolutely patient and enduring, overcoming the world. He is the type of the conflicts, obedience, and victory of faith—πατὴρ πάντων τῶν πιστευόντων. His loving endurance repeats itself in Isaac, his hopeful wrestlings in Jacob. ’Επ’ ἐλπίδι παρ’ ἐλπίδα is their motto. The promise and faith are the two correlated factors of the people of God. Renouncing the present, and in the midst of trials, its life passes in hope. Hope is its true life, impulse, and affection. Desire is Israel’s element.

Viewing the patriarchal history from the central point of that history, the incarnation of God in the fulness of time, its position in the history of salvation may be thus defined. There are seven stages in this history: 1. The antediluvian time, both paradisaic and after paradise, during which God was personally and visibly present with men, closing with the flood, when he retires into the heavens and from thence exercises his judicial and sovereign providence. The goal of history is thenceforward the restoration of this dwelling of God with men. The history has ever tended towards this goal. 2. The patriarchal time during which God manifested himself personally and even visibly upon the earth, but only at times and only to a few holy men, the patriarchs, at important points in the history of salvation; and even these revelations cease from Jacob to Moses. The revelation of God in the name יהוה, i. e. as the one coming down into history, and revealing himself in it, belongs to this time of the completed creation, of the opening redemption of Israel, His peculiar people. 3. The Israelitish period prior to the exile, during which God did not reveal himself personally and visibly as in the patriarchal period to a few, and to these only at times, but to a whole people and permanently, but still only to a people and not to mankind. There are two distinguishable epochs in this period. In the first Israel is led by the Angel of Jehovah in the pillar of cloud and fire—the glorious and gracious presence of God, visible for the whole people. The second is that of the presence of God in the temple and in the word; in the temple for Israel, but only through the mediation of priests, in the word, but only through the mediation of prophets. But even this lower, less accessible temple-presence ceases when Israel filled up the measure of its iniquities. The glory of Jehovah departed from the temple. As God at first withdrew his manifested presence from the race and destroyed it with the flood, so now from the Jewish people, and abandons Jerusalem to destruction. As the first stage of the history closes with a judgment from the ascended God, and the second in the long profound silence from Jacob to Moses, so the third again ends like the first. 4. The time succeeding the exile, at its commencement not essentially different from the close of the third period. God was present in the word, but the ark of the covenant, the covering, the cherubim, the Urim and Thummim, and, more than all, the Shechinah, the visible symbol of the presence of Jehovah, were wanting in the temple. But prophecy itself grew speechless with Malachi and Daniel. The people complain, We see not our signs, there is no more any prophet (Psalms 74:9). They named Simon the brother of the Maccabeean Jonathan the ἡγούμενος καὶ�, but it was ἕως τοῦ�. Thus forsaken of God, and conscious of its forsaken state, the true Israel passed through this fourth stage of the history, a school of desire for believers waiting and longing for the new unveiling of the divine countenance. Then at last the dawn broke, Jehovah visited his people, and in the mystery now unveiling itself θεὸς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί completes in far-surpassing glory the antitype of Paradise. 5. The time of the life of Christ in the flesh. It is now true in the most literal and real sense, ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν. But at first Israel alone saw him. The rays of his glorious grace reach the heathen only as an exception. But his own received him not. They nailed the manifested in the flesh to the cross. But he who ἐξ� died, rose, ἐκ δυνάμεως θεοῦ, and ascended into heaven. He withdrew himself from the people who had despised him. But as Jehovah, after he had seated himself upon his heavenly throne, sent down at the close of the first stage the judgment of the flood, at the close of the third works the destruction of Jerusalem, so now the God-man ascended into heaven abandons Jerusalem to destruction and Judah to an exile which still endures. For Israel he will come again, but in the fire of judgment; and for believers he will also come again, but not visibly nor in the fire of judgment, but in the fire of the Spirit. 6. The stillenduring present, the time of the spiritual presence of the incarnate God in his church. This presence is both more than the visible presence of Christ in the days of his flesh, and less than the visible presence of the exalted one in which it reaches its enlargement and completion. We must not forget that the Spirit sent upon us from the glorified Son of Man is so far the παράκλητος as he comforts us on account of his absence; that all the desire of the Christian is to be at home with Christ; and that the hope of the whole church is embraced in the hope for the revelation of Christ. Without sharing in the exaggerated estimate of the miraculous gifts by the Irvingites, it cannot be denied that our time resembles the second part of the post-exile period, and that the church now, as believers then, desires the return of the wonderful intensity and gracious fulness of the spiritual presence in the primitive church. This desire will receive its fulfilment in the glorious time of the church upon the earth. 7. But the seventh stage of the history of salvation, which endures through the Æons of Æons, will first give full satisfaction to all the desires of all believers, and bring that glorious, transcendent restoration of the paradisaical communion with God in the incarnation, to its final perfection. The new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:8) is the antitype of Paradise. The communion of God with the first man to be redeemed, has now become his communion with the finally redeemed humanity. His presence is no longer a transitory alternating, now appearing then vanishing, but enduring, ever the same, and endless; not limited to individuals nor bound to localities, but to all, and all-pervading; not merely divine, but divine and human; not invisible, but visible; not in the form of a servant, but in unveiled glory. God ascends no more, for sin is for ever judged and the earth has become as heaven. He descends no more, for the work of redemption is complete, the whole creation keeps its solemn sabbath, God rests in it, and it rests in God; Jehovah has finished his work, and Elohim is now all in all, πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. See Delitzsch, p. 239–249.—A. G.]

5. The fundamental form of divine revelation, particularly of the revelation of the old covenant, and still more particularly of the patriarchal period (see p. 48, Introd.). The historically-completed fundamental form of the divine revelation of salvation, is the revelation of God in Christ, the God-man, i. e. in one distinct, unique life, wherein the divine self-communication and revelation, and the human intuition of God, are perfectly united in one, while yet as elements of life they are clearly distinguished from each other. The progressive revelation must correspond in its outline and characteristic features to this goal to which it tends. In its objective aspect it must be through theophanies, in its subjective the vision of the revelation of God, in its plan, tendency, and development, Christophanies; the chief points in the interchange between God manifesting himself personally and the receptive human spirits in the pre-figurations of the future advent of Christ. The individual phases in the development of this form of revelation are these: (1) The revelation of God through the symbolism of heaven and earth; visibly for the paradisaic spiritual and natural clear-sighted vision; and coming out in particular words and representations of God, addressed to the ear and eye, promptly, according to the necessities of human development, and according to the energy of the Spirit of God, who translates the signs into words. The form of the primitive religion. (2) The self-revelation of God in the form of an angelic appearance, distinct from his being; the pre-announcement of the future Christ, or the Angel of Jehovah in reciprocal relation and action with the unconscious seeing, as in vision, resting upon the unconscious ecstasies of believers, manifesting himself first through the miraculous report or voice, then through miraculous vision, i. e. first through the word, then through the figurative appearance. The form of the patriarchal religion. (3) The revelation of God, distinguishing his face, i. e. his gradual incarnation, from his being, or nature, or the angel of his presence in reciprocal relation and action, with the conscious visions, based upon unconscious ecstasies. The Angel of his face, or the face. The fundamental form of the Mosaic system. (4) The appearance of Jehovah himself in his glory, in the brightness of his glory, surrounded by angelic forms, in reciprocal relation with the conscious visions, resting upon the conscious ecstasy of the prophets, or Jehovah appearing in his divine Archangel and with his angel-bands over against the prophets overwhelmed and trembling, drawing gradually nearer to the incarnate angel of the covenant (Malachi 3:1). The fundamental form of the prophetic period. (5) The hidden preparation for the advent of the angel of the covenant, in the period of national religiousness; his work in the depths of human nature. (6) Christ the Angel of the Covenant, the unity of the divine revelation and the human intuition of God, and therefore also upon the divine side the unity of God and his Angel, and upon the human side the unity of the spiritual intuitions and the natural vision of Christ.

We have already, in what we have thus said, as indeed elsewhere (Leben Jesu, p. 46; Dogmatik, p. 586; Herzog, “Encyclopedia,” The Patriarchs of the Old Testament), stated our view of the Angel of the Lord; but we must here repeat that in our conviction the exegetical prejudice, ever coming into greater prominence, that the Angel of the Lord is a creature-angel, as also the prejudice in reference to the supposed angels (Genesis 6:0), burdens, obscures, and confuses in a fatal way, Old Testament theology, and leaves no room for a clear psychology of the faith of revelation, an intuitive Christology, or an organic unity of biblical theology.

In regard to this point, Kurtz has undertaken with great zeal the defence of the erroneous interpretation, although he had earlier defended the true one, “History of the Old Covenant,” p. 144, 2d ed. We introduce here his reference to the state of the question before we enter upon its discussion. “The views of interpreters, as to the nature and being of the Angel of the Lord (מַלְאַךְ יְהוָֹה, also called מַלְאַךְ הָאֱלֹהִים) who appears first in the patriarchal history, have been divided into two classes. The one sees in him a representation of the deity, entering perceptibly the world of sense, in a human form, and thus is to be regarded as the prefiguration of the incarnation of God in Christ; the other sees in him an angel, like other angels, but who, because he appears in name and mission as a representative of Jehovah, is even introduced and spoken of as Jehovah; indeed, himself speaks and acts as Jehovah. The first view has already made a beaten path for itself in the oldest theology of the synagogue, and in the theological doctrine of the Metatron, of that, from God emanating, godlike revealer of the divine nature, has assumed a definite shape and form, although embracing foreign elements (comp. Hengstenberg: ‘Christology,’ iii. 2. pp. 31–86). It was adhered to by most of the Fathers (Hengstenberg, as above), and with these must be counted the old churchly Protestant theologians. In recent times it has been defended most decidedly and fully by Hengstenberg (i. pp. 125–142, 2d ed.; and iii. 2. pp. 31–86), who, with the Fathers and the old Protestant theologians, recognizes in the angel of the Lord the manifested God, the logos of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and holds this view to be so widely developed in the history of the Old Testament revelation, that it lays the foundation for the doctrine of the logos in the Gospel by John (compare his ‘Commentary on the book of Revelation,’ i. p. 613). Sack (Comment. theol., Bonn, 1821), had already discussed the question, and reached the conclusion, that the angel of the Lord is identical with Jehovah, but that the term does not designate a person distinct from him, but merely a form of manifestation, on which account he prefers to render מַלְאַךְ ‘the commission’ rather than ‘the sent’ (comp. his Apologetik, 2d ed. p. 172). In the footsteps of these two last-named persons, the writer of this [Kurtz] sought to prove, in Tholuck’s Anzeiger, 1846, No. 11–14, that the Maleach Jehovah is God, as presented in the authors of the Old Testament; appearing, revealed, entering into the limitations of space and time, as perceptible by the senses, distinguished from the invisible God, in his exalted and therefore imperceptible existence, above the world of sense, and removed from all the limitations of space and time; still without bringing it to a full, distinct consciousness, whether this distinction was merely ideal or essential, whether it was to be regarded as supposed for the moment, or grounded in the very nature of God. The most important parts of this essay were included in the first edition of this work. Delitzsch: ‘Biblical and Prophetical Theology,’ p. 289; Nitzsch: ‘System;’ T. Beck: ‘Christian Science of Doctrine;’ Keil: ‘Book of Joshua,’ p. 87; Hävernick: ‘Old Testament Theology,’ p. 73; Ebrard: ‘Christian Dogmatics,’ vol. i.; J. P. Lange: ‘Positive Dogmatics,’ p. 586; Stier: ‘Isaiah, not Pseudo Isaiah,’ p. 758, and others, all agree in the same exhibition of this theological question.

“The other view has found a defender in Augustin: De Trinitate, 11. 3, and meets the approval of the Catholic theologians under the influence of their view of the adoration of angels; and of the Socinians, Arminians, and Rationalists, from their opposition to the ecclesiastical doctrine of the Trinity. In more recent times, however, some eminent persons, who are entirely free from these interested motives, have adopted this view, viz., Steudel, in his Pfingstprogramme for 1830, and in his ‘Old Testament Theology,’ p. 252 ff.; Hofmann: Weissagung und Erfüllung, i. p. 127, and Schriftbeweis, pp. 154–159 and 321–340; Baumgarten: ‘Com.’ p. 195; Tholuck: ‘Gospel by John,’ 6th ed. p. 52; Pelt: ‘Theological Encyclopedia,’ p. 241; and still more recently, Delitzsch, renouncing his earlier view, and adopting that of Hofmann: ‘Com. on Genesis,’ p. 249. Between Steudel and Hofmann there is, however, this difference, that the former sees in the Maleach Jehovah an angel especially commissioned by God for each particular case—it being left undetermined whether it is one and the same or not, while, in Hofmann’s view, it is one and the same angel-prince, who here, as the Maleach Jehovah, later as the captain of the hosts of the Lord (Joshua 5:14), as the angel of his face (Isaiah 63:9), under the personal name of Michael (Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1), as the representative of Jehovah, controls the commonwealth and history of Israel (Weissagung und Erfüllung, pp. 131, 132). In his later work, however, Hofmann has modified his view so far, that the angel who performs this or that work is ever a definite angel, but the same one is not destined for all time, while it is still true that Israel has his prince, his special angel, who is named Michael (Schriftbeweis, p. 157).

“Barth has in a most peculiar way attempted to unite the views of Hengstenberg and Hofmann: ‘The Angel of the Covenant. A Contribution to Christology. A Letter to Schelling.’ Leipzig, 1845. He holds, with Hengstenberg, the divine personality, and with Hofmann, the angelic created nature of the Maleach Jehovah, and unites the two views through the assertion of a past assumption of the angelic nature of the logos, analogous to his later incarnation. We leave this view unexamined, as utterly baseless.”

Kurtz closes his reference (in the 2d ed.) with the explanation, that he finds himself in the same position as Delitzsch, constrained by his conviction to adopt the view of Hofmann.
According to the view of the old ecclesiastical theology, the (First) argument in favor of the self-revelation of God, in the Angel of the Lord, is the personal and real identity in which this Angel-name always appears. If Maleach Jehovah, Maleach Elohim, may designate, some one angel of the Lord, in a peculiar appearance, still it must be kept in view here, that from Genesis 16:0 onwards this name, with slight and easily explained modifications, is a standing, permanent figure. Hofmann replies: Maleach Hamelech is not the king himself, but the king’s messenger. So also Maleach Jehovah is not Jehovah himself. Certainly! so also the king’s son is not the king himself. According to Hofmann’s view, therefore, it must follow that the Son of God is not God. The nature of God in his self-distinction is exalted far above that of earthly kings.

Secondly. The Angel of Jehovah identifies himself with Jehovah. He ascribes to himself divine honors, divine determinations (Genesis 16:10-11; Genesis 18:10; Genesis 18:13-14; Genesis 18:20; Genesis 22:12; Genesis 22:15-16 , etc., etc.). Some one objects: The prophets also identify themselves in a similar way with Jehovah. This is simply an incorrect assertion. There is no authentic passage in which the prophet, in the immediate announcement of the word of God, does not in some way make a clear distinction between his person and the person of Jehovah. The examples which Delitzsch quotes, that ambassadors have identified themselves with their kings, rest upon the political rights and style of ambassadors, and are as little applicable to the style of a creature-angel as to that of apostles and prophets.

Thirdly. The writers of the history, and the biblical persons, use promiscuously the names Angel of Jehovah, and Jehovah, and render to this angel divine honor, in worship and sacrifice (Genesis 16:13; Genesis 18:1-2; Genesis 21:17-19; Genesis 22:14; Genesis 48:15-16, etc.). Our opponents answer: It is not high treason when an officer, in the name and commission of the king, as the representative of the person of the king, receives the homage of the subjects. It is not his own person, but the person of the king, whom in this case he represents, which comes into strong relief. With this halting, limping comparison, they seek to justify the conduct of the men of faith in the Old Testament, who, in their view, rendered freely and without reproof divine honor to a creature-angel, and did this constantly, whenever this angel appears, notwithstanding the Old Testament abhors and condemns the deifying of the creature, and that here the express divine watchword is: “My glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8).

The following reasons are urged in favor of the supposition of a creature-angel:

a. The name angel designates, throughout, a certain class of spiritual beings. Kurtz formerly replied to this that the name angel is not one of nature but of office (Malachi 2:7; Haggai 1:13). Although the name angel now indeed points in many cases to a certain class of spiritual beings, still the fact that there are symbolic angel-forms is a sufficient proof that the Angel of the Lord need not necessarily be regarded as a being of that class of spirits.

b. Hofmann urges that since the advent of Christ the New Testament speaks of the ἄγγελος κυρίον (Matthew 1:20; Luke 2:9; Acts 12:7). Kurtz has answered that in the places quoted the expression designates a different person from the Maleach Jehovah of the Old Testament, or even of the speech of Stephen (Acts 7:30). He recalls this reply, however, with the remark that if Matthew and Luke had even had a suspicion that the ἄγγελος κυρίου in the Old Testament always designated the Son of God, who has since become man in Christ, they would never have used this expression even once in reference to a creature-angel. With this conception of angelic appearances the transition to Hofmann’s view was surely possible and easy. To his objection (p. 120) we reply, that the incarnate Christ at Bethlehem could just as well be made by God to assume an angelic form, near at hand and remote, as the Logos of God in the preparatory steps to his incarnation. To Kurtz this wonderful manifestation of the “ubiquity” of Christ is only a “pure idea” or fancy. But just as (Genesis 18:19) the two angels who went to Sodom are distinguished from the Angel of Jehovah before whom Abraham stood with his intercessory prayer, and as Paul (Galatians 3:19) suggests the distinction between the angel giving the law at Sinai and the Angel of his face, who was the Christ of the Old Testament (1 Corinthians 10:4), so we can distinguish in the New Testament between the two men or the two angels at the grave of the risen one (Luke 24:4; John 20:12), or the two men upon the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:10) on the one side, and the angel who announces the birth of Christ on the other. Only Matthew, in his solemn and festive expression, has embraced these two angels in one symbolic form of the Angel of the Lord, and this indeed upon good grounds, since in the resurrection or the second birth of Christ the Logos was active, as in his birth at Bethlehem.

c. Baumgarten urges: Why should the Angel of the Lord first appear to the Egyptian bondwoman, Genesis 16:0? Kurtz and Delitzsch have, in their earlier works, given various replies to this question. We answer with another question: Why should the risen Christ first appear to Mary Magdalene, and not to his mother or John? We think, according to the simple law, that the Lord reveals himself first to the poorest, most distressed and receptive hearts. It is, besides, a mere supposition that the Angel of the Lord has first appeared here, where he is first named with this name, as we shall see further below.

d. Kurtz urges again: It lies against the idea of a continuous development of the knowledge of the historical salvation, in the Holy Scriptures, if there is actually in the very beginning of the Old-Testament history so clear a consciousness of the distinction between the unrevealed and revealed God, and this consciousness is ever becoming more obscure in the progress of the Old Testament, but has vanished entirely and forever in the New Testament. But this is all as manifestly a pure supposition as when Hofmann thinks the Old Testament cannot speak of the self-distinction of God because in that case it would anticipate the doctrine of the Trinity. That indeed is the organic development of revelation from the Old to the New Testament, that the revelation of the Trinity in the divine being was introduced through the revelation of the duality. But when the form of the Angel of the Lord in Genesis, passes to the Angel of his face, or the personified face of Jehovah himself in Exodus, then to the prince over the armies of God in Joshua, and finally to the Archangel, the Angel of the Covenant of the later prophets, the organic development of the doctrine in question is manifest.

e. Kurtz remarks again the fact that in the New Testament the law is said to be ordained by angels or spoken by the angel (Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2), as in favor of the doctrine of the created angel. Here he plainly refutes himself. For Paul (Galatians 3:19) clearly refers to this feature of the law, that it was ordained by the angel, in order to show that the law was subordinate to the promise given to Abram. But if the mediation through angels is a mark of the imperfection of the law, it follows that Abram could not have received the promise through such a mediation of a created angel. To this end he presses especially the appeal to (Hebrews 2:2) “the great superiority of the promise to the law is derived from this, that the law was announced δι’ ἀγγέλων but the gospel διὰ τοῦ κυρίου.” For the answer see Romans 4:0 where the promise to which the law is subordinated appears as the yet undeveloped gospel of the old covenant.

f. Hebrews 13:2 refers to the three men who appeared to Abram in the plains of Mamre (Genesis 18:0). But why not to the two angels whom Lot received (Genesis 19:0)? The words can refer only to a peculiar kind of hospitality, Abram knew, however, that the men who were his guests were of a higher order, while Lot appears not to have known it at the beginning.

g. The angel-prince Michael (Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1) has the same position which the Maleach Jehovah has in the historical books. But that Michael cannot be the Logos is clear, since he is not the only שׂר גדול. Gabriel appears as a second archangel (Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21), (Tob 12:15), adds Raphael and (4 Ezra 4:1) still further Uriel. When I now, from the identity of Gabriel or Michael with the appearing figure in Revelation 1:0, draw the conclusion,—Gabriel or Michael are symbolical manifested images of Christ (as the old Jewish theology saw in Michael the manifested image of Jehovah), and thus the one symbolical angel-form of the Angel of the Lord or angel-prince has branched itself into the seven archangel forms of the coming Christ. Kurtz finds in these forms “pure ideas” or fancies. But I call them the veiled angelic modes of the revelation and energy of Christ, in the foundation, limits, and life of humanity and history. But Michael had need of help (Daniel 11:1). Indeed! that can in no case be said of the Logos (Luke 22:43).

h. Zechariah 1:12, the Angel of the Lord was subordinated to Jehovah. The Angel of Jehovah as the intercessor for Israel prays to Jehovah of hosts (compare the high-priestly prayer John 17:0).

i. Mal 3:1, the Messiah was named the Angel of the Covenant. “But,” Kurtz argues, “if Malachi had intended by the Angel of the Covenant the Angel of Jehovah, he would certainly so have named him.” Then Moses could not have meant the Angel of the Lord when he speaks of the Angel of his face. Certainly it is true that in the Angel of the Covenant the union of the divine form of the Angel of Jehovah and of the human Son of David, as the divine-human founder of the New Testament, is prophetically consummated.

k. The Angel of his face (Exodus 23:20), of whom Jehovah says, My name is in him (Exodus 32:34; Exodus 33:15; Isaiah 63:9), is according to Kurtz the same with the Angel of Jehovah in Genesis. But now (Exodus 32:34) Jehovah appears so to distinguish this angel from himself that we cannot think of him as one with Jehovah. We cannot indeed freely use the ingenious answer to this difficulty by Hengstenberg,1 which Kurtz contests (see p. 154). But the opposition here is not this, that either a created angel goes with Israel, or the Logos-angel, but this, that he would not longer himself be present in the camp of Israel (Exodus 33:5), but beyond it (Genesis 12:7), that thus a stricter distinction and separation should be made between the impure people and his sanctuary.

l. In the history of the three angels who visit Abram in the plains (the oaks) of Mamre (Genesis 18:19), not only the one angel who remains with Abram enters as Jehovah, but the two others, so soon as they were recognized by Lot in their super-earthly being, were addressed by him with the names of God, Adonai, etc. Kurtz, overlooks here the change of persons which appears in the narrative (Genesis 19:17-19). The peculiar work of the two angels continues until Genesis 12:16. They lead Lot out of the city and set him without (before) the city. The angels now retire to the background, and Jehovah comes into view and says, “Escape for thy life.” That Jehovah had gone up from Abram into heaven, and here again stands before Lot, can only be a source of error to the literal conception, which attributes to Jehovah a gross corporeal form, and in the same measure the local changes in space. We do not wonder now that Lot clings to the vanishing angel-forms with the cry, Adonai. Now the one unique appearance presents itself clearly before him (Genesis 19:21). Then (Genesis 19:24) Jehovah rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven. Without a perception of the change of different voices and visions, and the corresponding change of different revelations, any one will have great difficulty in finding his way through this statement of the struggles of Lot.

We now bring into view the gradual development of the specific revelation of God, which begins with the call of Abram. Hofmann asks: Ought we not to expect that the manifestations of God, so far as they form a preparation for the coming of Christ, should from the very beginning of the history of salvation, and not first from Abram, be described as manifestations of the Maleach Jehovah? The whole distinction between the primitive and patriarchal religion is thus overlooked. The faith of salvation first takes on the form of a definite religion of the future and becomes a more definite preparation for the incarnation of Christ, in the faith of Abram. Hofmann himself, as he in other places admits that the Maleach Jehovah is the one only form of theophany in the history of the old covenant, notwithstanding the numerous changes in the designation of the revelation: e. g. “Jehovah appeared,” etc., deprives the implied objection in the above question of any force. Indeed, the appearance of the Maleach Jehovah is announced with the patriarchal revelation. It is recorded (Genesis 12:1), And Jehovah said to Abram. Starke holds, agreeing with the older theologians, that the Angel of the Lord (see Galatians 3:16) is the Son of God himself. But Stephen (Acts 7:2) says the God of glory (δόξα) appeared to our father Abram when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran. The question meets us here therefore: In what relation does the Maleach Jehovah stand to the δόξα or כָּבוֹד‎ of Jehovah? In Luke 2:9 there is a very significant parallelism—ἄγγελος κυρίου ἐπέστη αὐτοῖς, καὶ δόξα κυρίου περιέλαμψεν αὐτούς, i. e. both ideas are bound together in the closest manner and by an inward tie. In Exodus 24:16, Exodus 40:34, the δόξα of Jehovah is in the same way intimately connected with Jehovah. But in Genesis 33:0 the δόξα of Jehovah, Genesis 12:18, is fully identified with the face of Jehovah, Genesis 12:20. According to Genesis 12:14 (compared with Genesis 12:2 and Isaiah 63:9), the face of Jehovah is identical with the Angel of his face. The Angel of Jehovah is thus the manifested figure of Jehovah, in the same way as his δοξα. The glory fills the holy of holies, and Jehovah appears in the holy of holies (Exodus 40:34 and other passages). According to Isaiah 6:3 the revelation of the δόξα of Jehovah shall fill the whole earth (compare Ezekiel 1:28; Ezekiel 3:12, etc.). In Titus 2:13 Christ who comes to judgment is described as the δόξα (glorious) appearing of the great God, and in Hebrews 1:3 he is styled ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης θεοῦ. It is certain that the word δόξα has a manifold signification, and that when used to designate the theophany it points rather to the manifested splendor of the Spirit, than to the spirit of this glorious appearance. (Hence it is closely connected with the pillar of cloud and of fire.) But so much is clearly proved, that the δόξα of Jehovah can properly be personally united with Jehovah himself, with Christ, but not with any creature-angel. It is now in accordance with the course of development, as it is with the character of the patriarchal theophany, that it should begin with the miraculous report or voice, the word (Genesis 12:1), and advance to the miraculous vision or manifestation (Genesis 12:7). For the word of Jehovah is in the first place the primary form of revelation in the time of the patriarchs, and in regard to the vision, it is the more interior (subjective) event, which appears already in a lower stage or grade of the development in the line of visions. After the separation of Abram from Lot (Genesis 13:14) he receives again the word of Jehovah, which blesses him for his generous course, and in a way corresponding with it. So also after his expedition (Genesis 15:1). The blessings in both cases correspond to his well-doing: to his renunciation of the better portions of the land, the promise of the whole land is given, and to the pious man of war, God gives himself as a shield and reward. In the important act of the justification of Abram (Genesis 15:0), the miraculous appearance enters with the word of Jehovah. The word of the Lord came to him in vision. If now the Angel of the Lord first appears under this name in the history of Hagar (Genesis 16:9), we have the reason clearly given. Hagar had learned faith in the house of Abram, and its power to behold as an organ of vision was developed in accordance with her necessities. But the Angel of Jehovah, as the Christ who was to come through Isaac, had a peculiar reason for assisting Hagar, since she for the sake of the future Christ is involved in this sorrow. Besides, there is no increase of the divine revelation in this appearance; Abram saw Jehovah himself in the Angel of Jehovah, and Sarah also in the manifestation of Jehovah sees above all the Angel.

Between Abram’s connection with Hagar and the next manifestation of Jehovah there are full thirteen years. But then his faith is strengthened again, and Jehovah appears to him (Genesis 17:1). The most prominent and important theophany in the life of Abram is the appearance of the three men (Genesis 18:0). But this appearance wears its prevailing angelic form, because it is a collective appearance for Abram and Lot, and at the same time refers to the judgment upon Sodom. Hence the two angels are related to their central point as sun-images to the sun itself, and this central point for Abram is Jehovah himself in his manifestation, but not a commissioned Angel of the Lord. Thus also this Angel visits Sarah (Genesis 21:1; compare Genesis 18:10). But the Angel appears in the history of Hagar a second time (Genesis 21:17), and this time as the Angel of God (Maleach Elohim), not as the Maleach Jehovah, for the question is not now about a return to Abram’s house, but about the independent settlement with Ishmael in the wilderness. The person who tempts Abram (Genesis 22:1) is Elohim—God as he manifests himself to the nations and their general ideas or notions, and the revelation is effected purely through the word. Now also, in the most critical moment for Abram, the Angel of the Lord comes forward, calling down to him from heaven since there was need of a prompt message of relief. In the rest of the narrative this Angel identifies himself throughout with Jehovah (Genesis 12:12; Genesis 12:16). To Isaac also Jehovah appears (Genesis 26:2), and the second time in the night (Genesis 19:24). He appears to Jacob in the night in a dream (Genesis 28:12-13). Thus also he appears to him as the Angel of God in a dream (Genesis 31:11), but throughout identified with Jehovah (Genesis 12:13). Jehovah commands him to return home through the word (Genesis 31:3). Laban receives the word of God in a dream (Genesis 31:24). The greatest event of revelation in the life of Jacob is the grand theophany, in the night, through the vision, but the man who wrestles with him calls himself God and man (men) at the same time. According to the theory of a created angel, Jacob is not a wrestler with God (Israel), but merely a wrestler with the Angel. It is a more purely external circumstance which God uses to warn Jacob through the word to remove from Shechem (Genesis 35:1). In the second peculiar manifestation of God to Jacob after his return from Mesopotamia (Genesis 35:9), we have a clear and distinct reflection of the first (Genesis 32:24). In the night-visions of Joseph, which already appear in the life of Isaac, and occur more frequently with Jacob, the form of revelation during the patriarchal period comes less distinctly into view. But then it enters again, and with new energy, in the life of Moses. The Angel of Jehovah (Exodus 3:2) is connected with the earlier revelation, and here also is identified with Jehovah and Elohim (Genesis 12:4). But he assumes a move definite form and title, as the Angel of his face, since with the Mosaic system the rejection of any deifying of the creature comes into greater prominence, and since it is impossible that the face of God should be esteemed a creature.

The reasons which are urged for the old ecclesiastical view of the Angel of the Lord, are recapitulated by Kurtz in the following order: 1. The Maleach Jehovah identifies himself with Jehovah. 2. Those to whom he appears recognize, name, and worship him as the true God. 3. He receives sacrifice and worship without any protest. 4. The biblical writers constantly speak of him as Jehovah. We add the following reasons: 1. The theory of our opponents opens a wide door in the Old Testament for the deifying of the creature, which the Old Testament everywhere condemns; and the Romish worship of angels finds in it a complete justification. 2. The Socinians also gain an important argument for their rejection of the Trinity, if, instead of the self-revelation of God, and of the self-distinction included in it in the Old Testament, there is merely a pure revelation through angels. As the fully developed doctrine of the Trinity cannot be found in the Old Testament, so no one can remove from the Old Testament the beginnings of that doctrine, the self-distinction of God, without removing the very substructure on which the New Testament doctrine of the Trinity rests, and without obscuring the Old Testament theology in its very centre and glory. 3. It would break the band of the organic unity between the Old and New Testaments, if it could be proved that the central point in the Old Testament revelation is a creature-angel, and that the New Testament revelation passes at one bound from this form to that of the God-man. The theory of the creature-angel in its continuation through a colossal adoration of angels, points downwards to the Rabbinic and Mohammedan doctrine of angels which has established itself in opposition to the New Testament Christology, and is bound together with that exaggerated doctrine of angels in more recent times, which ever corresponds with a veiled and obscure Christology. On the other hand, it removes from the New Testament Christology its Old Testament foundation and preparation, which consists in this, that the interchange between God and men is in full operation, and must therefore prefigure itself in the images of the future God-Man 1:4. The doctrine of angels itself loses its very heart, its justification and interpretation, if we take away from it the symbolic angel-form which rules it, as its royal centre, i. e. that angelic form which, as a real manifestation of God, as a typical manifestation of Christ, as a manifestation of angels, has the nature and force of a symbol. But with the obliteration of the symbolic element, all the remaining symbolic and angelic images, the cherubim and seraphim, will disappear, and with the key of biblical psychology in its representation of the development of the life of the soul, to an organ of revelation, we shall lose the key to the exposition of the Old Testament itself. 5. Augustin was consistent when, with his interpretation of the Angel of Jehovah as a creature-angel, he decidedly rejects the interpretation which regards the sons of God (Genesis 6:0) as angel-beings; for the assumption of angels who, as such, venture to identify themselves with Jehovah, notwithstanding they are in peril, and abandon themselves to lustful pleasures with the daughters of men until it issues in apostasy and a magical transformation of their nature, combines two groundless and intolerable phantoms. We hold, therefore, that Old Testament theology, in its very heart and centre, is in serious danger from these two great prejudices, as the New Testament from the two great prejudices of a mere mechanical structure of the Gospels, and of the unapostolic and yet more than apostolic brothers of the Lord. (See the defence of the old ecclesiastical view in the Commentary by Keil,2 also with a reference to Kahnis, de Angelo Domini diatribe, 1858. The assertion of the opposite view held by Delitzsch in his Commentary, meets here its refutation).

6. The aspect of all theophanies as visions. It is a general supposition, that divine revelation is partly through visions, or through inward miraculous sights and sounds. We must, however, bring out distinctly the fundamental position, that every theophany is at the same time vision, and every vision a theophany; but that in the one case the objective theophany, and in the other the subjective vision, is the prevailing feature. The subjective vision appears in the most definite form in dream-visions, of which Adam’s sleep, and Abram’s night-horror (chs. 2 and 15), are the first striking portents. It develops itself with great power in the lives of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, and is of still greater importance in the lives of Samuel and Solomon, as also in the night-visions of Zechariah. We find them in the New Testament in the life of Joseph of Nazareth and in the history of Paul. It needs no proof to show that the manifestations of God or angels in dreams, are not outward manifestations to the natural senses. In the elements of the subjective dream-vision, veils itself, however, the existing divine manifestation. But what the dream introduces in the night-life, the seeing in images—that the ecstasy does in the day or ordinary waking life (see Lange: “Apostolic Age”). The ecstasy, as the removing of the mind into the condition of unconsciousness, or of a different consciousness, is the potential basis of the vision, the vision is the activity or effect of the ecstasy. But since the visions have historical permanence and results, it is evident that they are the intuitions of actual objective manifestations of God. Mere hallucinations of the mind lead into the house of error, spiritual visions build the historical house of God. But in this aspect we may distinguish peculiar dream-visions, night-visions of a higher form and power, momentary day-visions, apocalyptic groups or circles of visions, linked together in prophetic contemplation, and that habitual clear-sightedness as to visions which is the condition of inspiration. But that theophanies, which are ever at the same time Angelophanies and Christophanies, and indeed as theophanies of the voice of God, or of the voice from heaven, of the simple appearance of angels, of their more enlarged and complete manifestations of the developed heavenly scene—that these are always conditioned through a disposition or fitness for visions, is clear from numerous passages in the Old and New Testaments. (2 Kings 6:17; Daniel 10:7; John 12:28-29; John 20:10-12; Acts 9:8; Acts 12:7-12; Acts 22:9-14.

In theology the psychological aspect of revelation has been hitherto very much neglected. All possible forms of revelation have been placed side by side without any connection. Starke says, the Son of God has appeared to believers under six forms or ways: 1. through a voice and words; 2. in an assumed form either of an angel, at least under that name, or in the form of a man, prefiguring his future incarnation; 3. in a vision; 4. in dreams; 5. in a pillar of cloud and fire; 6. especially to Paul, in a light from heaven.


1. The call of Abram and his migration to Canaan until he reaches Sichem (Genesis 12:1-7). The call of Abram demands from him a threefold renunciation, increasing in intensity from one to the other: 1. Out of thy country.—The fatherland. The land of Mesopotamia as it embraced both Ur of the Chaldees and Haran.—2. And from thy kindred.—The Chaldaic descendants of Shem.—3. From thy father’s house.—Terah and his family (Genesis 11:31-32). With the threefold demand it connects a threefold promise: 1. Of the special providence of God, leading him, indeed, to a new land (see Hebrews 11:0); 2. of the natural blessing of a numerous seed (Genesis 13:16; Genesis 15:5; Genesis 17:2; Genesis 17:6; Genesis 17:16; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 21:13; Genesis 22:17); 3. of a spiritual blessing for himself, and in its wide extension to all the families of the earth, making his name glorious, and constituting about his person in its spiritual import and relations the great contrast between the subjects of the blessing and the curse.—And will make thy name great.—That is, as the divinely blessed ancestor and father of a renowned people (Knobel). The name of the father of believers should shed its light and wield its influence through the world’s history.—Thou shalt be a blessing.—Lit: Be thou a blessing. It is a superficial view of this word which interprets it, thy name shall become a formula of blessing (Kimchi, Knobel: so that those who desire the greatest happiness shall wish themselves as happy as Abram). It is through the union of men with him (in that they pronounce and wish him blessed), that the mercy and blessing of God passes over to them, and through their enmity to him, which only reveals itself in calumnies and blasphemies3 they draw upon themselves the curse of God. The prelude to the blessing and the curse flowing through and from the Church. The curse: (Genesis 3:14; Genesis 3:17; Genesis 4:11; Genesis 5:29; Genesis 9:25; Genesis 27:29).—In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.4—The rendering it as reflexive is arbitrary, since we have the special form of the hithpael to express this, and the interpretation all families shall desire that their prosperity may be as thine, is shallow and incorrect (Jarchi, Clericus and others). The reflexive rendering is not necessary, indeed, in Genesis 48:20.—V. 4. The obedience of Abram. He left what he was required to leave, and took with him what it was in his power to take, Lot, although Lot was a burden to him rather than a source of strength (see article Lot, in the “Bible Dictionaries”). The emigration was the more heroic, since he was 75 years old, and his father was still living5 (Genesis 11:0). He probably went by Damascus (see Genesis 15:2).—V. 5. The souls that they had gotten.—Strictly, made, descriptive of the gain in slaves, male and female.6Sichem.—The first resting-place of Abram, who came to the place Sichem,7 and, indeed, to the oaks of Moreh (Deuteronomy 11:30), the oak-grove of Moreh.—Moreh.—Probably the name of the owner. Knobel: the oaks of instruction, which appear to be the same with the oaks of divination (Judges 9:37). It is not probable that Abram would have fixed his abode precisely (as Knobel thinks) in a grove, which according to heathen notions had a sacred character as the residence of divining priests. The religious significance of the place may have arisen from the fact that Jacob buried the images brought with him in his family, under the oak of Shechem (Genesis 35:4). The idols, indeed, must not be thrown into sacred but profane places (Isaiah 2:20). But, perhaps, Jacob had regard to the feelings of his family, and prepared for the images, which, indeed, were not images belonging to any system of idolatry, an honorable burial. At the time of Joshua the place had a sacred character, and Joshua, therefore, erected here the monumental stone, commemorating the solemn renewal of the law. Thus they became the oaks of the pillar at which the Shechemites made Abimelech king (Judges 9:6).—Then also the Canaanite was in the land.—This explains why in his migrations he must pass through the land to Sichem, to find a place suitable for his residence.8 It does not follow from this statement, either that the narrative originated at a time when the Canaanite was no longer in the land, or that the term here designates only a single tribe of this name, which in the time of Moses dwelt upon the sea-coast, and in the valley of the Jordan (as Knobel thinks), comp. Genesis 13:7; Genesis 34:30. It is a tradition of the Jews, that Noah had assigned Africa as the home of the children of Ham, but that the Canaanites had remained in Canaan against his command, and that therefore Abram, the true heir, was called thither. Genesis 12:7. The first appearance of Jehovah in vision. Abram’s life of faith had developed itself thus far since he had entered Canaan, and now the promise is given to him of the land of Canaan, as the possession of the promised seed. The second progressive promise9 comp. Genesis 13:15; Genesis 13:17; Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:8; Genesis 26:3; Genesis 28:4; Genesis 28:13; Genesis 35:12. Abram’s grateful acknowledgment: the erection of an altar, and the founding of an outward service of Jehovah, which as to its first feature consisted in the calling upon his name (cultus), and as to its second, in the profession and acknowledgment of his name.10 Thus also Jacob acted (Genesis 33:20; Joshua 24:1; Joshua 24:26). Bethel, Jerusalem, Hebron, Beersheba are places of the same character (i. e., places which were consecrated by the patriarchs, and not as Knobel thinks, whose consecration took place in later times, and then was dated back to the period of the patriarchs). Abram’s altars stood in the oaks of Moreh, and Mamre, in Bethel, and upon Moriah. Abram, and the patriarchs generally, served also the important purpose of preaching through their lives repentance to the Canaanites, as Noah was such a preacher for his time. For God leaves no race to perish unwarned. Sodom had even a constant warning in the life of Lot.

2. Abram’s migration through Canaan from Sichem to Bethel and still further southwards(Genesis 12:8-9). The want of pasture for his herds, the presentiments of piety, the yielding of the patriarch to the divine guidance, led him further southwards to a new residence east of Bethel. He pitched his tent between Bethel and Ai. “In the time of the Judges there was a sanctuary of Jehovah at Bethel (1. Sam. Genesis 10:3), and at one time also it was the abode of the ark of the covenant (Judges 20:18; Judges 20:26). In later times it was the chief seat of the illegal worship (cultus) established by Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:29; Amos 7:10), and hence its name Bethel in the place of the old name Luz (Genesis 28:19; Joshua 18:13; Judges 1:23). In Genesis it bears this name already in the time of the patriarchs, who here received manifestations of God and offered sacrifices to him (Genesis 13:4; Genesis 28:22; Genesis 35:7).” Thus Knobel explains the name as if there was an internal necessity for denying the fact of the consecration of Bethel through the dream and vision of Jacob. But that Bethel should be geographically known as Luz by the Canaanites, long after the patriarchs had made it theocratically Bethel, involves no real difficulty.11Abram journeyed (broke up his encampment and went).—The whole statement brings to view and illustrates the nomadic life, as also the allusion to his dwelling in tents.12Going on still toward the South.—The southern part of Canaan toward the wilderness, a rich pastureland. A particular definite residence in Hebron is spoken of in Genesis 13:18.

3. Abram’s journey to Egypt(Genesis 12:10-20).—There was a famine in the land.—The frequent famines are a peculiar characteristic of early times and of uncivilized lands. Egypt as a rich and fruitful land was even then a refuge from famine, as it was in the history of Jacob (Joseph., Antiq. xv. 9, 2).—Say, I pray thee (or now, still), thou art my sister.—The women at that time went unveiled, and this receives confirmation from the Egyptian monuments. The custom was changed after the conquest of the land by the Persians. Sarah was ten years younger than Abram (Genesis 17:17), and, therefore, about 65 years of age. In the patriarchal manner of life, her age would not make so deep a mark; and there is no real ground for questioning the continuance of her youthful bloom and beauty. It is more remarkable that Abram should adopt the same course again (Genesis 20:0), and that Isaac should once have imitated his example (Genesis 26:7). Modern criticism in this case, as often in other cases, chooses rather to admit, that there is a remarkable confusion in the narrative, than that there should have been a remarkable repetition of the same act. “It is held with good reason,” says Knobel, “that one and the same event lies at the foundation of these three narratives.” But the result of the first act of Abram did not necessarily restrain him from the second, and Isaac, especially in moments of anxiety, may have easily yielded himself to a slavish imitation of his father’s conduct. The name Abimelech lays no real ground for the identity of the second and third narrative, since this was a standing title of the kings of Philistia, as Pharaoh13 was of the kings of Egypt. According to (Genesis 20:13) Abram had already in his migration from Haran arranged with Sarah the expression referred to for his protection while among strangers, and this explains the repetition of the act, the prominent point in the moral problem (see below). “The Hebrew consciousness,” says Knobel, “pleased itself with the thought that on different occasions the ‘mothers’ were objects of admiration for their beauty, while they were kept from insult, and their husbands protected in their rights by God.” Since the “Israelitish consciousness” has not concealed by silence that Leah, the mother of the larger part of the Jews, was not beautiful, we may trust its account of the beauty of Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel, and the more so since the beauty of that type appears still in Jewish women. It must be observed also that by the side of the Hamitic women in Egypt and Canaan, Semitic women, even when advanced in years, would be admired as beauties. Abram desired that Sarah should say that she was his sister, lest he should be killed. If she was regarded as his wife, an Egyptian could only obtain her, when he had murdered her husband and possessor; but if she was his sister, then there was a hope that she might be won from her brother by kindly means. The declaration was not false (Genesis 20:12), but it was not the whole truth. Knobel.

Genesis 12:15. And commended her before Pharaoh.—“Modern travellers speak in a similar way of oriental kings, who incorporate into their harem the beautiful women of their land in a perfectly arbitrary way.” Knobel. “The recognition of Sarah’s beauty is more easily explained, if we take into view that the Egyptian women, although not of so dark a complexion as the Nubians or Ethiopians, were yet of a darker shade than the Asiatics. The women of high rank were usually represented upon the monuments in lighter shades for the purpose of flattery.” Hengstenberg. “According to older records the Egyptian court consisted of the sons of the most illustrious priests.—Into Pharaoh’s house, i. e., harem.” Schröder.

Genesis 12:16. The possessions of the nomadic chief. “According to Burkhardt and Robinson all the Arabic Bedouin hordes do not own horses. Strabo already relates this as true of the Nabatæans (p. 16).” Knobel. The horse does not appear with the patriarchs, and as a costly, proud animal, both as a war-horse and in ordinary use, was generally in the theocratic view regarded as a symbol of worldly splendor.

Genesis 12:17. The Lord plagued Pharaoh with great plagues [blows].—They were such plagues of sickness as to guard Sarai from injury (Genesis 20:4; Genesis 20:6).

Genesis 12:18. This Pharaoh is not hardened like the later king of that name. He concludes that he is punished for the sake of Sarai. Whence he draws this conclusion we are not told.14—V. 20. Now follows the dismissal of Abram, but still a dismissal full of honorable accompaniments. “Pharaoh’s conduct moreover shows how under all that idolatry which then held the Egyptians in its embrace, there was still existing a certain faith in the supreme God, and a kind of reverential fear before him.”


1. Keil: “The history of the life of Abram from his calling to his death unfolds itself in four stages, whose beginnings are marked by divine revelations of special significance. The first stage (chs. 12–14) begins with his calling and emigration to Canaan; the second (chs. 15, 16) with the promise of an heir and the formation of the covenant; the third (chs. 17–21) with the establishment of the covenant through the change of name and the introduction of the covenant-sign of circumcision; the fourth (chs. 22–25:11) with the trial or temptation of Abram for the preservation and perfecting of his faith. All the divine revelations to him proceed from Jehovah, and the name Jehovah prevails through the whole life of the father of the faithful, the name Elohim appearing only where Jehovah, according to its significance, would have been entirely out of place, or less appropriate.” Viewing his life with respect to his faith, the first Section (chs. 12–14) marks peculiarly the calling of Abraham; the second states his justification, confirmed through his reception into the covenant of Jehovah—obscured, but not weakened, through the erroneous workings of his faith in his connection with Hagar (chs.15, 16); the third states his consecration to be the father of the faithful, and therewith the legal separation of his house, and the establishment of his mild and yet strictly marked relations to the heathen (Genesis 17-21); the fourth treats of the sealing or confirmation of his faith. (From these we must distinguish as a fifth Section the time of the solemn festive rest of his faith, or the evening of life (chs. 23–25:10). For the nature of the patriarchal history, compare Delitsch, above.

2. The translation of Stier (Genesis 12:1), the Lord had said, is based upon an incorrect interpretation of the passage, in accordance with a misunderstanding of the words of Stephen (Acts 7:3). As the first call of Abram in Ur is by no means excluded here by the second call in Haran, so in Acts, the second calling in Haran is not excluded by the first in Ur. The first calling was plainly to Abram and his father’s house. In the call before us he was told to go out from his father’s house, while his father with the rest should remain in Haran. Starke also fails to distinguish these two callings correctly.15

3. The particularism entering with the calling of Abram must be viewed as the divine method of securing universal results. “In the particular we see the general, in the individual the whole, in the small the great; Abram’s calling is the seed out of which springs the great tree under whose shade many nations rest; all indeed shall one day rest.” Lisco.—There is no mere external preference for Israel in the Old Testament. God has, in his word, threatenings and judgments, dealt as strictly with Israel as with any people; with peculiar strictness, indeed, according to the peculiar gifts and graces which Israel had received. But the proper restriction is the truest universality. “In the example of the Jewish people God declares, that which was concealed, the method and law of his wisdom, and authorizes us to apply it for direction in our own lives, and to other subjects, people, and events.” A quotation in Lisco.—The elements of Abram’s character: heroic faith, humility, and self-sacrifice, energy, benevolence, and gentleness. His call in the East: Christians, Jews, and Mohammedans trace their origin back to him. The purer elements of Islamism come from him.

4. The calling of Abram: 1. In its requisitions; 2. in its promises (see the Exegesis); 3. in its motives, a. The grace of God. The election of Abram. The choice of God reflects itself in the dispositions of men, the gifts of believers. As every people has its peculiar disposition, so the race of Abram, and especially the father of it, had the religious disposition in the highest measure, b. The great necessity of the world. It appeared about to sink into heathenism; the faith must be saved in Abram. c. The destination of Abram. Faith should proceed from one believer to all, just as salvation should proceed from one Saviour to all. The whole Messianic prophecy was now embraced in Abram.16

5. The calling of Abram to the pilgrimage of faith (Hebrews 11:8). His migration: 1. into Canaan; 2. through Canaan; 3. to Egypt; 4. his return. His calling and migrating an example of the calling and pilgrimage of his race.—A type of the calling and pilgrimage of all believers.

6. The character of the life of faith: a. The experience of faith. Personal revelation of God, the personal providence of God. b. The work or concession of faith. Personal trust and personal obedience.

7. The word of God to Abraham, sealed through the manifestation of God in Canaan, as the word of the gospel is sealed to the believer through the sacrament. Keil: “The promise was raised from its temporal form to its real nature through Christ, through him the whole earth becomes a Canaan.”

8. Abram and the companions of his faith. Sarai, Lot. The blessings and perils of the companionship of the faithful. “The father of believers and his successors appear constantly in the Bible as one whole: hence it is said so often, ’To thee will I give this land (Genesis 15:7, etc.)’ ” Gerlach.

9. The solitude of the nomadic life of the patriarchs, a source of the life of prayer and illumination—a prerequisite for the higher revelation. The solitude of Moses, the prophets (“by the rivers of Babylon,” “in the desert,”) of John the Baptist, of Christ the Lord, of the Christians in deserts, of the mystics in the cloisters of the middle ages, of Luther (Jacob Böhme, Fox, etc.). In tranquil retirement. “Abram was a rich, independent herdsman, just as the Bedouin chiefs are still in the deserts and the broad pasture-grounds of Syria, Arabia, and Palestine.” Gerlach. There were already a variety of pursuits; huntsmen, husbandmen, and shepherds. Their separations and variances (Genesis 43:32; Genesis 46:34). For the tents, deserts, pasturages (uncultivated regions), see Bible Dictionaries.

10. The consecration of Canaan, through the manifestations of God, and the altars of Abram (as well as of the other patriarchs). The heavenly signs of the Church of Christ; the setting apart of the old earth, to a new. The chosen land a type of the Christian earth and of Paradise. “Abram takes his church with him.” Calwer Handbuch.
11. Abram’s altars, or his calling upon the name of Jehovah, is at the same time a testimony to his name. The true worship is a source of the true missionary—the cultus itself a mission.

12. Abram’s maxim or rule, to report that Sarah was his sister.17 It was determined upon in the early period of his migrations (Genesis 20:13), but was here first brought into use, and from its successful issue was repeated once by himself, and once imitated by Isaac. It was with respect to his faith a fearful hazard. Faith is at the beginning un certain as to the moral questions and complications of life. Every broad view of the general is at first an uncertain view as to the particular. Thus it is in the broad synthetic view in science; it is at first wanting in reference to the critical and analytical knowledge as to the particular. Still the scientific Synthesis is the source of all true science. And thus faith, the great synthesis of heaven, is at first uncertain as to the moral problems of the earthly life. The history of all the great beginnings of faith furnishes the proof. But still, the great life of faith is the source of all pure and high morality in the world. Abram’s venture was not from laxity as to the sanctity of marriage, or as to his duty to protect his wife; it was from a presumptuous confidence in the wonderful assistance of God. It was excused through the great necessity of the time, his defenceless state among strangers, the customary lawlessness of those in power, and as to the relation of the sexes. Therefore Jehovah preserved him from disgrace, although he did not spare him personal anxiety, and the moral rebuke from a heathen. It is only in Christ, that with the broad view of faith, the knowledge of its moral human measures and limitations is from the beginning perfect. In the yet imperfect, but growing faith, the word is true, “The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” As a mere matter of prudence, Abram appeared to act prudently. He told no untruth, although he did not tell the whole truth. His word was, at all events, of doubtful import, and therefore, through his anxious forecast, was morally hazardous. But the necessity of the time, the difficulty of his position, and his confidence that God would make his relations clear at the proper time, serve to excuse it. It was not intended to effect a final deception: his God would unloose the knot. In his faith Abram was a blameless type of believers, but not in his application of his faith to the moral problems of life. Still, even in this regard, he unfolds more and more his heroic greatness. We must distinguish clearly between a momentary, fanatical, exaggerated confidence in God, and the tempting of God with a selfish purpose (see the history of Thamar, Rahab). Baumgarten is not correct when he says: “Abram abandons his wife, but not so Jehovah.” The modern stand-point is too prominent even in Delitzsch; “He thus thinks that he will give the marriage-honor of his wife a sacrifice for his self-preservation; at all events, he is prepared to do this.” Abram knew from the first, that the promise of blessing from Jehovah was connected with his person. Hence the instinct of self-preservation is lost in the higher impulse for the preservation of the blessing. And if, in relation to this impulse, he placed his marriage in a subordinate position, this occurred certainly from his confidence in the wonderful protection of Jehovah, and the heroic conduct of Sarai. His syllogism was doubtless morally incorrect, but it rested upon an exaggeration of his faith, and not upon moral cowardice.18 Upon any opposing interpretation, the same conduct of the patriarchs could not possibly have been repeated a second and third time. Jehovah himself could not have recognized any tempting of God, nor any moral baseness, in his conduct; but indeed concerns himself in the leading of Abram’s faith (as in the life of Stilling), while he prepares for the presumptuous and erroneous syllogism of his faith its deserved rebuke. In a similar way Calvin recognizes the good end of Abram, but at the same time remarks that he failed in the choice of his means.

13. That the Bible speaks in this frank and simple way of the female beauty, as it does generally of beauty in life, and the world, shows how free it is from the gloomy, morose, monkish asceticism, while, however, it does not conceal the perils of beauty.
14. The Pharaoh of this early period, and more simple life, had already his courtiers, flatterers, and harem. How soon the misuse of princely power has been developed with the power itself! In this case, too, as it often occurs, the prince is better than his court. Pharaoh treats the patriarch with honor, humanity, and a magnanimity which must have put him to shame.
15. As we find recorded in Genesis the beginning of polygamy, of despotism, of the harem, and even of unnatural sexual crimes, so also we have here the first corporeal punishment of these sexual sins in the house of Pharaoh. We are not told, indeed, what was the particular kind of punishment, but it is represented as sent for these sins of Pharaoh.
16. Delitzsch holds, that the silence of Abram under the reproof of Pharaoh, is a confession of his guilt. “Ashamed and penitent, he condemns himself.” It would be very difficult, on this interpretation, to explain the twofold repetition of this act in the life of Abram and of Isaac. We may not transfer our judgment of the case to the stage of the moral development of Abram.
17. The history of Sarai, in whose person God guards the future mother of Israel from profanation, is at the same time a sign of the fact, that God preserves the sacred marriage in the midst of the corruption of the world.
18. Among the rich possessions which fell to Abram in Egypt, more through the protection and blessing of God, than his own prudence, was most probably the Egyptian maid, Hagar, who afterwards exerted so important an influence upon his course of life. Eliezer, of Damascus, and Hagar, from Egypt, are undesigned testimonies to the genuine historical character of the account of his migration from Mesopotamia to Canaan, and from Canaan to Egypt.
19. Abram’s return from Egypt at this time, was already in some sense a return home, and a type of the Exodus of his descendants from Egypt.19

20. The significance of the wonderful land of Egypt for the history of the kingdom of God. Its connection with Canaan, and its opposition. How often it moves down to Egypt (Egypt lay lower than Canaan), and from thence moves back again! There the Hamitic spirit blooms, here the Semitic (Ziegler); there are enigmas, here mysteries; there miracles of death, here of life; there the Pharaohs, here spiritual princes.


See the Doctrinal and Ethical paragraphs.—Jehovah. 1. The profound significance of the name; 2. its eternal value and importance.—Calling of Abram.—Three first proofs of his faith: 1. He must go out from his country and his father’s house, into a strange land; 2. he finds in Palestine “no continuing city,” and soon suffers from famine; 3. he must go further to Egypt, in danger of his life, marriage, and hope.20—Abram at his altars a preacher of repentance for the Canaanites.—His pilgrimage.—The companions of his faith.—The providence of God over the lives of believers.—The infallible faith of Abram, and his errors in the applications of his faith, or of his life: 1. That infallibility does not prevent these errors; 2. but it prevents their dangerous consequences, and at last removes them.—The consecration of Canaan.—The blessings of faith.

Starke: Wurtemberg Bible: Genesis 12:1. The call from the condition of sin, or true conversion, springs not from one’s own strength, etc., but only from the grace of God.—Cramer: Whoever will be a follower of God, must separate himself from the world and its wickedness, must leave all consolation and help in the creature, and place his confidence only and alone in the Lord.—If we follow the call of God, we are always in the right way.—The promises of God are yea and amen.

Genesis 12:3. Whoever wishes and does good to the saints, will receive good again, but whoever wishes and does them injury, must meet with calamity.

Genesis 12:4-5. The strength of faith can do away with time, and present future things as if present.21—Upon Genesis 12:13. Since Abram was continually dependent upon the grace of God, he must feel his weakness, which betrays him into manifold acts of insincerity and sins. For, 1. he acted from fear, when he should still have looked to God; 2. he gave out that Sarai was his sister, when she was his wife; 3. he had great guilt in the sin of Pharaoh; 4. he thought to secure his own safety, while he placed Sarai and her chastity in the greatest peril.—Even in the greatest saints, there are many and various defects and transgressions.—God leads his own out of temptation, even when they have fallen.—Osiander: God avenges the injustice and disgrace, which are inflicted upon his elect.—Lisco: Abram obeyed because he trusted God; the two together constitute his faith.22—Wherever Abram comes, in his nomadic life and wanderings, he works for the honor of God.

Genesis 12:13. The failures of this chosen man of God appear, upon a closer survey, as sins of weakness, which, on the one hand, do not destroy his gracious standing with God, but on the other render necessary in him a purifying, providential training. The providence of God watches over his elect.—Gerlach: In the simple, vivid narrative of the life of Abram, every step is full of importance.

Genesis 12:3 is the expression of the more perfect covenant-relationship and communion. His friends are the friends of God, his enemies the enemies of God. God will himself reward every kindness shown to him, and avenge every injury (in word and deed), Psalms 105:13-15.

Genesis 12:13. In the deception which Abram uses, as in the later instances of Jacob and Moses, we see a weakness and impurity of faith which did not yet rely perfectly upon the help of God in his own way and time, but selfishly and eagerly grasped after it. It is not without reproof.

Calwer Handbuch: The command of God follows the promise (Genesis 12:3). This advances upwards through six steps, until, at the most advanced, the Messiah appears, who should spring from the descendants of Abram. I will make thee a great nation, natural and spiritual—and still his wife was unfruitful—will bless thee—and still he did not possess a footbreadth of land—will make thy name great—and yet he must be a stranger in a strange land.—In thee shall be blessed,23 etc. This promise was repeated to him seven times: the third promise of the Messiah.—The word of God never excuses the imperfections of believers.—Bunsen: Abram is the eternal model of all exiles, and the true father of the pilgrim-fathers of the seventeenth century (of the pilgrims of faith of all times, Hebrews 11:0).—And make thy name great. The Arabians, after Isaiah 41:8, call Abram the friend of God.—Schröder: For a long time, as is evident from examples in the family of Abram, God had permitted the truth and its marred image to stand side by side. There must come at the last a moment of perfect separation, a moment of declared distinction between truth and falsehood. This moment also actually came.—Luther: It is cheering, therefore, and full of consolation, when we thus consider how the church began and has increased.—With him it is so arranged that he cannot remove his foot from his native ground, without planting it upon an entirely distinct region—the region of faith.—Krummacher: The East still resounds with the name of Abram.

Genesis 12:3. Abram becomes to many a savor of death unto death (2 Corinthians 2:16), although he himself should not curse. That is the prerogative of God, he should only be a blessing.—Blessing and making blessed is the destination of all the elect.—Baumgarten: Genesis 12:10. Famine in the land of promise is a severe test for Abram. For the land is promised to him as a good which should compensate all his self-denial.

Genesis 12:13. In fact, there are found in the oldest histories frequently, here and there, the seeds of the later more developed boasted cunning and prudence.—Passavant: (Abram and his children). Abram was great before God. How so? Through faith. Faith does it. Go out of thy land. The father-land is dear to us. But now it avails, etc.—He went out with his God.—Schwenke: “Hours with the Bible.” Does not the call come to thee also: Go out?—And go in faith? A life in faith is a continual proving—a permanent test.—Heuser: (The Leadings of Abram.) Abram in his pilgrimage: 1. The goal for which he strove; 2. the promises which secured its attainment; 3. the dangers under which he stood; 4. the divine service which he rendered.—Taube: The calling of Abram, a type of our calling to the kingdom of God: 1. As to its demands; 2. as to its gracious promises.24—W. Hofmann: It is through Abram that we receive all the sacred knowledge until we reach back to paradise; all that afterwards was preserved for us by Moses came through his mind and heart.—It was the believing look to the past, which fitted Abram to look on into the future. Delitzsch: The facts (Abram in Egypt) are related to us, not so much for the dishonor of Abram, as for the honor of Jehovah.25


[1][Hengstenberg holds that after the sin with the golden calf, God threatened the people that the Maleach Jehovah, the uncreated angel, should no longer go with them, but a lower, subordinate, created angel; but that in answer to the prayer of Moses he again permits the uncreated angel to accompany them.—A. G.]

[2][The statement and defence, by Keil, of the ordinary view held by the Church, is admirable, and completely satisfactory. As it is now within the reach of the English reader, it is not necessary to quote it here. Those who would see this subject thoroughly and exhaustively treated, may consult Hengstenberg’s “Christology,” 2d ed., pp. 121-143 of vol. i. and 31–86 of the 2d part of vol. iii.—A. G.]

[3][קִלֶּל the reproaches—blasphemous curses of men—in distinction from אָרַר the judicial curse of God. Keil.—A. G.]

[4][We must not miss here the fundamental meaning of the ב in, while we include its instrumental sense, through. Abram is not only the channel but the source of blessing for all. Keil.—A. G.] [The families refers to the division of the one human family into a number of families or races. (See Genesis 10:5; Gen 20:31). The blessing of Abram will bind into unity the now dissevered parts of the race, and transform that curse which now rests upon all the earth on account of sin, into a blessing for the whole human race. Keil.—A. G.] [The Old Testament is as broad and catholic in its spirit as the New Testament. Murphy, pp. 262, 263.—A. G.]

[5][But according to Acts 7:4, his father was dead. Terah died when he was 205 years old, and as Abram left Haran when he was 75 years old, he must have been born when Terah was 130 years old, and thus have been the younger son of Terah.—A. G.]

[6][Not only gotten as secular property but had made obedient to the law of the true God. Wordsworth.—A. G.]

[7][See Jacobus: “Notes on Genesis,” vol. i. pp. 227, 228.—A. G.]

[8][The author of Genesis evinces in this clause a knowledge of the Canaanites, and presupposes their character to be known in such a way as a late writer could not do. Jacobus, p. 228.—A. G.]

[9][Abram is the first person to whom the Lord is said to have appeared, and this is the first place at which the Lord is said to have appeared to Abram, and at this place Christ, the Lord of glory, first revealed himself as the Messiah (John 4:26; to the Samaritan woman (the type of the Gentile Church). Wordsworth, p. 66—A. G.]

[10][He thus also took possession of the land in the name of his covenant God. See Bush, 364; Jacobus, 229.—A. G.]

[11][“Jacob gave his name to the place twice (Genesis 28:19; Genesis 35:15). As the name was not first given in the second instance, so it may not have been in the first. Accordingly we meet with it as an existing name in Abram’s time, without being constrained to account for it by supposing the present narrative to have been, composed in its present form after the time of Jacob’s visit. On the other hand, we may regard it as an interesting trace of early piety having been present in the land even before the arrival of Abram.” Murphy.—A. G.]

[12][“He had left his house at Haran, and now dwelt in tents as in a strange country” (Hebrews 11:9). Wordsworth.—A. G.]

[13][“פַרְעֹה from the Coptic Ouro with the masculine article pi or p, Pouro, king. The dynasty and residence of the king cannot be certainly determined. But it is worthy of notice that there is no trace here of the later Egyptian contempt for the nomadic life and occupation; a fact which speaks decidedly for the antiquity and historical character of the narrative.” Kurtz.—A. G.]

[14][V. 19. So I might have taken, Heb. And I took. The construction of the Hebrew does not require the supposition that she actually became his wife. Our version, though not literal, gives no doubt the correct sense. If the present narrative admitted of any doubt, the doubt is removed by a reference to the parallel case, Genesis 20:6.—A. G.]

[15] [“There is no discrepancy between Moses and St. Stephen. St. Stephen’s design was, when he pleaded before the Jewish Sanhedrim, to show that God’s revelations were not limited to Jerusalem and Judea, but that he had first spoken to the father of Abram in an idolatrous land, Ur of the Chaldees.”

“But Moses dwells specially on Abram’s call from Haran, because Abram’s obedience to that call was the proof of his faith.” Wordsworth.

There is no improbability in the supposition that the call was repeated. And this supposition would not only reconcile the words of Stephen and of Moses, but may explain the fifth verse: “And they went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came.” Abram had left his home in obedience to the original call of God, but had not reached the land in which he was to dwell. Now, upon the second call, he not only sets forth, but continues in his migrations until he reaches Canaan, to which he was directed.—A. G.]

[16] [“With the closing word of the promse, ‘in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed,’ the final goal of all history is proclaimed, for there is nothing beyond the blessing of all the families of the earth. Thus the whole fulness of the divine purpose in reference to the salvation, is stated in the call of Abram, and connected with him in the closest manner. For the בְךָ does not designate any relation whatever of Abram to the general blessing, but designates him as the organic means or instrument through which blessing should come.” Baumgarten.—A. G.]

[“The Apostle Paul expounds the promise (Galatians 3:16), showing: 1. that by its express terms, it was made to extend to the Gentiles; and, 2. that by the term ‘seed’ is meant Christ Jesus. The promise looks to the world-wide benefits of redemption which should come through Christ, the seed of Abram.” Jacobus, p. 225.—A. G.]

[17][See Hengstenberg’s Beitrüge, iii. p. 526 ff.—A. G.]

[18][We are not to be harsh or censorious in our judgments upon the acts of these eminent saints. But neither are we called upon to defend their acts; and if the view of Lange does not satisfy every one, it is well to bear in mind that the Scripture records these acts without expressing distinctly any moral judgment upon them. It impliedly condemns. The Scripture, however, contains clearly the great principles of moral truth and duty, and then oftentimes leaves the reader to draw the inference as to the moral quality of the acts which it records. And its faithfulness in not concealing what may be of questionable morality, “in the lives of the greatest saints shows the honesty and accuracy of the historian.” Wordsworth says well: “the weaknesses of the patriarchs strengthen our faith in the Pentateuch.”—A. G.]

[19][“The same necessity conducts both him and his descendants to Egypt. They both encounter similar dangers in that land—the same mighty arm delivers both, and leads them back enriched with the treasures of that wealthy country.” Kurtz.—A. G.]

[20][There does not seem to he sufficient ground for the conjecture of Murphy, that Abram was now pursuing his own course, and venturing beyond the limits of the land of promise, without waiting patiently for the divine counsel; and that he went with a vague suspicion that he was doing wrong. There is reason to believe, that all the movements of the patriarch were not only under divine control, but were a part of God’s plan for the testing and developing of his faith. It was a sore trial to leave the land promised to him, so soon after he had entered it. See also paragraph 20, above.—A. G.]

[21][Genesis 12:7. “Wherever he had a tent, God had an altar, and an altar sanctified by prayer.” Henry.—A. G.]

[22][Faith receives the promise, and leads to obedience.—A. G.]

[23][The promise receives its first fulfilment in Abram, then in the Jews, more perfectly when the Son of God became incarnate, the seed of Abram, then further in the church and the preaching of the gospel, but finally and fully when Christ shall complete his church, and come to take her to himself.—A. G.]

[24][Abram also is an illustrious example to all who hear the call of God. His obedience is prompt and submissive. He neither delays nor questions, but went out not knowing whither he went, Hebrews 11:8.—A. G.]

[25][Hengstenberg says: The object of the writer is not Abram’s glorification, but the glorification of Jehovah.—A. G.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Genesis 12". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/genesis-12.html. 1857-84.
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