After the introduction of chapter 11, we are given the beginning of the history of Abraham which will continue on into chapter 25.
Chapter 12 begins with the calling of Abram. This is evidently the second rendition of the calling. The first had been given in Ur with the result that Abram and his father’s house had moved to Haran. This calling, given after the death of Abram’s father Terah, served to separate him even more from his past life and environment, this time even from his own family, which had become addicted to the service of idols (Joshua 24:2). God led him forth alone into the land which had been chosen as his peculiar inheritance, the place in which the greatest works of God’s covenant would be realized, and a typical picture of the kingdom of heaven. That Abram followed the guidance of God was considered an unusual manifestation of faith (Heb. 11:8). Why?
Verses 2 and 3 give us the first statement of God’s covenant promise to Abram. This promise is given in seven different phrases, the number of the covenant, and is extremely comprehensive. Distinguish these various elements of the promise and determine in what respect they contained the Gospel of salvation. (Especially determine why these promises could be received only by faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
In verses 4 through 9 we have the actual account of Abram’s obedience to the command of Jehovah. It is apparent that Abram was already a rich man, and those who came with him formed a large company. With him was Lot and both had much substance with many servants. It meant that Abram’s responsibilities were great so that it was extremely difficult for him to travel in a land which he did not know and did not own. Even more notable in the listing of Abram’s company, however, was the fact that he had no children and he and his wife were already old. Without a son, he had no heir and there was no future for him as a family. Meanwhile the whole content of the promise looked to the future. (Take notice of these futuristic elements in the promise in this chapter and in others.)
From the start, Abram’s life in Canaan was nomadic. He wandered about from place to place because the land was already inhabited and plotted out to various owners. Abram might pass through the land, which was still quite sparse in its settlement, but he could not claim any place for his own. Still God came to him and gave this promise, “Unto thy seed will I give this land.” Although this appeared quite impossible, Abram believed and as he went from place to place he built altars to God and worshipped. (Why was the possession of an earthly land so important spiritually to Abram’s seed?)
Genesis 12:14-30 – ABRAM IN EGYPT
Under the providence of God, a severe test of faith, soon fell upon Abram when a famine smote the land. With a large company of people to feed, and no possessions or stores of his own, the situation was immediately critical. Then, rather than turning to God in prayer. Abram faltered in faith and retreated to the granary of the ancient world, Egypt. Before they even came there, however, Abram realized that a problem awaited him because of the beauty of Sarai his wife. With the strength that they had, the Egyptians would not hesitate to slay the husband for the sake of a beautiful wife. Abram therefore instructed Sarai to say only that she was his sister, which she also was, and not that she was his wife. It was his expectation that as a brother he would be formally recognized and permission would be asked of him before any would seek to take Sarai in marriage. This would allow them time to buy provisions and escape the land should it be necessary. (Was it wrong for Abram to leave Canaan during the famine? Was it wrong for Abram to say only that he was Sarai’s brother when he was also her husband?)
But Abram had underestimated the decisiveness of Pharaoh’s actions. No sooner had the report of Sarai’s beauty reached his court than emissaries were sent to Abram’s door to take her into Pharaoh’s harem. No time was left for evasive action and Abram was soon without his wife. Almost ironically he found himself receiving rich gifts from Pharaoh as Sarai’s brother, while the wife whom he loved was held in the home of another. Neither did he have the courage at this late date to inform Pharaoh of the true situation. It was finally God who had to interfere in his behalf. God sent a plague upon Pharaoh’s house because he had taken Abram’s wife. Even more, it was soon made known to Pharaoh, either directly by God or by Sarai, what the reason for this plague was. Angered, Pharaoh replied to Abram, “Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.” In this way, Sarai was restored to Abram, and he returned with her to Canaan. (Was it grace on the part of God that Pharaoh was warned about Sarai? Was it faith in Pharaoh that listened to the warning? Why did Pharaoh not punish Abram for what he had done?)
Genesis 13 – ABRAM AND LOT
Returning to the land of Canaan, Abram again took up his wandering from place to place, and again worshipped at the altars which he had built.
As time went on, however, both he and Lot continued to grow in wealth and possessions of herds and flocks. As a result, it became almost impossible for them to continue to live and travel together. The servants who kept their respective herds and flocks were constantly arguing and fighting over who was to graze where, It was Abram who at last suggested that they separate and make their dwellings in different parts of the land. To Lot he offered the choice of the portion of the land into which he would go. By far the richest and most fertile portion in all the land of Canaan was the plains of Jordan where Sodom and Gomorrah were located. It is compared by the Bible to the garden of Eden. This land Lot saw and chose for himself. He left to Abram the hill country which was also rich but not to compare with the plains of the river. Thus, the two men and their households were separated, going in opposite directions. (If Abram did not own the land, how could he offer to divide it with Lot? Was it right for Abram to allow Lot to make this choice?)
Following this separation, Lot settled down to dwell in the plains of Jordan. The pasturage was good and did not require that he wander about from place to place for grazing. Accessible to him were all the refinements and advantages of the great cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He prospered on those plains and soon found himself pitching his tent closer and closer to the cities because of the opportunities which they afforded. Finally, he gave up all pretense of separation and took up his citizenship there. The city was wicked, and all of the evil among which he lived troubled the conscience of Lot (II Pet. 2:7,8); but the advantages of living in Sodom were too many to be easily forsaken, In Sodom he and his family continued to live. (Was it wrong for Lot just to live in the plains of Jordan? Should not he have been strong enough to resist the temptation of the cities? May we conclude that there are certain places, cities or schools, to which we should not go because of the temptations which they afford?)
Meanwhile Abram continued to live as he had before, wandering through the less fertile parts of Canaan. Moving from place to place, his contact with the Canaanites was only passing. But this was a blessing far greater than any this world could supply. God came to him and spoke to him repeating again the promise. “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it, and in the breadth of it: for I will give it unto thee.” (Why do we have this repeated emphasis upon the possession of an earthly land? Who are comprehended in this seed that is promised to Abram?)
Genesis 14 – ABRAM AND THE KINGS
For all of their prosperity, however, the plains of the Jordan were hardly a peaceable place in which to live. They had no unified power and rule, for no fewer than five different kings ruled from five different cities. Lying along a principal route of travel, they were a favorite target for invading kings. In fact, for twelve successive years they had been held under tribute by Chedorlaomer. an invading king from the east. And then in the thirteenth year the five kings of the plains agreed together to pay no more tribute. This was a sad mistake for it only gave to Chedorlaomer, together with a coalition of three other kings, an occasion to invade and plunder this rich land. With a sweeping campaign, they came around through the east and south and then down into the plains of Jordan. The indolent peoples of the plain were no match for these hardened campaigners. The two forces met in the valley of Siddim, but soon the army of the plains was overcome and scattered. The invaders went on to the cities to plunder them and carry their riches away. In this also Lot and his household were taken captive, (Was it wrong for the kings to rebel against Chedorlaomer? Did this have anything to do with Lot’s sin?)
One of the men of Sodom, probably a servant of Lot, escaped and brought to Abram a report of what had happened. Reacting quickly, Abram gathered the strongest of his servants, 318 in number, and armed them for battle, Joined by Eshcol and Aner, brothers of Mamre upon whose land Abram often dwelt, Abram pursued after the withdrawing army of Chedorlaomer. After overtaking them, Abram divided his forces and fell upon Chedorlaomer’s unsuspecting army during the night. God gave to him a great victory. Soon the forces of Chedorlaomer were routed, the captives were released, and their goods were restored. (Why did Abram pursue Chedorlaomer? Was there more than one reason? Was it right for him to have an alliance with Eshcol and Aner considering II Chronicles 19:2?)
Returning to Canaan, Abram was met by the kings of the land. The first to meet him was Melchizedek, king of Salem, later called Jerusalem. He stood out as a unique individual because of his intimate relationship to Jehovah God. From this relationship derived his own name (Melchizedek meaning king of righteousness) and the name of his city (Salem meaning peace). He was both king and priest under God, not as an inheritance from his father, nor as a position to be passed on to his sons, but as a unique blessing which he held alone in close communion with God. He stood in his day as a clear type of Christ, and as such was received by Abram returning from battle (Heb. 7). To Abram he gave bread and wine as a testimony of God’s covenant friendship while bestowing upon Abram the blessing of God, “Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.” In return Abram bestowed at his feet a tithe, one tenth of all he possessed as unto God himself, (What is the importance of the appearance of Melchizedek here? Did Melchizedek hold a more important place in the church than Abram?)
Harshly contrasting with this was the appearance of the king of Sodom. After his ignoble defeat in which he personally had been taken out of battle by floundering in a slime pit and by which perhaps his own life had been spared, he had regained his composure and intended now magnanimously to honor and reward Abram for what he had done. His suggestion was that Abram return the people and keep all of the possessions for himself. To this Abram answered. “1 have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the Most High God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich.” For the king of Sodom and his wickedness Abram had nothing but scorn. For Lot alone he went to battle and from the wicked he would take no reward. (Did not Abram have a right to the plunder that had been taken from Sodom? What do we learn here about the relationship, which Abram maintained toward his wicked neighbors?)