In our study of Genesis chapter twelve, we will look at the struggles of Abraham. The man is known for his great faith but he was also a man and had struggles in his walk with God just as we do.
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Now ADONAI said to Avram, "Get yourself out of your country, away from your kinsmen and away from your father's house, and go to the land that I will show you.
We remember from chapter 11 that Avram's father (Terah) had been inspired by God to leave Ur of the Chaldeans (southern Iraq) and go to Canaan. He stopped on the way at Haran and lived the rest of his life there. God called Avram to continue on to Canaan.
I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great; and you are to be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
God's call on Avram's life was followed by three promises and we are reminded that the number three is associated with the earthly display of God's will. The first promise is that he would be a great nation and that was fulfilled when he was given the land of Canaan. The second promise was that his name would be great and that has been fulfilled as Jews as well as Christians refer to Avraham as the father of the faith. The third promise, that everyone on earth would be blessed through him, was fulfilled at the coming of Jesus Christ to die for our sins. The word "blessed" here refers to being shown the favor of God and Jesus was from the line of Avram. All peoples on the earth can be shown the favor of God if they accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
So Avram went, as ADONAI had said to him, and Lot went with him. Avram was 75 years old when he left Haran. Avram took his wife Sarai, his brother's son Lot, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, as well as the people they had acquired in Haran; then they set out for the land of Kena'an and entered the land of Kena'an.
Now, we see that Avram left for Canaan and his nephew Lot went with him. This is significant in the fact that Lot represented the next generation of people and it was important that he would be a witness to the events that follow. Throughout the Torah, we see God consistently telling parents to remember the things that he has done and to tell their children. Avram had no children yet and so it is significant that he took his nephew. The same principle of telling our children about the things of God applies to us today and that responsibility cannot be delegated to anyone else. This journey of Avram also introduces us to the principle that God is always moving us just as he was moving Avram from Haran to Canaan. At times this moving us may take the form of physically changing our location and going where God sends us while, at other times, it may simply be God bringing a change to our lives. This change is always used by God to strengthen our faith and dependence on Him. The word translated here as people is "HaNephesh" in the original Hebrew and it is the singular form that is usually translated as soul. Here, it is speaking of the life (nephesh) that they had made in Haran.
Avram passed through the land to the place called Sh'khem, to the oak of Moreh. The Kena'ani were then in the land. ADONAI appeared to Avram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." So he built an altar there to ADONAI, who had appeared to him.
We see that Avram entered Canaan and went to a specific place called Sh'Khem (Schechem) which is north of Jerusalem. We also see that the Canaanites were in the land and this is significant in that the land was not empty where Avram could just go in and take control by his own power. The people living there at the time would have claimed the land for themselves but God appeared to Avram and revealed more about His promise. We remember that Sarai was barren and he was an old man, yet God said that he would have offspring and that it was God that was going to give the land to Abraham's children. Avram then set up an altar and worshiped the Lord. This is also a reminder that God was giving the land to His children and not to his nephew Lot.
He left that place, went to the hill east of Beit-El and pitched his tent. With Beit-El to the west and 'Ai to the east, he built an altar there and called on the name of ADONAI.
We see that Avram left Sh'khem and went to a hill that was east of Beit-El which means "House of God" and this hill was north and east of what would become Jerusalem. The word translated as tent here is "ohela" and it is feminine speaking of the fact that it was Sarai's tent and we see that he took care of here first. Next, we see that Avram built an altar and worshiped God and this is a consistent pattern in his life.
Then Avram traveled on, continuing toward the Negev.
We see that Avram continued to move in the land of Canaan as he was travelling and building altars when he stopped. This was an act of faith in claiming the land for God and letting everyone know that the land has been set apart by God.
But there was a famine in the land, so Avram went down into Egypt to stay there, because the famine in the land was severe.
At first glance, this does not make much sense as Avram was being obedient in going to Canaan and he was worshipping God yet a famine came upon the land. We often see a famine throughout the Torah where it is associated with God's displeasure with man but that was not the case here. In this case it was an obstacle or tool used by God to continue to bring change to Avram's life. God's plan was for Egypt to become a refuge for His people and we see that in this passage.
When he came close to Egypt and was about to enter, he said to Sarai his wife, "Here now, I know that you are a good-looking woman; so that when the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife,' and kill me but keep you alive. Please say that you are my sister, so that it will go well with me for your sake, and so that I will stay alive because of you."
Here, we see what appears to be a lie as Avram asks Sarai to tell the Egyptians that she is his sister but , in fact, it was not a lie. When you go back to the geneaology of Avram, you see that they indeed shared a parent and so were related as brother and sister. In this passage, we see how God can use a woman to help her husband to fulfill God's will. We also see that a wife's obedience to her husband can bring about blessing (favor from God) for both of them. We also see the faith of Avram as he would have known what was going to happen to a pretty woman stranger in a foreign land. Even so, he trusted God when God said that she would bear him descendants.
When Avram entered Egypt, the Egyptians did notice that the woman was very beautiful. Pharaoh's princes saw her and commended her to Pharaoh, so the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. He treated Avram well for her sake, giving him sheep, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female slaves, and camels.
We see that it came to pass just as Avram had said and this allows us to see that, when Avram asked Sarai to say that she was his sister, it had been revealed to him by God. How hard that would have been as a husband to watch your wife being taken in to another man's house and yet Avram had faith in God even though he did not know what would happen. We also see Sarai's faith in that she recognized that he was a man of God and, even though she may have been scared, she went along with what Avram had said and allowed herself to be taken in to Pharaoh. We also see that they are being blessed with livestock and slaves for their obedience to God as Avram was given all of those things because of Sarai.
But ADONAI inflicted great plagues on Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai Avram's wife.
Before, Pharaoh could take Sarai as his wife, God intervened and brought some sort of ailment such as leprosy to Pharaoh and the members of his household.
Pharaoh called Avram and said, "What is this that you have done to me? Why didn't you tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her to be my own wife? Now therefore, here is your wife! Take her, and go away!" So Pharaoh gave orders concerning him to his men, and they sent him on his way with his wife and everything he had.
Only God could have revealed to Pharaoh the truth and, when he was confronted with the truth, he did the right thing. Surely, Avram and Sarai grew in their faith as they realized that God had intervened and the same thing happens as we see God at work in our daily lives. We also see how serious God takes the marriage relationship by the lengths that He will go to protect the sanctity of this marriage. We also see that Pharaoh feared God as he sent Avram and Sarai out of Egypt with all of the things that they had acquired while they were there.