Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, March 5th, 2024
the Third Week of Lent
There are 26 days til Easter!
For 10¢ a day you can enjoy StudyLight.org ads
free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
Genesis 12

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-5


Genesis 12:1-5

Designed to trace the outward development of God's kingdom on the earth, the narrative now concentrates its attention on one of the foregoing Terachites, whose remarkable career it sketches with considerable minuteness of detail, from the period of his emigration from Chaldea to his death at Hebron in the land of Canaan. Distinguished as a man of undoubted superiority both of character and mind, the head of at least two powerful and important races, and standing, as one might say, on the threshold of the historical era, it is yet chiefly as his life and fortunes connect with the Divine purpose of salvation that they find a place in the inspired record. The progress of infidelity during the four centuries that had elapsed since the Flood, the almost universal corruption of even the Shemits portion of the human family, had conclusively demonstrated the necessity of a second Divine interposition, if the knowledge of salvation were not to be completely banished from the earth. Accordingly, the son of Terah was selected to be the founder of a new nation, in which the light of gospel truth might be deposited for preservation until the fullness of the times, and through which the promise of the gospel might he conducted forward to its ultimate realization in the manifestation of the woman's seed. Partly to prepare him for the high destiny of being the progenitor of the chosen nation, and partly to illustrate the character of that gospel with which he was to be entrusted, he was summoned to renounce his native country and kinsmen in Chaldaea, and venture forth upon an untried journey in obedience to the call of Heaven, to a land which he should afterward receive for an inheritance. In a series of successive theophanies or Divine manifestations, around which the various incidents of his life are grouped—in Ur of the Chaldees (Acts 7:2), at Moreh in Canaan (Genesis 12:7), near Bethel (Genesis 13:1-18.), at Mamre (Genesis 15:1-21; Genesis 17:1-27.), and on Moriah (Genesis 22:1-24.)—he is distinctly promised three things—a land, a seed, and a blessing—as the reward of his compliance with the heavenly invitation; and the confident persuasion both of the reality of these gracious promises and of the Divine ability and willingness to fulfill them forms the animating spirit and guiding principle of his being in every situation of life, whether of trial or of difficulty, in which he is subsequently placed. The miraculous character of these theophanies indeed has been made a ground on which to assail the entire patriarchal history as unhistorical. By certain writers they have been represented as nothing more than natural occurrences embellished by the genius of the author of Genesis (Eichhorn, Bauer, Winer), as belonging to the domain of poetical fiction (De Wette), and therefore as undeserving of anything like serious consideration. But unless the supernatural is to be in toto eliminated from the record, a concession which cannot possibly be granted by an enlightened theism, the Divine appearances to Abraham cannot be regarded as in any degree militating against the historical veracity of the story of his life, which, it may be said, is amply vouched for by the harmony of its details with the characteristics of the period to which it belongs (cf. Havernick's 'Introduction,' § 18). Nor does the employment of the name Jehovah in connection with these theophanies warrant the conclusion that the passages containing them are interpolations of a post Mosaic or Jehovistic editor (Tuch, Bleek, Colenso, Davidson). "Such a hypothesis," says Keil, "can only be maintained by those who' misunderstand the distinctive meaning of the two names, Elohim and Jehovah (q.v. on Genesis 2:4), and arbitrarily set aside the Jehovah in Genesis 17:1, on account of an erroneous determination of the relation in which El Shaddai stands to Jehovah." Indications of the literary unity of the patriarchal history will be noted, and replies to objections given, in the progress of the Exposition.

Genesis 12:1

Now the Lord. Jehovah = the God of salvation, an indication that the narrative is now to specially concern itself with the chosen seed, and the Deity to discover himself as the God of redemption. The hypothesis that Genesis 12:1-4 were inserted in the fundamental document by the Jehovist editor is not required for a satisfactory explanation of the change of the Divine name at this particular stage of the narrative. Had said. Literally, said. In Ur of the Chaldees, according to Stephen (Acts 7:2), reverting, after the usual manner of the writer, to the original point of departure in the Abrahamic history (Aben Ezra, Mede, Piscator, Pererius, Calvin, Willet, Rosenmüller, Dathins, Alford, Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary'); or in Haran, after Terah's death, as the first call given to the patriarch (LXX; Chaldee, Syriac, Raschi, Lyra, Keil, Kalisch, Dykes), or as a repetition of the call addressed to him in Ur (Clarke, Wordsworth, Inglis). Luther conjectures that the call in Ur was given "fortasse per pattiarcham Shem;" but if the authority of Stephen be recognized, this was the occasion of the first theophany vouchsafed to Abram. Get thee out. Literally, go for thyself, a frequent Hebraism, expressive of the way in which the action of the verb returns upon itself, is terminated and completed; hence, though not necessarily emphatic, it may be equivalent to "Go thou," whoever else remains behind (Jarchi, Ainsworth, Bush). Of thy country. A proof that the date of the call was while Abram was in Ur (Calvin), though if Ur was at Edessa (vide supra) the patriarch could scarcely have been said to be from home. And from thy kindred. At Ur in all probability Nahor and Milcah were left behind; at Haran, Nahor and his family, if they had already arrived thither, and according to some (Kalisch, Dykes) Terah also. And from thy father's house. I.e. if they will not accompany thee. No Divine interdict forbade the other members of the family of Terah joining in the Abrahamic emigration. Unto a (literally, the) land that I will show thee. Through a revelation (Lange), or simply by the guidance of providence. The land itself is left unnamed for the trial of the patriarch's faith, which, if it sustained the proof, was to be rewarded by the exceeding great and precious promises which follow:—according to one arrangement, seven in number, one for each clause of the next two verses (Cajetan, Willet); according to another, four, corresponding to the clauses of the second verse, the last of which is expanded in the third (Keil); according to a third, six, forming three pairs of parallels (Alford); according to a fourth, and perhaps the best, two, a lower or personal blessing, comprising the first three particulars, and a higher or public blessing, embracing the last three (Murphy).

Genesis 12:2, Genesis 12:3

And I will make of thee a great nation. A compensation for leaving his small kindred. The nation should be great

(1) numerically (Keil, Rosenmüller),

(2) influentially (Kalisch, Inglis),

(3) spiritually (Luther, Wordsworth).

And I will bless thee. Temporally (Pererius, Murphy), with every kind of good (Rosenmüller), in particular with offspring (Vatablus); but also spiritually (Rupertus, Bush), in the sense; e.g; of being justified by faith, as in Galatians 3:8 (Candlish). The blessing was a recompense for the deprivations entailed upon him by forsaking the place of his birth and kindred (Murphy). And make thy name great. Render thee illustrious and renowned (Rosenmüller); not so much in the annals of the world as in the history of the Church (Bush); in return for leaving thy father's house (Murphy). So God made David a great name (2 Samuel 7:9; cf. Proverbs 22:1; Ecclesiastes 7:3). And thou shalt be a blessing. I.e. "blessed," as in Zechariah 8:12 (Chaldee, Syriac, LXX; Dathe, Rosenmüller, Gesenius); or "a type or example of blessing," so that men shall introduce thy name into their formularies of blessing (Kimchi, Clericus, Knobel, Calvin); but, best, "a source of blessing' (spiritual) to others" (Tuch, Delitzsch, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy). The sense in which Abram was to be a source of blessing to others is explained in the next verse. First, men were to be either blessed or cursed of God according as their attitude to Abram was propitious or hostile. And I will bless them—grace expecting they will be many to bless (Delitzsch)—that bless thee, and curse (with a judicial curse, the word being the same as in Genesis 3:14; Genesis 4:11) him—only an individual here and there, in the judgment of the Deity, being likely to inherit this malediction (Delitzsch)—that curseth (literally, treateth lightly or despiseth The verb is applied in Genesis 8:11 to the diminution of the waters of the flood) thee. The Divine Being thus identifies himself with Abram, and solemnly engages to regard Abrams friends and enemies as his, as Christ does with his Church (cf. Acts 1:4). And in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Not bless themselves by thee or in thy name (Jarchi, Clericus); but in thee, as the progenitor of the promised seed, shall all the families of the ground (which was cursed on account of sin, Genesis 3:17) be spiritually blessed—cf. Galatians 3:8 (Calvin, Luther, Rosenmüller, Keil, Wordsworth, Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary'). Thus the second sense in which Abram was constituted a blessing lay in this, that the whole fullness of the Divine promise of salvation for the world was narrowed up to his line, by which it was in future to be carried forward, and at the appointed season, when the woman's seed was horn, distributed among mankind.

Genesis 12:4

So (literally, and) Abram departed—from Ur of the Chaldees, or from Haran (vide supra)—as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him. Lot's name being repeated here because of his connection with the ensuing narrative. And Abram was seventy and five years old—literally, a son of five years and seventy years (cf. Genesis 7:6)—when he departed—literally, in his going forth upon the second stage of his journey—from Haran.

Genesis 12:5

And Abram took (an important addition to the foregoing statement, intimating that Abram did not go forth as a lonely wanderer, but accompanied by) Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all the substancerecush, acquired wealth, from racash, to gain (cf. Genesis 14:11, Genesis 14:16, Genesis 14:21; Genesis 15:14), which consisted chiefly in cattle, Lot and Abram being nomads—that they had gathered (not necessarily implying a protracted stay, as some allege), and the souls—here slaves and their children (cf. Ezekiel 27:13)—that they had gotten—"not only as secular property for themselves, but as brethren to themselves, and as children of the one heavenly Father" (Wordsworth); that they had converted to the law (Onkelos); that they had proselyted (Raschi, Targam Jonathan, and Jerusalem Targum)—in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan;—a prolepsis (cf. Genesis 11:31, q.v.)—and into the land of Canaan they came—a distance of 300 miles from Haran, from which their course must have been across the Euphrates in one of its higher affluent, over the Syrian desert, southwards to Lebanon and Damascus (cf. Genesis 15:2), where, according to Josephus, the patriarch reigned for some considerable time, "being come with an army from the land of the Chaldaeans" ('Ant.,' 1.7), and a village survived to his day called "Abraham's habitation." According to the partitionists (Tuch, Bleek, Colenso, Davidson) this verse belongs to the Elohist or fundamental document; but if so, then the Jehovist represents Abram (Genesis 12:6) as journeying through the land without having previously mentioned what land.


Genesis 12:4

The Chaldaean emigrant.

I. THE CALL OF GOD. Whether spoken in a dream or distinctly articulated by a human form, the voice which summoned Abram to emigrate from Ur was recognized by the patriarch to be Divine; and so is the gospel invitation, which through the medium of a written word has been conveyed to men, essentially a message from the-lips of God. The call which Abram received was—

1. Distinguishing and selecting—coming to him alone of all the members of Terah's family, of all the descendants of the line of Shem, of all the citizens of Ur, of all the inhabitants of earth; and the gospel invitation which men now receive, in its widest no less than in its narrowest acceptation, is differentiating and elective, passing by one nation and falling on another, addressing itself to one individual and allowing another to remain uncheered by its joyful sound (Romans 9:16).

2. Separating and dividing—summoning the patriarch to disentangle himself from the idolatries of his native land, and even sever his connection with the nearest and the dearest, rather than imperil his salvation by remaining in Chaldaea; and in a like spirit does the voice of Jesus in the gospel direct men to forsake the world (spiritually regarded the land of their nativity), to relinquish its infidelities, iniquities, frivolities; to renounce its possessions, occupations, amusements; yea, to dissolve its friendships and endearing relationships, if they would now be numbered among his disciples, and eventually enter into life (Luke 14:26).

3. Commanding and directing—enjoining on the patriarch a long and arduous pilgrimage, that must necessarily be attended with many difficulties and dangers, and perhaps with not a few sorrows and privations that would require the most heroic fortitude and the most enduring patience, and that could only be accomplished by minutely following the Divine instructions, and taking each successive step in faith; and of a like character is the journey to which the follower of Christ is invited in the gospel—a journey as painful and laborious in its nature, as much demanding self-sacrifice and heroic resolution, as repugnant to the carnal heart, and as unprofitable to the eye of sense, as uncertain in its various steps, and as much dependent on the principle of faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).

4. Cheering and encouraging—assigning to the patriarch a number of exceeding great and precious promises which should abundantly compensate for the sacrifices and deprivations that should be entailed upon him by compliance with the heavenly invitation—a great inheritance, a great posterity, a great salvation, a great renown, a great influence; and in the gospel, too, are held forth to stimulate and comfort heaven's pilgrims, a variety of rich rewards that shall more than recompense them for all that they may do or suffer in yielding to the call of Christ.

II. THE FAITH OF ABRAM. As the heavenly invitation which the patriarch received was designed to be symbolic of the gospel call Which is addressed to us, so the faith of the patriarch, which responded to the voice of God, was intended for a pattern of that hearty trust with which by us the gospel message should be embraced. The faith of Abram was—

1. Submissive and obedient. Summoning his household, gathering his flocks, and taking with him his aged father Terah, he departed. Without this indeed he could not have been possessed of faith. Whenever the Divine testimony contains a precept and a promise, the faith that is sincere must yield obedience to the precept as well as cling to the promise. In the gospel message both are present: a promise of salvation, a full, free, and generous offer of eternal life; and along with this a precept of separation from the world, of consecration to a life of faith, holiness, and love; and the second must be obeyed, while the first is embraced to render faith complete.

2. Prompt and unhesitating. Without question or complaint, without the slightest shadow of reluctance, so far at least as the narrative reveals, the Chaldaean flock-master puts Jehovah's order into execution; and in this respect again he is worthy of imitation. The same promptitude which he displayed should be exhibited by us in responding to the gospel call, and all the more that in our case there is less room than there was in his to doubt that the voice which calls is Divine.

3. Intelligent and reasonable. Even if Abram had departed from Chaldaea purely sua sponte, in order to escape contamination from its idolatries, instead of being open to a charge of folly because he had gone forth, "not knowing whither he went," he would have been entitled to be regarded as having performed an act of highest prudence. Much more then was his conduct wise and commendable when he was acting in obedience to Heaven's express command—going forth beneath the guidance and protection of Almighty strength and Omniscient love. And just as little can Christian faith be challenged as fanatical and rash, possessing as it does the same sanction and supervision as that of the father of the faithful.

4. Patient and persevering. Delayed at Haran, the traveler was not diverted from his path. Undaunted by prospective perils, he had left Chaldea to go to a land which God was to show him; unconquered by actual hardships and trials, he halted not till he set his foot within the promised land. And so we learn that faith to begin the Christian life is not enough; not he who commences the heavenward pilgrimage) but he who endureth to the end, shall be saved.


Genesis 12:1-5

The preparations of grace.

We may call this the genesis of the kingdom of God.

I. It is FOUNDED in the word of the Divine covenant, the faith given by Divine grace to individuals, the separation unto newness of life.

II. The one man Abram gathers round him a small SOCIETY, kindred with him by the flesh, but bound to him doubtless by spiritual bonds as well. Tiros God has sanctified the family life by making it as the nidus of the spiritual genesis. When the new kingdom began its course in the Messiah, he drew to himself those who were previously associated by neighborhood, relationship, and familiar intercourse in Galilee. The Divine does not work apart from the human, but with it and by it.

III. The PROMISE was that of Abram should be made a great nation, that he should be blessed and a blessing, and his blessing should be spread through all families of the earth. The structure which Divine grace rears on the foundation which itself lays is a structure of blessed family and national life.

IV. The land of CANAAN may not have been indicated with positive certainty to the migrating children of God, but it was enough that he promised them a land which he would hereafter show them. "A land that I will show thee." There was the certainty that it was a better land: Get thee out of thy country, because I have another for thee. The day-by-day journey under Divine direction was itself a help to faith to make the promise definite. The stay at Haran, from whence the pilgrimage might be said to make a true start, was itself a gathering of "souls" and "substance" which predicted a large blessing in the future. When once we have followed the word of God's grace and set our face towards Canaan we soon begin to get pledges of the future blessings, laid-up riches of soul and substance, which assure us of the full glory of the life to come.

V. Even in that first beginning of the kingdom, that small Church out of Ur of the Chaldees, there is the evidence of that individual VARIETY OF CHARACTER AND ATTAINMENT and history which marks the whole way of the people of God. Lot was a very different man from Abram. As the story of this little company of travelers develops itself we soon begin to see that the grace of God does not obliterate the specialties of human character. Out of the varieties of men's lives, which to us may seem incapable of reconciliation, there may yet be brought the onward progress of a Divine order and a redeeming purpose.—R.


Genesis 12:1

The voices of God at the opening of the world's eras.

I. AT THE OPENING Or CREATION. "And God said, let there be Light."

II. AT THE OPENING OF REDEMPTION. "And God said, I will put enmity between thee and the woman," &c.

III. AT THE OPENING OF THE OLD DISPENSATION. "And God said to Abram, Get thee out of thy country."

IV. AT THE OPENING OF THE CHRISTIAN ERA. "And God said, This is my beloved SON?"

V. AT THE OPENING OF THE ETERNAL STATE God will say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father."—W.


Genesis 12:2, Genesis 12:3

Sevenfold promises.


1. A great inheritance.

2. A great posterity.

3. A great name.

4. A great blessing.

5. A great alliance.

6. A great defense.

7. A great influence.


1. The kingdom of heaven.

2. Divine consolation.

3. Inheritance of the earth.

4. Divine satisfaction.

5. Divine mercy.

6. The vision of God.

7. A place in God's family (see Matthew 5:1-9).


1. The tree of life.

2. A crown of life.

3. Hidden manna, the white stone, and a new name.

4. Power over the nations, and the morning star.

5. White raiment.

6. The distinction of being made a pillar in God's temple.

7. A seat on Christ's throne (see Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22.).—W.

Verses 6-9


Genesis 12:6

And Abram passed through—literally, passed over, or traveled about as a pilgrim (cf. Hebrews 11:9) in—the land unto (or as far as) the place of Sichem. A prolepsis for the place where the city Shechem (either built by or named after the Hivite prince, Genesis 34:2) was afterwards situated, viz; between Ebal and Gerizim, in the middle of the land; "the most beautiful, perhaps the only very beautiful, spot in Central Palestine" (Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine,' 5:234). The modern name of Sichem is Nablus, a corruption of Neapolis. Unto the plain. אֵלוֹן, from אוּל or אִיל, to be strong, a strong, hardy tree: the terebinth, as opposed to the oak, אַלּוֹן, from אָלַל (Celsius Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Keil); the oak, as distinguished from אֵלָה, the turpentine tree, or terebinth (Gesenius, Kalisch, Murphy). But it seems demonstrable that these and the other cognate terms, אַלָּה אֵיל, are frequently used as synonymous for any large, strong tree (cf. Genesis 35:5; Judges 9:9; 24:26; Joshua 19:33 with Judges 4:11), though commonly אֵלוֹן, oak, is opposed to אֵלָה, terebinth, as in Isaiah 6:13; Hosea 4:13. The translation of אֵלוֹן by plain (Targums, A.V.) is inaccurate, though "the truth is it was both a plain and set with oaks" (Willet). Of Moreh. like Mature (Genesis 13:18), the name of the owner of the oak-grove (Murphy, Kalisch, Alford); probably a priestly character (Moreh signifying a teacher, Jdg 7:1; 2 Kings 17:28; Isaiah 9:15) who instituted the Divine cultus in the locality (Luther); though it has also been regarded as the name of the place (Calvin), which maybe here given to it by anticipation (Wordsworth), being derived from raah, to see, and equivalent to the place of vision (Samaritan), because God there appeared to the patriarch (Fagius), and showed him the land of Canaan (Masius, Lyra). Knobel renders "the oak of the teacher," comparing it with "the oak of the witches" (Judges 9:37). The LXX. translate by ὑψηλήν, lofty, and the Vulgate by illustrem. And the Canaanite was then in the land. A sign of post-Mosaic authorship (Tuch, Bleek, Colenso); an interpolation Eben Ezra; rather

(1) a proclamation of the miserable exile in which the patriarch lived (Luther); or

(2) a reminder to Abram of his heavenly country, seeing he was a stranger in his earthly one (Calvin); or, better,

(3) an intimation of the fact that already the Canaanites were in possession of the land which bore their name (Kalisch), or perhaps simply

(4) a declaration that the land was not a stretch of unoccupied territory, but a populated region (Hengstenberg), thus making the fulfillment of the ensuing promise all the more difficult, and all the greater a trial to the faith of the patriarch (Keil, Murphy, Wordsworth, Alford); or

(5), but not so good, an explanation of the previous selection of the oak of Moreh as his habitation (Lange, Havernick, vide Introduction, § 18).

Genesis 12:7

And the Lord appeared. The first mention of a theophany, though Acts 7:2 alleges that such a Divine manifestation had previously occurred in Ur of the Chaldees. Though not a direct vision of Jehovah (John 1:18), that there was some kind of outward appearance may be inferred from the subsequent Divine manifestations to the patriarch (Genesis 18:2, Genesis 18:17, Genesis 18:33; Genesis 22:11-18), to Hagar (Genesis 16:7-14; Genesis 21:17, Genesis 21:18), and to Jacob (Genesis 31:11-13; Genesis 32:24-30). On the relation of the angel of Jehovah to Jehovah vide Gen 16:1-16 :17. Unto Abram. "Jam paene fatigato Abraha isto duro exsilio et perpetuis migrationibus" (Luther). And said, Unto thy seed—to himself God gave "none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on" (Acts 7:5); the land was promised to his seed "when as yet he had no child"—will I give this land. Now occupied by the Canaanites. Undoubtedly a great promise, that the Canaanites should be dispossessed, and their country given to the offspring of a childless old man already over seventy-five years. The apparent improbability of its ever being accomplished rendered it a strong trial to the patriarch's faith. And there builded he an altar. "Constituit certum locum, in quo conveniat ecclesia, auditura verbum Dei, factura preess, laudatura Deum, sacrificatura Deo" (Luther). "Altare forma est Divini cultus; invocatio autem substantia et veritas" (Calvin). "The rearing of an altar in the land was, in fact, a form of taking possession of it on the ground of a right secured to the exercise of his faith" (Bush). "It is often said of Abraham and the patriarchs that they built altars to the Lord; it is never said they built houses for themselves" (Wordsworth). Unto the Lord who had appeared to him.

Genesis 12:8

And he removed—literally, caused (i.e. his tent) to be broken up (cf. Genesis 26:22from thence—no cause for which being assigned, the hostility of his neighbors (Luther, Calvin) and the commencement of the famine (Alford, Keil) have been conjectured as the probable reasons—unto a (literally, the) mountain east of Bethel. Here proleptically named "house of God," being called in the time of Abram Luz (Genesis 28:19). Its present name is Beitin. And pitched his tent (of. Genesis 9:21), having Bethel on the west—literally, sea-ward, the Mediterranean being the western boundary of Palestine (cf. Genesis 28:14; Exodus 10:19; Exodus 26:22; Ezekiel 48:1, Ezekiel 48:2)—and HaiAi (עַי; עַיָּא, Nehemiah 11:31; עַיָּת, Isaiah 10:28); with the article, because signifying "the heap of ruins," near which it was no doubt built; the scene of the first Israelitish defeat under Joshua (Genesis 7:2): its ruins still exist under the name of Medinet Gai—on the east (about five miles from Bethel): and there he builded an altar unto the Lord (vide supra), and called upon the name of the Lord (vide Genesis 4:26).

Genesis 12:9

And Abram journeyed (literally, broke up, e. g; his encampment, going on still—literally, going on and breaking up (cf. Genesis 8:3); "going and returning"—towards the south. Negleb, the dry region, from nagabh, to be dried, the southern district of Palestine (Genesis 13:3; Genesis 20:1; Genesis 24:62). The LXX. render, ἐστρατοπέδευσεν ἐν, τῇ ἐρήμῳ.

Of this section Genesis 12:5, Genesis 12:6, Genesis 12:8 are commonly assigned to the Elohist; and 7, 8b, and 9 to the Jehovist.


Genesis 12:6-10

The promised land.

I. WANDERINGS. Entering Canaan from the north, the Chaldsean emigrant directs his progress steadily towards the south, removing from station to station till he reaches the furthest limit of the land. This wandering life to the patriarch must have been

(1) unexpected. Leaving Ur at the Divine command, and journeying many hundreds of miles, he must have eagerly anticipated rest in Canaan; but instead he finds that he must journey still. So is life to God's people always full of disappointments. Yet was it also

(2) inevitable. The land was in possession of the Canaanites, and, even though it had been free and untenanted, it was famine-stricken, both of which circumstances necessitated frequent removal. And for causes not dissimilar must the saints ever wander, the world for the most part belonging to their enemies, and the produce of earth being insufficient to meet their souls' needs. Then to the patriarch himself it was meant to be

(3) prophetic. The promised land being designed not so much for a possession in itself as for an emblem of the better country towards which his spirit with its new-found faith was travelling, it was not intended that life in Canaan for the father of the faithful should be one of absolute repose, but rather one Of wandering and unrest; and of that he had a foretaste, or earnest, immediately he stepped across the borders of the land. And still further was it purposed to be

(4) emblematic. In the fortunes of Abram it was contemplated that God's believing people in every age should behold, in main characteristic at least, an outline or shadow of their own. As to him the land of Canaan was not the better country, but only its anticipation, so to them is it not so much a type of heaven as of the visible Church, and the patriarchal wanderings an emblem not of the beatific life of the redeemed in glory, but of the experiences of the saints on earth.

II. TRIALS. Along with ceaseless peregrinations, more or less exacting in their nature, trials of another and severer sort entered into the texture of the patriarch's experience in the promised land. The peculiar circumstances in which he found himself were such as to make a vehement assault upon his faith.

1. His childless condition seemed to render all but impossible belief in the mighty nation of which Jehovah talked. And so are saints sometimes tempted to indulge a suspicion of the Divine goodness and veracity, because of the absence of certain creature comforts which they see God bestowing upon others.

2. The occupation of the land appeared to negative the idea of its ever becoming his; and not infrequently because a saint cannot discern how a promise is to be fulfilled, he begins to challenge the Divine resources, and ends by impeaching the Divine faithfulness.

3. The prevalence of famine was calculated to excite doubts in his mind as to whether after all the land was worth either having or desiring; and in this life the saints are not unacquainted with temptations, arising from the pressure of outward circumstances, such as extreme poverty or long-continued affliction, to admit the apprehension that after all the blessings of religion and the glories of the future life may not be worth the sacrifices made to secure them.

III. CONSOLATIONS. If a field of wanderings and a scene of trials, the promised land was likewise a place of consolation. Abram enjoyed—

1. The comfort of the Divine presence. Though unseen, the companionship of Jehovah was understood by the patriarch to be a grand reality on which he might depend; and so says Christ to his believing people, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."

2. The joy of Divine manifestations. As Jehovah appeared to Abram, probably in the form of a man, so already has God appeared to his Church in the person of the man Christ Jesus; and so does Christ promise still to appear spiritually to his people, and to disclose to them the treasures of his grace and love (John 14:21).

3. The consolation of Divine worship. Wherever Abram wandered he built an altar and called upon the name of the Lord who had appeared unto him; and without any altar may the saint at any moment enter into closest communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, who in the fullness of the times was manifested to take away our sins, and who is ever ready, through the medium of his Holy Spirit, to interpose for his people's aid.


1. That a saint's wanderings are of God's appointing.

2. That a saint's trials are of God's permitting.

3. That a saint's consolations are of God's sending.


Genesis 12:6-9


We here enter upon the more special history of Divine appearances. Hitherto the word is described simply as a word—"The Lord said;" now we connect with the word distinct appearances. The plain of Moreh will be ever memorable as the first scene of such revelations. The altar which Abram erected was to the Lord who appeared unto him, i.e. in commemoration of the vision. Thus the long line of theophanies commences. The great lesson of this record is the worship of man proceeding from the gracious revelation of God. True religion is not a spontaneous product of man's nature, but rather a response to God's grace. He appears; the believer to whom the vision is vouchsafed raises an altar not "to the unknown God," but to the God who has appeared to him. Another point in the record is the connection of the promise with the revelation. The Lord appeared, and when he appeared he gave his word of promise: "Unto thy seed will I give this land." Are we not reminded thus early in the history of religion that for its maintenance there is required not only a revelation to the mind and heart by the Spirit, but also a seat of its institutions and community? Religion without a people of God dwelling in the land of privilege, and bound together by the sacred bonds of a Divine fellowship, is no true religion at all. Abram builds altars at the various stages of his pilgrimage, still going south. Although we are not told of a distinct vouchsafement of God in connection with every altar, we may well suppose, especially as the "mountain" is specified, that the altars marked out not mere resting-places, but the scenes of special communion with Jehovah.—R.


Genesis 12:7

Abraham worshipping.

"And there he builded an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him." Abraham is at length Divinely informed that he is in the land hereafter to be his. He was at the spot where the great temple, to be set up by his descendants, would stand. Here he builds an altar. It was doubtless a very plain altar of rough stones, but large enough for the sacrifices to be offered. It would have little attraction in the eyes of many, but it would be approved of by God.

I. IT WAS REARED ENTIRELY IN THE HONOR OF GOD. There was no self-glorifying in it. It was erected as a spontaneous act of gratitude. The men of Babel by the tower-building sought to get themselves a name; Abraham by his altar-building seeks to honor God's name. His act was a protest against the prevalent and surrounding idolatry. This was the first altar reared in Canaan to the great I AM.

II. IT WAS AN EXPRESSION OF ABRAHAM'S DESIRE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE DIVINE GUIDANCE IN HIS PAST LIFE. He found it a joy to be under the leadership of God. "Wherever Abraham had his tent God had his altar." In how many families is the altar in need of repair! In many it has not even been set up.

III. IT EXPRESSED ABRAHAM'S DEPENDENCE ON THE MERCY REVEALED THROUGH A PROPITIATORY SACRIFICE. He evidently believed in an atonement, lie offered an heifer, goat, ram, turtle-dove, and pigeon. After the rude manner of that day he offered sacrifices for his own sins and for those of his household. He found that God was brought nearer through the sacrifice, even as we discover that fact through the Christ of Calvary.

IV. IT EXPRESSED ALSO ABRAHAM'S READINESS TO CONSECRATE HIMSELF ENTIRELY TO GOD. An altar that failed to express this would have been a mockery. God is not flattered by an outward show of reverence. He must have inner and absolute consecration if we are to know the heights of spiritual power.

V. IT EXPRESSED THE PATRIARCH'S FAITH IN THE FULFILMENT OF THE DIVINE PROMISES. Abraham was already in the land of promise, and could leave the future to his God. He was, by rearing that altar, taking possession of the land for himself, and of the world for God, even as Columbus, with befitting pomp, planted in the newly-discovered continent a cross, and named the land San Salvador, thus consecrating it to the holy Savior.—H.


Genesis 12:8

Abraham's altar.

"And there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord." There is a solemn word (Matthew 10:32, Matthew 10:33). The distinction is not between Christians and heathen; it is within the visible Church. To confess Christ is more than professing Christianity. It must be in the life, not merely in religious services. No doubt these have their use; without them spiritual life would wither and die, like a light under a vessel. They are as food; but "the life is more than meat." The world acquiesces in such services as respectable and proper. But it is a poor Christianity that raises no opposition. A Christian life may constrain respect, but it must differ from worldly

(1) as to its object—first the kingdom of God;

(2) as to its means—God's promises and help trusted to as real. Mark Abraham's example: dwelt among Canaanites on sufferance; they idolaters. Prudence would suggest keeping his religion secret. Many try to keep their faith secret; afraid to confess it, but unwilling to give it up. In vain; faith ashamed of brings no comfort or strength. Abram did not hide his faith. Wherever he sojourned he built an altar; confessed whom he trusted. We are told—

1. He built an altar, i.e. made open confession of his faith.

2. "Called on the name," &c; i.e. spoke to God as a living person, a real helper.


1. In the heart; firmly to believe what he has revealed. His promises were given to be trusted. The fool puts away belief (Psalms 14:1). It may be from dislike of truth (cf. Romans 1:28); it may be despondingly (cf. Genesis 42:36), afraid to take God at his word. The voice of true wisdom, Psalms 62:1, Psalms 62:2.

2. In the life; acting upon "ye are not your own." We cannot go far without being tried: in business, in companionship, in bearing what we do not like, in resisting self-will and self-seeking, in standing firm against the world's scorn or well-meant persuasions. Passing events constantly put the question whom we serve (cf. Daniel 3:15; Acts 5:28, Acts 5:29). And not merely in matters that seem great. Little things show whom we have first in our hearts.

II. CLOSELY CONNECTED WITH THIS IS CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD. We must look below the surface. Among professing Christians some prayer is a matter of course; but is it used as a real means to obtain? It is one thing to believe the doctrine of God's providence, and of the use of prayer, and another to pray as a practical power and to feel our Father's care. Yet St. Paul connects prayer and peace (Philippians 4:6, Philippians 4:7). When Hannah had prayed she was no more sad (1 Samuel 1:18). The Bible has many encouragements to pray, but not one warning against asking too much.

III. EFFECT OF THIS OR THE CHARACTER. Abraham's character as eminently faithful was built up by exercising faith. He walked with God not by any constraining power, nor by reason of special manifestations; then he would be no example for us. Each acknowledgment of God increased his communion. Each altar marked a step in his own life, and a work in the world. He who is faithful in little gains more power (cf. Matthew 13:12).—M.

Verses 10-20


Genesis 12:10

And there was a famine. רָעָב, from a root signifying to hunger, the primary. idea appearing to lie in that of an ample, i.e. empty, stomach (Gesenius, Furst). The term is used of individuals, men or animal (Psalms 34:11; Psalms 50:12); or of regions (Psa 41:1-13 :55). In the land. Of Canaan, which, though naturally fertile, was, on account of its imperfect cultivation, subject to visitations of dearth (cf. Genesis 26:1; Genesis 41:56), especially in dry seasons, when the November and December rains, on which Palestine depended, either failed or were scanty. The occurrence of this famine just at the time of Abram's entering the land was an additional trial to his faith. And Abram went down to Egypt. Mizraim (vide Genesis 10:6) was lower than Palestine, and celebrated then, as later, as a rich and fruitful country, though sometimes even Egypt suffered from a scarcity of corn, owing to a failure in the annual inundation of the Nile. Eichhorn notes it as an authentication of this portion of the Abrahamic history that the patriarch proposed to take himself and his household to Egypt, since at that time no corn trade existed between the two countries such as prevailed in the days of Jacob (vide Havernick's Introduction, § 18). The writer to the Hebrews remarks it as an instance of the patriarch's faith that he did not return to either Haran or Ur (Hebrews 11:15, Hebrews 11:16). To sojourn there. To tarry as a stranger, but not to dwell. Whether this journey was undertaken with the Divine sanction and ought to be regarded as an act of faith, or in obedience to his own fears and should be reckoned as a sign of unbelief, does not appear. Whichever way the patriarch elected to act in his perplexity, to leave Canaan or reside in it, there was clearly a strain intended to be put upon his faith. For the famine was grievous (literally, heavy) in the land.

Genesis 12:11-13

And it came to pass (literally, it was), when he was come near to enter into Egypt (that he had his misgivings, arising probably from his own eminence, which could scarcely fail to attract attention among strangers, but chiefly from the beauty of his wife, which was calculated to inflame the cupidity and, it might be, the violence of the warm-blooded Southrons, and) that he said unto Sarai his wife. The arrangement here referred to appears (Genesis 20:13) to have been preconcerted on first setting out from Ur or Haran, so that Abram's address to his wife on approaching Egypt may be viewed as simply a reminder of their previous compact. Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon. Literally, fair of aspect (cf. 1 Samuel 17:42). Though now upwards of sixty-five years of age, she was still in middle life (Genesis 23:1), and her constitution had not been impaired by bearing children. Besides, the clear complexion of Sarah would render her specially attractive in the eyes of the Egyptians, whose women, though not so dark as the Nubians and Ethiopians, were yet of a browner tinge than the Syrians and Arabians. Monumental evidence confirms the assertion of Scripture that a fair complexion was deemed a high recommendation in the age of the Pharaohs. Therefore (literally, and) it shall come to pass, when (literally, that) the Egyptians—notorious for their licentiousness—shall see thee, that (literally, and) they shall say, this is his wife: and they will kill me—in order to possess thee, counting murder a less crime than adultery (Lyra). An unreasonable anxiety, considering that he had hitherto enjoyed the Divine protection, however natural it might seem in view of the voluptuous character of the people. But (literally, and) they will save thee alive—for either compulsory marriage or dishonorable use. Say, I pray thee,—translated in Genesis 12:11 as "now;" "verbum obsecrantis vel adhortantis" (Masius)—thou art my sister. A half-truth (Genesis 20:12), but a whole falsehood. The usual apologies, that he did not fabricate, but "cautiously conceal the truth" (Lyra), that perhaps he acted in obedience to a Divine impulse (Mede), that he dissembled in order to protect his wife's chastity (Rosenmüller), are not satisfactory. On the other hand, Abram must not be judged by the light of New Testament revelation. It is not necessary for a Christian in every situation Of life to tell all the truth, especially when its part suppression involves no deception, and is indispensable for self-preservation; and Abram may have deemed it legitimate as a means of securing both his own life and Sarah's honor, though how he was to shield his wife in the peculiar circumstances it is difficult to see. Rosenmüller suggests that he knew the preliminary core-morass to marriage required a considerable time, and counted upon being able to leave Egypt before any injury was done to Sarah. The only objection to this is that the historian represents him as being less solicitous about the preservation of his wife's chastity than about the conservation of his own life. That it may be well (not with thee, though doubtless this is implied, but) with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. "No defense can be offered for a man who, merely through dread of danger to himself, tells a lie, risks his wife's chastity, puts temptation in the way of his neighbors, and betrays the charge to which the Divine favor had summoned him "(Dykes).

Genesis 12:14, Genesis 12:15

And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. The princes also—literally, and the princes (שָׂרֵי, mas. of Sarah), chief men or courtiers, who, in accordance with the ancient custom of Egypt that no slave should approach the priestly person of Pharaoh, were sons of the principal priests (vide Havernick, § 18)—of Pharaoh. The official title of the kings of Egypt (cf. Caesar, the designation of the Roman emperors, and Czar, that of the Emperor of Russia), who are never introduced in the Pentateuch, as in later books, by their individual names (1 Kings 3:1; 1Ki 9:1-28 :40); an indirect evidence that the author of Genesis must at least have been acquainted with the manners of the Egyptian Court. The term Pharaoh, which continued in use till after the Persian invasion—under the Greek empire the Egyptian rulers were styled Ptolemies—is declared by Josephus to signify "king" ('Ant.,' 8.6, 2), which agrees with the Koptic Pouro (Piouro; from ouro, to rule, whence touro, queen), which also means king. Modern Egyptologers, however, in. cline to regard it as corresponding to the Phra of the inscriptions (Rosellini, Lepeius, Wilkinson), or to the hieroglyphic Peraa, or Perao, "the great house (M. de Rouge, Brugsch, Ebers), an appellation which belonged to the Egyptian monarchs, and with which may be compared "the Sublime Porte," as applied to the Turkish sultans. The particular monarch who occupied the Egyptian throne at the time of Abram's arrival has been conjectured to be Necao (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 5. 9.4), Ramessemenes, Pharethones (Euseb; 'Praep. Ev.,' 9.8), Apappus, Achthoes, the sixth king of the eleventh dynasty, Salatis or Saitas, the first king of the fifteenth dynasty, whose reign commenced B.C. 2080 (Stuart Poole in 'Smith's Dict.,' art. Pharaoh), a monarch belonging to the sixteenth dynasty of shepherd kings (Kalisch), and a Pharaoh who flourished between the middle of the eleventh and thirteenth dynasties, most probably one of the earliest Pharaohs of the twelfth. Amid such conflicting testimony from erudite archaeologists it is apparent that nothing can be ascertained with exactitude as to the date of Abram's sojourn in Egypt; though the last-named writer, who exhibits the latest results of scholarship on the question, mentions in support of his conclusion a variety of considerations that may be profitably studied. Saw her. So that she must have been unveiled, which agrees with monumental evidence that in the reign of the Pharaohs the Egyptian ladies exposed their faces, though the custom was discontinued after the Pemian conquest. And commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken. Capta (Targum of Jonathan), rapta (Arab.), abducta (Pagnini), capta et deducta (Rosenmüller); all implying more or less the idea of violence, which, however, besides being not warranted by the text, was scarcely likely in the circumstances, the king being perfectly honorable in his proposals, and Abram and Sarai by their deception having rendered it impossible to object without divulging their secret. Into Pharaoh's house. Or harem, with a view to marriage as a secondary wife. Cf. the Papyrus D'Orbiney, now in the British Museum, but belonging to the age of Rameses II; in which the Pharaoh of the time, acting on the advice of his counselors, sends two armies to fetch a beautiful woman by force, and then to murder her husband. A translation by M. Renouf will be found in The Tale of the Two Brothers, in 'Records of the Past,' vol. 2. p. 138.

Genesis 12:16

And he entreated Abram well—literally, did good to Abram; ευ} e)xrh&santo (LXX; Hieronymus, Poole) supposes that the court of Pharaoh or the Egyptian people generally conferred favors on the patriarch, which is not at all so probable as that Pharaoh did—for her sake. Marriage negotiations in Oriental countries are usually accompanied by presents to the relatives of the de as a sort of payment. "The marriage price is distinctly mentioned in Scripture (Exodus 22:15, Exodus 22:16; Ruth 4:10; 1 Samuel 18:23, 1 Samuel 18:25; Hosea 3:2); was commonly demanded by the nations of antiquity, as by the Babylonians (Herod; 1.196), Assyrians (AElian V. H; 4. 1; Strabo, 16.745), the ancient Greeks, and the Germans (Tacit; 'German.,' 18. ); and still obtains in the East to the present day". And he had—literally, there was (given) to him—sheep, and oxen. Flocks of small cattle and herds of larger quadrupeds, together constituted the chief wealth of nomads (cf. Genesis 13:5; Job 1:3). And he asses. Chamor, so named from the reddish color which in southern countries belongs not only to the wild, but also to the common or domestic, ass (Gesenius). The mention of asses among Pharaoh's presents has been regarded as an "inaccuracy" and a "blunder," at once a sign of the late origin of Genesis and a proof its author's ignorance of Egypt (Bohlen, Introd; ch. 6.); but

(1) asses were among the most common of Egyptian animals, a single individual, according to Wilkinson, possessing sometimes as many as 700 or 800; and

(2) it is certain that asses appear on the early monuments. And men-servants, and maid-servants, and she asses. Athon; from athan, to walk with short steps; so named from its slowness (Genesis 32:16), though "the ass in Egypt is of a very superior kind, tall, handsome, docile, swift" (Kitto's 'Cyclopedia,' art. Egypt). And camels. Gamal (from gamal, to repay, because the camel is an animal that remembers past injuries (Bochart), or from a cogmate Arabic root hamala, meaning he or it carried, with reference to its being a beast of burden (Gesenius); both of which derivations Stuart Poole declares farfetched, and proposes to connect the term with the Sanskrit kramela, from kram, to walk or step, which would then signify the walking animal (vide Kitto, art. Camel). Cf. with the Hebrew the Sanskrit as above, the Arab jemel or gemel, the Egyptian sjamoul, Greek κάμηλος, Latin camelus) is the well-known strong animal belonging to Palestine (Ezra 2:67), Arabia (Judges 7:12), Egypt (Exodus 9:3), Syria (2 Kings 8:9), which serves the inhabitants of the desert for travelling (Genesis 24:10; Genesis 31:17) as well as for carrying burdens (Isaiah 30:6), and for warlike operations (Genesis 21:7), and in which their fiches consisted (Job 1:3; Job 42:1-17 :21). Though the camel does not thrive well in Egypt, and seldom appears on the monuments, the historian has not necessarily been guilty of an "inaccuracy and a blunder" in assigning it to Abram as one of Pharaoh's presents (Bohlen); for

(1) the camel thrives better in Egypt than it does anywhere else out of its own proper habitat;

(2) if camels were not generally kept in Egypt, this Pharaoh may have been "one of the shepherd kings who partly lived at Avaris, the Zoan of Scripture," a region much inhabited by strangers (Poole in Kitto, art. Camel); and

(3) if camels have not been discovered among the delineations on the monuments, this may have been because of its connection with the foreign conqueror of Egypt, which caused it to be regarded as a beast of ill omen; though

(4) according to Heeren they do appear on the monuments. That horses, though the glory of Egypt, were not included among the monarch's gifts was doubtless owing to the fact that they could not have been of much service to the patriarch.

Genesis 12:17

And the Lord plagued (literally, struck) Pharaoh and his house with great plagues (or strokes, either of disease or death, or some other calamity—an indication that Pharaoh was not entirely innocent) because of Sarai Abram's wife. The effect of this was to lead to the discovery, not through the aid of the Egyptian priests (Josephus), but either through a special revelation granted to him, as afterwards (Genesis 20:6) to Abimelech in a dream (Chrysostom), or through the confession of Sarai herself (A Lapide), or through the servants of Abraham (Kurtz).

Genesis 12:18, Genesis 12:19

And Pharaoh called Abram and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me t why didst thou not tell me she was thy wife? In which case we are bound to believe the monarch that he would not have taken her. Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife (which as yet he had not done; an indirect proof both of the monarch's honorable purpose towards Sarai and of Sarai's unsullied purity): now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way. According to Josephus ('Bell. Jud.' 5.Genesis 9:4; Genesis 9:4) Sarah was only one night in Pharaoh's house; but this is obviously incorrect.

Genesis 12:20

And Pharaoh commanded his men (i.e. certain officers designated for the purpose) concerning him (to see to his departure): and they seat him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

The partitionists assign this entire section to the Jehovist.


Genesis 12:10

The descent into Egypt.


1. Experiencing disappointment. Arrived in Canaan, the patriarch must have felt his heart sink as he surveyed its famine-stricken fields and heathen population; in respect of which it was so utterly unlike the fair realm of his imaginings. So God educates his children, destroying their hopes, blighting their, expectations, breaking their ideals, "having provided some better thing for them, some loftier and more beautiful ideal than they have ever ventured to conceive.

2. Declining in faith. In presence of the famine the patriarch must have found himself transfixed upon the horns of a terrible dilemma. The promised land, to all appearance, was only fit to be his grave, like the wilderness, in later years, to his descendants. To return to Ur or Haran was impossible without abandoning his faith and renouncing Jehovah's promise. The only harbor of refuge that loomed before his anxious vision was the rich corn-land of Egypt, and yet going into Egypt was, if not exhibiting a want of trust in God, voluntarily running into danger. So situated, unless the spiritual vision of the patriarch had suffered a temporary obscuration he would not have quitted Canaan. A calm, steady, unwavering faith would have perceived that the God who had brought him from Chaldaea could support him in Palestine, even should his flocks be unable to obtain pasture in its fields; and, besides, would have remembered that God had promised Canaan only to himself, and not at all to his herds.

3. Going into danger. The descent into Egypt was attended by special hazard, being calculated not only to endanger the life of Abram himself, but also to jeopardize the chastity of Sarai, and, as a consequence, to imperil the fulfillment of God's promise. Yet this very course of action was adopted, notwithstanding its peculiar risks; another sign that Abram was going down the gradient of sin. Besides being in itself wrong to court injury to our own persons, to expose to hurt those we should protect, or occupy positions that render the fulfillment of God's promises dubious, no one who acts in either of these ways need anticipate the Divine favor or protection. Saints who rush with open eyes into peril need hardly look for God to lift them out.

4. Resorting to worldly policy. Had Abram and Sarai felt persuaded in their own minds that the proposed journey southwards entirely met the Divine approval, they would simply have committed their way to God without so much as thinking of c, crooked ways." But instead they have recourse to a miserable little subterfuge of their own, in the shape of a specious equivocation, forgetting that he who trusts in his own heart is a fool, and that only they whom God keeps are perfectly secure.

5. Practicing deception. Cunningly concocted, the little scheme was set in operation. Crossing into Egypt, the Mesopotamian sheik and his beautiful partner represented themselves as brother and sister. It is a melancholy indication of spiritual declension when a saint condescends to equivocate, and a deplorable proof of obliquity of moral vision when he trusts to a lie for protection.

6. Looking after self. Anxious about his wife's chastity, the patriarch, it would appear, was much more solicitous about his own safety. The tendency of sin is to render selfish; the spirit of religion ever leads men to prefer the interests of others to their own, and in particular to esteem a wife's happiness and comfort dearer than life.

7. Caught in his own toils. The thing which Abram feared actually came upon him. Sarai's beauty was admired and coveted, and Sarai's person was conducted to the royal harem. So God frequently "disappoints the devices of the crafty," allows transgressors to be taken in their own net, and causes worldly policy to outwit itself.


1. God went down with Abram into Egypt. Considering the patriarch's behavior, it would not have been surprising had he been suffered to go alone. But God is always better to his people than their deserts, and, in particular, does not abandon them even when they grieve him by their sins and involve themselves in trouble by their folly. On the contrary, it is at such times they most require his presence, and so he never leaves them nor forsakes them.

2. God protected Sarai in Pharaoh's house. Not perhaps for Sarai's or Abram's sake, who scarcely deserved, consideration for the plight, into which they had fallen, but for his own name's sake. The fulfillment of his own promise and the credit, as it were, of his own character necessitated measures for securing Sarai's honor. Accordingly, the house of Pharaoh was subjected to heavy strokes of affliction. So God can protect his people in every time and place of danger, and always finds a reason in himself, when he is able to discover none in them, for interposing on their behalf.

3. God delivered both in his own time and way. To all God's afflicted ones deliverance sooner or later crones. "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations," and how to make a way of escape when his time arrives.


1. By his own conscience. Profoundly ashamed must the patriarch have been when he reflected on Sarai's peril in the house of Pharaoh, and on his own craven spirit which had bartered her good name for the sake of saving his own skin. It is difficult to harmonize with conscientious qualms his acceptance of the monarch's gifts. But if Abram had any manhood left after parting with Sarai, besides being humiliated before God for his wickedness, he must have been dishonored in his own eyes for what looked like selling a wife's purity for flocks and herds. No doubt conscience exacted vengeance from the guilty soul of the patriarch, as it does from that of every sinner.

2. By his unbelieving neighbor. Though not entirely guiltless, Pharaoh was unquestionably less blameworthy than Abram. And yet Abram was a saint who had been favored with Divine manifestations and enriched with Divine promises; whereas Pharaoh was a heathen, a consideration which must have added keenness to the pang of shame with which the patriarch listened to the monarch's righteous rebuke. So Christians by their worldly craft, mean duplicity, and gross selfishness, if not by their open wickedness, occasionally expose themselves to the merited censures of irreligious neighbors.


1. That the best of men may fall into the greatest of sins.

2. That the worst of sins committed by a saint will not repel the grace of God.

3. That the severest of the world's censures are sometimes deserved by the Church.


Genesis 12:10-20

The Church and the world.

The genesis of intercourse and controversy between the kingdom of God and the world power, as represented in the great southern kingdom of Egypt.

I. THE PRESSURE OF EARTHLY NECESSITIES FORMS THE OCCASION OF THE SOJOURN IN EGYPT. We are not told that Abram was sent by Divine direction amongst the temptations of the South; still there is providential protection even where there is not entire Divine approval. The Lord suffers his people to mingle with the world for their trial, and out of the evil brings ultimate good. Abram went for corn, but obtained much more—the wealth and civilization of Egypt.

II. SOJOURN IN THE MIDST OF WORLDLY POWER GENERALLY INVOLVES SOME COMPROMISE OF SPIRITUAL LIBERTY, some lowering of spiritual principle. Jehovah's servant condescends to prevarication and dissembling not for protection only, but "that it may be well with him." The danger to Sarai and to Abram was great. All compromise is danger.

III. IN THE SUBORDINATE SPHERE OF SOCIAL MORALITY THERE HAVE BEEN MANY INSTANCES OF CONSCIENCE ACTING MORE POWERFULLY WHERE THE LIGHT OF TRUTH HAS SHONE LESS CLEARLY. Pharaoh was a heathen, but he compares to advantage with Abram. Notice that these early plagues of Egypt mentioned in Genesis 12:17 were very different from the later, although they illustrate the same truth, that by means of judgments God preserves his people and carries forward his kingdom, which is the truth exhibited in every apocalypse.

IV. The dismission of the little company of believers from Egypt was AT THE SAME TIME JUDGMENT AND MERCY. The beginning of that sojourn was wrong, the end of it was disgraceful. A short stay among the world's temptations will leave its results among the people of God, as the subsequent history testifies. Abram became very rich, but his riches had been wrongly obtained. There was trouble in store for him. God's method is to perfect his people not apart from their own character and ways, but by the gracious ordering of their history, so that while good and evil are mingled together, good shall yet ultimately be triumphant.—R.


Genesis 12:10


1. Not even the Holy Land is exempt from famine. Neither is the saint's condition free from suffering, nor the believer's portion on earth from defects.

2. Lands naturally fertile can be rendered barren by a word from God. So circumstances that might conduce to the Church's comfort can be made to disappear when God wills.

3. The drought was sent on Canaan just as Abram arrived. So God often sends his judgments on the world for the sake of his people, and can always time them to meet their spiritual necessities.

4. Famines never come in all lands together, for that were a violation of the covenant; and so neither do God's judgments fall on all men or all saints at once, for that too were to gainsay his promise.—W.


Genesis 12:13

Abraham and carnal policy.

"Say, I pray thee, that thou art my sister: that it may be well with me.' These words were partially true (Genesis 11:20). Abraham had real ground for saying that Sarah was his sister, but he hid the fact that she was his wife. He asked her to consent to an equivocal statement and to repeat it.

I. CONTEMPLATE THE NATURE OF CARNAL POLICY. A truth which is part a lie is ever a dangerous lie. The temptation to this carnal policy came

(1) from his mingling with the worldly Egyptians on equal terms,

(2) from his very prosperous state, and

(3) from his having lately come from a religious observance in which he had had high spiritual revelations.

Possibly he presumed upon his visions and the Divine promises. David fell also shortly after he had attained the kingdom and been delivered from great dangers.

II. SEE HOW ALL CARNAL POLICY IS SURE IN THE LONG RUN TO FAIL. Abraham did not foresee all the consequences of his equivocations. He even made the path clear for Pharaoh to ask for Sarah. He had afterwards to know that his name was a byword among the Egyptians.

(1) He lost self-respect;

(2) he had to be rebuked by a Pharaoh, and

(3) to feel that God was dishonored by his act.

Abraham repeated his sin. That God delivered Abraham should teach us that we are not to reject others, who have committed a special sin, as past hope. God does not cast us off for one sinful action. Still Divine forbearance and love should never lead to presumption and to a tampering with carnal policy.—H.


Genesis 12:20

Abram and Israel; a parallel.

1. Both were driven into Egypt by a famine.

2. To both the land of Egypt proved a house of bondage.

3. In each case the Pharaoh of the time was subjected to plagues.

4. Both were sent away by the alarmed monarchs who were made to suffer for their sakes.

5. Both went up from Egypt laden with the spoils of those among whom they had sojourned.

6. On leaving Egypt both directed their steps to Canaan.—W.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 12". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/genesis-12.html. 1897.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile