Genesis Chapter 12: Abram Leaves Haran and Goes to Egypt

Jan 11th, 2010 | By | Category: Genesis, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Genesis Chapter 12:  Abram Leaves Haran and Goes to Egypt

Gen. 12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee:

“Now the LORD had [previously] said unto Abram [in Ur]….” Abram was now in Haran, and God’s previous words to him were being reviewed. In Acts 7:2-5, Stephen said that God appeared to Abram in Mesopotamia, before he dwelled in Haran, and declared, “Get out of your country, and from your kindred.”

Haran was far northwest of Ur and still in the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. To have gone south from Ur to Palestine would have meant crossing an immense desert. Therefore, Abram and his family took the pleasurable route with water.

There were three parts to God’s instruction to Abram:

1. “Get thee out of thy country,” that is, “Separate from of the land of Chaldea/ Mesopotamia.”

2. “Get thee … from thy kindred,” that is, “Separate from your relatives.” Some relatives accompanied Abram (Terah and Lot), but he left many behind.

3. “Get thee … from thy father’s house.” “Kindred” could be more distant relatives, whereas “father” is close.

“Terah took Abram,” yet the LORD told Abram to leave the land (Gen. 11:31). How do we harmonize the two perspectives? God spoke to Abram, and Abram told his father. Terah, being older, was given respect because of his age. Terah did take Abram, but he did this because God had told Abram. Genesis 11:31 slants the matter from the standpoint of Terah’s seniority. When Terah heard from Abram about God’s instruction, he had enough faith and respect for his son that he departed too. The twelfth chapter of Genesis gives the proper focus that God was dealing especially with Abram. Terah could have stayed behind with Nahor, so

the fact that Terah went with Abram shows his faith.

Gen. 12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

If Abram complied with the three conditions, God would make of him a “great nation.” What a nice incentive! Initially, the Abrahamic Covenant was conditional. The covenant became unconditional only when Abraham entered the land of Canaan. God promised to make Abram a “blessing” (that is, a blesser of others) if he complied and separated himself.

Gen. 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

God would bless those who blessed Abram and curse those who cursed Abram. (The same principle applied when the apostles were told to shake the dust off their feet against a house that rejected them and bless the home with peace that favorably received them.) Moreover, in Abram would all the families of the earth be blessed.

If Abram took the step of leaving Ur and entering the land of Canaan, he would be wonderfully blessed. Separation was the start; entering the land was the end. In other words, once Abram entered the land of Canaan, God would unconditionally fulfill His promises.

Gen. 12:4 So Abram departed, 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.

Abram departed according to God’s words; hence Abram was the leading personality, not Terah. Lot’s going with Abram shows his confidence in Abram—and his faith in God too. The fact that Terah, Abram, Lot, and Sarai dwelled in Haran, instead of just passing through, may indicate Terah was in poor health. They remained in Haran for a while, that is, until Terah died. Abram and Lot were about the same age because Abram was born much later than Lot’s father, Haran. Hence Abram and Lot were companions as they grew up. Terah was 70 years old when Haran was born and 130 years old when Abram was born (205 – 75 = 130); see Genesis 11:32; 12:4.

Gen. 12:5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls 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.

Abram, Sarai, Lot, and “souls” (that is, servants) from Haran entered the land of Canaan.

Gen. 12:6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.

Abram and the others passed through Canaan until they got to Shechem (also called Sichem, Sicar, and Nablus).

Gen. 12:7 And 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.

“God” appeared to Abram and said He would give the land to Abram’s seed. Abram built an altar unto the LORD in the plain of Moreh in Shechem. “God” had appeared to Abram in Ur and now also in Canaan, sealing the covenant.

Spiritual Application

Terah represents the old man, the old nature. The house Abram left pictures Adam’s house. The old man is a product of father Adam.

Abram represents the new creature. Leaving Ur pictures leaving the world or Babylon; that is, it pictures consecration. We consecrate to enter a land (heaven) that God will show us if we are faithful. There we will be kings and priests with the Lamb, be blessers of others, have immortality, etc.

The journey from Ur to Haran represents our Christian walk. Haran pictures the end of our earthly course. In other words, Ur represents the First Veil (consecration), and Haran represents the Second Veil (actual death).

After Terah (the old man) died at Haran, the Promised Land (heaven) could be entered. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50); that is, we must die to seal our walk.

This spiritual picture ends here. What Abram experienced in Canaan—the fact that he did not get his inheritance—pictures the Christian walk from another perspective.

Gen. 12:8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

A second stopping point in Canaan was a mountain between Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. Later Abram would come back to this point. He built a second altar there—a very significant altar. From there, Abram could see Jericho and the whole plain.

Gen. 12:9 And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.

Gen. 12:10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.

Gen. 12:11 And 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:

Gen. 12:12 Therefore 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.

Gen. 12:13 Say, 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.

Abram had been journeying south into Canaan. When famine came, he continued on into Egypt, which was known at that time for its fertility. His going to Egypt probably was not disapproved of God, but his strategy regarding Sarai was wrong. However, it was proper for him to subsequently return to Canaan, build an altar (at the site of the earlier second altar), receive assurance from God regarding the covenant, and start all over again.

The strategy with Sarai shows a frailty in Abram’s character, but there is “none righteous [or perfect],” and he probably thought the subterfuge was wise (Rom. 3:10). Sarai was technically a half-sister of Abram (of Terah and another wife), as shown in Genesis 20:12. Abram thought the strategy would not only protect him but also assure that Sarai would continue to have him for a husband. If Abram did not do so, he should have taken the matter to the Lord in prayer before going down to Egypt. Incidentally, when Abram went to Egypt, it was about 150 years after the Great Pyramid was built. A son of Ham was probably the Pharaoh at the time.

Abram entered Canaan at age 75. Sarai, being 10 years younger, was age 65. The famine took some time to develop, so they would now be a little older, perhaps two or three years older.

Gen. 12:14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.

Gen. 12:15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.

Gen. 12:16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.

Gen. 12:17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.

Gen. 12:18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?

The fact that the Egyptian people and the nobility noticed Sarai’s beauty suggests that the commoners told Pharaoh of her beauty to get into his good graces. To be admired by Pharaoh at age 67 or so, Sarai was evidently regal in stature and demeanor as well as beautiful; that is, she had a natural-born nobility in both character and demeanor. Pharaoh took her into his house. He gave Abram servants and temporal goods for her sake, but he was not familiar with her. No doubt Pharaoh thought that ultimately he would marry Sarai, but the Lord providentially intervened with “great plagues” (plural) on Pharaoh’s house. The nature of the plagues is unknown, but they were sudden, startling, and very apparent. Also, the plagues could have been linked to Sarai’s appearance. At any rate, the series of plagues was convincing to Pharaoh, for he associated them with her presence in his house. Hence Pharaoh must have questioned Sarai and found out her relationship to Abram—they were husband and wife. Pharaoh called Abram and asked why he had not stated the relationship in the first place.

Gen. 12:19 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.

Gen. 12:20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

Abram and Sarai were sent away—with all their servants and temporal goods retained and intact. Pharaoh’s generosity suggests that he thought very highly of Sarai. And allowing Abram to keep the goods was like making an offering to the Lord for what Pharaoh had mistakenly done, even though the fault was not his. Pharaoh was, in effect, saying, “No more plagues, please.” Incidentally, Sarai was not in Pharaoh’s house very long, for, chronologically speaking, the plagues would have occurred in rapid succession.

Q: Based on Pharaoh’s actions, wouldn’t he have had some reverence for the Lord? He observed the providences and allowed them to soften his heart.

A: Yes, and that was especially true of Abimelech in the second incident in which Abraham said Sarah was his sister (Genesis chapter 20). With regard to Pharaoh, though, there was some self-interest to relinquish Sarai lest the plagues continue and increase in intensity.

Q: Why did the plagues come on Pharaoh’s house and not on Abram?

A: The whole human race is condemned to death, so if a calamity comes on an individual, no inequity has been done. Calamities happen to “good” people and to “less good” people.

Sometimes a calamity is of the Lord, sometimes it is of the Adversary, and sometimes it is a happenstance. In addition, Pharaoh had plenty of resources, so whatever the plagues were, he could recoup his losses.

(1987–1989 Study)

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