Genesis 12


God calls Abram to leave Haran and go into Canaan, 1;

promises to bless him, and through him all the families of

the earth, 2, 3.

Abram, Sarai, Lot, and all their household, depart from Canaan, 4, 5;

pass through Sichem, 6.

God appears to him, and renews the promise, 7.

His journey described, 8, 9.

On account of a famine in the land he is obliged to go into Egypt, 10.

Fearing lest, on account of the beauty of his wife, the Egyptians

should kill him, he desires her not to acknowledge that she is his

wife, but only his sister, 11-13.

Sarai, because of her beauty, is taken into the palace of Pharaoh,

king of Egypt, who is very liberal to Abram on her account, 14-16.

God afflicts Pharaoh and his household with grievous plagues on

account of Sarai, 17.

Pharaoh, on finding that Sarai was Abram's wife, restores her

honourably, and dismisses the patriarch with his family and their

property, 18-20.


Verse 1. Get thee out of thy country] There is great

dissension between commentators concerning the call of Abram; some

supposing he had two distinct calls, others that he had but one.

At the conclusion of the preceding chapter, Ge 11:31, we find

Terah and all his family leaving Ur of the Chaldees, in order to

go to Canaan. This was, no doubt, in consequence of some Divine

admonition. While resting at Haran, on their road to Canaan,

Terah died, Ge 11:32; and then God repeats his call to Abram, and

orders him to proceed to Canaan, Ge 12:1.

Dr. Hales, in his Chronology, contends for two calls: "The

first," says he, "is omitted in the Old Testament, but is

particularly recorded in the New, Ac 7:2-4:

The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was (at

Ur of the Chaldees) in Mesopotamia, BEFORE HE DWELT IN CHARRAN; and

said unto him, Depart from thy land, and from thy kindred, and

come into the land (γην, a land) which I will show thee.

Hence it is evident that God had called Abram before he came

to Haran or Charran." The SECOND CALL is recorded only in this

chapter: "The Lord said (not HAD said) unto Abram, Depart from thy

land, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto THE

LAND, HA-arets, (Septuagint, GHN γην,) which I will show

thee." "The difference of the two calls," says Dr. Hales, "more

carefully translated from the originals, is obvious: in the former

the land is indefinite, which was designed only for a temporary

residence; in the latter it is definite, intimating his abode. A

third condition is also annexed to the latter, that Abram shall

now separate himself from his father's house, or leave his brother

Nahor's family behind at Charran. This call Abram obeyed, still

not knowing whither he was going, but trusting implicitly to the

Divine guidance."

Thy kindred] Nahor and the different branches of the family of

Terah, Abram and Lot excepted. That Nahor went with Terah and

Abram as far as Padan-Aram, in Mesopotamia, and settled there, so

that it was afterwards called Nahor's city, is sufficiently

evident from the ensuing history, see Ge 25:20; Ge 24:10, 15;

and that the same land was Haran, see Ge 28:2, 10, and

there were Abram's kindred and country here spoken of,

Ge 24:4.

Thy father's house] Terah being now dead, it is very probable

that the family were determined to go no farther, but to settle at

Charran; and as Abram might have felt inclined to stop with them

in this place, hence the ground and necessity of the second call

recorded here, and which is introduced in a very remarkable

manner; lech lecha, GO FOR THYSELF. If none of the family

will accompany thee, yet go for thyself unto THAT LAND which I

will show thee. God does not tell him what land it is, that he

may still cause him to walk by faith and not by sight. This seems

to be particularly alluded to by Isaiah, Isa 41:2: Who raised up

the righteous man (Abram) from the east, and called him to his

foot; that is, to follow implicitly the Divine direction. The

apostle assures us that in all this Abram had spiritual views; he

looked for a better country, and considered the land of promise

only as typical of the heavenly inheritance.

Verse 2. I will make of thee a great nation] i.e., The Jewish

people; and make thy name great, alluding to the change of his

name from Abram, a high father, to Abraham, the father of a


Verse 3. In thee] In thy posterity, in the Messiah, who shall

spring from thee, shall all families of the earth be blessed; for

as he shall take on him human nature from the posterity of

Abraham, he shall taste death for every man, his Gospel shall be

preached throughout the world, and innumerable blessings be

derived on all mankind through his death and intercession.

Verse 4. And Abram was seventy and five years old] As Abram was

now seventy-five years old, and his father Terah had just died, at

the age of two hundred and five, consequently Terah must have been

one hundred and thirty when Abram was born; and the seventieth

year of his age mentioned Ge 11:26, was the period at which

Haran, not Abram, was born. See on the preceding chapter.

Verse 5. The souls that they had gotten in Haran] This may

apply either to the persons who were employed in the service of

Abram, or to the persons he had been the instrument of converting

to the knowledge of the true God; and in this latter sense the

Chaldee paraphrasts understood the passage, translating it, The

souls of those whom they proselyted in Haran.

They went forth to go into the land of Canaan] A good land,

possessed by a bad people, who for their iniquities were to be

expelled, see Le 18:25. And this land was made a type of the

kingdom of God. Probably the whole of this transaction may have a

farther meaning than that which appears in the letter. As Abram

left his own country, father's house, and kindred, took at the

command of God a journey to this promised land, nor ceased till be

arrived in it; so should we cast aside every weight, come out from

among the workers of iniquity, set out for the kingdom of God, nor

ever rest till we reach the heavenly country. How many set out for

the kingdom of heaven, make good progress for a time in their

journey, but halt before the race is finished! Not so Abram; he

went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of

Canaan he came. Reader, go thou and do likewise.

Verse 6. The plain of Moreh.] elon should be translated

oak, not plain; the Septuagint translate τηνδρυντηνυψηλην,

the lofty oak; and it is likely the place was remarkable for a

grove of those trees, or for one of a stupendous height and bulk.

The Canaanite was then in the land.] This is thought to be an

interpolation, because it is supposed that these words must have

been written after the Canaanites were expelled from the land by

the Israelites under Joshua; but this by no means follows. All

that Moses states is simply that, at the time in which Abram

passed through Sichem, the land was inhabited by the descendants

of Canaan, which was a perfectly possible case, and involves

neither a contradiction nor absurdity. There is no rule of

criticism by which these words can be produced as an evidence of

interpolation or incorrectness in the statement of the sacred

historian. See this mentioned again, Ge 13:7.

Verse 7. The Lord appeared] In what way this appearance was

made we know not; it was probably by the great angel of the

covenant, Jesus the Christ. The appearance, whatsoever it was,

perfectly satisfied Abram, and proved itself to be supernatural

and Divine. It is worthy of remark that Abram is the first man to

whom God is said to have shown himself or appeared: 1. In Ur of

the Chaldees, Ac 7:2; and 2. At the

oak of Moreh, as in this verse. As Moreh signifies a

teacher, probably this was called the oak of Moreh or the

teacher, because God manifested himself here, and instructed Abram

concerning the future possession of that land by his posterity,

and the dispensation of the mercy of God to all the families of

the earth through the promised Messiah. See Clarke on Ge 15:7.

Verse 8. Beth-el] The place which was afterwards called Beth-el

by Jacob, for its first name was Luz. See Ge 28:19.

beith El literally signifies the house of God.

And pitched his tent-and-builded an altar unto the Lord] Where

Abram has a tent, there God must have an ALTAR, as he well knows

there is no safety but under the Divine protection. How few who

build houses ever think on the propriety and necessity of building

an altar to their Maker! The house in which the worship of God is

not established cannot be considered as under the Divine


And called upon the name of the Lord.] Dr. Shuckford strongly

contends that kara beshem does not signify to call ON

the name, but to invoke IN the name. So Abram invoked

Jehovah in or by the name of Jehovah, who had appeared to him.

He was taught even in these early times to approach God through a

Mediator; and that Mediator, since manifested in the flesh, was

known by the name Jehovah. Does not our Lord allude to such a

discovery as this when he says, Abraham rejoiced to see my day;

and he saw it, and was glad? Joh 8:56. Hence it is evident

that he was informed that the Christ should be born of his seed,

that the nations of the world should be blessed through him; and

is it then to be wondered at if he invoked God in the name of this

great Mediator?

Verse 10. There was a famine in the land] Of Canaan. This is the

first famine on record, and it prevailed in the most fertile land

then under the sun; and why? God made it desolate for the

wickedness of those who dwelt in it.

Went down into Egypt] He felt himself a stranger and a pilgrim,

and by his unsettled state was kept in mind of the city that hath

foundations that are permanent and stable, whose builder is the

living God. See Heb 11:8, 9.

Verse 11. Thou art a fair woman to look upon] Widely differing

in her complexion from the swarthy Egyptians, and consequently

more likely to be coveted by them. It appears that Abram supposed

they would not scruple to take away the life of the husband in

order to have the undisturbed possession of the wife. The age of

Sarai at this time is not well agreed on by commentators, some

making her ninety, while others make her only sixty-five. From

Ge 17:17, we learn that Sarai was ten years younger than Abram,

for she was but ninety when he was one hundred. And from Ge 12:4,

we find that Abram was seventy-five when he was called to leave

Haran and go to Canaan, at which time Sarai could be only

sixty-five; and if the transactions recorded in the preceding

verses took place in the course of that year, which I think

possible, consequently Sarai was but sixty-five; and as in those

times people lived much longer, and disease seems to have had but

a very contracted influence, women and men would necessarily

arrive more slowly at a state of perfection, and retain their

vigour and complexion much longer, than in later times. We may

add to these considerations that strangers and foreigners are more

coveted by the licentious than those who are natives. This has

been amply illustrated in the West Indies and in America, where

the jetty, monkey-faced African women are preferred to the elegant

and beautiful Europeans! To this subject a learned British

traveller elegantly applied those words of Virgil, Ecl. ii., ver.


Alba ligustra cadunt, vaccinia nigra leguntur.

White lilies lie neglected on the plain,

While dusky hyacinths for use remain.


Verse 13. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister] Abram did not

wish his wife to tell a falsehood, but he wished her to suppress a

part of the truth. From Ge 20:12, it is evident she was his

step-sister, i.e., his sister by his father, but by a different

mother. Some suppose Sarai was the daughter of Haran, and

consequently the grand-daughter of Terah: this opinion seems to be

founded on Ge 11:29, where

Iscah is thought to be the same with Sarai, but the supposition

has not a sufficiency of probability to support it.

Verse 15. The woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.] Pharaoh

appears to have been the common appellative of the Cuthite

shepherd kings of Egypt, who had conquered this land, as is

conjectured, about seventy-two years before this time. The word

is supposed to signify king in the ancient Egyptian language. If

the meaning be sought in the Hebrew, the root para signifies

to be free or disengaged, a name which such freebooters as the

Cuthite shepherds might naturally assume. All the kings of Egypt

bore this name till the commencement of the Grecian monarchy,

after which they were called Ptolemies.

When a woman was brought into the seragilo or harem of the

eastern princes, she underwent for a considerable time certain

purifications before she was brought into the king's presence. It

was in this interim that God plagued Pharaoh and his house with

plagues, so that Sarai was restored before she could have been

taken to the bed of the Egyptian king.

Verse 16. He had sheep, and oxen, &c.] As some of these terms

are liable to be confounded, and as they frequently occur,

especially in the Pentateuch, it may be necessary to consider and

fix their meaning in this place.

SHEEP; tson, from tsaan, to be plentiful or abundant;

a proper term for the eastern sheep, which almost constantly bring

forth twins, Cant. So 4:2, and sometimes

three and even four at a birth. Hence their great fruitfulness

is often alluded to in the Scripture. See Ps 65:13; 144:13.

But under this same term, which almost invariably means

a flock, both sheep and goats are included. So the Romans

include sheep, goats, and small cattle in general, under the term

PECUS pecoris; so likewise they do larger cattle under that of

PECUS pecudis.

OXEN; bakar, from the root, to examine, look out,

because of the full, broad, steady, unmoved look of most animals

of the beeve kind; and hence the morning is termed boker,

because of the light springing out of the east, and looking out

over the whole of the earth's surface.

HE-ASSES; chamorim, from chamar, to be

disturbed, muddy; probably from the dull, stupid appearance of

this animal, as if it were always affected with melancholy.

Scheuchzer thinks the sandy-coloured domestic Asiatic ass is

particularly intended. The word is applied to asses in general,

though most frequently restrained to those of the male kind.

SHE-ASSES; athonoth, from ethan, strength,

probably the strong animal, as being superior in muscular force to

every other animal of its size. Under this term both the male and

female are sometimes understood.

CAMELS; gemallim, from gamal, to recompense,

return, repay; so called from its resentment of injuries, and

revengeful temper, for which it is proverbial in the countries of

which it is a native. On the animals and natural history in

general, of the Scriptures, I must refer to the Hicrozoicon of

BOCHART, and the Physica Sacra of SCHEUCHZER. The former is the

most learned and accurate work. perhaps, ever produced by one man.

From this enumeration of the riches of Abram we may conclude

that this patriarch led a pastoral and itinerant life; that his

meat must have chiefly consisted in the flesh of clean animals,

with a sufficiency of pulse for bread; that his chief drink was

their milk; his clothing, their skins; and his beasts of burden,

asses and camels; (for as yet we read of no horses;) and the

ordinary employment of his servants, to take care of the flocks,

and to serve their master. Where the patriarchs became resident

for any considerable time, they undoubtedly cultivated the ground

to produce grain.

Verse 17. The Lord plagued Pharaoh] What these plagues were we

know not. In the parallel case, Ge 20:18, all the females in the

family of Abimelech, who had taken Sarah in nearly the same way,

were made barren; possibly this might have been the case here; yet

much more seems to be signified by the expression great plagues.

Whatever these plagues were, it is evident they were understood by

Pharaoh as proofs of the disapprobation of God; and, consequently,

even at this time in Egypt there was some knowledge of the

primitive and true religion.

Verse 20. Commanded his men concerning him] Gave particular and

strict orders to afford Abram and his family every accommodation

for their journey; for having received a great increase of cattle

and servants, it was necessary that he should have the favour of

the king, and his permission to remove from Egypt with so large a

property; hence, a particular charge is given to the officers of

Pharaoh to treat him with respect, and to assist him in his

intended departure.

THE weighty and important contents of this chapter demand our

most attentive consideration. Abram is a second time called to

leave his country, kindred, and father's house, and go to a place

he knew not. Every thing was apparently against him but the voice

of God. This to Abram was sufficient; he could trust his Maker,

and knew he could not do wrong in following his command. He is

therefore proposed to us in the Scriptures as a pattern of faith,

patience, and loving obedience. When he received the call of God,

he spent no time in useless reasonings about the call itself, his

family circumstances, the difficulties in the way, &c., &c. He

was called, and he departed, and this is all we hear on the

subject. Implicit faith in the promise of God, and prompt

obedience to his commands, become us, not only as HIS creatures,

but as sinners called to separate from evil workers and wicked

ways, and travel, by that faith which worketh by love, in the way

that leads to the paradise of God.

How greatly must the faith of this blessed man have been tried,

when, coming to the very land in which he is promised so much

blessedness, he finds instead of plenty a grievous famine! Who in

his circumstances would not have gone back to his own country, and

kindred? Still he is not stumbled; prudence directs him to turn

aside and go to Egypt, till God shall choose to remove this

famine. Is it to be wondered at that, in this tried state, he

should have serious apprehensions for the safety of his life?

Sarai, his affectionate wife and faithful companion, he supposes

he shall lose; her beauty, he suspects, will cause her to be

desired by men of power, whose will he shall not be able to

resist. If he appear to be her husband, his death he supposes to

be certain; if she pass for his sister, he may be well used on her

account; he will not tell a lie, but he is tempted to prevaricate

by suppressing a part of the truth. Here is a weakness which,

however we may be inclined to pity and excuse it, we should never

imitate. It is recorded with its own condemnation. He should

have risked all rather than have prevaricated. But how could he

think of lightly giving up such a wife? Surely he who would not

risk his life for the protection and safety of a good wife, is not

worthy of one. Here his faith was deficient. He still credited

the general promise, and acted on that faith in reference to it;

but he did not use his faith in reference to intervening

circumstances, to which it was equally applicable. Many trust God

for their souls and eternity, who do not trust in him for their

bodies and for time. To him who follows God fully in simplicity

of heart, every thing must ultimately succeed. Had Abram and

Sarai simply passed for what they were, they had incurred no

danger; for God, who had obliged them to go to Egypt, had prepared

the way before them. Neither Pharaoh nor his courtiers would have

noticed the woman, had she appeared to be the wife of the stranger

that came to sojourn in their land. The issue sufficiently proves

this. Every ray of the light of truth is an emanation from the

holiness of God, and awfully sacred in his eyes. Considering the

subject thus, a pious ancient spoke the following words, which

refiners in prevarication have deemed by much too strong: "I would

not," said he, "tell a lie to save the souls of the whole world."

Reader, be on thy guard; thou mayest fall by comparatively small

matters, while resolutely and successfully resisting those which

require a giant's strength to counteract them. In every concern

God is necessary; seek him for the body and for the soul; and do

not think that any thing is too small or insignificant to interest

him that concerns thy present or eternal peace.

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