Genesis 12: Introducing Abram
Updated: Jul 4
Abraham: Hebrew patriarch, revered in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The man God called to be the father of His chosen. He grew up in Ur of the Chaldees, the cradle of civilization, the area known as the Fertile Crescent stretching north from the Persian Gulf to the top of the Mediterranean Sea and curving down to run along its coast. A crescent. Fertile. Green.
Before we are told much about Abram, we are given an important detail about his wife: she was barren. That fact sets the stage for much of what we read about Abram.
We aren’t told how Abram met YHWH, but suddenly, it seems, God was talking to him.
“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1, NIV)
Now get this: a voice was directing Abram out of a prosperous place, an area bustling with commerce and invention, to go to a land yet undisclosed. And he went! He just up and left the land of his forefathers to go only God knows where.
And thus begins the account of Abraham.
God’s first promise to Abram was to give him a great name (Abraham) and make him a great nation. Interesting, that. How would God keep His promise if Abram’s wife couldn’t bear children? But it appears Abram believed because Abram went.
I wonder what he thought when he got to the land of promise. About the time, God stopped him and said, “This is the place,” the green had run out. It was a beautiful land of hills and plains, mountains and deserts, with a little water here and there, but it certainly didn’t look like home. If Abram had left Babylon with dreams of owning his own farm, he quickly traded those dreams in for the life of a herder.
When his new homeland experienced famine, he panicked. He took everything he had and left. He’d come a long way on a promise, but he didn’t hold very tightly to it. That’s understandable--hunger is a powerful thing. But his vacation in Egypt was the beginning of his trouble. Fear had taken hold.
As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are.” (Genesis 12:11, NIV)
(Ladies, beware of compliments coming out of nowhere.)
"When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” (Genesis 12:12-13, NIV)
What a guy. Gave his wife to a king he didn’t know in an unfamiliar land so his life would be spared. (And it wouldn’t be the last time—see Genesis 20.)
So here’s what we’ve seen so far: the first Hebrew patriarch, the man God called to be the father of His chosen people, had doubted, disobeyed, and acted incredibly selfishly by giving his wife away.
Later, when Sarah asked him to sleep with her servant so they could have a child, he did. And when she told him to send that servant and his son away, he did.
If you know the story of Abraham, you are probably familiar with the stories of his descendants Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph as well. Seed of Abraham, sinners all.
Perhaps you think I’m being a little hard on Abraham and the family, and you’re right.
They did lots of good things, too. Amazing things! Things that stir our faith. Their stories certainly aren’t sagas of full-blown disaster. They are the record, rather, of the ups and downs, the ins and outs, of walking in human skin.
Very few began at the bottom and had a steady climb to the top. Many who had a meteoric rise also had a disastrous fall. Few were written out of the story after their greatest victory or their most dashing defeat. I know of none whose lives were scripted like a Hallmark movie. The only thing steady about the lives of the patriarchs was God.
Yet in the New Testament, the writer of the book of Hebrews, by the unction of the Holy Spirit, gave this testimony about Abraham and his kin:
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10, NIV)
That writer testified about Sarah too:
And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. (Hebrews 11:11, NIV)
We’re told of Moses and the Israelites, Gideon and Sampson, Samuel and David and the rest, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised because their weakness was turned into strength. The world was not worthy of them!
That’s the testimony God gave about His chosen.
They all lived lives of ups and downs, and their foibles were recorded for our learning. All had two things in common: faith and mistakes—yet after all was said and done, they were commended for their faith.
That’s the God we serve.
Some reading this may have just come from horrible lives or dire circumstances and are discovering His new mercies every day. We celebrate with you. But for most of us? Life with Christ has been the steady up and down and in and out of living in human skin, and the only thing that’s stable is Him. Yet we are placed alongside the patriarchs in Hebrews’ Hall of Fame of faith, and God promises better things for us. (Hebrews 11:29-30)
We have a high priest who empathizes with our weaknesses, one who goes to God on our behalf because although he was tempted in all the ways we are, he didn’t sin. (Hebrews 4:14-15)
So what now?
Let’s approach God’s throne with confidence, so we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our times of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Because of God’s unchanging nature and His promise. (Hebrews 6:18)
To those of you on the roller-coaster of faith: be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure: