SET THE SCENE
Abram entered Palestine in the Middle Bronze Age (2200-1550 BC). Palestine was inhabited in scattered city-states, and was not as densely populated or urbanized as Mesopotamia had been (Abram’s original home). Contemporary records from ancient Palestine are rare, and much of what is known comes from Egyptian texts. Over Abram’s lifetime, contact and caravan trading grew between Palestine and Egypt.
~ Cultural Background Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2016, pg 27
Abram and his family came from a polytheistic culture in Mespotamia, where gods are connected with nature and natural phenomena. They are tied to geography and territory. These goda don’t reveal their nature, but instead people try to manipulate them by flattery, cajoling, appeasing, and bribing. By breaking ties with his homeland and his old way of life and people, Abram also breaks ties with any former gods connected geographically, politically, and ethnically. Yahweh fills this void.
~ Cultural Background Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2016, pg 34
In the value system of the ancient Near East, your land meant survival, livelihood, and political identity—it said more about who you were than your physical being. Land linked your family through genealogy and inheritance; it secured your future and your security. This is what Yahweh asked Abram to give up, to leave behind.
~ Cultural Background Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2016, pg 33
SCRIPTURE: GENESIS 12:1-6
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” 4 So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. 5 He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth—his livestock and all the people he had taken into his household at Haran—and headed for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, 6 Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites. Genesis 12:1-6, NLT
CHART THE FACTS
|GOD’S COMMAND||ABRAM’S ACTION|
|LEAVE BEHIND: country, people, your father’s household (family)||HE did what God asked,|
|RECEIVE: blessings, large number of descendants, I’ll be on your side with friends or foes, your name will be great, all people on earth will be blessed through you.||Abram took Sarai, Lot, and all their people and possessions with them|
|Note: God gave no description of or legal title to the land, just that “I will show it to you.”||Abram stopped his caravan in Canaan at Shechem.|
GETTING TO KNOW YOU: GOD, ABRAM, AND SARAI
Remember, we are trying to understand Abram and Sarai, what was important to them, what they were afraid of, and so much more. It is also important to understand their relationship with each other. Below is a list of questions I asked myself about of the inner thoughts of these two main characters as I read these verses.
- After his father died, all these people depended on Abram for livelihood, for protection, for safety, and for leadership. Did he have a plan of his own about what he was going to do now?
- Abram heard God’s voice, but we are not told how. Was it in a dream, a conversation with an actual voice, something he heard in his head? What was his reaction? Fear, awe, “ah, here’s my purpose in life.” We just told that Abram heard the Lord and responded obediently.
- Did Abram tell anyone why they were leaving, where they were going, what he had been promised if they went to Canaan? Did he tell Sarai or Lot? Or did he keep it to himself so as not to appear crazy? He couldn’t have given much of an explanation because there was so much that he didn’t know himself.
- If Sarai knew about God’s promise, did she wonder if she was included? God made all kinds of promises to Abram and his descendants, but Sarai was never mentioned by name. And, Sarai had been unable to conceive and bear children—this must have been quite an obstacle in her mind, how could the promises include her?
- Did Abram and Sarai talk about her barrenness or was the subject so flammable that they avoided it? What kind of rift could come into their marriage because of this?
Are you getting a little bit of a picture about Abram and Sarah in your head, start writing down the things you know about their character, their abilities and responsibilities, etc. You might include a few conjectures or questions. We are learning more about God also, about who He chooses, about how He reveals Himself to His people, and about how He is different from any other god.
Tune again tomorrow for my perspective at this point in the study. There’s space for your comments below or email me at KSEvenhouseWWV@gmail.com