Through the Bible in a Year: Genesis 12 to 15

Please ask questions! They can be either about the passage itself or about my commentary on it. I can edit these blog posts based on questions so that people who come along later get the new and improved version.

Abram’s History

Abram, who will become Abraham in tomorrow’s reading, was born in Ur of the Chaldees. The Chaldees, or Chaldeans, are Babylonian, and Ur was a Babylonian city.

It is very likely that until God revealed himself to Abram, he was a polytheist and idol worshiper. There is an old tradition that Noah’s son Shem actually trained Abram to be a follower of the the one God. The math works. Shem lived long enough, according to Genesis, for that to happen, but it’s just a tradition.

Abram moved a lot in his life. He left Ur, traveling along the Tigris River, with his father. Then God sent him south to the land of Canaan, which is modern Palestine. Eventually, he wound up in Egypt.

Abram Gives His Wife Away

There, we first read of Abram’s worry that a king would see Sarai’s beauty, kill him, and steal his wife. His solution to this is to have Sarai tell the king that he was Abram’s sister. This was not completely a lie. Sarai was Abram’s half-sister (Gen. 20:12).

Abram and Sarai shared the same father but not the same mother. This would mean that they grew up in separate households, which may help us overcome our modern horror at such a marriage. In polygamous societies, each wife typically has her own dwelling.

Abram and Sarai did tell Pharaoh household that Sarai was his sister, so Pharaoh called her to be one of his wives.

Clearly, Abram wasn’t taking very good care of his wife, but God had chosen Abram. Abram was not brave here, but God intervened on his behalf and plagued Pharaoh.

It is good to give yourself to God! Those who do will find him intervening on their behalf as well. With the help of the Spirit of God, we must overcome our weaknesses, but isn’t it great to be able to lean on his help while we are weak!

The Land of Canaan, Lot, and Sodom

Abram returned to Canaan, where God abundantly blessed him.

His possessions became so great that he and Lot were forced to go separate ways. Abram let his nephew choose the best of the land, and Lot took him up on it. He chose the Jordan valley.

Remember that the things written in the Tanakh, the writings under the old covenant, were written as examples to us, to admonish us.

Somewhere in here, Lot got his eyes off the blessing of God. Perhaps the problem was choosing the best of the land for himself rather than choosing to show respect to and bless his uncle Abraham. The rest of his life would prove to be somewhat of a disaster.

Lot almost immediately wound up in city life. Was the blessing of God removed from him? Did he lose his animals, his servants, and his gold?

We don’t know, but we do know that Lot wound up in Sodom and vexed his righteous soul by living among the wicked there.

Abram, on the other hand, was promised further great blessing from God as soon as Lot left.

Abram Rescues Lot with 318 (T/I/e) Men

Immediately afterward, we read that there was a war in which Sodom was defeated and Lot was captured. Abram then took 318 trained men to attack the victorious armies, rescue Lot, and gain back the possessions of the Sodom.

It’s important to note that Abram knew how wicked Sodom was. He refused any reward from the king of Sodom; he did not want him to be able to say he made Abraham rich.

Again, we can learn from these examples. The Scriptures teach us to be separate from the world.

"Come out from among them and be separate," says the Lord."Do not touch the unclean thing, and I will receive you." (2 Cor. 6:17)

Not only can we learn from more obvious examples, but study can turn up interesting and deeper truths. To the early Christians, who spoke Greek, the story of Abram rescuing Lot is a hidden prophecy of Christ.

Ancient Greek, like ancient Hebrew, used letters for their numbers. Therefore, a number like 318 is written out in three letters. The Letter of Barnabas, letter which circulated in Alexandria, Egypt and almost made it into the Bible, says this about 318 in Greek:

Learn the eighteen first, and then the three hundred. The ten and the eight are thus denoted: Ten by iota, and eight by eta. You have Jesus! [Ie are the first two letters of Jesus in Greek.] And because the cross was to express grace by the letter tao, he says also, "Three Hundred." He signifies, therefore, Jesus by two letters, and the cross by one. (ch. 9)

A Covenant with God

Chapter 15 describes a covenant that God initiated with Abram. He reveals some of his plan for Abram’s descendants.

Remember, though, that Abram’s real descendants, in God’s eyes, are not those who descended from him naturally. Abram may not have known this, but when God was speaking to Abram, he was speaking primarily of Abram’s spiritual descendants:

If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. (Jn. 8:39)

He is not a Jew who is one outwardly … but he is a Jew who is one inwardly. (Rom. 2:28-29)

Sacrifices

We’ll discuss sacrifices when we get to other books of the Bible. Here, though, I want to point out that animals were not needlessly slain except in some special sacrifices. Animal sacrifices were eaten, sometimes by the worshipers and sometimes by the priests (e.g., Lev. 6:14-16).

Think of ancient animal sacrifices as a reverent way to kill animals for eating and as a way to support the priests.

Melchizedek and Names of God

We have no room to properly cover Melchizedek here. The writer of Hebrews addresses this subject in chapter 7.

However, there are some important points concerning God’s name and the work of God in the world, which I learned from the book Eternity in Their Hearts, at http://www.informationdojo.com/podcasts/melchizedek-genesis-14.m4a.

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