Abram in Egypt, Genesis 12:10-20

This is the second part to last week’s post, Abram’s Call, Genesis 1-9. In summary, Abram obeys God by journeying to Canaan (Shechem). He then sets up camp between Ai and Bethel where he worships God. But when a severe famine strikes, Abram detours to Egypt: a land of plenty for both food and good land for his flocks.

You may read Genesis 12:10-20 here: Bible Gateway

Why would God call Abram to a land of famine?

Some commentators say this was a test of Abram’s faith, which Abram passed with flying colors. Instead of questioning God in the face of difficulty, he used his intelligence to temporarily move and wait for new opportunities.

Other commentators suggest Abram lacked faith that God would supply his needs in the midst of a famine. Although the Bible doesn’t comment either way, God clearly protected Abram and worked through his mistakes.

Verses 10-20 sound like an ancient soap opera. And though Abraham is a hero of faith, we glimpse a crack in his faith shield.

In fear of Pharoah noticing Sarai’s beauty (his wife)—and killing Abram—he devises a half-lie. Seventy-five year old Abram instructs Sarai, who is also his half-sister, to say she is only his sister if questioned. Beauty in those days was viewed differently than in our time and culture.

Medieval commentators suggest that what Abram hopes to get out of being Sarai’s brother is the right to receive and deny all suitors’ requests to be Sarai’s husband, in this way protecting her from adultery or bigamy. However, Abram is also acting in fear to save his life.

As if on cue, Pharoah does notice Sarai and takes her into his household. He also showers Abram with provisions of gifts: sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, menservants and maidservants (12:15-16).

However, this arrangement is short lived. God inflicts Pharoah and his household with serious diseases. After pinpointing when and where his troubles began, Pharoah summons Abram and confronts him with the truth. For absolute truthfulness was a central feature of Egyptian ethics.

(Source: theBibleproject.com) Genesis 13:1,

(Source: theBibleproject.com)
Genesis 13:1, “And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.”

Abram appears to get away scott-free as Pharoah sends Abram, Sarai, and all their gifts away with just a scolding. But Layman’s Commentary Bible observes: “Everything Abram receives in Egypt later causes him trouble. Because of the great wealth he acquires from Pharaoh, Abram and Lot choose to separate (13:5-6). Hagar, the Egyptian maidservant who Pharaoh gives to Abram, brings division and sorrow with far-reaching consequences (16:1-16).”

Food For Thought

  • Have you ever told a half-lie only to find it spiral out of control? I’ve found that half-lies usually make matters worse.
  • “Faith is holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.”  – C.S. Lewis

Next week I’ll pick up on Genesis 13, Abram and Lot Separate. Have a great week!

Abram’s Call, Genesis 12:1-9

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”                            Genesis 12:1-3

I broke Genesis 12 into two posts since this was getting long. This first part tells of Abram’s journey to Shechem in Canaan. Next week’s post will be about Abram’s detour to Egypt due to famine in the land, Genesis 12:10-20.

You may read Genesis 12:1-9 here: Bible Gateway.

Genesis 12:1-3 unveils God’s covenant with Abram. God promises a great blessing to Abram. He would create a special nation through Abram’s offspring, but there is one condition: Abram would have to obey and leave the comfort and security of his home.

In Genesis 12:1 the word “had” suggests that God’s message to Abram happened in Ur, even though 11:31 ends with Abram in Haran. Abram respected his father’s leadership, but after Terah died Abram obeys and sets out for the land of Canaan. Lot probably also believed God’s promises since he voluntarily went with Abram.

The original Hebrew wording “you will be a blessing” in verse 2 means, “Be a blessing.” Not only would God bless Israel—the nation God would craft from Abram’s family—but they would also bless the other nations. Israel was to be set apart, follow God, and influence those around her.

Through Abram’s family tree, Jesus Christ was born to save all people. Jesus also made a personal relationship with God possible.

Abram Worships God                                                                                                 


Altars not only memorialized significant encounters with God, but also reminded the people of His provision and protection.

Abram stops at Shechem (12:6-7), near the middle of Canaan (Joshua 20:7), where the LORD appears to him a second time. Again, God promises to give this land to Abram’s offspring. Abram responds with worship and builds an altar.

Layman’s Commentary Bible notes: “The word translated worship carries the idea of not only acknowledging, but also proclaiming the name of the Lord.”

Abram Camps Between Ai and Bethel

Abram heads out again. This time he and his group camp in the hills east of Bethel (12:8) as Abram continues worshiping  God.



So What?

  • Is God leading you to a place of greater service and usefulness to Him? Like Abram, don’t let your present comfort and security keep you from God’s plan.
  • Regular worship reminds us of what God desires and motivates us to obey.
  • Although geographically small, the land of Canaan was the main area for most of Israel’s history. Not only are Christianity’s roots from here, but Christianity has spread and positively impacted the world.
  • America has been richly blessed as our forefathers and people honored God and sought to live by His principles, including the support of Israel. But when we as a nation turn our backs on God and His teaching we are inviting His judgment.

Shem’s Descendants to Abram, Genesis 11:10-32

This section begins a new division in Genesis. Almost one-third of this book is spent on Abraham, the forefather of the Israelite nation (11:27-25:18), even though Genesis covers more than 20 generations and 2,000 years.

You may read Genesis 11:10-32 here: Bible Gateway.

Although humanity struck out three times—in Eden, the flood, then the Tower of Babel—God had a plan. Abram probably had no idea just how big God’s overarching plan was when He called Abram to leave his home and journey to Canaan. But Abram’s obedience would result in the development of the nation that God Himself would come down and visit through His sinless Son, Jesus. Through His sacrificial death and resurrection, Jesus would make atonement for the worlds’ sins, for all who accept His gift of forgiveness and eternal life through faith.


Shem’s genealogy is highlighted in verses 10-26. This section may seem dry and redundant (also listed in Gen. 10:22-31), but as we continue the Genesis saga we’re given a backstage pass to witness the setup for Noah’s blessing on Seth’s descendants. (Noah’s curse on Ham’s descendants is fulfilled when the Israelites conquer the land of Canaan in Joshua’s days.)


Terah: Abram’s Father (11:27-32)

Like Noah, Terah also had three sons, Abram being one of them. This account records Terah as the first to set out to Canaan with Abram and his family from Ur of the Chaldeans to settle in Canaan (vs. 31-32). But they end up in Haran instead. Scripture doesn’t say why. Perhaps he became sick. However, Joshua 24:2 and 24:14-15 identify Terah (and possibly his family) as worshippers of many gods. Ur and Haran were also significant places for the moon worship cult. Many of the names from Gen. 11:29 stem from this false religion as well.

Archaeologists have uncovered clues that indicate the ancient city of Ur in Abram’s day was a flourishing civilization. Not only did the city carry out a large trading system with their neighbors, they also boasted a huge library. Abram was most likely well educated from growing up in Ur.

Other Family Members

  • Lot, Terah’s Grandson and Abram’s nephew, is given a short introduction here. Lot, who becomes a main character in Gen. 13:1-14:24, is cast in contrast to Abram. Lot also traveled to Haran with Terah and Abram. His father, Haran, died in Ur.
  • Sarai, whose name is later changed to Sarah, married Abram (whose name is later changed to Abraham). She is also his half-sister (20:12), which was common and not in contradiction to God’s will at this time. Sarai’s childlessness in the ancient Near East brought social ridicule and shame. This also implied that the woman, or the couple, were disfavored toward the gods.

The Tower of Babel, Genesis 11:1-9

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”  – Genesis 11:1-4

This incident happens before the worldwide scatter of nations described in Genesis 10. You may read Genesis 11:1-9 here: Gateway Bible.

Why Build a Tower?

The Building of the Tower of Babel, by Abel Grimmer (1570-1619)

The Building of the Tower of Babel, by Abel Grimmer (1570-1619)

The people in this story wanted to pay tribute to their own greatness. The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “The tower of Babel was most likely a ziggurat, a common structure in Babylonia at this time. Most often built as temples, ziggurats looked like pyramids with steps or ramps leading up the sides. Ziggurats stood as high as 300 feet and were often just as wide; thus they were the focal point of the city.”

Although this tower was a success from man’s perspective—a wonder to the world—the act came from self-preservation and pride instead of paying tribute to God.

Why Scatter the people?

God judges the people for their rebellion: placing trust in their own efforts instead of His provision. The word Babel means “confusion” in Hebrew and “the gate of gods” in Babylonian. Instead of settling in one place, God scatters the people over the whole earth by confusing their language.

The language of verse 6 may sound like God is worried, however, He is not threatened by man’s words or actions. Instead, He acts to protect man from himself.

Other Interesting Facts

  • “But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower.” Verses 5-6 are described as anthropomorphic: a description of God’s response in human terms. God really doesn’t need to leave heaven to know what is happening on earth.
  • Verse 7, “let us”, refers to the Godhead (Trinity) by using the same plural form of God as in the creation account (Gen. 1:26).
  • The area later known as Babylon carries a reputation of evil and has a long history of being Israel’s enemy.
  • Josephus and Genesis Chapter 10 by Bodie Hodge gives an insightful summary and excerpt from the great historian, Josephus, in his work: Antiquity of the Jews. Josephus’ research provides evidence of biblical accuracy in the Bible’s table of nations. You may read this article here: Answers in Genesis.

So What?

Achievements in themselves may not be wrong, but when they take God’s place in our lives they become idols. God gives us freedom to develop in many areas, but we are never free to replace Him.

I have been guilty in the past of building my tower of self-worth and identity based on achievements and/or success. How about you? Are there any towers in your life that need to be torn down?