A Daily Genesis

Genesis 12:7c-12

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[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 12:7c-8 . . And he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and he built there an altar to the Lord and invoked the Lord by name.[/B]

Eusebius Onomasticon, placed Bethel twelve Roman miles north from Jerusalem, on the road to Neapolis. The site today is represented by the modern town of Beitin, a village which stands on a knoll east of the road to Nablus; roughly 2½ miles northeast of Ramallah El-Bira.

Ai hasn't really been pinpointed yet but is identified either with the modern Haiyan, just south of the village Deir Dibwan or with a mound, El-Tell, to the north.

This is only the second time in Scripture where it's said human beings called upon God by a name. The first was Gen 4:26. What name might Abram have used to invoke God? The name Yhvh was well known by this time, and Abram addressed God by it on numerous occasions (e.g. Gen 13:4, 14:22, 15:8, 21:33, and 24:3).

God's demeanor towards Abram was sometimes that of an officer in wartime who doesn't tell his troops in advance the location of their next bivouac. Instead he orders them to march in a certain direction, only later telling them when to stop and set up camp. So Abram went in the direction he was commanded to go; not really knowing his destination or the why. For the time being, Abram didn't need to know the why-- he only needed to know which way.

Free now from the harmful influence of his dad's pagan idolatry, Abram revived the religion of his sacred ancestors and began calling upon God the same way they did; and he got his travel orders that way too. Each time he worshipped at the altars, God told him what to do, where to go next; and sometimes even shared some personal data along with His big plans for Abram's future.

Abram was doing pretty much what Adam did in the garden; meeting with God in the cool of the day; so to speak. Only Abram did it differently because he was a sinful being, whereas, in the beginning, Adam wasn't; so he didn't need an altar, at first.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 12:9 . .Then Abram journeyed by stages toward the Negev.[/B]

"Negev" is from [I]negeb[/I] (neh'-gheb) and means: to be parched; the south (from its drought); specifically, the Negev or southern district of Judah; occasionally Egypt (as south to Palestine). The Negev is generally considered as beginning south of Dhahiriya; which is right in between Hevron and Be'ér Sheva; and as stretching south in a series of rolling hills until the actual wilderness begins, a distance of perhaps 70 miles.

To the east, the Negev is bounded by the Dead Sea and the Arabah, and to the west the boundaries are generally Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. It's a land of scanty springs and sparse rainfall. The character of its soil is a transition from the fertility of Canaan to the wilderness of the desert-- essentially a pastoral land, where grazing is plentiful in the early months and where camels and goats can survive, even through the long summer drought.

Today, as through most periods of history, the Negev is a land for the nomad rather than the settled inhabitant, although abundant ruins in many spots testify to better physical conditions at some periods. The east and west directions of the valleys, the general dryness, and the character of the inhabitants, have always made it a more or less isolated region without thoroughfare.

The great routes pass along the coast to the west or up the Arabah to the east. Against all who would lead an army up from the south, this southern frontier of Judah presented a tough obstacle in the old days. The Negev is slated for a make-over when the Jews return to their homeland.

"The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of The Lord, the excellency of our God." (Isa 35:1-2)

Lebanon's glory of old was timber; especially cedars (1Kng 4:33). Sharon was known for its flowers (Song 2:1) and Carmel for its orchards (Isa 33:9). How God will get timber, flowers, and orchards to flourish in the Negev should be interesting.
[COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 12:10 . .There was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.[/B]

Famines were usually the result of things like low humidity, lack of rain, and/or plagues of insects and plant diseases.

Abram fully intended to return to Canaan just as soon as the famine ended. The move to Egypt was a temporary expedient, rather than the result of irrational panic. Famine might seem to some as an excuse for Abram to return to Haran. But Abram wasn't retreating. His destiny did not lie in Haran. It lay in Palestine-- period! --no going back.

I've heard more than one commentator say that Abram was out of God's will when he left Canaan and moved to Egypt. It is really impossible to know that for sure. Compare Gen 46:2-4 where God instructed Jacob to migrate to Egypt during a severe famine. So, I'm inclined to give Abram the benefit of the doubt.

Back at Shechem, Abram began the practice of erecting altars and calling on grandpa Noah's god. Each time he moved, he built a new altar. And each time he did that, God gave him new travel orders. Since the text doesn't suggest otherwise; it should be okay to assume Abram went down to Egypt under the very same divine guidance as the other places he moved to.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 12:11 . . As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai: I know what a beautiful woman you are.[/B]

Abram was about nine years older than Sarai; so she was over 66 years-old when this event occurred because according to Gen 12:4, Abram was seventy-five when they left Haran. Sarai was amazing. Even at 66+ years she drew admiring glances.

Abram's acknowledgement of Sarai's beauty appears to have been somewhat out of the ordinary; but that's no surprise. After a number of years of marriage, it isn't uncommon for men to take their wives for granted; and to stop taking notice of them after a while.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 12:12 . . If the Egyptians see you, and think "She is his wife" they will kill me and let you live.[/B]

Egypt had an active presence up in and around Canaan prior to Abram's day and perhaps the conduct of their frontier consulates was somewhat less than honorable at times. So of course the people of Canaan would quite naturally assume all Egyptians were pigs just like many people today assume that all Muslims are vicious because of the Muslim terrorists who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center.

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