Design By Humans

Genesis 12. Who is Abram anyway?

Genesis 12

1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

    The LORD tells Abram to leave his country and his family and to go to a land that he shows him. I am still wondering if God is making personal human shaped appearances like he did in Eden. The descriptions don't say otherwise.

2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

    God promises to makes Abram's name great. I asked my girlfriend and she'd never heard of him and to be fair I don't remember him from Sunday School or the Roman Catholic primary school I attended. I'm not sure I've heard of his nation either, let's see.

3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

    So God will bless Abram, Abram himself will be a blessing, God will bless those who bless Abram and curse those who curse him and in him all families of the earth shall be blessed. That sounds a little messianic. One thing though, if someone curses him are they then cursed for doing that but also blessed because they are part of a family of the earth? Another question... Who is this guy? He doesn't seem to have done anything to curry God's favour. Maybe he killed someone, that usually gets God's praise.

4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

    So the land that Abram is leaving is Haran, he left in 2023AE.

5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

    So Abram, His wife, His nephew Lot and... Does "the souls that they had gotten" mean slaves? or servants? all went to Canaan under the instruction of the LORD. Isn't Haran in Canaan? Canaan, named after Abram's great-great-grandfather's nephew/slave?

6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.

    He travelled through a number of places to get there.

7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

    So the LORD puts in a tangible appearance and hands over the land that Abram is in to Abram's seed, of course Sarai is barren and so Abram has no children. (I'm not sure if Canaan is a town or a country at this point, it may of course be both) Abram builds an altar, presumably for animal sacrifice?

8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

    So having been given some land for his non-existent progeny Abram moves to a mountain and pitches a tent and builds another altar.

9 And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.

    Having built two altars, He picks up his tent and keeps going south. Is the LORD still showing Abram the way? It seems very much like the Lord indicated that Abram should stop when he appeared to him. Why is Abram still going? Are Sarai and Lot and his the house slaves still with him?   

10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.

    There is famine in Abram's new land so he abandons it for a short stay in Egypt.

11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:

    Just before he and Sarai get to Egypt he pulls her aside and says, "Look here, I know that you are very Beautiful..."

12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.
    "...and because you are so beautiful these Egyptian men will kill me to have you..."

13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

    "...So say you are my sister so that they won't kill me, alright?" This doesn't strike me as very courageous. What's his business in Egypt anyway? If he knows the Egyptians will kill him, why go at all?

14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.

    He was right, the Egyptians saw Sarai and thought she was pretty hot.

15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.

    I think this means that Pharaoh (which one?) married or otherwise took Sarai into his household.

16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.
    For which he paid Abram handsomely, I do wonder if Pharaoh would have paid so much if he'd known that Sarai was barren. I'm thinking that before accepting all of these goods for his wife, this might be a good time for Abram to man up and say 'Sorry Pharaoh, you can't marry/consort with my wife' and accept the consequences, he could at the very least as the guardian of his 'sister' refused the sale. Perhaps he thought it a good deal, Sarai was barren after all.

17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.

    Right. the LORD punished Pharaoh because he consorted with a married woman, a married woman he was basically tricked into accepting into his house and who Abram didn't didn't see as valuable enough to step in and save. Abram's name is great indeed.

18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?

    Good question!

19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.

    Wise move. Although... does Pharaoh believe in the LORD (adonai?) at this point? I'm not aware of any Ancient Egyptians sharing Hebrew God beliefs. Perhaps Pharaoh attributed the plagues to a different Deity (or just perhaps the LORD is actually one of the Egyptian pantheon?)

20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

    Good. I don't think Abram had any business in Egypt anyway.

What have we learned?

  • The LORD makes a grand gesture by giving an entire country to Abrams seed, of which Abram has exactly none on account that his wife is barren. This seems like a particularly empty gesture.

  • Despite the LORD only telling Abram to go as far as the Land which he with show him, Abram takes it upon himself to builds a couple of alters and move on to Egypt.

  • Abram, who's name shall be great, is not only a coward but a profiteering coward who took a dowry for his 'sister' when he could have stopped the whole thing by being honourable and telling Pharaoh that Sarai was actually his wife.
  • Pharaoh (whichever one) Acknowledges the plagues and seems to understand that they have come from the LORD. is this LORD fellow part of the Egyptian pantheon?

  • God's treatment of Pharaoh is remarkably unjust. Pharaoh seems very much to be the victim in this story. He saw a girl he liked and, as was the custom of the time, paid a more than fair dowry to marry her. He's ripped off on two counts firstly he isn't made aware that the woman he's paid for is unable to bear children, a feature that is quite important in a bride of the time. Secondly he is duped into marrying a woman who is already married for which God sends plagues upon his house. Could an omnipotent God have not seen that Pharaoh was not at fault?

NB. The misogyny in the above observation is inherent to the text of the Bible and in no way reflects my personal attitudes toward women or marriage.

Next up. Genesis 13.


  1. The LORD is the last person I'd want to run into if I was lost in a strange town. He'd give you directions, but they'd be to the most unpleasant, dangerous part of a city two hundred miles away.

    1. Two miles away. God wants his entertainment quickly.

  2. > unto Abram

    Who? Oh, I found him... Abram son of Terah son of Nahor son of Serug son of Reu son of Peleg son of Eber son of Salah son of Arphaxad son of Shem son of Noah. You know, we need some sort of family naming system here, it'd really reduce register time in schools.

    > God promises to makes Abram's name great...I don't remember him

    Wasn't he an American president who was shot?

    > Canaan, named after Abram's great-great-grandfather's nephew/slave?

    Has everyone forgotten the supposed curse Noah put on Canaan? He's begotten an enormous clan and had a country named after him. How is he cursed exactly?

    > Abram builds an altar, presumably for animal sacrifice?

    The classy ones have gutters for the blood to drain off.

    > The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh

    So the best-looking woman they've ever seen is a foreigner? That's not exactly a compliment to the women of Egypt.

    > For which he paid Abram handsomely.

    He sold his wife? Nice chap.

    > And the LORD plagued Pharaoh

    Pharoah is the one who is punished? Abram sold his wife!

    > does Pharaoh believe in the LORD (adonai?) at this point

    Isn't (a) Pharaoh supposed to be a God-king himself anyway?

    > What have we learned?

    * Egyptian women _were_ ugly. (note emphasis)
    * Abram is essentially a slaver.
    * God is a sucker for an innocent face.


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