Genesis – Chapter 12

The Bible – Old Testament



Chapter 12


The LORD said to Abram: «Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.


«I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.


1 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.»


Abram went as the LORD directed him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.


2 Abram took his wife Sarai, his brother’s son Lot, all the possessions that they had accumulated, and the persons they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan,


Abram passed through the land as far as the sacred place at Shechem, by the terebinth of Moreh. (The Canaanites were then in the land.)


The LORD appeared to Abram and said, «To your descendants I will give this land.» So Abram built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.


From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel, pitching his tent with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. He built an altar there to the LORD and invoked the LORD by name.


3 Then Abram journeyed on by stages to the Negeb.


There was famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, since the famine in the land was severe.


When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai: «I know well how beautiful a woman you are.


When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘She is his wife’; then they will kill me, but let you live.


4 Please say, therefore, that you are my sister, so that it may go well with me on your account and my life may be spared for your sake.»


When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw how beautiful the woman was; and when Pharaoh’s courtiers saw her,


they praised her to Pharaoh. So she was taken into Pharaoh’s palace.


5 On her account it went very well with Abram, and he received flocks and herds, male and female slaves, male and female asses, and camels.


But the LORD struck Pharaoh and his household with severe plagues because of Abram’s wife Sarai.


Then Pharaoh summoned Abram and said to him: «How could you do this to me! Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife?


Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Here, then, is your wife. Take her and be gone!»


Then Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and all that belonged to him.

1 [3] Shall find blessing in you: the sense of the Hebrew expression is probably reflexive, «shall bless themselves through you» (i.e., in giving a blessing they shall say, «May you be as blessed as Abraham»), rather than passive, «shall be blessed in you.» Since the term is understood in a passive sense in the New Testament (⇒ Acts 3:25; ⇒ Gal 3:8), it is rendered here by a neutral expression that admits of both meanings. So also in the blessings given by God to Isaac (⇒ Genesis 26:4) and Jacob (⇒ Genesis 28:14).

2 [5] Persons: slaves and retainers that formed the social aggregate under the leadership of Abraham; cf  Genesis 14:14.

3 [9] The Negeb: the semidesert land of southern Palestine.
4 [13] You are my sister: although Abraham’s deceit may not be fully defensible, his statement was at least a half-truth; Sarah was indeed his relative, called «a sister» in Hebrew; cf ⇒ Genesis 20:12. Moreover, the ancient traditions on which this story and the parallel ones in ⇒ Genesis 20:1-18; ⇒ 26:6-11 are based, probably come from the Hurrian custom of wife-sister marriage. Among the Hurrians, with whom Abraham’s clan lived in close contact at Haran, a man could adopt his wife as his sister and thus give her higher status.
5 [16] Camels: domesticated camels probably did not come into common use in the ancient Near East until the end of the millennium B.C. Thus the mention of camels at the time of the patriarchs (⇒ Genesis 24:11-64; ⇒ 30:43; ⇒ 31:17, ⇒ 34; ⇒ 32:8, ⇒ 16; ⇒ 37:25) is seemingly an anachronism.