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Genesis 12: bible study

The calling of Abraham

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Genesis 12: 1-20, God called Abram

Abraham was Abram before God changed his name to Abraham in Genesis 17:5. God appeared to Abram and called him to leave his home, relatives, country, and everything, to an unknown destination, with an unknown future. This was a tall order and it must have come as a shock to him. But God promised to bless him and the whole world, through him.

Genesis 17:5, Your name will no more be called Abram, but your name will be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

Verses 1-3, 1 Now Yahweh said to Abram, “Leave your country, and your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who treats you with contempt. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”

God called Abram to leave his dwelling place in Ur of the Chaldees, his relatives, his father’s house, to go to an undisclosed destination, not knowing what his future will be. The Hebrew word for God is the tetragrammaton YHWH, or Yahweh, represented by the capitalized LORD. Yahweh is the covenantal name of God.

God gave Abram 6 promises, make him into a great nation, bless him, make his name famous, bless those who bless him, curse those who curse him, and bless the whole world universally through him.

Verses 4-5, 4 So Abram went, as Yahweh had told him. Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Abram took Sarai his wife, Lot his brother’s son, all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they went to go into the land of Canaan. They entered into the land of Canaan.

Abram did not fully obey the LORD. Abram left Ur of the Chaldees with his father, Terah, his wife Sarai, and his nephew Lot, see Acts 7:4. Ur of the Chaldees was Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq. Abram did not go to Canaan immediately. After leaving Ur of the Chaldees, he settled down in Haran instead of proceeding all the way to Canaan. Haran, in present-day Turkey, is northwest of Ur and is only halfway to Canaan.

Abram left Haran with his wife Sarai and nephew Lot, after the death of his father Terah, and traveled southwest to Shechem in Canaan. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. Canaan was present-day Israel.

Acts 7:4, “Then he came out of the land of the Chaldaeans and lived in Haran. From there, when his father was dead, God moved him into this land, where you are now living.”

Verses 6-8, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time, Canaanites were in the land. 7 Yahweh appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your offspring.” He built an altar there to Yahweh, who had appeared to him. 8 He left from there to go to the mountain on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to Yahweh and called on Yahweh’s name. 

Abram passed through Shechem in the land of Canaan The LORD appeared to Abram a second time and gave promised to give Canaan to him and his descendants. Abram built an altar to the LORD and prayed to Him at Shechem. He pitched his tent on a mountain between Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. Abram was an idol worshiper before God called him. Now he built an altar to Yahweh and worship the One true God. Abram was a nomad, pitching his tent as he went from place to place.

Verses 9-13, 9 Abram traveled, still going on toward the South. 10 There was a famine in the land. Abram went down into Egypt to live as a foreigner there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 When he had come near to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman to look at. 12 It will happen that when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ They will kill me, but they will save you alive. 13 Please say that you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that my soul may live because of you.”

As Abram continued to travel south, the LORD tested him by bringing on a famine. Instead of trusting the LORD to provide for him in the famine, he went down to Egypt. Sarai was very beautiful and Abram was afraid the Egyptians would kill him. He pleaded with Sarai to lie to Pharoah by telling him that she was his sister. Abram the father of faith failed the test of faith! He ran away from Canaan because of a famine. He connived with his wife to tell a lie!

Verses 14-16, 14 When Abram had come into Egypt, Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 The princes of Pharaoh saw her, and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 He dealt well with Abram for her sake. He had sheep, cattle, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. 

When Abram entered Egypt, Pharoah was struck by Sarai’s beauty and took her into his harem. He treated Abram well because he thought Abram was his sister. Pharoah gave Abram sheep, cattle, donkeys, servants, and camels.

Verses 17-20, 17 Yahweh afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this that you have done to me? Why didn’t you tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now, therefore, see your wife, take her, and go your way.” 20 Pharaoh commanded men concerning him, and they escorted him away with his wife and all that he had.

The LORD struck Pharaoh and his household with plagues because he was trying to get close to Sarai. When Pharoah discovered that Sarai was Abram’s wife, he summoned Abram to leave Egypt immediately with all his possessions.


The post-flood people wanted to make their names great by their own effort, but the LORD displaced them into obscurity and confused their language. The LORD called Abraham out from obscurity and his name great. Abraham did not do anything. He just had to believe and trust the LORD. You must not try to promote yourself. God will promote you if you believe and trust Him.

Abraham did not fully obey the LORD. He stopped at Haran and settled down there. He waited until his father’s death before proceeding to Canaan. If God calls you, will you obey Him fully, partially, or not at all? If you did not obey the LORD fully, you will miss out on His blessing.

Abram built a prayer altar to the LORD in Shechem. Have you built a prayer altar to the LORD in your house?

Abram’s faith was weak. He left Canaan when there was a famine. He told Sarai to tell a lie to Pharoah that she was his sister. Abram did not trust the LORD to provide for him in the famine. Will you trust God to provide for your needs? The LORD is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides, Genesis 22:14.

Genesis 22:14,  So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Spiritually speaking, going to Egypt is always going down, and going to Jerusalem is always going up. Egypt represents the world and Jerusalem represents the city of God.

Canaan is the promised land. God promised to give Canaan to Abram, Genesis 12:7.

If God called you to an unknown destination, and start from scratch, will you obey Him and go?


Heavenly Father, help us to obey You. Help us to follow Your leadership and guidance. You know what is best for us. You know how our future will end. Our future is in Your hand. Help us to walk worthy of Your calling. Increase our faith, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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