So far we have looked at the account of creation, Adam and Eve, Noah, the flood, God’s covenant, the Tower of Babel and how nations were formed. Last time we had a look at Terah’s family tree and the beginnings of the move that would bring Abram from the mouth of the Euphrates, to Canaan.

Canaan: now there’s a name we’ve come across before – when was that?

Genesis chapter 9 – which resulted in Canaan being cursed by God.

Some people see the Devil’s hand in everything that goes wrong; others do not wish to credit him with anything. But it is a fact that he tries to frustrate God’s work on earth as much as he can. Here we see a cursed tribe occupying the very land that God has intended for his own people. I simply draw your attention to that!

Map004 http://www.biblenews1.com/maps/BibleAbrahamL.gif

Before we move on we ought to notice where the main roads go through and round the land of Canaan:

Map005 http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/old-testament-map.html

- Basically if you wanted to travel north-South you could go along the coast (but there were several rivers and swamps to negotiate)

- Or you could follow along the foothills – a more populated and thus dangerous route, but there was grass and water for the animals.

- Or you could go along the hilltops – better for defence - you could see people coming but there were several settlements there which could be good or bad.

- Or there was a route just the other side of the Jordan  (again on the hilltops)

   - Or, further east, along the foothills of those hills on the edge of the desert – little water or grass, but you could move relatively unimpeded.

The reason why there were only these routes was the nature of the land. Cutting into the hills from West to East there were several dried river beds with high vertical cliffs either side. Often the valleys were very narrow, but the cliffs made passage across impossible. This made North-South passage very difficult and defence relatively easy.

Do you remember a passage in the Old Testament when Shimei pelted David with stones and dust?

2 Samuel 16:5-6, 13
       5 As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. 6 He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left.

      13 So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt.

We are now introduced to Abram (Abraham – Genesis 17:5)

(It may be helpful for you to have read Galatians 3 before this study.)

Let’s read Genesis 12 v 1-8

1 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.

2 “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.

3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

4 So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

6 Abram travelled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

8 From there he went on towards the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.

Look at verse 1. As with Noah, the Lord picks out the one man who will be able to carry out his plans. We are told nothing about his character although we can deduce that he listened to God and was obedient to his call.

Then we have the amazing verses 2 and 3!

2 “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.

3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

God makes a covenant with Abram, which is developed later in Genesis.

What is a covenant?

(Often a one-sided promise of God’s intent, sometimes requiring reciprocal action from those with whom the covenant is made)

Let’s just notice some details as we go along. First v 4 ‘so Abram left’

Any comment?

How many people made up his party?   (probably quite a lot – v5)

What do you understand by the people they had acquired in Haran’  (v5) ?

Was there much baggage?  (again, quite a lot + herds of animals)

How long was the journey?     (500 or 600 miles)

Where did they stop? (Moreh at Shechem)

Where’s that?  Look on maps

Would someone like to describe the scene in v7? (It doesn’t matter if no-one can; the question is intended to make everyone try to imagine it!)

Where next? (Bethel)

Where’s that?

So here we now have Abram and his tribe, arrived in the land that God has given him. He has received God’s covenant and blessing.

Don’t look at your bibles! – what do you imagine they will do next?

Let’s read Gen 12v9-20

9 Then Abram set out and continued towards the Negev. (Or Negeb)

What’s that? Negev=South, Negeb=Dry   Draw a figure-of-eight on its side centred on Beersheba (on some maps it’s drawn as a very saggy eight!)

10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.

In all probability Abram had never experienced drought conditions before. The Tigris and Euphrates were fed by consistent mountain streams, and Ur and Haran were both riverside locations.

The land of Canaan also had a different climate to that which we know today – it was a land flowing with milk and honey – which speaks of rich pastureland and many flowers. The area we would now describe as desert was once chosen by Lot: Genesis 13:10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan towards Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)

So for Abram famine was a shock. This was the land promised him by God, to which he had been led by God, yet it was now suffering from a severe drought. What’s going on? Is this a test?

Was it God’s will that Abram should move on from Bethel (v9)? Did God instruct him to go to Egypt (V10)?

(It is probably unfair to assume that as it is not recorded in the Bible, it was not God’s intention for Abram to go to Egypt. But Abram’s action does seem to have come out of a natural response from someone used to a method of farming where you moved from place to place, looking for grass for your animals, rather than having fields of your own.)

Up to now Abram has obediently followed the Lord’s guidance and entered the Promised Land without mishap. Faced with a problem, and trying to solve it himself, he is immediately faced with another problem.

11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”

What was Abram’s fear?

Here we have a whole tribe – many people (v5) and hundreds of animals moving into a new land looking for grazing. People will notice, and the information will be brought to the leader of this land (Pharaoh) as a potential threat, and he will investigate. He will then have several choices –
(You could write these on the board)

1) Kill or enslave the people and take their possessions and animals.

2) Accept payment in some form and allow access.

3) Allow free access.

The first is quite likely, the third is most unlikely, the second is what Abram would prefer. But having a beautiful wife complicates matters. Pharaoh would in all probability want her for his harem. He would not want a married woman but that could easily be overcome by killing her husband. Having killed her husband, that might then open the door to the rest of solution one.

If instead she could be taken without strings, that would lead more naturally to solution two. Note here that the attitude to women was that they were valuable – but as items of property that could be used and traded much like any other possession.

Abram had formed a plan to enable him to provide food for his people and animals, but then he had to form another plan because his life was now in danger.

14 When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman. (at 65! (v4, 17:17)) 15 And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. 16 He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels.

Everything is looking good. Probably the famine in Canaan is now over but Abram’s visit to Egypt is proving profitable and he is in no hurry to return.

But what about his wife? Does Abram care about her feelings, her honour, her dignity? Does no one care that she is afraid and lonely? – God cares.

17 But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.

Quite likely the women of the harem talked together. Probably they asked why such a beautiful woman had never married. As in all large establishments, those ‘below stairs’ often know more about people than those ‘above stairs’. But the truth came out and Abram’s lie had to be addressed.

18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” 20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.

Even in the ‘heathen’ culture of Egypt, lying to the Pharaoh was unthinkable. To discover that someone you had grown to respect had lied to you over such a personal matter was an outrage. V18: “What have you done to me?” he said.

Abram was fortunate to escape with his life: 20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.


1 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2 Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.

3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.

Abram had come back. Back to the Promised Land and back to the Lord. We don’t have the discussion between Abram and God recorded for us (end of verse 3) but can anyone imagine what it would have been?  

Hopefully now Abram will look to the Lord for his future direction.

Genesis 13Genesis 11

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Genesis 12:1 - 13:4 Abram - to Canaan, and Egypt. Abram’s wife (1)