Before moving on to Chapter 12, some interesting things to note.
Haran, one of Terah’s sons, is the father of Lot – yet he died in the presence of his father in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram took a wife called Sarai, whereas Nahor, Terah’s other son, took Milcah, who is the daughter of Haran.
Another table isn’t so necessary now, but just to make things clear:
Terah bore –> Abram/Nahor/Haran (d. in Ur)
Haran bore –> Milcah/Iscah/Lot
Abram married Sarai
Nahor married Milcah, Haran’s daughter (i.e. his niece).
Therefore, we have a family of three generations – Terah, with his son Abram and his daughter-in-law Sarai, and Lot his grandson — all together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan. They then settled in Haran, where Terah died. Meanwhile, Nahor, Milcah and Iscah are unaccounted for. But we will come back to Nahor and Milcah (Genesis 22), but Iscah we will not hear about againt throughout Scripture.
My question – why were they going to Canaan? Another thing is of course the self-explanatory nature of Scripture. It is assumed that we know that Ur of the Chaldeans, the kindred of Haran. What we do know, briefly, is that history teaches Chaldea will become a Hellenistic part of Babylonia, in connection with Babylon, and within Scripture will they become enemies of God’s chosen people (2 Kings 25; Jeremiah 22:25). How odd, that Haran was a kinsmen of future Babylonians who would later hold Israel captive?
What I find most interesting is what Moses and the Israelites would have been thinking when they were listening to this story because they, also, are brought out of what they believed to be their ‘home’ land (Egypt) into the ‘foreign’ Promised Land (Canaan). However, how odd things are — Abraham was already going to Canaan in the past. Why the ‘repeat’ of history per se? Surely the (physical) promised land of Canaan is the final dwelling place for the Israelites? What happened between Abraham and Moses, the latter who is guiding the nation to Canaan AGAIN in the history of God’s chosen people?
I will hope to cover that in just a moment. Meanwhile, onto Genesis 12.
1. Significance of the locations
2. The Angel of the Lord
3. Pharaoh and Abimelech
4. Abram and Lot separate
5. Abram ‘saves’ Lot
7. A mirror of the future – blueprint of the Old Testament
1. Significance of the locations (Genesis 12 in general)
After the dispersion of the nations, God is now speaking of the fathers of the nations in which the Mosaic Israelites have been facing for a while.
(a) Chaldea – the ‘home’ country from which Abraham hailed from (Gen 12:1-2: “Now the LORD (had) said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing”). I’ve already spoken of Chaldea’s future in the above paragraphs.
(b) Canaan – where Abraham eventually arrived (Gen 12v. 5-6) – whereupon in Gen 12v. 7 God makes a promise that to his offspring he will give this land. I’m positive Moses is thrilled to hear this.
(c) Bethel and Ai – the former being the place where Jacob gives an offering to the Father after struggling with Christ in Genesis 35:1 – “God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau”. The latter, Ai, is where Israel would eventually be defeated. Some geography is offered concerning Ai in Joshua 7:2 – “Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai.”
(d) Negeb – which is in Canaan
2. The Angel of the LORD (Genesis 12:1-9)
Is this is the first time God conversed with men? Of course not… but which “God” are we speaking of? Let’s do a quick recap of everything up to Genesis 12. It would help to understand why and how it is that people can ‘see’ God, when no one has ever ‘seen’ Him. Who is “Him”?
Genesis 1 & 2 – the Creator God, I would say, is the Father in Heaven, who speaks to Adam and the Woman.
Genesis 3:8 – the ‘sound’ (voice) of the LORD God walking in the garden. We established that this ‘voice’ is Jesus.
Genesis 4:6 – who is speaking to Cain? v. 16 – “the presence of the LORD”. Philo, rather, translates this as the FACE of the Lord. Who is the face? Jesus Christ, the visible of the invisible (Colossians 1).
Genesis 6:13 – God said to Noah — which God?
Genesis 7:1 – then the LORD said to Noah — who?
Genesis 9:1 – God blessed Noah — why the constant exchange between ‘God’ and LORD?
Genesis 9:8, 12-17 – God said to Noah and to his sons – back to “God” again
Genesis 12:1 – the Lord said to Abram – back to LORD again
Genesis 12:7 – the Lord APPEARED to him — this is a first we hear of the LORD explicitly appearing to anyone. Again, and unsurprisingly, Abram builds an altar. Why? Because his ancestor Noah (Gen 8:20) had also done so. This is mentioned again in v.7b – “So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had APPEARED to him”.
Can we assume that everytime the LORD or God speaks to men, that it is necessarily Jesus?
3. Pharaoh and Abimelech, and the future re-produced? (Genesis 12:10-20)
What happens here in Genesis 12:10-20 is repeated again in Genesis 20. Is there any meaning behind Abraham insisting on saying that his wife is his sister? Yes – it is to display Abraham’s absolute weakness as a person who has ‘faith’ in God. In some sense, we should find solace in that, because the LORD had already proclaimed the promise to him back in Genesis 12:1-3. Was it because of Abraham’s righteousness? Of course not. His ‘faith’ in God was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). But even Abraham has weak faith! All the better – faith is not a type of works in itself. Even we are expected to fluctuate – yet, we are also called to persist by the work of the Spirit. Let us heed God’s call when He indeed speaks to us, and not rely on cheap grace (Psalm 95:7-11).
Now what is most interesting is what happens in this chapter. It is almost as if the future is somewhat shown here! Firstly, God pulls out a Chaldean into Canaan almost immediately. Then he backtracks Abraham to Bethel where Jacob will later give his offering after struggling with Christ. Then he backtracks Abraham further to Egypt, in a time of famine (think Joseph!). Then there are huge plagues (Exodus territory) because of Sarai (Chapter 12v.7) whereupon he leaves Egypt and goes to Negeb (we know Negeb is in Canaan – c.f. Numbers 33:40, and Abraham had already been trying to get there in Genesis 12:9).
When he reaches Negeb, he journeys even further BACK to Bethel, to the altar between Bethel and Ai and calls upon the name of the LORD there. This is kind of like saying Abraham, this is the land in which you will own, but not yet. Not yet.
Let’s sum up so far:
(a) He comes from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan
–(b) He built an altar near Shechem, to the oak of Moreh
—(c) He pitches a tent on the east of Bethel between Bethel (on the west) and Ai (on the east)
—-(d) He goes toward the Negeb (but not reaching there yet)
—–(e) He went to Egypt to sojourn during the famine
—–(e) He leaves Egypt because of his silly mistake
—-(d) He returns to Negeb
—(c) He goes back to Bethel to the place where he pitched the tent
–(b) Then to the place where he built the altar at the first
(a) He calls upon the name of the LORD (Chapter 13v.4) – yet now, Lot leaves Abram because of strife between Abram’s herdsmen of his livestock, and Lot’s herdsmen of his own livestock. Instead, Lot sees the Jordan Valley, well watered like the GARDEN of the LORD, and like EGYPT, in the direction of Zoar. We will later see Lot turning on his word, fearing to live in Zoar again (Genesis 19:30).
4. Abram and Lot separate (Genesis 13:1-18 )
How weird it is that Lot desires the very things which God later takes away from him. The Garden of the LORD, which has been taken away from Adam and Eve. Egypt, which has been ‘taken away’ from the Israelites and from the Pharoah. Zoar, which later Lot desires never to live there again. Again, note — Lot journeys EAST, according to his own will and what caught the desire of his eye (Genesis 3:6 – a repeat of Eve’s sin). Not only that, but Lot, being a clan member of Haran and Shem, could have taken part of this gift of Canaan (Genesis 9:26-27). He was even so wise enough, after hearing God pronounce the blessing on Abram in Chapter 12:1-2, as to go ‘with him’ (Chapter 12:4). Rather, now, he desires to establish his own livelihood. However, we see that Lot still lives in a ‘tent’, but among cities as far as Sodom (Genesis 13:12). Even God himself says it clearly – “the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD”. Sodom, unsurprisingly, is where the Canaanites, the ‘cursed’ race, dwells. Lot is a perfect example of a Christian who, having tasted the goodness of partaking in the church in his time of weakness, decides to leave the chosen remnant because he has ‘found better pastures’ as it were. So he chose the ‘obvious’ worldly choice – a land which mock-represents the Garden of Eden. Of course, it is nothing like it.
The irony then, in Chapter 13:14 for the LORD to announce to Abram almost immediately “after Lot had separated from him”, that from the place where Abram is, “northward/southward/eastward/westward”, all that he sees – will be given to his offspring forever. An amazing claim from an amazing God. The offspring will be so much as the ‘dust’ of the earth – just as God repeats that the offspring will be as much as the ‘stars’ in the sky (Genesis 15:5). Again, a hint of Christological natural theology from God himself, for we are physical creatures needing physical things to help our understanding of the invisible God – the only physical thing which only represents God in the Highest being Jesus Christ himself.
5. Abram ‘saves’ Lot (Genesis 14:1-16)
What is immediately noticeable is the number of locations referred to here – let’s class them into groups.
Shinar, Ellasar, Elam, Goiim, Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, Bela/Zoar – all of which joined forces.
Chedorlaomer (king of Elam) was the leader of Group A, which Group A eventually rebelled against after serving Chedorlaomer for 12 years, and rebelled in the 13th year.
Rephaim (in Ashteroth-karnaim), Zuzim in Ham, Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, Horites )in Seir as far as El-paran), Amalekites in Kadesh/En-mishpat, Amorites in Hazazon-tamar
Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, Bela/Zoar
Elam, Goiim, Shinar, Ellasar
Now let’s clarify. We are introduced to Group A — then introduced to the leader of Group A which is Group B (the one king of Elam). However, Group B defeats group C when the rest of A rebels against B. Then, from v.8-12 in chapter 14, group D offshoots from group A, and fights against group E. Thus, the final battle of 5 kings against four, is between Group D and Group E – at the Valley of Siddim where there are ‘bitumen pits’. It appears that Sodom and Gomorrah lost, many falling into the bitumen pits, while (it is assumed) the fewer number of kings, Group E, was victorious. Not much is mentioned of Admah, Zeboiim, or Bela.
Then we see an Amorite called Mamre, from the line of Canaan – who is an ALLY of Abram. Let’s now make an extra group.
Mamre, Eshcol, Aner, Abram, 318 men
He fought as far as Dan, dividing his forces against them by night and defeated them. We are speaking of Group F – all 322 men – who defeated Group E, among whom is the king Chedorlaomer, the ex-leader of Group A. Here we have what seems like true covenant hope, between Jews and Gentiles – Abraham the Hebrew with 3 Gentiles/Canaanites. This, compared with the next verses in Chapter 14 shows the difference between a ‘treaty’ and true brotherhood between two different races/nations.
6. Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-24)
What we have in the rest of chapter 14 is a juxtaposition of the treaty from a pagan and warring nation (Sodom) and the blessing, rather than mere ‘treaty’, from the king of Salem – a place that surely does not exist. Hebrews 7:1 refers to him as the king of Salem, aka the king of peace. Psalm 76:1-3 has this to say:
1In Judah God is(C) known;
his name is great in Israel.
2His(D) abode has been established in(E) Salem,
his(F) dwelling place in Zion.
3There he(G) broke the flashing arrows,
the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war.
Indeed, these are SELAH moments! How can there be two places where God dwells, Zion and Salem? Are they pointing to the same places, or are they symbolic of the true new creation kingdom to come? Paul Blackham calls him the ‘king of rightousness’, rather than merely ‘peace’ (the name, Melchizedek, itself connotes this interpretation). He is a priest of the God Most High. How odd it is, that there is a priestly line when the Levitical line has not even been established yet? This Melchizedek, who even blesses Abraham, is superior to Abraham the father of the chosen nation (Hebrews 7:4-10)! Not only that, but the descendants in the LOINS of Abraham have been blessed and has given tithes to Melchizedek! We see Melchizedek elsewhere in Scripture.
2The LORD(Father) sends forth(E) from Zion
(F) your mighty scepter.
(G) Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3(H) Your people will(I) offer themselves freely
on the day of your(J) power,[a]
in(K) holy garments;[b]
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.[c]
4(L) The LORD(Father) has(M) sworn
and will(N) not change his mind,
(O) “You are(P) a priest(Q) forever
after the order of(R) Melchizedek.”
5The Lord(Jesus) is at your(S) right hand;
he will(T) shatter kings on(U) the day of his wrath.
6He will(V) execute judgment among the nations,
(W) filling them with corpses;
he will(X) shatter chiefs[d]
over the wide earth.
7He will(Y) drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.
If Psalm 110 hasn’t already sealed the deal, with the intra-Trinitarian conversation between the two Lords, the LORD saying to David’s Lord that the latter Lord will be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, here is a little extra topping for those who must rely on the New Testament to understand the truths which the OT saints held:
15This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17For it is witnessed of him,
(M) “You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”
18For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside(N) because of its weakness and uselessness 19(for(O) the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand,(P) a better hope is introduced, through which(Q) we draw near to God.
20And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:
(R) “The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.'”
22This makes Jesus the guarantor of(S) a better covenant.
23The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues(T) forever. 25Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost[b](U) those who draw near to God(V) through him, since he always lives(W) to make intercession for them.
26For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest,(X) holy, innocent, unstained,(Y) separated from sinners, and(Z) exalted above the heavens. 27He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily,(AA) first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this(AB) once for all when he offered up himself. 28For the law appoints men(AC) in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made(AD) perfect forever.
Just to clarify – does this mean that Melchizedek is some ‘randomer’ who just slipped in and out of the New Testament like that? Or is Melchizedek a ‘blueprint’ of the greater King to come? Melchizedek who has no human ancestor or descendant? I think something is at play here. We are not looking at merely a real king of Salem who is a type of Christ. Everything about him is mysterious – his genealogy, his kingdom, the place in which he rules — all of it has a divine ring to it. He is not a type. He IS Christ himself, in the various forms of the Sent One which he partook before he incarnated as THE Messiah, in fulfillment and progress of his actions as the Angel prior to the events in Nazareth. Now I understand it says you are a priest forever ‘after’ the order of Melchizedek, but this does not necessarily negate the divinity of the person ‘masquerading’ as Melchizedek; rather, Jesus now fulfills the personage of the High Priest, just as he fulfills the personage of the Angel (again himself) who struggled with Jacob, just as he fulfills the personage of the Angel who fought with Joshua, just as he fulfills the personage of the Angel who guided Israel to Canaan. Can we, therefore, say that Jesus is ‘after the order’ of Melchizedek, and the Angel of the Lord? Surely, we can. Does this mean they are different people? Surely, we cannot, unless we propose that Melchizedek and the Angel are again, only TYPES of Christ. I don’t know why you want to say that though, unless you want to heretically assume there are more than Three Persons claiming divinity.
7. Mirror of the future – the blueprint of the Old Testament
What I find extremely odd is – why take Abraham to all those places? Why the famine? Why go through all these familiar locations? Why did Lot go to Sodom, and why did Abraham save him from Sodom? Why did Lot RETURN to Sodom? Why the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?
With the (tens of) thousands of biblical archaeologists, Old Testament scholars who look on the actual, physical events, I still however believe in a God who is the Most High, the Creator of Heaven and Earth – and no doubt we have twice seen him provide a blueprint for the Garden of Eden, and the Ark, and no doubt later for the Tabernacle. I think we can say the same about him about the plan he has for the events in this world.
What kind of plan am I saying? What we see in these chapters, is a blue print of the rest of the events in the Old Testament.
Let’s work through this together:
(a) Abraham aiming to reach Negeb = to receive the promises of Genesis 12/15 (reconfirmation of covenant with Adam). I think this is literally speaking of the period of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob until Joseph. (Genesis 12:9)
(b) Abraham entering and leaving Egypt, on account of the famine, sojourning there but leaving because of plagues = Covers the events of Joseph to the great Exodus (Genesis 12:10-20)
(c) Finally reaching Negeb in Canaan = Israelites reaching Canaan (finally!) (Genesis 13:1-18 )
(d) Separation of the brothers = Israel and Judah, though they are technically still ‘one nation’. (Genesis 13:8-13).. though it is noted that Abraham is Lot’s uncle, not his brother…
(e) 5 kings against 4 = Judah involved unnecessarily in battles with pagans (book of kings/judges) (Genesis 14:1-16)
(f) Abraham goes to the aid of Lot = Israel and Judah will help each other throughout these wars, though the numbers for both is small and weak compared with other nations. But they will not be living together as ‘one nation’ but separated into two kingdoms. Perhaps something here to reflect the friendship between Abraham and Mamre, as it is with Joshua and Rahab? (Genesis 14:13-16)
(g) Appearance of Melchizedek = many times will Israel/Judah be offered an opportunity to ‘truce’ with other nations, but the LORD will always be the best truce and the Angel will keep reminding them of their true peace found in God the Highest. (Genesis 14:17-24)
(h) Isaac’s birth promised = prophecy of the coming Son re-confirmed (Genesis 17:15-19)
(i) Lot and Sodom, the destruction of Sodom, Abraham intercedes by remininding God of the covenant, and The Angel of the Lord helps = Judah held captive in Babylon (due to continual spiritual compromises of the nation Israel) – resulting in the destruction of Babylon, Daniel interceding by remembering the covenant and the promises, and The Angel of the Lord helps (in the furnace) (Genesis 19)
(j) Isaac’s birth = The Son incarnate (synoptic gospels begin here) (Genesis 21)
What say you? I think this is a close-to-accurate portrayal of the future events prior to the true witness of Isaac’s birth (and of course Isaac’s sacrifice, which mirrors that of God sacrificing his firstborn Son on the cross). I think some more things can be said about Ishmael’s birth, about Abraham saving Lot (twice), about the introduction of the sacrament of circumcision.
Now, why this blueprint? No doubt, I am positive this is one of the methods through which the major and minor prophets achieved their Spirit-inspired prophecies concerning the future events of their kingdom to come. God has warned them, through this story of Abraham. Yet, they will still fall into their sins – Israel will make treaty with pagan nations; the nation will continue to be the spiritual prostitute and God knows that history will continually repeat itself, just as every Christian will continue to be a spiritually compromising prostitute. But Christ will marry us nonetheless. He will remind us, through the Angel, through Melchizedek, of the blessing we have already received. The gift of true peace, the gift of true righteousness, the salvation by the Angel. We need only remember the victory won.