Calling and Promise
Genesis 12 – 50
 
This section, from chapter 12 to 50, takes up the dispensational principles of Calling and Promise. This is done by way of four characters: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, as follows:
Abraham: The Call of Faith
Genesis 12:1 – 25:10
 
The subject of chapters 12 to 25:10 is the call of faith, exemplified in the life of Abraham. The call of Abraham marks a new departure in the ways of God. In ch.1-11 we have God’s providential dealings, more or less, through the flood, etc. But now we have a distinct dealing of God with a specific individual. The principle of separation was brought in, as well as the principle of promise. This section can be broken down as follows:
 
 
The Call of Abram & His Hindered Response
Genesis 12 – 13
 
 
The Dispensational Principle of Calling. Before Abraham, we read of two great subjects. The first is creation, of which Adam was the head. Then we read of the judgment of creation through a flood. The second is government, instituted by God, and committed to the hands of man, Noah being the head. God could repent, or change His mind about creation (Gen. 6:5), and He could change His mind about government (1 Kings 9:7). But in Genesis 12 we have a new principle, from which there is no repenting; “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom. 11:29). The principle of government is the first great dispensational principle of God, given for the restraint of evil. But prior to Abraham, God did not identify Himself with a special person or persons. There was simply God and men, although some men had faith. But with the calling out of Abraham, God identifies Himself with that family; as “Jehovah Elohim of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob… this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (Ex. 3:15). The principle of calling acts paramount to all other associations and relationships. God did not tell Abraham to convert his family, or reform Ur of the Chaldees, but simply to “Get out”.1 This calling required Abram to be obedient, and it also was accompanied by promises. The principle of calling was extended to the nation of Israel, and it applies to the Church as well, although our calling is a heavenly calling. Read more…
 
Abraham. Perhaps the most prominent individual in connection with the Jewish people is Abraham. In fact, all three of the great monotheistic religions trace their origins to Abraham. But we must be clear, that when Abraham is called “the father of all them that believe” (Rom. 4:11) it does NOT mean “the father of religion”. He is the father of genuine, living, personal faith in the One True God. For this reason, Abraham is called “the friend of God” (James 2:23). Yet Abraham did not start out as God’s friend. He began as an idolafter named “Abram” in Ur of the Chaldees (Josh. 24:2), and would have remained a servant of the moon-god there except “the God of glory” appeared to him, and called him out of everything he had known. Abram was sent on a journey of faith, trusting God for the future. His life therefore is full of lessons relating to faith, many of which he learned through failures. In Genesis 17, God entered into a covenant relationship with Abram, and changed his name from Abram, which means “father”, to Abraham, which means “a father of many nations”. Throughout Abraham’s life, God gave him a number of special promises; promises connected with the Messiah, the land and nation of Israel, as well as many other nations. These promises were unconditional in that they are secured in Christ, and do not depend on man. To summarize, we have the following broad themes exemplified in Abraham’s life: election, calling, promises, faith, strangership, and communion.
 
Abraham as an Example of Faith. In Hebrews 11, the Spirit of God sets Abraham forth as an apt type of the Christian, who is called to a life of faith. Abraham was called individually by God, just as the believer today is called. Abraham walked without a visible, tangible object before him. The Christian does too. Abraham was promised the land of Canaan as an inheritance for his children, yet “by faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles” (Heb. 11:9). As Christians, we are co-heirs with Christ, and we know that this world as well as the whole universe is our inheritance! Yet we are left here to live as “strangers and pilgrims” (1 Pet. 2:11), living in tents, so to speak, without putting down roots. We are NOT to live here as kings, although we are royalty. We are fully persuaded of the promises, yet we are willing to confess that, as our Savior was rejected, we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. But like Abraham, we “desire a better country, that is, an heavenly”. Though we have a material inheritance, we have a higher aim still; and it is because of this heavenly character that “God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16). And so, the believer can look into the life of Abraham with great interest, because it typifies the pathway of faith. The dangers and failures, the successes and joys, are full of meaning for us who look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
 

The Prior Call and Promise to Abram (12:1-3)

CHAPTER 12
1 And Jehovah had said to Abram, Go out of thy land, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, to the land that I will shew thee. v.1 The Call of Abraham. It is important to see when the call of Jehovah came to Abram. It is in a past tense; “Jehovah had said to Abram”. Acts 7:2-3 makes it clear that “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, Get thee out… etc.” The call of God is individual. Isaiah said “Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him” (Isa. 51:2). Others accompanied Abraham when he left Ur of the Chaldees (Terah, Lot), but the call was to Abraham individually.
  • A sovereign choice. Election is the choice of one out of many. When God chose Abram, there was nothing in the man that was worthy of being chosen. It was God’s sovereign grace to chose Abram, an idolater at the time, and separate him to Himself. We read of this choice in Neh. 9:7; “Thou art the Same, Jehovah Elohim, who didst choose Abram and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham”. As Christians, we also have been chosen by God. Our election is “in Christ, before the foundation of the world”! Calling follows election. God calls those whom He has chosen.2
  • A separating call. The call of God would separate Abram. He must leave three things: he must go “out of thy land, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house”.  This is difficult for us to do, as it was for Abram. The call of God supersedes every earthly tie. It is the highest claim upon us. Abraham was not asked to try to restore or reform that which had become corrupted by idolatry, but rather to leave it! Separation is not merely negative, it is positive also. There was a land ahead, which God would show Abram. In the same way, God gives us an object to separate to. For the believer, it is the person of Christ!
  • It required faith. God purposely did not give all the details to Abram at once. He said, go to “the land that I will shew thee”. Abraham wasn’t going to get more light until he obeyed the Word of God. We read of no more revelations to Abram in Haran. He had to obey what was originally given to him in order to have more light. This is because God wants us to walk by faith. Such is the pronouncement of the Spirit in Heb. 11:8; “By faith Abraham, being called, obeyed to go out into the place which he was to receive for an inheritance, and went out, not knowing where he was going.”
  • A hindered response. Terah, Abram’s father went with him, and this became a hindrance to Abram. They “came as far as Haran, and dwelt there”. Haran or Charran was a city on the Euphrates river in Syria (Aram). It was half-way on the thousand-mile path to Canaan. They remained in Haran until Terah died, and only then did Abram continue to the land of Canaan. It is a lesson for us, that we need to be careful not to let family ties hinder us from responding to the call of God. While Abram tried to answer both the call of nature and the call of God, progress stalled. He obeyed only in part. Terah seemed to take the lead (he “took” Abram and Lot), which meant that Abram was not really answering the call of God. Terah may have tried to apply the call to himself, but it was for Abram. The call of God (Gen. 12:1-3) involved leaving his kindred and his father’s house. He left his “land”, but did not leave his “father’s house” until Terah died, and he did not leave his “kindred” until separating from Lot in ch.13, when there was strife between the herdsmen.
Historical Note. There is a Jewish tradition which is contrived to soften the words of Joshua 24:2, which implicate the family of Terah in idolatry. The legend insinuates that Abraham served Jehovah from his youth, and was persecuted by Nimrod for refusing to worship the pagan idols. The legend becomes very extravagant. At one point Nimrod builds a huge fire, and punishes Abram by putting him in the flames, but Abram comes out unharmed. This is all totally unsupported, and even contradicted, by the Word of God. What turned Abraham from darkness to light? “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, Get thee out… etc.” (Acts 7:2-3). It was the sovereign, effectual call of God that converted Abraham! It is the same for us today; “through the knowledge of him that has called us by glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3).
 
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. 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. vv.2-3 The First Promises. The calling of God is always accompanied by the promises of God. Here we have the promises God gave to Abram when he was still in Mesopotamia, on the other side of the river Euphrates. These promises were unconditional, not like those given to Israel under the old covenant. They begin with “I will”.
  • Father of the Chosen People. A great nation would spring from Abraham. “I will make of thee a great nation” refers to the children of Israel, who will one day be the leading nation on earth in the Millennium.
  • Personal Blessing. Abraham would be personally blessed; “and bless thee”. Not only would he be materially blessed, with flocks and herds, and trained servants, etc. but also he enjoyed special communion with God, and special intelligence that flows from communion.
  • A Great Name. A total contrast to the Tower of Babel, where men sought to make themselves a name, God here promised to make Abram’s name great! Other than Christ, there is perhaps no greater name in history than Abraham’s; “and make thy name great”.
  • A Channel of Blessing to Others. Even greater than being personally blessed, Abraham would become a blessing to others; “and thou shalt be a blessing”. He becomes the center of earthly blessing. It is in this sense that Abraham is the root of the olive tree of promise (Romans 11:16-27).
  • Divine Protection. Abraham would have the special protection of God; “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee”. Those who show kindness to Abraham’s family will be blessed (materially), and those who curse them will likewise be cursed.3
  • A Channel of Blessing to the Gentiles. Abraham would even become a channel of blessing to those who were not his biological descendants, as Paul teaches in Gal. 3:7-8. It is by faith that this takes place; “and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed”.

    The grace of God is too great to be limited to just one nation. It goes out to "all nations".4

Nevertheless, none of these promises rise up to the spiritual blessings that the believer has “in Christ”. They all have to do primarily with blessing on the earth. Compare with Ephesians 1.
 
 

Abram & Company Come to Canaan (12:4-8)

4 And Abram departed as Jehovah had said to him. And Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed out of Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had acquired, and the souls that they had obtained in Haran, and they went out to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. vv.4-5 Departing Haran. Considering that Abram and Lot acquired many possessions in Haran, they must have been there for some time. Abram was now taking the lead, but he was not yet ready to leave his kindred, as the Lord had told him. It says “Abram took… Lot”. It’s possible to draw along others, who don’t have our faith, with us in our calling. It can lead to trouble. Rather then lift them up, they will drag us down. The call was to Abram, not to Lot. We also read of “all their possessions that they had acquired, and the souls that they had obtained”. All this substance was a hindrance to the man of faith as well. But at last he departs the “half-way” place, and “into the land of Canaan they came”.
 
6 And Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem [‘shoulder, saddle’], to the oak of Moreh [‘teacher’]. And the Canaanite was then in the land. v.6 Arrival in the Land. Abraham came to Shechem, a city in the north of Israel, where he would later buy a sepulchre (Acts 7:16), and where the bones of Joseph were buried. There was apparently a grove of tall, strong oaks, called “the oak of Moreh” where the Lord appeared to Abram. It says, “the Canaanite was then in the land”, because Abram did not yet have the object of the promises. It required faith to continue in the promised land while the Canaanite was there. The Canaanites were the descendants of the son of Ham, cursed in Gen. 9. They had taken root in this fruitful land. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were Canaanite cities, known for their immorality. But God told Abram in Gen. 15:16 that “the iniquity of the Amorites”, who inhabited the land of Canaan proper, “is not yet full”. They would later grow in wickedness, sacrificing their children in the fire, etc. to the point where God determined to drive them out. In the typical teaching of Exodus to Joshua, the land of Canaan represents the believer’s heavenly portion in Christ. We find that Israel was going to have to drive out the Canaanites in order to possess their inheritance. Abram was not told to fight the Canaanite, but their presence in the land is marked.
 
7 And Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land. And there he built an altar to Jehovah who had appeared to him. v.7 Promise to Abram in the Plain of Moreh. The Lord appears to Abram, and gives him a promise, which is not only a confirmation of the original promise given while Abram was still in Ur of the Chaldees, but also covered new ground. The Lord now promises the land of Canaan to Abram’s seed. This is the second of a number of times when the Lord appeared or directly spoke to Abraham: (1) Gen. 12:1 and Acts 7:3, (2) Gen. 12:7, (3) Gen 13:14, (4) Gen. 15:1, (5) Gen. 17:1, (6) Gen. 18:1, (7) Gen. 22:11. Abraham built an altar to the Lord, and this became a pattern for him. The original communication to Abram (when afar off) was for the obedience of faith, the second communication (when in the land) was for communion and worship!
 
8 And he removed thence towards the mountain on the east of Bethel [‘House of God’], and pitched his tent, having Bethel toward the west, and Ai [‘heaps and ruins’] toward the east; and there he built an altar to Jehovah, and called on the name of Jehovah. v.8 Abram’s Tent and Altar. We find to things that characterize the walk of Abram. He had a tent and an altar. The tent speaks of our character in this world as “strangers and pilgrims” (1 Pet. 2:11). A tent is a temporary home. Abram had just been promised the land for his seed, but “by faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, etc.” (Heb. 11:9). A stranger is not at home, a pilgrim is on his way home. Abram’s tent was between Bethel, which means ‘House of God’, and Ai, which means ‘heaps and ruins’. This is our pathway as strangers and pilgrims. On one hand we see everything around us in this world as heaps and ruins. On the other hand, we enjoy fellowship with God! The altar speaks of communion (Heb. 13:10; 1 Cor. 10:18). It takes time to build an altar, and it takes time to develop communion with God. It is striking that we read of no tent or altar in Egypt. Both the pilgrim character and communion with God are incompatible with the world.
 

Abram in Egypt (12:9-20)

Guided by Circumstances. How does the Lord guide us? What role do circumstances have in the Lord’s guidance? It is a common mistake to believe that the Lord only guides us through circumstances. He can guide us that way, but He prefers to leave that as a last resource. Psalm 32 explains several different ways the Lord guides. He prefers to guide us with His eye. You have to be close enough to a person to read their face in order to be guided by their eye. If we walk in communion with the Lord, we will be able to discern His mind. The Lord also speaks to us through His Word, not necessarily through direct verbal communication as in the Old Testament, but through the written Word. The Psalm goes on to say “be not as the horse or mule” because they have to be guided by “the bit and bridle”. The bit and bridle are like circumstances. The mouth of the animal is pulled this way and that, in order to direct their path. It will be an uneven pathway if we rely on circumstances for guidance. The other problem with circumstances is that our own interpretation of them comes into play. For instance, Abram interpreted the famine as a signal to go into Egypt, but really he had no direction from the Lord to go. The Lord did use circumstances to drive Abram out of Egypt after he had humiliated his wife. That signal was strong and clear. I think we can conclude by saying that the Lord can use circumstances to guide us, but it is not the preferred way. 
 
9 And Abram moved onward, going on still toward the south. 10 And there was a famine in the land. And Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was grievous in the land. vv.9-10 The Famine, and Egypt. Abram was in the land of promise, and he continued south. Perhaps Abram was seeking a more pleasant climate (Job 37:17; Luke 12:55; Acts 27:13). But then a famine came in. Famines are allowed by God, who is over the forces of nature. Abram’s faith was being tested. Rather than seek God’s mind as to what he should do, Abram made the decision to go into Egypt. If God had called Abram to Canaan, God would sustain him in Canaan. This was a step in independence from God, and it was a mistake. He ended up getting trapped in a bad situation which he would never have been in, if he had leaned not unto his own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6). Abram wanted to avoid a famine for physical food, but he got a famine in his soul. This is the first time Egypt is mentioned in scripture, and we will find that Egypt is consistently a type of this world.
 
Egypt as a Type of the World. In the Old Testament, many of the enemies and neighbors of Israel had a particular character that was employed by the Spirit of God to give us a typical lesson. Egypt is consistently used as a figure of the world. The land of Egypt is contrasted in Deut. 11 with the land of Canaan; “For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot [irrigation], as a garden of herbs: but the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven” (Deut. 11:10-11). Canaan depended on God giving rain, but Egypt was sustained through human effort and engineering.5 It pictures a system, set up by man and for man, in which God is not depended on, and thought of only as a religious concept, or else not thought of at all. Egypt was characterized by advanced civilization (e.g. the pyramids, etc.), and by great wealth. We see those very characteristics in the world around us.
 
11 And it came to pass when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a woman fair to look upon. 12 And it will come to pass when the Egyptians see thee, that they will say, She is his wife; and they will slay me, and save thee alive. 13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister, that it may be well with me on thy account, and my soul may live because of thee. vv.11-13 Abram’s Plot to Preserve his Life. Once Abram began a course of independence, when danger approached, he became afraid for his own safety. We are never as secure as when we are acting in the will of God. It is a little hard for those of us living in the Western, Christianized world to understand Abram’s fear. It might seem irrational to us, but I believe it was quite rational. Sarah was a very attractive woman, and the men of Egypt were apparently known for taking what they wanted, from whomever they wanted. Abram asked Sarai to say she was his sister, so that rather than resent him, the Egyptians would welcome him, and his “soul may live”. This was not an outright lie, because we find in ch.20 (when Abram does the same thing again) that Sarai was Abram’s half-sister (or possibly niece); “she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife” (Gen. 20:12). She was his sister, but that was not the highest relationship! Sometimes we can do the same thing with our relationship to Christ. When we get into the world (Egypt), we feel the shame of the cross, and might be unwilling to confess our highest relationship to Him. Maybe we mumble a few words like, “I believe in God”, or “I’m a religious person”. Those words are true, but they conceal the much higher relationship that we have with Christ. If instead we say, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior”, then we might suffer persecution, but we have disclosed the full truth, and actually, it will preserve us from getting into bad associations with unbelievers, as Abram does next. It is possible to live a lie without telling a lie. Abram did this to protect himself, but it was at the expense of his wife.
 
14 And it came to pass when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. 15 And the princes of Pharaoh saw her, and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And he treated Abram well on her account; and he had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and bondmen, and bondwomen, and she-asses, and camels. vv.14-16 Abram and Sarai in Egypt. Abram knew what the Egyptians were like; he turned out to be correct. Sarai at this point was roughly sixty-five years old, yet she was still stunningly beautiful. We find in chapter 20, when Sarah is ninety years old and taken by Abimelech king of Gerar, that she is still very beautiful. There was a system in place in Egypt. The Egyptians saw her, then the princes of Pharaoh saw her and praised her before Pharaoh, then finally “the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house”. This world is active to seek out and recruit the best of nature. Talent, intelligence, and beauty will be sought out by the world. In fact, it is possible to market our natural endowments for position in the world. In the fashion industry, people market their physical beauty for something in return. In the academic world, people market their intelligence for something in return. In the sports world, people market their physical abilities for something in return. We need to understand what the world is. The world “takes”, and it is willing to pay us for what God has given; but for all Egypt can pay, it can never replace the emptiness that comes in when we sell our soul to Egypt. Financially, Abram did well in Egypt; Pharaoh “treated Abram well on her account; and he had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and bondmen, and bondwomen, and she-asses, and camels”. Abram got rich, not through honest business, but through Sarah’s beauty. This is incredibly sad, and hard for us to understand.6 Sarai’s beauty was a treasure intended for Abram alone, as it ought to be between husband and wife… but he shared her with another man, who took her “as his wife” (v.18). How could the man of faith do this? I doubt Abram was comfortable with this arrangement, but after coming to Egypt in independence, and after living a lie, possibly he felt trapped. Maybe he had convinced himself it was only for a short while, and it was an acceptable compromise.7
 
17 And Jehovah plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife. 18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this thou hast done to me? Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? 19 Why didst thou say, She is my sister, so that I took her as my wife. And now, behold, there is thy wife: take her, and go away. 20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him, and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had. vv.17-20 The Lord Intervenes. We don’t read of the Lord saying anything to Abram. Abram was off the path, but the Lord had not abandoned him. He sent “great plagues” on the house of Pharaoh “because of Sarai Abram’s wife”. As if the Lord could say of Abram and Sarai, “he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye” (Zech. 2:8). To be sure, Pharaoh hadn’t been upright himself. Even if Sarai was only Abram’s sister, it wouldn’t have been right for Pharaoh to take her in exchange for resources. He was taking advantage of Abram because the foreigner was destitute.8 The “great plagues” were God’s government on Pharaoh for taking advantage of Abram. Pharaoh had the discernment to know that the issue was with Abram and Sarai, and realized that Abram had not revealed that he and Sarai were married. In this case, Pharaoh was actually more honorable than Abraham! The man of faith was rebuked by the world. We can get so far away from our tent and altar, so to speak, that the Lord can use even the world to rebuke us. Pharaoh sent Abram away with his wife, and all the ill-gotten gains. Abram is almost pushed out of Egypt. Finally, the awful arrangement is over, and Abram is free from Egypt’s trap.
 
Consequences of Egypt. In ch.13 we find that Abram is restored to the Lord, and comes again to his tent and altar. But there are lasting consequences from his time in Egypt. Firstly, there must have been damage to the relationship with Sarai; e.g. security issues, etc. Secondly, the ill-gotten gains from Egypt later became a source of contention between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. Thirdly, Lot was exposed to attractions in Egypt which he was not prepared for, and we find him Gen. 13:10 making critical life choices based on what he saw in Egypt. Fourthly, we later learn that Abram and Sarai got a female servant in Egypt, named Hagar (Gen 16:1), who later became the mother of Ishmael and the Arabians, those who to this day are the antagonists of Israel. The Lord is able to deliver us from the world, but often there are lasting consequences.
 
Typical Teaching in Genesis 12. In this chapter we have a picture of God’s calling, and man’s failure under it. J.N. Darby remarked, “the woman is the state in which the dispensation is; the man is the conduct of faith in it”.9 Sarah represents the state of the Church as under grace, and Abram represents the walk of the Church below. Egypt represents the world, and Pharaoh represents the prince of this world.
  1. Abram failed in faith during the famine, much like the Church who ceased to trust God for every provision.10
  2. Abram went to Egypt, much like how the Church ceased to be separate from the world, and settled down in it.11
  3. Abram denied his true relationship with Sarah, and instead got Hagar, much the way the Church lost the ground of her relationship with God (grace) and fell under the bondage of the law.12
  4. Sarah was taken into Pharaoh’s house, much like how the Church, outwardly at least, has been lured into associations with Satan himself (Rev. 2:13).13
  5. Abram became enriched while Sarah was in Pharaoh’s house, much like the Church which has profited immensely from association with the world.
  6. Abram was delivered from Egypt through the providential judgments of God, much like the Church who will be taken out from this world which is under judgment.14
Another Type. There may be another type in this chapter, not of the Church, but of Israel. As Abram was in the land and left it through not trusting the Lord, so Israel is cast out of their land in unbelief. As Abram was in Egypt for a time, in separation from his wife, so Israel is “Lo-Ammi”, or “not my people”. As Abram had no altar while in Egypt, so “the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim” (Hosea 3:4). As Abram grew rich in Egypt while also inheriting trouble, so the Jews have profited financially, yet suffered much over the last two-thousand years. As the Lord plagued Pharaoh, so He will judge the nations in the tribulation period. As Abram went up out of Egypt, so a remnant of the Jews will return and be restored in the land of Israel. As Abram returned to the place of his altar from the beginning, so Israel will resume their sacrifices, not as looking forward to the cross, but as looking back to it. 15
 

Abram Leaves Egypt, Returns to the Tent and Altar (13:1-4)

CHAPTER 13
1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, towards the south. 2 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. vv.1-2 Abram Leaves Egypt. When Abram left Egypt, he travelled “towards the south”, that is, the southern part of Canaan. From a materialistic perspective, the time in Egypt appeared to be very profitable for Abram. He was “very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold”, but all of that wealth was ill-gotten, gained through selling his wife to Pharaoh. The wealth that Abram got would also be a source of trouble to Abram, as we see in vv.5-6. Lot came with him out of Egypt, but Lot picked up some things in Egypt that would be a hindrance to him. It is important to realize that, it is one thing to remove a believer from the world, it is more difficult thing to remove the world from the believer. If there is one good thing that came from Abram’s time in Egypt, it would be that he seemed to learn a lesson about materialism. In ch.13 we find Abram willingly giving Lot the choice of the land, and in ch.14 he refuses to take the goods from the king of Sodom. Lot however, did not learn the lesson. 
 
3 And he went on his journeys from the south as far as Bethel; as far as the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai; 4 to the place of the altar that he had made there at the first. And there Abram called on the name of Jehovah. vv.3-4 Abram returns to his tent and altar. As we previously remarked, the tent speaks of our pilgrim character, and the altar speaks of communion. Abram had neither tent nor altar in Egypt, nor did he call on the name of Jehovah. Remember, God brought Israel up out of Egypt to worship Him. You cannot worship God in Egypt, typically speaking. In type, this speaks of the believer being restored to Lord after going off the path into the world. Where does he go? He had to return to the point of departure; “the place where his tent had been at the beginning”. The same is true for us today. If there is to be restoration, we must return – in a moral sense – to the point of departure. Once restored, Abram can be a worshiper again!
 
 

Abram and Lot Separate (13:5-13)

What Lot Represents. Lot is a picture of a believer who, walked from the very beginning in another’s faith, and not his own. For a time he maintained an outward path of separation, but did not have the personal conviction to continue in it. The separation broke down, and Lot settled in the world. If it weren’t for the New Testament (2 Peter 2), we wouldn’t know if Lot was a true child of God. He pictures one who, though ultimately their soul is saved, their life is a loss for Christ while passing through it. Lot’s life is given to us as a contrast to the life of Abraham; a believer walking by sight compared to one walking by faith. Lot is marked by uncertainty and restlessness, while Abraham was marked by purpose and peacefulness. Lot was apparently trying to influence the world, but in reality the world was influencing him. He did not enjoy nearness to God. His soul was “vexed” every day in the wicked city (2 Peter 2:8). He is an example of one whose life was an utter shipwreck, due to a lack of communion, wrong priorities, bad companions, and poor decisions. It is instructive to trace his path, and to learn the steps he took to end up in Sodom, and how he lost everything in the fire of God’s judgment.
 
5 And Lot also who went with Abram had flocks, and herds, and tents. v.5 Lot’s wealth, but no altar. Lot was Abram’s nephew. We find that Lot has a tent (like Abram), but no altar. There was an outward testimony, but no inward communion with God. This gives us the secret of Lot’s failure: a lack of communion with God. He also came up out of Egypt with great wealth.
 
6 And the land could not support them, that they might dwell together, for their property was great; and they could not dwell together. 7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle. And the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land. vv.6-7 Strife between herdsmen. The combined wealth of Abram and Lot was too much for the land. The overcrowded condition led to strife between the herdsmen. It might picture to us the difference of opinion that comes in between brethren that are living on different principles. A heavenly minded and earthly minded Christian cannot go on together long (Amos 3:3). Why does it mention that “the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land”? The world was watching this strife. It would appear that Abram must have been exercised about it, based on his response in v.8. In 1 Cor. 6, Paul addresses the issue of believers prosecuting their disputes “before the unjust”. What shame is brought on the name of Christ by this display! We ought to be sensitive towards it. In Phil. 2:15 we are reminded of the importance of remaining “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world”. There is nothing like strife between brethren to dim our light for the Lord.
 
8 And Abram said to Lot, I pray thee let there be no contention between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen, for we are brethren. 9 Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if to the left, then I will take the right; and if to the right, then I will take the left. vv.8-9 Abram gives Lot the choice. It is beautiful to see that Abram takes the lead, as the uncle, to resolve the conflict. He seems to have learned something from his time in Egypt, because he does not insist on his rights. The land was promised to Abram, yet Abram offers the choice to Lot. What a gracious spirit! Note that this is the preferred way to resolve difficulties between brethren; i.e. by one brother humbling himself, choosing not to insist on his own rights. “Why do ye not rather suffer wrong? why are ye not rather defrauded?” (1 Cor. 6:7). The expression Abram uses, “we are brethren”, it is the idea of friendly love or affection. Abram was sensitive to the conflict, and wanted to resolve it. How beautiful that Abram gives Lot the free choice of the right ot the left, without trying to channel him either way. In the end Lot chose the left (looking south from Bethel), and Abram was content with the right.
 
10 And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of the Jordan that it was thoroughly watered, before Jehovah had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah; as the garden of Jehovah, like the land of Egypt, as one goes to Zoar. 11 And Lot chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan; and Lot went toward the east. And they separated the one from the other: vv.10-11 Lot’s Choice. Lot lifted up his eyes, but his assessment was according to his own mind, shrewd as he was. Abram also lifts up his eyes (v.14), but he does so at the direction of the Lord. For Lot, lifting of his eyes was nothing more than turning to human wisdom. When we do not consult the Lord’s wisdom, we open ourselves up to being deceived by the world. He surveys the land, and sees the lowlands as the best part. He describes the plain of Jordan as “thoroughly watered… as the garden of Jehovah, like the land of Egypt”.  It was truly the better land for cattle. Lot was looking for financial prosperity. His priorities and objects were wrong. What about you? What are your motivations when deciding what to study, where to live, etc.? Notice to what Lot compares the land. What did the garden of the Lord have in common with the land of Egypt? Physically they were both lush and green, but morally they were opposites. In a certain sense, the world’s aim is to have Eden without God. Where did Lot learn about the land of Egypt? From his uncle. Abram had fed Lot a mixture of things, and now Lot is confused. His discernment is gone. He had tasted the things of the world, and now he sought a place like the world. He did not consider God’s view of the people of Sodom (v.13). The well watered plain eventually, going south, turned into slime pits (Gen. 14:10). The world lures us in with its attractions, but then it mires us down in sin and shame. But Lot was responsible for his own choice. You cannot go on forever walking in another’s faith. Eventually you have to stand on your own two feet, and the choices you make when that time comes will manifest your true spiritual condition. The conflict did not create the spiritual condition in Abram and Lot, but it manifested what was already in their hearts.
 
12 Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan; and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain, and pitched tents as far as Sodom. v.12 Two Dwellings. Abram dwelled in the land of promise, but Lot dwelt in “the cities of the plain”, of which there were five; Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar (Gen. 14:2). He didn’t seem to settle down in any one place, perhaps going in and out of each of the cities. But Lot steadily drew closer to Sodom, pitching his tent toward that place. Lot still had his tent, which speaks of a pilgrim character. In the same way, when we start down a bad path, we don’t always lose our pilgrim character immediately. But before long, Lot was living right in the city (Gen. 14:11), then his tent was exchanged for a house (Gen. 19:2), and finally he tried to make himself a judge in the city (Gen. 19:9).
 
13 And the people of Sodom were wicked, and great sinners before Jehovah. v.13 Jehovah’s Assessment. Lot’s choice placed him in a precarious position. Jehovah’s assessment of the people of Sodom was that they were “wicked, and great sinners” in the sight of Jehovah.
 

Abram receives the Call to Walk the Land (13:14-17)

14 And Jehovah said to Abram, after that Lot had separated himself from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land that thou seest will I give to thee, and to thy seed for ever. vv.14-15 The Land Promised to Abram. As soon as the separation with Lot occurred, then the Lord speaks to Abram. It was the final step in the original call to leave his land, his father’s house, and his kindred. Perhaps Abram was sad about Lot departing, but then the Lord encourages him. Jehovah tells Abram to lift up his eyes from the place where he was (Bethel), and to look as far as he could in four directions. Everything he could see was to be given to him and his descendents “for ever”. From a material standpoint, this is the greatest gift that was ever given to a man. This was Abram’s reward for trusting the Lord as to the separation of Lot, and giving him the choice of the land.
 
16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth, so that if any one can number the dust of the earth, thy seed also will be numbered. v.16 A Numerous Seed Promised to Abram. The promise continues, that Abram’s seed would be like the dust of the earth; i.e. it would be innumerable. All of this was promised to Abram when he had no children. It was something he had to enjoy by faith. Later this promise was expanded, saying that God would multiply Abram’s seed as the stars of the heaven”, and as the “sand which is upon the sea shore” (Gen. 22:17).
 
17 Arise, walk through the land according to the length of it and according to the breadth of it; for I will give it to thee. v.17 The Call to Walk the Land. Abram is then called to walk up and down in the land of promise. All this would be done without settling down, sojourning “as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles” (Heb. 11:9). The call to view the land (vv.14-15) and the call to walk the land (v.17) can be correlated to the two prayers of Ephesians. The prayer in Ephesians 1 is that we might know our portion, like Abram who was to look north, south, east, and west to see what God had given him. The prayer in Ephesians 3 is that we might enjoy our portion, like Abram who was to walk through the length and breadth of the land.16
 

Abram comes to Hebron, Pitches in the Plain of Mamre (13:18)

18 Then Abram moved his tents, and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre [‘fatness’], which are in Hebron [‘fellowship’]. And he built there an altar to Jehovah. v.18 Hebron, the Place of Communion. Abram moved to Hebron, and built an altar to Jehovah.

Hebron was a city just south of Jerusalem, in the portion of Judah. It was the burying place of Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rebekah, and Leah. It was conquered by Joshua, and given to Caleb as his inheritance. Hebron often pictures communion, as the name means 'communion', and Abram enjoyed many years of sweet fellowship with Jehovah, having his altar in that place. We read that the city was "built seven years before Zoan in Egypt" (Num. 13:22). Perhaps this pictures how communion existed before the world (Egypt) was made. There was communion between the Persons of the Godhead from a past eternity, long before the world was made! It is into that fellowship that the believer has been introduced by the Holy Ghost; "truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).

 

Footnotes

  1. We have then, in the calling of God, the assertion of a paramount claim on God’s part upon an individual in grace, leaving everything out of which he was called without further change; only calling him out of it. This is one very strong, distinct, and new principle, not previously revealed, consequent upon, and acting in, an especial and paramount way, in reference to the existing relationships, which had arisen out of what was previously ordered and appointed. – Darby, J.N. Abram. Collected Writings Volume 19.
  2. “Election” means choosing. And the calling is of those whom He has chosen; it is the making good their election. – Darby, J.N. Hints on the Book of Genesis.
  3. I believe it would be inconsistent with Christian intelligence to seek material blessing in the Church period by befriending Israel. All of our blessings are “spiritual” and in “heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. William Kelly remarked that these blessings are “of course, on the earthly side”.
  4. The final fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham will be in the Millennium, when the nations are blessed, though in subservience to Israel. But the principle of it applies today in the gospel, as Paul shows in Galatians 3.
  5. Watering with “the foot” possibly refers to the practice of removing soil with the foot to form small channels to carry water from canals to each plant.
  6. How must every camel, every servant, every ox, as it passed before his eyes, with the stamp of Pharaoh’s kindness upon it, have smitten Abram’s heart with the thought, “But where is my wife, I have sold my wife for this!” Did he not know that she was so? Had his feeble falsehood to others dimmed his own thoughts and feelings? Had he forgotten in his love of sheep’ and oxen, etc., that the wife given him of the Lord was sold for their sake? Could he persuade himself that she was his sister, and might be Pharaoh’s wife, and not his? Where was his trust in God? where the integrity of his way? – Darby, J.N. Abram. Collected Writings Volume 19.
  7. Had Abram intended this? No! it was an unlooked-for circumstance; it was unbelief, which continually produces in judgment the evil which it seeks to avoid. – Darby, J.N. Abram. Collected Writings Volume 19.
  8. Pharaoh knew well enough that he had no right to take the woman, even if she were Abram’s sister. He was taking advantage of his position to claim what did not belong to him. – Kelly, W. Abram: the Friend of God.
  9. Darby, J.N. Abram. Collected Writings Volume 19.
  10. But it was the first step that was wrong – Abram went down into Egypt. He went down without God out of the land of faith and promise. – Darby, J.N. Abram. Collected Writings Volume 19.
  11. He came into the regions of the prince of this world for his own comfort to satisfy his present need, not of faith in God. The consequence was, the immediate denial of the holy separation from the world and union with Christ which belonged to the church. – Darby, J.N. Abram. Collected Writings Volume 19.
  12. Whenever, therefore, the world comes in, it merely produces, and in result is identified with, bondage (where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty). For the world in its results is developed by bringing an expectation and an endeavour to procure the inheritance by a covenant of works. Such has been the actual fact in the church. – Darby, J.N. Abram. Collected Writings Volume 19.
  13. The church was taken into the world’s house, the house of the prince of this world. – Darby, J.N. Abram. Collected Writings Volume 19.
  14. The merciful interposition of that God, who, when we have wearied Him with our sins, acts and delivers for His own name’s sake, and vindicates., in righteous dealing toward the world, what the unrighteousness of man had plunged unfaithfully into its power. – Darby, J.N. Abram. Collected Writings Volume 19.
  15. There may be a certain typical reference to Israel while in the world and away from God. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. Genesis 12.
  16. Anstey, Bruce. Lessons from the Lives of Abraham and Lot. Christian Truth Publishing, 2002.

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