Genesis 12 is a brilliant chapter as the story of Genesis shifts from focusing on all humanity to the story of the three great patriarchs ofIsrael, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  In Genesis 12, Abram (who was later re-named Abraham) is asked to make a great sacrifice (if you have not already, see the post on Genesis 11 to understand what a sacrifice Abraham was asked to make by leaving Ur) and receives an extraordinary promise from God.  Specifically, Abram is told to leave his great city and is assured by God he will become a great nation and be a blessing to all families of the earth.

Abram initially obeys God, but soon a famine comes upon thelandofCanaan.  Rather than trusting in God, who had told Abram to dwell in Canaan where he would become a great nation, and instead of asking God to provide for him, Abram departs thelandofCanaanforEgypt.  In other words, Abram is now acting on his own accord instead of putting his trust in the promise of God.

When Abram entersEgypt, he is concerned the Egyptians will want to kill him and take his wife Sarai (later renamed Sarah) as their own, so he concocts a lie, saying Sarai is his sister.  Abram was correct: the Egyptians think Sarai is a beautiful woman and bring this to the attention of the Egyptian ruler, the Pharaoh.  Pharaoh nearly takes Sarai as a wife, but God intervenes and stops this from happening.

Now, keep in mind just how significant this story is to an ancient Jewish reader.  Remember thatEgyptis one ofIsrael’s archenemies.  The Israelite people had been enslaved inEgyptfor 430 years.  And here, in this story, you have your great Patriarch Abraham and your first matriarch Sarah, making a huge mistake that almost makes you, the Israelite reader, a child of Pharaoh rather than a child of Abraham.  More clearly, unless God had intervened, you would be a child of your enemy rather than a child of your father.  Actually, had God not intervened, you probably would not even exist!

I’m sure most of us have thought at one time or another about our own existence and how different we might be–or, again, how we might not even exist at all–if our father had not met our mother.  Or what if our grandfather had married someone besides our grandmother?  My paternal grandfather was 18 years older than my grandmother, so I have definitely thought about this scenario a time or two!  Or what if one of my ancestors 1,000 years ago had died in a war before procreating?  We could go on and on, but thinking about this too much makes my head spin and my heart sink!  But considering it also makes me thankful I do happen to be here.

Thinking about this also helps us understand Genesis 12.  At the very beginning of the story ofIsrael, the biblical reader is confronted with this notion: had it been left to the decision of your fathers, you would not even be alive.  At best, you would be a child of your enemy.  You are only here because God intervened and saved you.  What a humbling thought!