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The Call of Abram


Now the L ord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

4 So Abram went, as the L ord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, 6Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7Then the L ord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the L ord, who had appeared to him. 8From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the L ord and invoked the name of the L ord. 9And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.

Abram and Sarai in Egypt

10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land. 11When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance; 12and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.” 14When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels.

17 But the L ord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone.” 20And Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had.

3. And I will bless them that bless thee. Here the extraordinary kindness of God manifests itself, in that he familiarly makes a covenant with Abram, as men are wont to do with their companions and equals. For this is the accustomed form of covenants between kings and others, that they mutually promise to have the same enemies and the same friends. This certainly is an inestimable pledge of special love, that God should so greatly condescend for our sake. For although he here addresses one man only, he elsewhere declares the same affection towards his faithful people. We may therefore infer this general doctrine, that God so embraced us with his favor, that he will bless our friends, and take vengeance on our enemies. We are, moreover, warned by this passage, that however desirous the sons of God may be of peace, they will never want enemies. Certainly, of all persons who ever conducted themselves so peaceably among men as to deserve the esteem of all, Abram might be reckoned among the chief, yet even he was not without enemies; because he had the devil for his adversary, who holds the wicked in his hand, whom he incessantly impels to molest the good. There is then, no reason why the ingratitude of the world should dishearten us, even though many hate us without cause, and, when provoked by no injury, study to do us harm; but let us be content with this single consolation, that God engages on our side in the war. Besides, God exhorts his people to cultivate fidelity and humanity with all good men, and, further, to abstain from all injury. For this is no common inducement to excite us to assist the faithful, that if we discharge any duty towards them, God will repay it; nor ought it less to alarm us, that he denounces war against us, if we hurt any one belonging to him.

In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. Should any one choose to understand this passage in a restricted sense, as if, by a proverbial mode of speech, they who shall bless their children or their friends, shall be called after the name of Abram, let him enjoy his opinion; for the Hebrew phrase will bear the interpretation, that Abram shall be called a signal example of happiness. But I extend the meaning further; because I suppose the same thing to be promised in this place, which God afterwards repeats more clearly, (Genesis 22:18.) And the authority of Paul brings me to this point; who says, that the promise to the seed of Abraham, that is, to Christ, was given four hundred and thirty years before the law, (Galatians 3:17.) But the computation of years requires us to understand, that the blessing was promised him in Christ, when he was coming into the land of Canaan. Therefore God (in my judgment) pronounces that all nations should be blessed in his servant Abram because Christ was included in his loins. In this manner, he not only intimates that Abram would be an example, but a cause of blessing; so that there should be an understood antithesis between Adam and Christ. For whereas, from the time of the first man’s alienation from God, we are all born accursed, here a new remedy is offered unto us. Nor is there any thing contrary to this in the assertion, that we must by no means seek a blessing in Abram himself, inasmuch as the expression is used in reference to Christ. Here the Jews petulantly object, and heap together many testimonies of Scripture, from which it appears that to bless or curse in any one, is nothing else than to wish good or evil to another, according to him as a pattern. But their cavil may be set aside without difficulty. I acknowledge, that what they say is often, but not always true. For when it is said, that the tribe of Levi shall bless in the name of God, in Deuteronomy 10:8 Isaiah 65:16, and in similar passages, it is sufficiently evident, that God is declared to be the fountain of all good, in order that Israel may not seek any portion of good elsewhere Seeing, therefore, that the language is ambiguous, let them grant the necessity of choosing this, or the other sense, as may be most suitable to the subject and the occasion. Now Paul assumes it as an axiom which is received among all the pious, and which ought to be taken for granted, that the whole human race is obnoxious to a curse, and therefore that the holy people are blessed only through the grace of the Mediator. Whence he concludes, that the covenant of salvation which God made with Abram, is neither stable nor firm except in Christ. I therefore thus interpret the present place; that God promises to his servant Abram that blessing which shall afterwards flow down to all people. But because this subject will be more amply explained else where, I now only briefly touch upon it.

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