Genesis Segment 11 (12:9-14:24)

Originally published 7/31/2001

(Gen 12:9-10) And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south. {10} And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.

Abram pulled up stakes and moved toward the Negev. The Hebrew for “journeyed” literally means to pull out and it can mean literally to pull up stakes.  The word translated southward is negeb or the Negev desert. The Negev is south of Israel; it lies between Israel and Egypt. The word negeb which can be rendered dry or parched, came to mean south because of the parched area to the south of Canaan, of which the Negev Desert is a part.

 נסע, nasa’, 1. tear out, pull out, obj. gates — 2. pull up tent stakes (Holladay Hebrew Lexicon)

It is unclear how long Abram sojourned near Bethel, but the context indicates it was for a while. Why did Abram leave? Verse 10 tells us there was a bad famine in the land. Evidently the famine did not reach into Egypt. There would have been no reason for Abram to travel to Egypt had there been no food there.

The word rendered “land” is ‘erets. This land was the land of Canaan, which was not the entire world. Noah’s flood, on the other hand, covered the entire ‘erets or earth according to Gen 7:19. Again, context determines the meaning. The context of the word in the Genesis Flood account is that it was a global flood (Gen 7:17-24). As in the flood narrative, ‘erets could be applied to the entire globe, but that is not usually the case. In fact, in the KJV, the word is rendered “world” only four times out of 2500 occurrences of the word ‘erets in the Old Testament. Two thirds of the occurrences, two are translated “land” as here. There are other occasions where the word is translated “countries” plural, yet that does not equal the entire globe. In fact, the places where the word is translated “world” are not necessarily the entire globe. The entire world at the time of Genesis was not automatically indicative of the entire globe. Those countries may have been of the known world only, which was mostly in the Middle East. Though there were civilizations elsewhere in the world of the time on other continents, not all were known by the biblical writers—Moses on this case.

(Gen 12:11-12) And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: {12} Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.

According to E.W. Bullinger (and others), this trip into Egypt was of Satan’s doing. He was trying to stop the seed of Christ with Abram and Sarai before Isaac could be conceived. Satan wanted to accomplish this either by starving them to death in the famine or by corrupting the seed line down in Egypt by having Sarai go to the marriage bed of Pharoah. The famine was an attempt by Satan to destroy Abram’s seed. I definitely believe that Satan would do anything to stop the advent of Christ; thus I agree with Bullinger.

Others contend that this was the hand of God that caused Abram to sojourn in Egypt so that Pharaoh would give him riches. Of course this is true for Abram returned to Canaan a rich man. Perhaps this was Satan’s plan but God used it to enrich Abram. Some commentators also argue that, in addition to partaking of the riches of the land, Abram also went down to hear what the Egyptians had to say about their gods. We don’t know all of the things that happened to Abram in Egypt; anything not written in the scripture is simply commentary (like the words written here).

Abram feared what would happen in Egypt because Satan played on his fears. We look at Abram as a great man, the father of many nations, the patriarch. Yet, in all his greatness and his belief in God, he lost some of that faith and took matters into his own hands. He made a mistake. He made this same mistake when he took Hagar as his concubine. His faith faltered at that precipice. Yet, we see from both Testaments that Abram/Abraham believed God and was credited with God’s righteousness (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3; 11:30; Gal 3:6; Jam 2:23). Though Abraham had moments of faithlessness, he was still considered faithful by Yehovah. He was a man, and the grace of God forgave his moments of unfaithfulness. We are the same. If we have faith in God through Christ, He will forgive our sins (1 John 1:9). The deception of Pharaoh would have worked, and Sarai would have become a wife Pharaoh’s wife, but God intervened in verse 17.

(Gen 12:13) Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

So the deception is, “Pretend you’re my sister.” It was a half-truth. Sarai was Abram’s half-sister (Gen 20:12), the daughter of his father but not his mother, yet Abram did not want to admit to being her husband. Abram had no need to carry out this deception. God would have taken care of him and his family. Like many if not most of us, Abram took things into his own hands instead of leaving them in God’s.

(Gen 12:14-15) And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. {15} The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.

It was just as Abram predicted. This did not mean that Pharaoh married her. The king certainly would not have taken Sarai and ravished her, for there would be political ramifications if he did so. Like anywhere else in the world, custom had to be followed in ancient Egypt. There would have likely been preparations to make and protocols to follow before nuptials would have occurred. Sarai and the Pharaoh never had sexual relations.

(Gen 12:16) And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.

Pharaoh treated Abram well because of Sarai. This was a marriage contract between Pharaoh and Abram. A contract requires consideration (compensation) to all parties involved. There was a dowry to be paid to Abram for Sarai. Pharaoh received Sarai as his intended; Abram received riches or a dowry from Pharaoh. The riches included livestock and servants as well as silver and gold (Gen 13:1).

(Gen 12:17) And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.

Yehovah would not allow Pharaoh to consummate his marriage with Sarai. If one takes the line that Satan did this to prevent a pure seed line that led to Christ, such a marriage would corrupt the seed line, which was Satan’s plan to stop Messiah from His incarnation. This is certainly a possibility. Either way, God was not going to allow anything adverse to happen to Abram in Egypt.

The word “plagued” is naga’, which means to touch or lay the hand upon. God touched Pharaoh’s house with plagues. The plagues are not named. Literally, the verse reads like this: “And the LORD touched Pharaoh and his house with great blows because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.” The blows can be figuratively called infliction or plagues.

(Gen 12:18-19) And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? {19} Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.

So how did Pharaoh know that the plagues were caused by his having Sarai in his house? The Egyptians were very much into signs. Any catastrophe could be understood as an omen. When the plagues began to happen, it is likely that Pharaoh called his ministers together to figure out why they were being plagued. God would have planted the thought in the mind of Pharaoh, or his minsters, or both. Thus, it was probably suggested that Sarai was possibly Abram’s wife instead of his sister. It was easy to find out if this were true—just ask and someone knew the truth. Abram’s entire household, which included the servants, was in Egypt. They knew the truth and if queried by Egyptian officials, some would have told them the truth. It is very obvious that Pharaoh did not consummate this marriage. He said that if it had not been for the plagues he might have done so.

(Gen 12:20) And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

Pharaoh had the power to execute Abram but after the plagues he knew better. So he banished Abram and Sarai. You would think that this would have taught Abram his lesson. But sometimes people don’t learn from their past experiences. Abram was no different. He tried it again with Abimelech; see Gen 20:1-2. Notice that Abram exited “with all that he had.” This included all the riches he received from Pharaoh.

(Gen 13:1) And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.

They ascended out of Egypt into the Negev (the south). The word rendered went up is ‘alah and is used in many instances. For example, when the people came to Jerusalem for the convocations such as Passover, they went up to Jerusalem. Abram and his entire household went up into the land God had promised him—Canaan. Note that Again we are told that Abram took all his household and substance with him out of Egypt.

(Gen 13:2) And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.

God had blessed him. Isaac and then Jacob inherited this wealth. Jacob took it with him into Egypt. At the exodus all the wealth and then some was returned to the Children of Abraham (see Exo 12:35-36). Apparently some ancients privately coined their own money. According to the Shalshalet Hakabala (Chain of Traditions of the Torah) Abram also did so.

(Gen 13:3-4) And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; {4} Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.

In the time of Abram Bethel was known as Luz. Hai is more commonly known as Ai. In Gen 12:8 Abram built the altar mentioned here.

(Gen 13:5) And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.

Lot was also prosperous; God had blessed him too. After all, when Abram left Haran and all his family behind, Lot did so too.

(Gen 13:6) And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.

There is jealousy and strife in the very best of families. Have you ever tried to house two families under one roof? It is difficult at best, impossible at worst. Abram’s land was too small to support his and Lot’s flocks, therefore this resulted in problems between the two families.

(Gen 13:7) And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.

Why are the Canaanites and Perizzites mentioned here? Well for one, it shows there was limited land for both Abram’s and Lot’s holdings. But there is an even more important reason. The strife between these two relations was a security issue. If they were fighting among themselves it would be easier for the inhabitants of the land to attack and subdue them. Some of the inhabitants were a rough lot. With decreased security they might be tempted to make such an attack.

(Gen 13:8) And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.

Abram approached Lot in a loving manner. He was gentle and did not accuse. In fact, he made it a point to say that his folks were as guilty as Lot’s in this matter. In the last phrase, “for we be brethren,” the original language says “for we are men—brethren” (Young’s Literal). In other words, let us act like men and family.

(Gen 13:9) Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.

We are not told how Abram legally obtained the land he owned, but apparently he did. Perhaps it was by agreement with the local Canaanite population or with leaders in the land. Perhaps the land was unsettled and Abraham merely claimed it. However he obtained it, it was his. He then suggested that the both he and Lot occupy separate properties and gave the choice of land to Lot. Whatever Lot decided, Abraham would take what was left over for his own.

(Gen 13:10) And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.

The Plain of the Jordan This plain was a lush, verdant spot. Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned here to show that the grass is not always greener elsewhere. Remember what happened to Lot at Sodom.

(Gen 13:11) Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.

What would you do if a rich uncle told you to pick any part of his land to live on? Wouldn’t you pick the spot that looked to be the best?

Verses 12 and 13 are parenthetical–an aside pertaining to Sodom and Gomorrah.

(Gen 13:12) Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.

What does it mean for someone to pitch his tent toward something? It means to become a part of it. Lot became a citizen of Sodom.

(Gen 13:13) But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.

What was their sin? I refer you to Gen 19:5: “And they [the men of Sodom–v. 4] called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.” To know them means to have sexually intimate relations with them. The act of men being sexually intimate with men is homosexuality.

(Gen 13:14-16) And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated 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 which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. {16} And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.

This is another augmentation of God’s previous promises to Abraham. See God’s Promises to Abraham.

(Gen 13:17-18) Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. {18} Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.

It would seem that Abram did walk through the length and breadth of the land and then he dwelt in the plain of Mamre. The word rendered “plain” actually means “oak.” So Abram and his group made a homestead at the Oaks of Mamre. It was near Hebron as it was known when Genesis was written and as it is known today. Archaeological evidence indicates that there were houses there around the time of Abram. It is likely that Abram had a house there. The word for tent can also mean dwelling or house.

Of course Abram wanted to worship God so he built an altar here. Today there is no reason to build an altar in order to worship God. In Jesus Christ we already have an altar (Heb 13:10).

(Gen 14:1) And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations;

The names of the kings in this alliance all mean servant of or son of one of their gods. Their names are given to make them look important.

(Gen 14:2) That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar.

These kings are all called by diminutive names like small, ugly, and fearful. The kings who attacked were considered the more powerful kings and that is why they have grandiose names. They were powerful but not more powerful than Abram.

(Gen 14:3-12) All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea. {4} Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled. {5} And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim, {6} And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness. {7} And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar. {8} And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim; {9} With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five. {10} And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain. {11} And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way. {12} And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

Briefly, the diminutive kings had served Chedorlaomer twelve years and rebelled against him. Chedorlaomer and his allies attacked them and defeated them. They looted Sodom and carried off Lot and his property and servants. Abram found out about this.

(Gen 14:13-14) And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram. {14} And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.

Though Abram was allied with Mamre, Eschol, and Aner, he took his own men and pursued Chedorlaomer. The allies also went with him, as we know from v. 24.

Neither the territory nor city of Dan was called by the name of Dan at the time of Abram. When Moses wrote the book of Genesis it was not yet called Dan. So it must have been an editorial updating sometime later. Dr. Bullinger says that this Dan was a different city in Canaan, and not the city of the Danites.

(Gen 14:15-17) And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. {16} And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. {17} And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale.

Abram defeated Chedorlaomer and recovered the plunder.

(Gen 14:18) And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.

Who is Melchizedek? Let us break down His name. “Mel” is from melek (Strong’s 4442) meaning king. And “zedek” is from tsedeq (Strong’s 6664) which means just, right, or righteous. So Melchizedek means the King of Righteousness. He was also the King of Salem. Salem is shalom meaning peace. He was the king of Righteousness and the King of Peace. Was He just some king over some small kingdom? Not really. Hebrews expands our knowledge of Melchizedek.

Hebrews quotes Psa 110:4: “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” The Psalmist, David, was prophesying about the Messiah. David could not have been talking about himself. He is dead. He was writing about One who is a priest forever, that is, until eternity. Only Jesus fits this bill. Hebrews 7:17 tells us that this Psalm refers to Messiah.

Hebrews tells us that Melchizedek was “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.” (Heb 7:3) The writer of Hebrews (whom I believe to be Paul—I don’t buy the argument that Apollos or Barnabas or someone else wrote Hebrews) seems to argue that Melchizedek was none other that the Messiah, that is Jesus Himself. Several commentators see it this way. Read Hebrews chapter seven. See Melchizedek. (

What did the King of Righteousness and Peace do? He brought bread and wine, the elements of our Passover, or communion. Bread represents the Body of Christ and wine represents the Blood of Christ.

(Gen 14:19-20) And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: {20} And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

Melchizedek blessed Abram in the Name of God, and he blessed God Most High (El Elyon) because God delivered Abram’s enemies to Abram. Abram gave a tenth of all the plunder to Melchizedek (Heb 7:4-9).

(Gen 14:21) And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.

Bera was so grateful that he wanted Abram to take all the goods and just leave the people to the king.

(Gen 14:22-24) And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, {23} That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: {24} Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

Abram, a man of integrity who trusted God, would have none of it. He wanted be indebted only to God and not to the king of Sodom. He allowed his allies to take a portion.


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