GET OUT! Seriously, that’s what this Hebrew phrase means. It is an extremely important phrase too, because it is the call that Abram receives from God in Genesis 12:1-4.
God lays down three specific challenges to Abram. It is NOT that he is to simply start walking. God tells Abram to leave something behind. “Get out of” or “take leave from” your land, your kindred, and your father’s household. The first challenge, Abram is to leave behind his familiar surroundings. Whatever he has been familiar with in life from Ur to Haran, Abram is to leave that behind. This word could indicate land, the physical place, or country as in a tribal territory or recognized ruling unit. God says to leave this comfortable and familiar place into the unknown lands.
Secondly, God said, “leave your family.” The idea is extended family. In the Ancient Near East it would be to leave one’s tribal unit. It’s like an Ephrathite leaving Bethlehem for Moab, oh wait, that’s what Elimelech did in Ruth 1, leaving his people and going to another. We are a highly mobile society. For the last several centuries, it has been common for people to leave extended family behind, thinking of those who traveled to the New World or even those who moved out West. Our ability for instant communication has increased our connection, but this has its limitations too. When God calls Abram to leave his kindred, he is leaving anyone whom he has human connection. People who look like, talk like, sound like, even act like him. God says to leave the comfortable and familiar people and become an unknown among people he does not know.
Thirdly, God said, “leave your father’s household.” This would be the most painful of challenges. Abram was the oldest son of three. Haran, the youngest of Terah’s sons, passed away already. Abram was set to receive a substantial inheritance. More than this material things, a father gives guidance to his son. Of all the supports Abram has, this is the most grounding and vital to his culture. If Abram were to encounter something and have a question or look for advice, it would be his father he would turn toward. When God calls Abram to leave his father’s household, he is leaving the only person Abram would turn to to answer life’s deepest questions.
In walking away from these three Abram leaves behind all that identifies and supports him in the world. He places all of his dependence on God for his identity and support. Without his land, Abram wanders as a nomad. Without his family, Abram lives alone. And without his father, Abram is unguided. Yet these would only be true if God fails in the promises that He makes. God guides Abram to a land, this relationship is shaping up to replace Terah. God goes ahead to support Abram by blessing him and making him a great nation. Who needs an extended family when you have a whole nation? Yet Abram does not completely walk away from one of these. Lot accompanies Abram, which means that part of his father’s household remains with him for now.
To Make and to bless
Besides the promise of land, which we typically remember with the promise to Abram, God promises to make Abram a great nation and to make his name great. Three of the five times that bless is used it comes rich with meaning that often carried the formula “be fruitful and multiply.” Here the promises of God to Abram take us back to Creation. The God who made is now going to make Abram a great nation. The God who blessed all that is fruitful and has multiplied is blessing Abram and by implication to be fruitful and multiply.
Great Name of Blessing
We’ve already had this idea of making a great name before, except it was those at the Tower of Babel presuming such. Here it is God, the Creator, making Abram a great name. In this instance and in Genesis 11 name is not what one is called, but rather the reputation that one carries. Here God is making the promise to make Abram’s reputation great, which seems like no big thing for the Creator.
A blessing to others
The final promise is “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse.” Because Abram obeys God, Abram becomes the standard, the measuring stick, of blessing. It is extremely important to see the construction changes. Those who bless Abram will be blessed, yet those who even mistreat Abram will be cursed. In other words, those who might be against Abram will find themselves in a much worse situation with the God of Abram. The translation and interpretation of this final part is wide. All families will be blessed, “because of you” or “along with you.” As we dive into God’s selection of this man’s family throughout the story of Scripture, we see our blessing because of and with Abram.
Summary and Take Away
God gave Abram a choice, but certainly it was not an easy one. Abram was required to leave the comfortable, the familiar, and the security of all he ever had or knew. In return, God gave Abram a spectacular promise, yet it meant leaving the sure thing for the unknown. This was certainly a leap of faith into a new relationship. Nothing would be the same if Abram accepted God’s challenge and received the promise.
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