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Genesis 12 – Promises made to Abram

Out of the midst of Babel’s idolatry, one man is divided off and separated from the rest of humanity by the call of God – an act of new creation by God’s spoken word.

With the call of Abram, God furthers his purpose to restore the Garden of Eden. Abram receives three promises:

  1. A new land – the promised land of Canaan
  2. A new people – a great nation coming from Abram
  3. A new blessing – a great name, possessions, and happiness in relationship with God

The builders of Babel had sought for themselves a great name. They had contented themselves with the land of Shinar and desired to become a great people with their possessions and power. Babel with its idolatrous worship failed to manipulate deity for self-seeking ends and experienced the judgment of God. What the builders of Babel had sought through idolatry is now offered to Abram as a gift of grace. The deceptive nature of sin is apparent.

Abraham’s family will become the new people of God (c.f. Adam and Eve), Canaan will become the new land of God’s presence (c.f. the Garden of Eden), and God’s blessing will be his dwelling amongst them. In this way Creation’s original mandate and purpose of God will be realized.

The people promise is later compared to the stars in the heavens and the dust of the earth. Possibly the stars strengthen Abram’s faith in God’s ability to create out of nothing even as God created the stars. As the dust of the earth is over the whole earth so the promise would imply Abram’s offspring being throughout the earth.

Abram responds by believing God’s promise and acting in obedience by leaving and going to the promised land. Once in the land however there are clearly obstacles to the promises being realized:


  • Abraham’s wife Sarah, Isaac’s wife Rebecca, and Jacob’s wives Leah and Rachel all experience barrenness as an obstacle to becoming a great people – God must open the womb!


  • Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – all experience multiple famines in the land
  • The Canaanite inhabitants of the land cause difficulty


  • Abraham lies about Sarah being his wife (twice) – behavior emulated by his son Isaac
  • Jacob repeatedly employs deception
  • Judah almost destroys the messianic line by intermarriage with Canaanites

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must live by faith and not be sight – barrenness, famines and sinfulness all imply death not life. Living by faith means that our inner thinking and feeling is orientated not by what we see circumstantially but by our believing in the character and promises of God – we live by faith and not by sight!