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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Genesis 12

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

Ver. 1. Now the Lord had said to Abram.] But was not this to command him to do that which was against nature? No, but only against corrupt nature, which must be denied, and mortified, or there is no heaven to be had. Father and friends must be hated (that is, not loved, as "Esau have I hated"), where they hang in our light, or stand in our way to keep us from Christ. [Matthew 10:37]

Get thee out of thy country.] This is a hard saying to flesh and blood; for, Nescio qua natale solum ,& c. But hard or not hard, it must be done, because God bids it; and difficulty, in such a case, doth but whet on heroic spirits, making them the more eager and resolute. It pleased David well to be set to fetch a hundred foreskins of the Philistines. God’s kingdom must be taken by violence. It is but a delicacy to dream of coming there in a featherbed. Too many, with Joseph, dream of their preferment, but not of their imprisonment. He that will be Christ’s disciple here, and co-heir hereafter, must deny himself; that is an indispensable duty. Abram was old-excellent at it.

And from thy kindred, and father’s house.] Who set out fair with Abram - as did likewise Orphah with Ruth - but settled in Haran, which was also in Chaldea, not far from Ur, and would go no farther, after the old man’s death. There they had feathered their nests, gathered substance, and got souls, that is servants; [Genesis 12:4] and, therefore, there they would set up their staff, and afterwards turned again to idolatry. [Genesis 31:30; Genesis 31:53 Joshua 24:2] Many follow God as Samson did his parents, till he light upon a honeycomb; or as a dog doth his master, till he meet with carrion; and then turn him up. Demas forsook God, and embracing this present world, became afterwards a priest in an idol-temple, as Dorotheus tells us.

Unto a land that I will show thee.] Yet told him not whither, till he was upon the way, but "called him to his foot," [Isaiah 41:2] that is, to follow him, and his direction. Magnus est animus qui se Deo tradidit , saith Seneca. Eundum quocunque Deus vocarit , saith another, etiamsi in ea loca migrandum esset -

Pigris ubi nulla campis

Arbor aestiva recreatur aura:

Quod latus mundi nebulae malusque

Iupiter urget .”


Verse 2

Genesis 12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

Ver. 2. And I will make of thee a great nation.] Why then should the scornful Jews call us nations or Gentiles in contempt? yea, heathen bastards, heathen dogs, as they do at this day? (a) Surely, either themselves are of this great Goi or nation here mentioned, or else they have not Abraham to their father; choose them which.

I will bless thee.] As a father his children, with all spiritual comforts, [Ephesians 1:3] and earthly contentments; with the blessings of the right hand, and of the left; with "the upper and nether springs," [ 1:15] as Caleb blessed his daughter Achsah. "He will give grace and glory," and (if that be not enough) "no good thing will he withhold," &c. [Psalms 84:11] Hence Moses cries out, "Happy art thou O Israel; who is like unto thee!" &c. [Deuteronomy 33:29]

And make thy name great.] A great name then is a great blessing. So David took it. [2 Samuel 7:9] And it was no small comfort to him, that whatever he did, pleased the people. Blessing and praise (or good name) is expressed by one and the same word (b) in both Testaments. [Proverbs 27:21] Only (as it is in the same text) it then proves a blessing, when it is to a man "as the fining pot for silver, and furnace for gold," when it melts us, and makes us better, when it works in us a care to walk worthy of the praise given us, to purge ourselves from all filth, that we may be as pure vessels, meet for the Master’s use, fit to be set upon the celestial shelf, as that martyr phrased it, (c) "Since thou hast been precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable". [Isaiah 43:4] Virtue is instead of a thousand coat-of-arms on shields.

And thou shalt be a blessing.] That is, in a high degree blessed; or a common blessing (d) to all, wherever thou comest, who shall fare the better for thee. Or, a public pattern of blessing (so some Hebrews expound it). Those that wish well to themselves, or others, shall pray God that Abram’s blessedness may befall them. The contrary hereunto is now befallen his unhappy posterity for their obstinacy. A curse they are become among the Gentiles, as was foretold them. [Zechariah 8:13] Sanctius, upon that text, tells us, that all over Turkey they have taken it up for a curse, - I would I might die a Jew, then; and, Let me be a Jew if I deceive thee. (e)


Verse 3

Genesis 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Ver. 3. And I will bless them that bless thee.] Some there are that will curse those whom God blessed; but nothing so many as they that will rise up and call them blessed. These are expressed here in the plural number; those in the singular only. "For who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" [1 Peter 3:13] But say there be some Balaams that would curse God’s Israel, [Numbers 23:2] or some Esaus that could wish them unblest again; yet God will turn Balaam’s curse into a blessing (which is reckoned as a great favour); and he will tell Esau (if not in his ear, yet in his conscience) that Jacob is blest, "and he shall be blest." [Genesis 27:33] If Isaac, drawn aside by natural affection, would go about to reverse the blessing, God will cause him to "tremble very exceedingly," and so overawe him that he shall not be able to do it. But see here (as in a mirror) the wonderful love of God to his children: so dear they are unto him, that he cannot but love all that love them, and bless those that bless them. They have a powerful speech in Spain, - He that wipes the child’s nose kisseth the mother’s cheek. Surely, as natural parents take the kindnesses and unkindnesses showed to their children as done to themselves, so doth God.

And in thee shall all families, &c.] That is, "in thy seed," as it is interpreted, Genesis 22:18. To wit, in Christ that shall take flesh of thee, as both Peter and Paul expound it, Acts 3:25, Galatians 3:9; Galatians 3:16. Hence Christ is called "the gift," [John 4:10] and "the benefit," [1 Timothy 6:2] by an excellency, "and the desire of all nations," [Haggai 2:7] sent a purpose "to bless us, in turning every one of us from our iniquities". [Acts 3:26]


Verse 4

Genesis 12:4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram [was] seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

Ver. 4. So Abram departed.] He had now enough, having such precious promises, though he previously had nothing else. He parted with his friends and kindred, but is now become the friend of God, and akin to Christ. Let their money perish with them, who esteem all the gold in the world worth one day’s society with Jesus Christ, and his Holy Spirit, said that noble Marquess Galeacius Caracciolus, (a) who being nephew to Pope Paul V., and a prince of great wealth and power, left all for Christ, living and dying a poor exile at Geneva, that he might enjoy the liberty of his conscience, and serve God according to the truth of the gospel. Remarkable is that which Calvin writes of him in his dedicatory epistle to him, set before his Commentary upon the First Epistle to the Corinthians, - Etsi neque tu ,& c.

And Lot went with him.] Herein Abram was more happy than Caracciolus; for he, being converted by Peter Martyr’s Lecture on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, and resolving thereupon to leave all and go to Geneva, opened his mind to some of his most familiar friends, and wrought upon them so far, as they promised and vowed to accompany him, &c.; but when they came to the borders of Italy, and considered what they forsook, they first looked back with Lot’s wife, and then, without any entreaty, went back as Orphah: so going out of God’s blessing into the world’s warm sun, as they say, which yet they long enjoyed not; for they were after taken by the Spanish Inquisition, and forced to abjure Christian religion, being neither trusted nor loved of one side nor other. (b)

And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed.] So he continued a pilgrim for a hundred years together, [Genesis 25:7] having ten sore trials, and every one worse than other.


Verse 5

Genesis 12:5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

Ver. 5. And Abram took Sarai his wife.] The faithful companion of all his travels and troubles - one that "did him good, and not evil all her days". [Proverbs 31:12] And although she suffered much hardship with him, and for his sake, and was oft put to it, yet she was "not afraid with any amazement," as many a woman would have been. [1 Peter 3:6] A valiant woman she was, and no less violent than he for God’s kingdom, whereof Canaan was but a type.


Verse 6-7

Genesis 12:6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite [was] then in the land.

Ver. 6,7. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the Lord appeared to Abram.] The sight of those wicked Canaanites might discourage him, and unsettle his faith. But then the sight of God relieved him (he is the first man that God is said to appear to); and the promise, "Unto thy seed will I give this land," could not but put spirits into him, and make his good old heart to dance a lively dance {levaltoes} in his bosom. When the poor soul even sinks sometimes at the sight of these Canaanites (corruptions), and despairs almost of a conquest, God lets in a beam of his own light, and comforts it with some cordial promise, which is as Boaz was to Naomi, "A restorer of his life, and a nourisher of his old age". [Ruth 4:15]


Verse 7

Genesis 12:7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

Ver. 7. And there builded he an altar to Jehovah.] Although the Canaanite was then in the land. God hath promised, when he cleanseth his Church, that "the Canaanite shall be there no more". [Zechariah 14:21] But while they are there, we must "shine as lamps amidst a crooked and cursed generation, holding forth the word of life"; [Philippians 2:15-16] as an ensign, bearing up God’s name as a badge, or beacon; wearing his mark in our foreheads, [Revelation 9:4] the place of open profession; setting up an altar even amidst idolaters, as Abram, and calling it "Jehovahnissi - the Lord is my banner," as Moses. [Exodus 17:15] Some that seemed to wish well to Edmund Allan Martyr, (a) bid him keep his conscience to himself, and to follow Baruch’s counsel: {/APC Bar 6} Wherefore, when ye see the multitude of people worshipping them behind and before, say in your hearts, O Lord, it is thou that oughtest only to be worshipped. These had more of Nicodemus in them than of Nathanael.


Verse 8

Genesis 12:8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, [having] Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

Ver. 8. And he removed from thence.] Because his building altars to Jehovah was offensive to the Canaanites. Indeed, it was a wonder they stoned him not; but God restrained them.

And there he builded an altar to the Lord.] This was still his first care wherever he came, and should be ours. We are a kingdom of priests, and have an altar, [Hebrews 13:10] which is Christ, who sanctifies the offering. [Matthew 23:19] "By him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually". [Hebrews 13:15] Imo altare extruamus non lapideum, sed carneum in cordibus .


Verse 9

Genesis 12:9 And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.

Ver. 9. Going on still towards the south.] As toward the sun, whereby may be figured, saith an expositor, his progress in faith and grace, as Proverbs 4:18 2 Corinthians 3:18.


Verse 10

Genesis 12:10 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.

Ver. 10. Abram went down into Egypt.] Which the Hebrews much condemn him for, saying that it was out of distrust, and that for this fault of his the Israelites suffered so long and hard bondage in Egypt. But that is but a rash judgment, and as weak an argument; for God, though he must be trusted, yet he may not be tempted. But tempted he is, first, when men are too much addicted to the means, as Thomas; secondly, when they reject them, as Ahaz, who would not ask a sign, though offered him. It was not diffidence, but obedience in Abram to go down to Egypt (that granary of the world), when now, by the want of food in Canaan, he found it was God’s will he should seek out.


Verse 11

Genesis 12:11 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:

Ver. 11. Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman.] And yet she was now sixty-five years of age; wherein she was a figure of "Jerusalem the mother of us all." [Galatians 4:26 Song of Solomon 1:15; Song of Solomon 4:1] Sarai’s chief beauty was that of "the hidden man of the heart," as saith St Peter. [1 Peter 3:4; 1 Peter 3:6] But outward beauty is very lovely and attractive. Plato calls it the principality of nature; Aristotle, a greater commendation than all epistles. And being asked whether beauty were amiable, he answered, That’s a blind man’s question. (a) The poet could say, Gratior est pulchro veniens in corpore virtus -

That virtue hath a better grace

That shineth from a beauteous face.

Howbeit, Seneca saith, he was out in that saying; for that virtue needs no ornament more than she hath of her own, but beautifies herself sufficiently, and consecrates the body, wherein she dwells. (b) But by the leave of so great a philosopher, I am of the poet’s mind; and although I grant that favour without grace is but a gold ring in a swine’s snout, as Solomon hath it, or ornamentum in luto , as another (so it was in Alcibiades for a man, and in Aurelia Orestilla for a woman), yet surely, where they meet, they make a happy conjunction, and draw all hearts to them, as in Germanicus (for a man), in whom beauty and virtue strove for precedency; and Artaxerxes Longimanus, the son of Esther, who is said to have been of all men the most beautiful and most bountiful. (c) So in Esther (for a woman), who "obtained favour in the sight of all that looked upon her". [Esther 2:15] And Aspasia Milesia, the wife of Cyrus, who deserved to be styled καλη και σοφη, fair and wise, as Aelian relateth (d) As on the other side in Vatinius, deformity of body strove with dishonesty of mind, adeo ut animus eius dignissimo domicilio inclusus videretur , saith Paterculus.


Verse 12

Genesis 12:12 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.

Ver. 12. Therefore it shall come to pass, &c.] Note here, saith Pererius, 1. The raging affection of the Egyptians, that made no conscience of murder to enjoy their lust; 2. Their blindness, that made less account of murder than adultery. Note again, saith Piscator, that beauty exposeth a body to the danger of dishonesty, and that, as the poet hath it,

Lis est cam forma magna pudicitiae .”

Let those therefore that have beauty (a) look to their chastity, and possess their vessels in holiness and honour;

Thesaurum cum virgo, tuum vas fictile servet,

Ut caveas quae sunt noxia, tuta time .”

Filthiness in a woman is most abominable; therefore is a whore called a strange woman.

{a} Cavete ab hoc quem natura notavit


Verse 13

Genesis 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.

Ver. 13. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister.] The truth was here not only concealed, but dissembled. As the moon hath her specks, so the best have their blemishes: a sheep may slip into a slough as soon as a swine, and an apple tree may have a fit of barrenness as well as a crab tree.


Verse 14

Genesis 12:14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she [was] very fair.

Ver. 14. The Egyptians beheld the woman.] Pleasure is blamed, in Xenophon, for this, that she ever and anon looketh back upon her own shadow, and giveth her eyes leave to rove and range without restraint. An honest man, saith Plautus, should have continent eyes, hands, and tongue. (a) Nihil enim interest quibus membris cinoedi sitis posterioribus an prioribus , said Archelaus, the philosopher, to a wanton young gentleman. The eye (that light of all the members) is an ornament to the whole body. And yet that lightsome part of the body draweth too oft the whole soul into darkness. This Job knew, and therefore "made a covenant" [Job 31:1] to look to his looks; (b) sith of looking came lusting. Charles V., when the city of Antwerp thought to gratify him in a mask with the sight of certain fair maids brought in before him almost naked, he would not once look at them. (c) The young Lord Harrington, when he should meet with fair women in the streets, or elsewhere, would usually pull his hat over his eyes, as knowing that of our Saviour, "He that looks upon a woman, to lust after her," &c., whereupon immediately follows, "If thine eye offend thee," &c. (d) Eckius was sharply rebuked at a feast, by a modest matron, for his uncivil glances and behavior, in these words (as Melancthon relateth), Es tu doctor? Non existimo te in honesta familia, sed in lupanari educatum . Thou a doctor? I do not believe thou wast bred anywhere else but in a brothel house. {See Trapp on "Genesis 6:2"}


Verse 15

Genesis 12:15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.

Ver. 15. The princes also of Pharaoh, &c.] Flattering courtiers please princes’ humours, and serve their delights, though to the procuring of their plagues, as here, and in young King Joash. "If a ruler hearken to lies," saith Solomon, "all his servants are wicked". [Proverbs 29:12] Aulici sunt instar speculi , saith one. And Mirifica est sympathia , said another, inter magnates and parasitos . Herodotus writeth that, when Cambyses demanded of his courtiers and counsellors whether it were not lawful for him to marry his own sister, whom he greatly desired, they answered, that they found no law to license such a match: but another law they found, that the King of Persia might do what he wanted to. (a)

And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.] Not for any worse purpose than to get her goodwill to become his wife.


Verse 16

Genesis 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.

Ver. 16. And he entreated Abram well for her sake.] To the end that he might solicit his sister to yield consent; or might not be a backward friend, at least, out of displeasure because they had taken away his sister from him to the court. So King Henry VIII advanced all Anne Boleyn’s kindred, &c.


Verse 17

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

Ver. 17. And the Lord plagued Pharaoh.] Plagued him with plagues, saith the Hebrew: tormented him with torments, or set him on the rack, saith the Greek. And for this he might thank his court parasites, who put him upon this rape. Chrysostom thinketh that Sarai was in bed with the king, and that in the bed God by his plague so restrained him that she remained untouched. But we cannot gather by the text that he intended to commit adultery, sed quod levitate et vaga libidine peccavit , but offended only in going after the sight of his eyes and lust of his heart, as Solomon hath it.


Verse 18

Genesis 12:18 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?

Ver. 18. What is this that thou hast done unto me?] God had reproved Pharaoh, according to that; "He suffered no man to do them wrong, but reproved kings for their sakes"; [Psalms 105:14] and now Pharaoh reproves Abram. It is a sad thing that saints should do that for which they should justly fall under the reproof of the wicked: we should rather dazzle their eyes, and draw from their consciences, at least, a testimony of our innocency, as David did from Saul’s, when he said, "Thou art more righteous than I, my son David". [1 Samuel 24:17] "Whose ox have I taken?" saith Samuel. [1 Samuel 12:3] "And which of you can condemn me of sin?" saith Christ. [John 8:46] Now, the life of a Christian should be a commentary upon Christ’s life. [1 Peter 2:21] "Ye are a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should preach forth [ εξαγγειλητε] his virtues," [1 Peter 2:9] and not hang his picture - his image and graces - in a dark hole, but in a conspicuous place. Bucer so lived that neither could his friends sufficiently praise him, nor his foes justly blame him for any miscarriage. And Bradford was had in so great reverence and admiration for his holiness, that a multitude which never knew him but by fame greatly lamented his death; yea, and a number also of Papists themselves wished heartily his life. (a) But to have Egyptians jeer us, and that for sin, is threatened as a grievous misery. [Hosea 7:16]


Verse 19

Genesis 12:19 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.

Ver. 19. Why saidst thou, She is my sister?] He might have answered, Because I was afraid. His fear it was that put him upon this exploit. So it did David when he changed his behaviour, and Peter when he denied his Master, &c. Men should rather die than lie. Nec prodam, nec mentiar , said that good bishop (a) in St Augustine. And that was a brave woman in St Jerome, that being on the rack resolved, and answered the tormentor, Non ideo negare volo ne peream, sed ideo mentiri nolo ne peccem . The chameleon, saith Pliny, is the most fearful of all creatures, and doth therefore turn into all colours, to save itself. So will timorous persons. See Zephaniah 3:13. Let us fortify our hearts against this cowardly passion.


Verse 20

Genesis 12:20 And Pharaoh commanded [his] men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

Ver. 20. And Pharaoh commanded.] Thus God comes, as it were, out of an engine, (a) and helps his people at a pinch. Abram had brought himself into the briars, and could find no way out. Many a heavy heart he had, no doubt, for his dear wife (who suffered by his default), and she again for him. God, upon their repentance, provides graciously for them both: she is kept undefiled, he greatly enriched for her sake; and now they are both secured, and dismissed with the king’s safeconduct. Oh, who would not serve such a God, as turns our errors and evil counsels to our great good, as the Athenians dreamed their goddess Minerva did for them!

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Genesis 12:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/genesis-12.html. 1865-1868.

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