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.
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(7) The Lord appeared unto Abram.—This is the first time that any appearance of the Deity is men tioned. Always previously the communications between God and man had been direct, without the intervention of any visible medium. Thus, God commanded Adam (Genesis 2:16); Adam and Eve heard His voice (Genesis 3:8), and He called them (Genesis 3:9); He said unto Cain (Genesis 4:6-9); unto Noah (Genesis 6:13; Genesis 7:1), and spake unto him (Genesis 8:15; Genesis 9:8): but henceforward we read repeatedly of a Divine appearance, and this visible manifestation is subsequently connected with the phrase “an angel of Jehovah” (see Genesis 16:7; Genesis 22:11, &c), and less frequently “an angel of God” (Genesis 21:17; Judges 6:20; Judges 13:9). Upon the question whether this was a created angel, or whether it was an anticipation of the incarnation of Christ, see Excursus on “Angel of Jehovah” at end of this book.

There builded he an altar unto the Lord.—By so doing he took possession of the land for Jehovah, and consecrated it to Him. The altar would, further, be a place of public worship and of sacrifice. In a similar spirit Noah had taken possession of the renovated earth (Genesis 8:20).

Genesis 12:7. And the Lord appeared to Abram — Probably in a vision, and spoke to him comfortable words: Unto thy seed will I give this land — No place or condition can shut us out from God’s gracious visits. Abram is a sojourner, unsettled, among Canaanites, and yet here also he meets with him that lives, and sees him. Enemies may part us and our tents, us and our altars, but not us and our God.

12:6-9 Abram found the country peopled by Canaanites, who were bad neighbours. He journeyed, going on still. Sometimes it is the lot of good men to be unsettled, and often to remove into various states. Believers must look on themselves as strangers and sojourners in this world, Heb 11:8,13,14. But observe how much comfort Abram had in God. When he could have little satisfaction in converse with the Canaanites whom he found there, he had abundance of pleasure in communion with that God, who brought him thither, and did not leave him. Communion with God is kept up by the word and by prayer. God reveals himself and his favours to his people by degrees; before, he had promised to show Abram this land, now, to give it to him: as grace is growing, so is comfort. It should seem, Abram understood it also as a grant of a better land, of which this was a type; for he looked for a heavenly country, Heb 11:16. As soon as Abram was got to Canaan, though he was but a stranger and sojourner there, yet he set up, and kept up, the worship of God in his family. He not only minded the ceremonial part of religion, the offering of sacrifice; but he made conscience of seeking his God, and calling on his name; that spiritual sacrifice with which God is well pleased. He preached concerning the name of the Lord; he taught his family and neighbours the knowledge of the true God, and his holy religion. The way of family worship is a good old way, no new thing, but the ancient usage of the saints. Abram was rich, and had a numerous family, was now unsettled, and in the midst of enemies; yet, wherever he pitched his tent, he built an altar: wherever we go, let us not fail to take our religion along with us.And the Lord appeared unto Abram. - Here, for the first time, this remarkable phrase occurs. It indicates that the Lord presents himself to the consciousness of man in any way suitable to his nature. It is not confined to the sight, but may refer to the hearing 1 Samuel 3:15. The possibility of God appearing to man is antecedently undeniable. The fact of his having done so proves the possibility. On the mode of his doing this it is vain for us to speculate. The Lord said unto him, "Unto thy seed will I give this land." "Unto thy seed," not unto thee. To Abram himself "he gave none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on" Acts 7:5. "This land" which the Lord had now shown him, though at present occupied by the Kenaanite invader. "An altar." This altar is erected on the spot which is hallowed by the appearance of the Lord to Abram. The place of Shekem might have been supposed to have received its name from Shekem, a son of Gilead Numbers 26:31, did we not meet with Shekem, the son of Hamor, in this very place in the time of Jacob Genesis 34:2. We learn from this the precariousness of the inference that the name of a place is of later origin because a person of that name lived there at a later period. The place of Shekem was doubtless called after a Shekem antecedent to Abram. Shekem and Moreh may have preceded even the Kenaanites, for anything we know.7. Unto thy seed will I give this land—God was dealing with Abram not in his private and personal capacity merely, but with a view to high and important interests in future ages. That land his posterity was for centuries to inhabit as a peculiar people; the seeds of divine knowledge were to be sown there for the benefit of all mankind; and considered in its geographical situation, it was chosen in divine wisdom as the fittest of all lands to serve as the cradle of a divine revelation designed for the whole world.

and there builded he an altar unto the Lord—By this solemn act of devotion Abram made an open profession of his religion, established the worship of the true God, and declared his faith in the promise.

The Lord appeared unto Abram, to encourage and comfort him against his wicked neighbours: see Genesis 13:15 15:18 17:8 24:7 Deu 34:4.

There built he an altar, a place for sacrifice, and other parts of Divine worship, erected by him both to keep his family in the true religion, and to separate himself and them from that idolatrous neighbourhood.

And the Lord appeared unto Abram,.... Perhaps in an human form, and so it was the Son of God; for whenever there was any visible appearance of a divine Person, under the former dispensation, it seems to be always of the essential Word, that was to be incarnate, and who spake with an articulate voice:

and said, unto thy seed will I give this land; the whole of it inhabited by Canaanites and others; and it was for this end chiefly that Abram was called out of Chaldea into Canaan, to be shown the land, and have the grant of it for his posterity:

and there builded an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him: by way of gratitude and thankfulness for his kind and gracious appearance, and for the gift of the land of Canaan to his offspring; for on this altar he no doubt offered sacrifice in a way of thanksgiving, as Noah did when he came out of the ark.

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

(g) It was not enough for him to worship God in his heart, but it was expedient to declare by outward profession his faith before men, of which this altar was a sign.

7. And the Lord appeared] The first mention of a Theophany in the patriarchal narrative. What form it took, and in what way it was connected with the “sacred tree” or the altar, is not related.

Unto thy seed will I give this land] The continuance of the Divine promise. In Genesis 12:2-3 we had the blessing of the people and the patriarch, in general terms. In this verse, immediately after the mention of the Canaanite occupation, possession of “this land” is promised to the descendants of Abram. This verse lays the foundation of the imperishable devotion of “the seed of Abram” to the Land of Promise.

builded he an altar] Cf. Genesis 8:20. The building of an altar which implies the rite of sacrifice is mentioned in connexion with the promises and appearances of God, cf. 8, Genesis 13:18, Genesis 33:20, Genesis 35:1; Genesis 35:7.

Sacrifice was the expression of the patriarch’s dependence on, communion with, and devotion to, Jehovah.

Verse 7. - And the Lord appeared. The first mention of a theophany, though Acts 7:2 alleges that such a Divine manifestation had previously occurred in Ur of the Chaldees. Though not a direct vision of Jehovah (John 1:18), that there was some kind of outward appearance may be inferred from the subsequent Divine manifestations to the patriarch (Genesis 18:2, 17, 33; Genesis 22:11-18), to Hagar (Genesis 16:7-14; Genesis 21:17, 18), and to Jacob (Genesis 31:11-13; Genesis 32:24-30). On the relation of the angel of Jehovah to Jehovah vide Genesis 16, 17. Unto Abram. "Jam paene fatigato Abraha isto duro exsilio et perpetuis migrationibus" (Luther). And said, Unto thy seed - to himself God gave "none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on" (Acts 7:5); the land was promised to his seed "when as yet he had no child" - will I give this land. Now occupied by the Canaanites. Undoubtedly a great promise, that the Canaanites should be dispossessed, and their country given to the offspring of a childless old man already over seventy-five years. The apparent improbability of its ever being accomplished rendered it a strong trial to the patriarch's faith. And there builded he an altar. "Constituit certum locum, in quo conveniat ecclesia, auditura verbum Dei, factura preess, laudatura Deum, sacrificatura Dee" (Luther). "Altare forma est Divini cultus; invocatio autem substantia et veritas" (Calvin). "The rearing of an altar in the land was, in fact, a form of taking possession of it on the ground of a right secured to the exercise of his faith" (Bush). "It is often said of Abraham and the patriarchs that they built altars to the Lord; it is never said they built houses for themselves" (Wordsworth). Unto the Lord who had appeared to him. Genesis 12:7Here in Sichem Jehovah appeared to him, and assured him of the possession of the land of Canaan for his descendants. The assurance was made by means of an appearance of Jehovah, as a sign that this land was henceforth to be the scene of the manifestation of Jehovah. Abram understood this, "and there builded he an altar to Jehovah, who appeared to him," to make the soil which was hallowed by the appearance of God a place for the worship of the God who appeared to him.
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