Genesis 12:9
And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.
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(9) Toward the south.—The Negeb, or dry land, so called because the soil being a soft white chalk, the rains sink through it, and even in the valleys run below the surface of the ground. Though treeless, it is still rich in flocks and herds, but the water has to be collected in tanks and cisterns (Conder, Tent Work, ii. 87).

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.From the oak of Moreh Abram now moves to the hill east of Bethel, and pitches his tent, with "Bethel on the west and Ai on the east." These localities are still recognized - the former as Beiten, and the latter as Tell er-Rijmeh (the mount of the heap). Bethel was "a place," adjacent to which was the town called "Luz at the first" Genesis 28:19. Jacob gave this name to the place twice Genesis 28:19; Genesis 35:15. The name, then, was not first given at the second nomination by him. It follows that it may not have been first given at his first nomination. Accordingly we meet with it as an existing name in Abram's time, without being constrained to account for it by supposing the present narrative to have been composed in its present form after the time of Jacob's visit. On the other hand, we may regard it as an interesting trace of early piety having been present in the land even before the arrival of Abram. We shall meet with other corroborating proofs. Bethel continued afterward to be a place hallowed by the presence of God, to which the people resorted for counsel in the war with Benjamin Judges 20:18, Judges 20:26, Judges 20:31; Judges 21:2, and in which Jeroboam set up one of the golden calves 1 Kings 12:29.

On the hill east of this sacred ground Abram built another altar; and called upon the name of the Lord. Here we bare the reappearance of an ancient custom, instituted in the family of Adam after the birth of Enok Genesis 4:26. Abram addresses God by his proper name, Yahweh, with an audible voice, in his assembled household. This, then, is a continuation of the worship of Adam, with additional light according to the progressive development of the moral nature of man. But Abram has not yet any settled abode in the land. He is only surveying its several regions, and feeding his flocks as he finds an opening. Hence, he continues his journey southward.

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.

Removing from place to place, still hoping to meet with better neighbours, and to free himself from that perpetual vexation which he had in beholding their wickedness.

Toward the south, i.e. the southern part of the land of Canaan towards Egypt.

And Abram journeyed,.... He did not stay long in the mountain between Bethel and Hai, but moved from thence, and kept on journeying in the land of Canaan:

going on still toward the south; the southern part of the land of Canaan, which lay nearest Egypt, into which he is said to go next, the occasion of which follows.

{k} And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.

(k) Thus the children of God may look for no rest in this world, but must wait for the heavenly rest and quietness.

9. toward the South] Heb. Negeb, the southern tract of Judah. Negeb means “the dry land,” “the land of thin soil.” It was applied especially to the country in the southernmost region of Canaan, described in Joshua 15:21-32, and spoken of in Numbers 13:17; Numbers 13:22; Numbers 13:26. The Israelite, dwelling in Palestine, was accustomed to speak of the south as the “negeb” quarter, just as he spoke of the west as the “sea” quarter, of the compass. The R.V. prints the word “South” with a capital, when it denotes the region between Hebron and the wilderness. It is found in the form Ngb in an Egyptian writing of the reign of Thothmes III (1479–1447 b.c.) as a name for S. Palestine (Müller’s Asien u. Europa, p. 148).

Verse 9. - And Abram journeyed (literally, broke up, e. g., his encampment, going on still - literally, going on and breaking up (cf. Genesis 8:3); "going and returning" - towards the south. Negleb, the dry region, from nagabh, to be dried, the southern district of Palestine (Genesis 13:3; Genesis 20:1; Genesis 24:62). The LXX. render, ἐστρατοπέδευσεν ἐν, τῇ ἐρήμῳ. . Of this section vers. 5, 6, 8a are commonly assigned to the Elohist; and 7, 8b, and 9 to the Jehovist.

Genesis 12:9He did this also in the mountains, to which he probably removed to secure the necessary pasture for his flocks, after he had pitched his tent there. "Bethel westwards and Ai eastwards," i.e., in a spot with Ai to the east and Bethel to the west. The name Bethel occurs here proleptically: at the time referred to, it was still called Luz (Genesis 28:19); its present name if Beitin (Robinson's Palestine). At a distance of about five miles to the east was Ai, ruins of which are still to be seen, bearing the name of Medinet Gai (Ritter's Erdkunde). On the words "called upon the name of the Lord," see Genesis 4:26. From this point Abram proceeded slowly to the Negeb, i.e., to the southern district of Canaan towards the Arabian desert (vid., Genesis 20:1).
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