Genesis 12:9
And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.

The Call. - The word of Jehovah, by which Abram was called, contained a command and a promise. Abram was to leave all - his country, his kindred (see Genesis 43:7), and his father's house - and to follow the Lord into the land which He would show him. Thus he was to trust entirely to the guidance of God, and to follow wherever He might lead him. But as he went in consequence of this divine summons into the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:5), we must assume that God gave him at the very first a distinct intimation, if not of the land itself, at least of the direction he was to take. That Canaan was to be his destination, was no doubt made known as a matter of certainty in the revelation which he received after his arrival there (Genesis 12:7). - For thus renouncing and denying all natural ties, the Lord gave him the inconceivably great promise, "I will make of thee a great nation; and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing." The four members of this promise are not to be divided into two parallel members, in which case the athnach would stand in the wrong place; but are to be regarded as an ascending climax, expressing four elements of the salvation promised to Abram, the last of which is still further expanded in Genesis 12:3. By placing the athnach under שׁמך the fourth member is marked as a new and independent feature added to the other three. The four distinct elements are - 1. increase into a numerous people; 2. a blessing, that is to say, material and spiritual prosperity; 3. the exaltation of his name, i.e., the elevation of Abram to honour and glory; 4. his appointment to be the possessor and dispenser of the blessing. Abram was not only to receive blessing, but to be a blessing; not only to be blessed by God, but to become a blessing, or the medium of blessing, to others. The blessing, as the more minute definition of the expression "be a blessing" in Genesis 12:3 clearly shows, was henceforth to keep pace as it were with Abram himself, so that (1) the blessing and cursing of men were to depend entirely upon their attitude towards him, and (2) all the families of the earth were to be blessed in him. קלּל, lit., to treat as light or little, to despise, denotes "blasphemous cursing on the part of a man;" ארר "judicial cursing on the part of God." It appears significant, however, "that the plural is used in relation to the blessing, and the singular only in relation to the cursing; grace expects that there will be many to bless, and that only an individual here and there will render not blessing for blessing, but curse for curse." - In Genesis 12:3 b, Abram, the one, is made a blessing for all. In the word בּך the primary meaning of ב, in, is not to be given up, though the instrumental sense, through, is not to be excluded. Abram was not merely to become a mediator, but the source of blessing for all. The expression "all the families of the ground" points to the division of the one family into many (Genesis 10:5, Genesis 10:20, Genesis 10:31), and the word האדמה to the curse pronounced upon the ground (Genesis 3:17). The blessing of Abraham was once more to unite the divided families, and change the curse, pronounced upon the ground on account of sin, into a blessing for the whole human race. This concluding word comprehends all nations and times, and condenses, as Baumgarten has said, the whole fulness of the divine counsel for the salvation of men into the call of Abram. All further promises, therefore, not only to the patriarchs, but also to Israel, were merely expansions and closer definitions of the salvation held out to the whole human race in the first promise. Even the assurance, which Abram received after his entrance into Canaan (Genesis 12:6), was implicitly contained in this first promise; since a great nation could not be conceived of, without a country of its own.

This promise was renewed to Abram on several occasions: first after his separation from Lot (Genesis 13:14-16), on which occasion, however, the "blessing" was not mentioned, because not required by the connection, and the two elements only, viz., the numerous increase of his seed, and the possession of the land of Canaan, were assured to him and to his seed, and that "for ever;" secondly, in Genesis 18:18 somewhat more casually, as a reason for the confidential manner in which Jehovah explained to him the secret of His government; and lastly, at the two principal turning points of his life, where the whole promise was confirmed with the greatest solemnity, viz., in Genesis 17 at the commencement of the establishment of the covenant made with him, where "I will make of thee a great nation" was heightened into "I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee," and his being a blessing was more fully defined as the establishment of a covenant, inasmuch as Jehovah would be God to him and to his posterity (Genesis 11:3.), and in Genesis 22 after the attestation of his faith and obedience, even to the sacrifice of his only son, where the innumerable increase of his seed and the blessing to pass from him to all nations were guaranteed by an oath. The same promise was afterwards renewed to Isaac, with a distinct allusion to the oath (Genesis 26:3-4), and again to Jacob, both on his flight from Canaan for fear of Esau (Genesis 28:13-14), and on his return thither (Genesis 35:11-12). In the case of these renewals, it is only in Genesis 28:14 that the last expression, "all the families of the Adamah," is repeated verbatim, though with the additional clause "and in thy seed;" in the other passages "all the nations of the earth" are mentioned, the family connection being left out of sight, and the national character of the blessing being brought into especial prominence. In two instances also, instead of the Niphal נרכוּ we find the Hithpael התבּרכוּ. This change of conjugation by no means proves that the Niphal is to be taken in its original reflective sense. The Hithpael has no doubt the meaning "to wish one's self blessed" (Deuteronomy 29:19), with ב of the person from whom the blessing is sought (Isaiah 65:16; Jeremiah 4:2), or whose blessing is desired (Genesis 48:20). But the Niphal נברך has only the passive signification "to be blessed." And the promise not only meant that all families of the earth would wish for the blessing which Abram possessed, but that they would really receive this blessing in Abram and his seed. By the explanation "wish themselves blessed" the point of the promise is broken off; and not only is its connection with the prophecy of Noah respecting Japhet's dwelling in the tents of Shem overlooked, and the parallel between the blessing on all the families of the earth, and the curse pronounced upon the earth after the flood, destroyed, but the actual participation of all the nations of the earth in this blessing is rendered doubtful, and the application of this promise by Peter (Acts 3:25) and Paul (Galatians 3:8) to all nations, is left without any firm scriptural basis. At the same time, we must not attribute a passive signification on that account to the Hithpael in Genesis 22:18 and Genesis 24:4. In these passages prominence is given to the subjective attitude of the nations towards the blessing of Abraham-in other words, to the fact that the nations would desire the blessing promised to them in Abraham and his seed.

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