Matthew Poole's Commentary
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:God calls Abram from his own country and kindred to Canaan, Genesis 12:1. Promises to make of him a great and flourishing nation, and to bless in Christ his seed, Genesis 12:2,3. Abram obeys, Genesis 12:4-6. God appears to him, and promises to give Canaan to his seed; he builds an altar, Genesis 12:7. He removes to Beth-el, and there builds an altar, Genesis 12:8. There being a famine he goes down to Egypt, Genesis 12:10. He advises Sarai to equivocate, Genesis 12:11-13. She is taken into Pharaoh’s house, Genesis 12:15. Pharaoh kind to Abram for her sake, Genesis 12:16. God plagues him because of Sarai, Genesis 12:17. He calls Abram, and expostulates with him, Genesis 12:18,19. Sends him safely away, Genesis 12:20.
The Lord had said, to wit, in Ur of the Chaldees, by comparing Genesis 11:31, with Acts 7:2-4; or, did say, again, i.e. renewed the command in Haran, whilst Abram might possibly linger there, as afterwards Lot did in Sodom, longer than he should. But the former interpretation is more probable, because Moses speaks here of that command of God which came to Abram before he was gone from his
father’s house, and therefore before he came to Haran. And this command was given to Abram either immediately, or by Shem, then the governor of God’s church.
From thy father’s house; from the family of Nachor, which was now become idolatrous, Genesis 31:30 Joshua 24:2; and consequently their society was dangerous and pernicious; and therefore God mercifully snatcheth him as a brand out of the fire.
A land that I will show thee; which as yet he nameth not, for the greater trial and exercise of Abram’s faith and patience: compare Isaiah 41:2 Hebrews 11:8.
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:I will bless thee with all my blessings, spiritual, temporal, and eternal; (see Deu 7:13 28:2, &c.; Ephesians 1:3)
and thou shalt be, both a pattern and instrument of blessedness to others; to thy posterity, who shall be blessed for thy sake; to thy servants and friends, who shall be blessed by thy instruction and help; and to all the world, as it follows.
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.Those that are friends or enemies to thee shall be the same to me; a marvellous condescension and privilege.
In thee, i.e. in thy Seed, as it is explained Genesis 22:18 26:4 28:14, i.e. in and through Christ, Acts 3:25 Galatians 3:9,16,28,29; or, for thee, as the Chaldee hath it, i.e. for thy sake; or, by thee, i.e. by thy means; or, with thee, by comparing this with Galatians 3:8,9, i.e. in the same way and manner in which thou art blessed, that is, by a fruitful faith: compare Romans 4:11,12,16.
All families of the earth, i.e. all nations; which is to be limited to the believers of all nations, by the whole current of the Scriptures. All that shall be blessed shall be blessed by this means, and no other way.
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.Abram departed, first from Ur, and after his father’s death, from Haran.
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.1921
The souls, i.e. the persons, as the word souls is oft used, as Genesis 14:21 17:14 Exodus 12:15 Leviticus 5:1 Numbers 23:10 Deu 24:7 Mark 3:4, &c.
That they had gotten; Heb. made, i.e. either.
1. Begotten; for though Abram had yet no children, Lot had, and both their servants had children by their fellow servants born in their house, which might well be numbered among Abram’s and Lot’s persons, because they had an absolute dominion over them. Or,
2. Instructed, i.e. turned from idolatry, and taught in the true religion, as the Chaldee expounds it; for such were most proper for Abram to take along with him out of his father’s house in this expedition. Or,
3. Gotten, i.e. procured either by conquest or purchase, or any other lawful and usual way.
And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.Sichem; Heb. Sechem, a place afterwards so called in the mountains of Ephraim, Joshua 21:21 Judges 8:31, and here so called by anticipation.
The Canaanite is properly so called; that cursed, cruel, impious, and idolatrous nation: see Zechariah 14:21. This is added as an aggravation of Abram’s faith and obedience, that he durst and did profess the true religion in the midst of such a people, which could not be without great danger both of his estate and life.
Was then in the land, as a settled inhabitant to continue there for a long time; whereas now in Moses’s time he was forthwith to be expelled out of it.
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.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 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.Beth-el, a known place, which afterwards was called Beth-el, but now Luz, Genesis 28:19; a usual prolepsis, or anticipation, as before, Genesis 12:6.
On the west; or, on the sea; which is all one, because the sea was on the west part of the land: see Genesis 13:14 28:14 Numbers 3:23 Deu 3:27.
Hai, or Ai, as it is called, Joshua 7:2 Jeremiah 49:3 Isaiah 10:28.
And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.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 there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.There was a famine in the land, or,
in that land of Canaan, a land eminently fruitful, Deu 8:7,8. This was partly to punish that people’s sins, Psalm 107:34, partly to try Abram’s faith.
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:Quest. How could she be so fair, when she was above sixty years old?
Answ. She was so both comparatively to the Egyptians, and simply in herself, and that might be from divers causes:
1. From the greater vigour of nature in that age of the world.
2. Because her beauty was not diminished by child-bearing.
3. From God’s singular providence, ordering it thus for Abram’s trial, and for the manifestation of his special providence watching over him and his.
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.The Egyptians were a very lustful people, which made Abram more cautious.
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.Say thou art my sister: so she was, either,
1. More generally, as his niece; for nephews and nieces are in Scripture called brethren and sisters, as Genesis 13:8. Or rather,
2. Properly, i.e. by the father’s side, Genesis 20:12. So this expression was true, but ambiguous, and intended to deceive the Egyptians, and therefore unwarrantable. And here Abram, the father of the faithful, elsewhere celebrated for the strength of his faith, betrays his infirmity and distrust of God’s providence and promise, and this fact was not without great danger both to himself and Sarai.
And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.No text from Poole on this verse. 1920
The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.The princes also of Pharaoh, i.e. the officers and courtiers; whose great design was to gain their prince’s favour by gratifying his lusts.
Pharaoh was a name common to all the kings of Egypt now, and for many ages after.
The woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house, i.e. taken and brought, one word for two. So the word take is used Genesis 15:9,10 Exo 18:2 27:20, &c. Not to his bed, but the house of his women, where they were purified and prepared for the king’s presence and society, as Esther 2:8,9, that in due time she might be his concubine or wife. Thus even the ceremonies of courts serve the providence of God, and give opportunity for working her deliverance.
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.To wit, by Pharaoh’s gift, over and above his own; else it had been impertinent to mention it in this place.
And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.Most probably with some notable distemper of his body, which did both chastise him for and hinder him in the execution of his lust.
His house, i.e, his servants, who being some one way, some another, partners of his sin, are justly made partners in his plagues. And if any were innocent in this matter, they were obnoxious to God for other sins. Besides, as they were punished upon the occasion of Pharaoh’s sin, so Pharaoh was punished in their punishments.
Because of Sarai, i.e.
1. For the act of violence towards her; for the word taken, Genesis 12:15, implies that it was by constraint, and not with Abram’s and with her consent, which it is not probable that either of them would give in that case.
2. For an intention of uncleanness. For God, who is the Searcher and Judge of men’s hearts, may justly, and doth often, punish men for their evil purposes. Compare Genesis 20:3,4.
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?How great an injury hast thou done to me in concealing this from me, that she was thy wife! How knew Pharaoh this?
1. He guessed it from the quality of his plague, which also awakened his conscience.
2. Upon a serious inquiry into the cause of this plague, he understood it either by Divine instinct, as Genesis 20:3, or by Sarai’s confession, whom doubtless he severely examined about it. And she, being awakened by this warning, durst no longer conceal herself, and thought she might securely make herself known.
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.I might have taken her to me to wife; though he had another before; polygamy being then commonly practised.
And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.Pharaoh gave them a charge concerning him for his safe conduct whither he pleased.