Genesis 12:6
We here enter upon the more special history of Divine appearances. Hitherto the word is described simply as a word - "The Lord said;" now we connect with the word distinct appearances. The plain of Moreh will be ever memorable as the first scene of such revelations. The altar which Abram erected was to the Lord who appeared unto him, i.e. in commemoration of the vision. Thus the long line of theophanies commences. The great lesson of this record is the worship of man proceeding from the gracious revelation of God. True religion is not a spontaneous product of man's nature, but rather a response to God's grace. He appears; the believer to whom the vision is vouchsafed raises an altar not "to the unknown God," but to the God who has appeared to him. Another point in the record is the connection of the promise with the revelation. The Lord appeared, and when he appeared he gave his word of promise: "Unto thy seed will I give this land." Are we not reminded thus early in the history of religion that for its maintenance there is required not only a revelation to the mind and heart by the Spirit, but also a seat of its institutions and community? Religion without a people of God dwelling in the land of privilege, and bound together by the sacred bonds of a Divine fellowship, is no true religion at all. Abram builds altars at the various stages of his pilgrimage, still going south. Although we are not told of a distinct vouchsafement of God in connection with every altar, we may well suppose, especially as the "mountain" is specified, that the altars marked out not mere resting-places, but the scenes of special communion with Jehovah. - R.







The Canaanite was then in the land.
I. THE CANAANITE IS IN THE LAND.

1. The present world, through which we are travelling, is in the hands of the enemies of God.

2. Yet this very earth is to be, one day, the possession of the saints.

3. Meanwhile, our position in it, as pilgrims, is one of privation and peril.(1) We have spiritual foes, unseen, but ever watching against our souls.(2) We find the Canaanite in ourselves, in our fleshly infirmities, natural appetites, and carnal propensities and cravings, not yet wholly subdued.

II. OUR DUTY OF ALLEGIANCE TO GOD IN THE LAND OF OUR SOJOURN.

1. Like Abraham, we must be inoffensive to the Canaanite in the land, biding our time.

2. We are not to refrain from common acts of courtesy and civility in intercourse with worldly men.

3. Yet we must so keep aloof from them, as to preserve the purity of our pilgrim separation.

4. We must openly worship in the midst of the enemy's country.

5. In this spirit we are to pursue our pilgrimage.Conclusion:

1. This is not our rest.

2. Let us not covet worldly possessions.

3. Let our hearts be fixed on the final recompense of reward.

4. A word to the Canaanite. Are you content to stay in the land which you cannot long or finally possess?

(T. G. Horton.)

When Abraham was brought by the guidance of God into the land of Canaan, he found himself in the midst of population which could not be regarded as wholly alien. Nor do the inhabitants appear to have been of a character which would repel all intercourse. They had already abandoned, at least to a certain extent, their original pastoral and nomadic habits, and we find them gathered into cities, leaving the open country principally to the occupation of friendly strangers such as Abraham. Their civilization was, however, but little developed; for good and for evil they seem to have retained much of their primitive character. Where kings are mentioned, they approach more nearly to the patriarchal heads of tribes than to the barbarous despots of later days. We come across no traces of the fearful moral corruption that afterwards made "the land spue out" its inhabitants, except, indeed, in the wealthy and luxurious cities of the plain. There the degeneracy that was afterwards to bring the Divine judgments upon all the nations of Canaan had rapidly run its fatal course. But the rest of the land was still comparatively uncorrupted. Later on we find the numerous cities of the land, excluding such as were still held by the warlike and savage aborigines, loosely grouped into four main divisions. There are the Amorites, or Highlanders, a fierce people — apparently the furthest removed from the Canaanites proper — that dwelt in the mountains, from the Scorpion Range, south of the Dead Sea, to the hills of Judah. The Hittites are their neighbours, dwelling in the valleys, lovers of refinement at an early period, and living in well-ordered communities possessing national assemblies. The fertile lowlands by the course of the Jordan, and along the coast of the Mediterranean, are held by the Canaanites, who, as possessors of the choicest of the land and by far the best known by foreigners, often gave their name to the whole of the population of the country. These also were much more addicted to commerce than to war, in this resembling the fourth main division, the Hivites of the midland region, whose principal city seems to have been the flourishing, wealthy, but timorous Gibeon.

(A. S. Wilkins.)

I. UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES DID ABRAHAM BEAR HIS WITNESS FOR GOD?

1. He did it as a stranger in a foreign land. It is emphatically said Of Abraham, that when he came "unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh," "the Canaanite was then in the land." When he first came among them, he came as a man who was utterly unknown. There was nothing whatever to introduce him, nothing whatever to give him authority and influence among them. He was a mere stranger, whose history, whose life, whose conduct was altogether strange.

2. But not only so: he was surrounded by wicked men. Abraham, then, bare his witness for God under the most unfavourable circumstances. He bare his witness where he was a stranger, where all that were around him were opposed to God, and enemies of that faith which he professed and that practice which he displayed. Let no man after this fancy that he will find an excuse in not witnessing for God by the difficulties of the circumstances in which he is placed.

II. OF WHAT DID HE BEAR WITNESS?

1. In the first place, he bare witness to the paramount importance of godliness. His chief thought was to testify that he was the servant of God; and the first thing he did after he pitched his tent was this — to erect an altar, and to call upon the name of the Lord. Oh! brethren, this was a testimony that "godliness is profitable to all things," that it has "the promise of the life that now is" as well as "of that which is to come." It was as much as to say, "All my prosperity and all my success, all that I have gained and all that I have achieved, is absolutely nothing unless I am a servant of Almighty God."

2. Again: he was a witness to the love, the power, and the providence of God. He was a witness to these things in that he openly addressed himself to God.

3. Moreover, Abraham bare witness to His faithfulness. When was it that he erected his altar, and called upon the name of the Lord? Just when he had received His promise. God said unto Abraham, "I will give thee this land"; and Abraham "builded an altar unto the Lord." He showed that he depended upon God's promise.

4. But Abraham did more than merely witness to these general truths. Much indeed it was to witness to the importance of godliness; much to witness to a wondering and a hating world the love, the power, and the providence of God; much to bear witness to the faithfulness of His promise; but Abraham did more — he was a "preacher of righteousness." He "rejoiced to see the day of Christ, and he saw it, and was glad; " and the great fundamental truths that lie at the very foundation of the scheme of man's redemption, were by his altar and by his prayer preached and proclaimed unto mankind. It is the duty, brethren, of every child of God to bear witness to the same truths; and exactly in proportion to any influence or authority we possess does the duty become more imperative, and the obligation upon us the more binding.

III. TO WHOM DID ABRAHAM BEAR WITNESS?

1. In the first place, he bare witness to the world around. He did not go amongst ungodly men, and hear the Master whom he served profaned, and think that he would keep his sentiments for another time; he bore his witness openly, boldly, undauntedly, in the face of day. And this is just the course that all of us, if we are sincere in our profession, are bound to pursue No man will give us credit for sincerity unless we do so.

2. Not only, however, did Abraham testify to the world around him, but he testified especially to the members of his own household. His own household partook most of the influence of that genial piety. Their ears it was that listened oftenest to the accents of his fervent prayers; their hearts gathered in the mild and holy effects of that blessed teaching, which taught them to took down the line of time for a sacrifice and atonement for their guilt.

(H. Hughes, M. A.)

The first place in Canaan where Abraham halted with his family and his household was at Shechem, near a celebrated oak tree. As we might have expected, the first recorded encampment of the patriarch is not without significance. Shechem is situated in the very centre of Palestine; it is in the Bible even called the "navel of the land," and was the natural place of assembly for all the tribes of the country; the oak was, in the time of the Judges, still famous under the name of "oak of sorcerers," and near it was a rich temple of the idol Baal-Berith; but the region in and around Shechem was even at that time still partly occupied by the heathens. Only by remembering these facts, our text will appear in its full and deep meaning. Abraham proceeded at once to the central town of the land intended as the future habitation of his descendants; a town obviously too important by its position to be left in the hands of the enemies; and there that promise of the land was for the first time made (ver. 7). The place of the ancient tree, which so long witnessed superstitious and cruel rites, was hallowed by a Divine vision, and converted into a sacred spot; and at the side of the idolatrous temple rose an altar dedicated to the God of heaven and earth. Thus the facts related obtain a prospective and didactic force for which we have prepared the reader by some of the preceding remarks. Shechem, perhaps one of the oldest towns of Palestine, and in early times inhabited by the Hivites, is situated in a narrow but beautiful valley, between 1,200 to 1,600 feet wide, seven miles south of Samaria, not far from the confines of the ancient provinces of Ephraim and Manasseh, and in the range of the mountains of Ephraim, at the foot both of Mount Ebal and Gerizim, which enclose it north and south, which were themselves famous by early altars and sanctuaries, and were of the highest religious interest by the blessing and the curse proclaimed on them for the observance or the neglect of the Law. The town was not only important in the history of the patriarchs, but in the theocratical and political history of the Israelites; it was a city of refuge and a Levitical town; here Joshua delivered his last solemn address to all the tribes of Israel; it was, in the time of the Judges, the principal town of Abimelech's kingdom; here Rehoboam was proclaimed king, and promulgated to the delegates of the people his insulting policy; and when the ten tribes declared their independence of his despotic rule, it became the residence of the new empire. It was not unimportant in the time of the captivity, and became after its expiration the celebrated centre of the Samaritan worship, whose temple was only destroyed by John Hyrcanus (me. 129). In the first century of the Christian era it lay in ruins; but on its ancient site, or in its immediate vicinity, a new, though smaller town, Neapolis, was built, probably by Flavius Vespasianus; it was the birth place of , and the seat of Christian bishops; although captured by the Moslems and the Crusaders, it suffered but little or temporarily; after several vicissitudes, which could not annihilate its prosperity, it fell finally into the hands of the Turks in A.D. 1242.

(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

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