The *tower in Babel shows that people are proud, 11:1-4
v1 All the people on the earth had one language and they had one set of words. v2 When people moved to the east, they found a plain in the country called Shinar. And they stayed there.
v3 These people said to each other, ‘Come! Let us make bricks. And let us bake them hard.’ So they used bricks as stones to build with. And they used bitumen (black stuff from the ground) in order to stick the bricks together. v4 Then they said, ‘Come! Let us build a city for ourselves. Let us build a tower (tall, narrow building) with its top in the sky. We will make ourselves great. Then we shall not scatter over all the earth.’
v5 Then the *Lord came down to see the city. And he came to see the *tower that the people were building. v6 The *Lord said, ‘Look! They are all one group of people. They all have the same language. This is only the beginning of what the people will do. They will be able to do everything that they plan to do. Nothing is impossible. v7 Come! Let us go down. We will mix up the people’s language. Then they will not be able to understand each other.’
v8 Then the *Lord scattered them from there over all the earth. And they stopped building the city. v9 So the city was called Babel because there, God mixed up the language of all the people on the earth. From there, God scattered them over all the earth.
v10 This is the history of Shem’s family. When Shem was 100 years old, he became Arpachshad’s father. That was two years after the flood. v11 After Arpachshad was born, Shem lived for 500 more years. Shem had other sons and daughters. v12 When Arpachshad had lived for 35 years, he became Shelah’s father. v13 After Shelah was born, Arpachshad lived for 430 more years. Arpachshad had other sons and daughters. v14 When Shelah had lived for 30 years, he became Eber’s father. v15 After Eber was born, Shelah lived for 430 more years. Shelah had other sons and daughters.
v16 When Eber had lived for 34 years, he became Peleg’s father. v17 Then Eber lived for 430 more years and he had other sons and daughters.
v18 When Peleg had lived for 30 years, he became Reu’s father. v19 Then Peleg lived for 209 more years and he had other sons and daughters.
v20 When Reu had lived for 32 years, he became Serug’s father. v21 Then Reu lived for 207 more years and he had other sons and daughters.
v22 When Serug had lived for 30 years, he became Nahor’s father. v23 Then Serug lived for 200 more years and he had other sons and daughters.
v24 When Nahor had lived for 29 years, he became Terah’s father. v25 Then Nahor lived for 119 more years and he had other sons and daughters.
v26 After Terah had lived for 70 years, he became Abram’s, Nahor’s and Haran’s father.
v27 This is the history of Terah’s family. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. Haran was Lot’s father. v28 Haran died in the city called Ur. That was in the country where the people called Chaldeans lived. It was the country where Haran was born. Haran’s father Terah was still alive. v29 Abram and Nahor both married. Abram’s wife was called Sarai and Nahor’s wife was called Milcah. Milcah was Haran’s daughter. Haran was both Milcah’s and Iscah’s father. v30 Sarai was *barren. That means that she had no children.
v31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot (Haran’s son), and his son’s (Abram’s) wife Sarai. Together they went out from Ur, where the people called Chaldeans lived. They planned to go to the country called Canaan. But when they came to the city called Haran, they settled there.
v32 Terah’s whole life lasted 205 years. He died in Haran.
All the people spoke the same language because they were all Noah’s *descendants. And they wanted to live together. They were proud. They wanted to be more powerful. So they built a great city.
But God had not told people to live together. He told them to move across the world (Genesis 9:1) so that the whole world would have inhabitants. So the people were not obeying God’s commands. In fact, they were trying to oppose God.
God did not allow them to continue the construction of that city. He confused their languages and he ended their unity. They could not talk with each other. So they had to move to different places.
The chapter continues with the story of Shem’s family. People’s lives began to be shorter now. At last, the writer mentions Abram. Abram was different from other people because Abram believed God. This fact may not seem important when we have discussed the history of the whole world. But, for the writer of the Book of Genesis, this fact was vital. The Book of Genesis always concentrates on the lives of people who please God. Already, we have read about Abel, Enoch and Noah. And Abram would join the list of men who pleased God. Their lives had a vast effect on the relationship between people and God. God said that all the people in the world would receive a *blessing by means of Abram (Genesis 12:3).
Notes on the verses
Verse 2 People moved ‘to the east’. Or that may mean ‘in the east’. Earlier, the *Lord sent Cain away. And then Cain too went towards the east.
Verse 3 ‘Bitumen’ is a black stuff that people get from the ground. At that time, people started to use it like cement. They stuck bricks together with it. Today, people use it as a surface for roads.
Verse 4 The people did not ask what the *Lord wanted. They wanted to build for themselves. They were not building this city in order to bring honour to God. They wanted to be famous themselves.
God makes new languages and he scatters people, 11:5-9
Verse 5 The *Lord showed how great he is. People thought that they could reach up to the sky. They thought that God was in the sky. But God came down to the earth to see their *tower. When we compare the *tower with God, it was very small. And it was not very important, because God is so great. It is God who makes people great. We cannot make ourselves great in God’s opinion. People think that they are great and powerful. But God is in control. He confused their language and he scattered them. So, he stopped the people before they could become more evil. He stopped them before they could make more trouble.
The writer has told the story about the *tower in Babel in very easy language. He uses many words that sound like other words. Some parts of God’s reply sound very like the people’s speech. But God’s reply means something very different. After Adam and Eve had *sinned, they could not talk with God as easily as before. Now, people could not talk to each other easily.
Verse 9 ‘Babel’ means ‘confused’.
Shem’s family (Abram’s *ancestors), 11:10-32
Verses 10-26 ‘The history of Shem’s family’. People’s exact ages here are not clear, but that is not very important. This history of Shem’s family may not be complete. Some people may be grandsons rather than sons. Again, it is important to see that this is a story about real people. We can compare it with the account about Adam’s family. (Look at Genesis chapter 5.) We can see that the people in Shem’s family were younger when they had children. And they did not live as long. In Genesis 6:3, God said that he would place a limit on the length of people’s lives.
In verse 26, Abram, Nahor and Haran were born at different times.
Here, the story about Abram begins. Abram was the father of the family that God chose specially. Abram’s brother was called Haran. And also the place where Terah stayed to live was called Haran.
Genesis 11:27 to 12:9 These verses are very important. They show how God was making his plan happen for people. He chose Abram’s family as his special family. Then he chose the nation of the *Jews. Then he did something special for all nations. God was a friend to Abram. And God made special promises to Abram and his family. Here we also read about the country that the *Lord promised to Abram.
Verse 27 Haran was probably Terah’s oldest son. It seems that Abram was looking after Lot.
Verse 29 Sarai was Abram’s half-sister (Genesis 20:12). In other words, Sarai and Abram had the same father (Terah), but Sarai’s mother was not Abram’s mother. Later, God forbade men to marry a half-sister. Nahor married his brother’s daughter. God never forbade that.
Verse 30 At that time, if a woman had no children, she was very sad. And sometimes people thought that the woman should be ashamed because of that. God sometimes made women be without children because they had *sinned (Genesis 20:18). However, there are also several women like Sarai, Hannah and Elizabeth in the Bible. They did not have any children for a long time, but God *blessed them.
Verse 32 Abram probably left Haran many years before Terah died. Terah was not a part of God’s plan for Abram and his *descendants. For that reason, the writer tells us that Terah died in Haran.
God calls Abram, 12:1-9
Abram leaves Haran
v1 The *Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your *tribe and your father’s house. Go to the country that I shall show you.
v2 I will make you into a great nation. I will *bless you and I will make your name great. I will *bless other people, too, because of you. v3 I will *bless those that *bless you. And I will *curse anyone that does not respect you. I will *bless all the families on the earth, because I *bless you.’
v4 Then Abram went, as the *Lord had told him. And Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. v5 Abram took with him his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot. He also took the slaves. And he took everything that he had got in Haran. They left to go to the country called Canaan. And they arrived at Canaan.
v6 And Abram went through the country. He went as far as the place called Shechem. He came to the *oak there that was called Moreh. The *Canaanites (Canaan’s *descendants) owned the country at that time. v7 Abram saw the *Lord. And the *Lord said to him, ‘I shall give this country to your *descendants.’ Then Abram built an *altar for the *Lord’s honour. Abram built it where he had seen the *Lord. v8 From there, Abram moved his camp. He went to the hills that are east from Bethel. He put up his tent between Bethel and Ai. There he built an *altar for the *Lord’s honour. Abram built it where he had seen the *Lord. And he prayed to the *Lord there. v9 Then Abram went on towards the area called the Negev.
God had a wonderful plan for Abram and his *descendants. So, God told Abram to leave his home and his father’s family. Abram did not know where he was going. But he trusted God. So, Abram set out on his journey.
God promised that Abram’s *descendants would become a great nation. Abram did not know how this could happen. His wife, Sarai, had no children. But Abram trusted that God could make this happen.
God also promised that Abram, by his *descendant, would *bless everyone in the world. This was a great promise. Again, Abram did not realise how this would happen. But perhaps he knew about God’s promise to Eve in Genesis 3:15. Today, of course, we know about Jesus. He died so that God would forgive our *sin. Because of Jesus, everyone who trusts him becomes a friend of God. But Abram did not know about such things. He just heard God’s promise. He trusted God. So he obeyed God.
But Abram was not a perfect man. He did not always trust God completely. Soon, there would not be enough food. Abram did not stay in the place where God had taken him. Instead, he went elsewhere. And there was trouble for Abram in that other place, because Abram was not completely honest. It seems that he preferred to trust his own clever ideas. Instead, he should have continued to trust God.
Notes on the verses
Verse 1 The *Hebrew word here for ‘nation’ is the one that the *Jews used for the Gentile nations. (That is, all the nations that were not *Jews.) So, the word meant a large group of people that had a government and a country. It was not just a ‘*tribe’ that spoke the same language.
God chose Abram. And God called Abram to leave his home. Abram did not know where he was going (Hebrews 11:9). But he still trusted God.
Verses 2-3 Only God can make someone’s name great. The men at Babel tried to make themselves great, but they failed. The *Hebrew words here are words that could describe a king. Later, Abram was called a prince. And Sarai was called ‘the mother of kings’. Abram was not really a king or a prince. But he became an important man. And kings would be among his *descendants.
Abram could only give a *blessing to other people if he left Haran. God *blessed him so that he (Abram) could *bless other people.
God’s *blessing is for all. It is not just for the *Israelites. Later, Laban said to Jacob, ‘God has *blessed me because of you’ (Genesis 30:27). God *blessed the *household of Potiphar the *Egyptian because of Joseph (Genesis 39:5). The people in Egypt got food during the *famine because of Joseph. It was not only Jacob and his family that got food.
This promise was not just for Abram. It was also for his *descendants, called the *Israelites. Balaam repeated this promise when he was speaking about the *Israelites in Numbers 24:9. But especially, this promise was about Abram’s greatest *descendant (Galatians 3:16). The Bible has already spoken about this *descendant in Genesis 3:15. This *descendant would destroy the power of *sin and of the devil. This *descendant is Jesus (Matthew 1:1). And, by his death, Jesus frees people so that they become the sons of God (Galatians 4:4-7). And this *blessing, that we receive by means of Jesus, is for people from all nations (Ephesians 2:11-13).
Verses 4-5 Abram left home. God guided him. And Abram arrived at the country called Canaan.
Verse 7 Abram built an *altar for God’s honour. But some *ancestors of Abram had built a city or *tower for their own honour! Abram built the *altar and he prayed to God. His *worship included work as well as words.
Verses 8-9 Abram continued to travel through the land that God was giving to him. And Abram was grateful. He built another *altar.
Abram and Sarai in Egypt, 12:10-20
Verses 10-20 Abram left the country that God had promised to him. Abram went to Egypt because he needed food. God would have taken care of Abram where he was. But Abram could not believe that.
We remember Abram because, especially, he trusted God. But Abram had to learn how to trust God. And Abram made some serious mistakes as he learned.
v10 There was a very bad *famine in the country called Canaan. So Abram went down to Egypt in order to stay there. He went to Egypt because there was no food in Canaan. v11 When Abram was near Egypt, he said this to his wife Sarai: ‘I know that you are a beautiful woman. v12 The people who live in Egypt will see you. Then they will say, “This is Abram’s wife.” Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. v13 Say that you are my sister. Then they will act well towards me because of you. They will let me live because of you.’
v14 Then Abram entered Egypt. And people saw that the woman was very beautiful. v15 *Pharaoh’s princes saw her. Then they told *Pharaoh how beautiful she was. So *Pharaoh took the woman into his palace. v16 Because of Sarai, *Pharaoh was very kind to Abram. *Pharaoh gave him sheep, *oxen, *donkeys, slaves (male and female) and camels. v17 But God made *Pharaoh and his *household very ill because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. v18 So *Pharaoh called Abram and *Pharaoh said this: ‘You have done an evil thing to me. You should have told me that she was your wife. v19 You should not have said, “She is my sister.” I took her as my wife because you said that. Here she is. Take your wife and go away.’ v20 *Pharaoh ordered his men to send Abram away with his wife and possessions.
Verse 10 The country called Canaan did not have regular rain. Often, there was not enough food there. Egypt was flatter and the River Nile provided water.
Later, the *Israelites went to Egypt because there was not enough food in Canaan (Genesis 47:4). So, perhaps people in Canaan often had to go to Egypt in order to buy food.
Verses 11-13 Abram thought that he needed to lie in order to protect himself. We can see that Abram was not trusting God. Abram’s story was partly true. Sarai and Abram had the same father but different mothers. But Abram was pretending that Sarai and Abram were not married. So the story was still a lie.
Verses 14-15 Abram was right. Sarai was attractive. *Pharaoh believed that Sarai was Abram’s sister. So, *Pharaoh took her as a wife (verse 19).
Abram got rich because of this situation, but *Pharaoh suffered from plagues. (Plagues are very bad things that affect very many people. They include diseases and large quantities of insects.) In that way, God showed that he punishes *sinners. They may not know that they are *sinning. But even then, God punishes them. *Pharaoh knew that *adultery was wrong. He saw that God was *blessing Abram.
Abram and Lot separate, 13:1-18
v1 Then Abram went up from Egypt. He took his wife with him. And he took everything that they had. Lot went with them to the area called the Negev. v2 Abram was very rich. He had a lot of *cattle, silver and gold.
v3 Abram travelled from the Negev to Bethel. He stopped sometimes on the way. Then he went beyond Bethel towards Ai. That was the place where he had had his tent at the beginning. v4 That was where he had made an *altar before. There Abram *worshipped the *Lord.
v5 Lot, who was with Abram, also had *flocks, *herds and tents. v6 When Abram and Lot were together, there were a lot of people and animals. The land could not produce enough to keep them all alive. Abram and Lot owned so much that they could not live near each other. v7 Some *herdsmen looked after Abram’s *cattle and some *herdsmen looked after Lot’s *cattle. And there were quarrels between those two groups of *herdsmen. The people called *Canaanites and Perizzites were living in that part of Canaan then.
v8 So Abram said to Lot, ‘We are men and we belong to the same family. So we must not argue, nor must our *herdsmen quarrel. v9 Here is the whole country. Go away from me. If you go to the left, I shall go to the right. If you go to the right, I shall go to the left.’
v10 So Lot looked round. He saw the plain in valley of the Jordan River. It spread as far as Zoar. It was a very good place to grow crops. And Lot saw that. It was like the *Lord’s garden and it was like the country called Egypt. That was before the *Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. v11 Lot chose all the plain in the valley of the Jordan River. He chose that for himself. Therefore Lot went east, so that he and Abram were not together. v12 Abram lived in the country called Canaan. But Lot lived among the cities on the plain. And he put up his tents close to Sodom. v13 Now the men in Sodom were evil and they *sinned greatly against the *Lord.
v14 The *Lord spoke to Abram, after Lot had gone away from him. The *Lord said, ‘Look about you. Look from there, where you are. Look north, south, east and west. v15 All of the land that you see, I shall give to you. I shall give it to you and your *descendants for always. v16 It will be impossible to count your *descendants, as it is impossible to count tiny bits of dust. v17 Come! Walk all through the country. Walk north, south, east and west because I shall give it all to you.’
v18 So Abram moved his tent. And he went to live by the *oaks that Mamre owned. They are in the area called Hebron. There he built an *altar for the *Lord’s honour.
Abram had travelled with his nephew, called Lot. Like Abram, Lot was a *righteous man (2 Peter 2:7-8). So, Lot wanted to do the right things. But there was a problem with Lot’s character. Wealth tempted Lot. In time, it became too difficult for Abram and Lot to live together. Lot wanted to live in a place where he could become more wealthy. He did not seem to care that he would be living near wicked men. Their deeds would upset Lot greatly. But Lot still chose to live with them.
Lot’s attitudes were like the attitudes of many Christians today. They are glad to be Christians. And the wicked behaviour of other people upsets them. But those Christians allow wealth to tempt them. They may even do things that they should not do, because of money. They themselves are not evil people. But their wrong attitudes cause them many troubles. And they cannot trust God completely because of their wrong ambitions.
Abram was different. He did not care about wealth. He knew that God had led him to Canaan. And he knew that God had given his (Abram’s) wealth to him. So, Abram allowed Lot to choose whatever land he (Lot) wanted. And Abram was confident, because he trusted God. God would give to Abram whatever land Abram needed.
Afterwards, God repeated his promise to Abram. God promised Abram the country in which Abram was now living. Abram was in the right place. This was the country that God had chosen for Abram and his *descendants.
Verse 2 Abram was ‘very’ rich. And the *famine had been ‘very’ bad (Genesis 12:10). In both those cases, the writer uses the same word for ‘very’.
Verse 3 Abram was eager to return to the country that God had promised to him. And he was eager to keep in close friendship with God.
Verse 6 Abram had received more animals from *Pharaoh. All Abram's animals needed grass to eat. So he needed more land for the animals.
Verse 8 Abram said that the men should not quarrel. Close relatives should not quarrel. He said that they should separate. Then they would be friendly again. They must not live near to each other, because that caused them to quarrel.
Verse 9 Abram was generous and he let Lot choose first.
Verse 12 From this verse, we get the idea that Lot was willing to live outside Canaan. Lot was selfish. He chose the place that he liked best. He thought that it was the best place to live. But the reasons for his decision were wrong. People must respect older people and parents. Abram was older than Lot. And Abram cared about Lot. In Sodom, Lot would live near wicked people. But Lot did not worry about that.
Lot put up tents close to Sodom so that his animals could eat grass in that area.
Verse 13 The writer gives us some idea about the trouble that the wicked people in Sodom would cause.
Verses 14-15 God told Abram more about his (God’s) promise. All the land that Abram could see would become his (Abram’s) country. God would give it to Abram himself. God would not give it just to Abram’s *descendants. God said that it would always belong to Abram.
Verses 16-17 Abram’s *descendants would be so many that nobody would be able to count them. God will *bless us when we trust him completely. Abram walked through the country. He was showing that one day he would own the country.
Verse 18 Abram built another *altar for the *Lord’s honour. Abram wanted to thank God for his goodness.
Abram at war with the kings, 14:1-24
Many *tribes lived in the area. Each *tribe had its own chief man or king. Those kings sometimes came together to help each other. They came together because they wanted to fight against a more powerful *tribe. Or they wanted to defeat a smaller *tribe and then they would have power over that *tribe. Then the smaller *tribe that they had defeated had to pay regular taxes to them. Or that *tribe had to serve them.
At first, Abram did not join in with these battles. But then one side attacked Sodom, where Lot lived. That side overcame the men from Sodom. So, the people from Sodom, including Lot, became prisoners. Lot was Abram’s nephew. So, Abram decided that he would rescue Lot. Abram was not a king and he did not have an army. Abram was a farmer. But he was wealthy. He had many employees and many slaves. These men were strong men and they would fight for Abram. Abram also had three important friends, called Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. They too were willing to fight for Abram.
Abram attacked by night, and he was very successful. He managed to rescue all the people from Sodom, including Lot. And he also took back all their possessions. Abram could have kept these possessions. But he did not want to. These possessions belonged to wicked men. Abram trusted God. So, Abram did not want wicked men to make him rich.
As Abram returned, he met a king called Melchizedek. Like Abram, Melchizedek *worshipped the real God. In fact, Melchizedek was a priest of God. Hebrews chapter 7 explains the importance of this. Jesus was a priest like Melchizedek. Unlike other priests, Melchizedek did not become a priest because of his family. And Hebrews 7:7 even says that Melchizedek was a greater person than Abram. The Bible only mentions Melchizedek briefly. But we can learn many things about Jesus from the story of Melchizedek.
4 kings fight against 5 kings, 14:1-12
v1 At that time, Amraphel was the king of Shinar and Arioch was the king of Ellasar. Chedorlaomer was the king of Elam and Tidal was the king of Goiim. v2 Those 4 kings made war with 5 other kings. These 5 kings included Bera the king of Sodom, and Birsha the king of Gomorrah. There were Shinab the king of Admah, and Shemeber the king of Zeboiim. And there was the king of Bela (the place that is also called Zoar). v3 All these 5 kings came together in the valley called Siddim, which is near the Salt Sea. v4 They had served Chedorlaomer for 12 years. But in the 13th year they started to oppose his authority.
v5 In the 14th year, Chedorlaomer came. He was with those kings that were helping him. Together, they defeated the people called Rephaim in Ashteroth-Karnaim, and the people called Zuzim in Ham. Those 4 kings also defeated the people called Emim in Shaveh-Kiriathaim. v6 And they defeated the people called Horites in the mountains called Seir, as far as El-Paran. That is at the edge of the desert. v7 Then the 4 kings turned back and they came to En-Mishpat (Kadesh). They got power over all the country where the people called Amalekites lived. And they got power over the people called *Amorites that were living in Hazezon-Tamar.
v8 Then the 5 kings went out to fight. There were the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah. There were also the king of Admah and the king of Zeboiim. And there was the king of Bela (the place that is also called Zoar). They fought in the Valley called Siddim v9 against the other 4 kings. These included Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and Tidal the king of Goiim. There were also Amraphel the king of Shinar, and Arioch the king of Ellasar. 4 kings were fighting against 5 kings. v10 Now there were very many big holes in the valley called Siddim. From those holes, people got bitumen (a black stuff that people used like cement). The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah ran away. Some men fell into the big holes. The rest ran away to the mountains. v11 Their enemies took all the goods from the cities called Sodom and Gomorrah. And they took all the people’s food. Then the enemies went. v12 They also took Lot, Abram’s nephew, who lived in Sodom. And they took Lot’s goods and they went away.
Verses 1-12 The 4 kings (Chedorlaomer and his friends) set out on their journey, with their armies. Along the way, they defeated several *tribes that lived in Canaan.
Then, those 4 kings defeated the 5 kings from the area round the Salt Sea (also called the Dead Sea). These 5 kings were Bera the king of Sodom, with his friends. Each king had brought an army with him.
(In the end, Abram would come and he would defeat Chedorlaomer.)
Verses 3, 8 and 10 The 4 kings fought against the 5 kings in the valley called Siddim. Later, the Salt Sea (Dead Sea) flooded that valley. So, after that, the valley was under water.
Verse 10 ‘Some men fell into the big holes.’ This has two possible meanings. Maybe the king of Sodom and his men hid in the holes. Or maybe some men fell into them and they died. The king of Sodom escaped.
Verses 11-12 We already know that Lot was Abram’s nephew. But the writer tells us that fact again here. Abram rescued Lot because Lot was Abram’s nephew.
Abram and Melchizedek, 14:13-24
v13 Someone that escaped came to Abram the *Hebrew. And he told Abram about what had happened. Abram was living by some *oaks that belonged to Mamre the *Amorite. Mamre was Eshcol’s and Aner’s brother. All those brothers were Abram’s friends. v14 Abram heard that the enemy had caught Abram’s nephew as a prisoner. So then Abram led out the 318 men that he had trained. They had been born in his house. They pursued the enemy as far as Dan. v15 Abram divided his men and servants into groups. And during the night, they chased the enemy to Hobah. That is north from Damascus. v16 Then Abram brought back all the goods. He brought back his nephew Lot and Lot’s possessions. Abram also brought back the women and the other people.
v17 Abram had defeated Chedorlaomer. And he had defeated the other kings that were helping Chedorlaomer. After that, Abram returned. Then the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley called Shaveh (the King’s Valley).
v18 Melchizedek, the king of Salem, brought bread and wine. He was the priest of the Most High God. v19 Melchizedek *blessed Abram. And Melchizedek said this.
‘Let the Most High God, who made the sky and the earth, *bless Abram. v20 And let people *bless the Most High God, because he has delivered your enemies into your power!’
And Abram gave to Melchizedek a tenth part of everything.
v21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give the people to me, but take the goods for yourself!’
v22-23 But Abram said this to the king of Sodom: ‘I have promised this to the Most High *Lord God, who made the sky and the earth. I promised that I would not take anything from you. I would not take even a *thread. And I would not take even a piece that people fasten a shoe with. So then you cannot say that you made Abram rich. v24 I will take only what the young men have eaten. And I will take the share for my men. Let Aner, Eshcol and Mamre take their share.’
Verse 13 In the Bible, this is the only time when Abram was called the ‘*Hebrew’. Usually, people that called *Israelites ‘*Hebrews’ were not *Israelites themselves.
Verses 14-16 Abram defeated Chedorlaomer and Abram rescued the prisoners. Then they all saw that Abram was very powerful.
Verse 15 Abram attacked the kings at night. So he was able to win, although he had fewer men.
Verse 18 The name Melchizedek comes from the *Hebrew words ‘malki’ and ‘tsedeq’. ‘Malki’ means ‘my king’ and ‘tsedeq’ means ‘*righteous’. So Melchizedek means ‘my king is *righteous’ or ‘king of everything *righteous’ (Hebrews 7:2). ‘Salem’ means peace. It is possible that Salem is the same city as Jerusalem. But usually, when people wanted to make a name shorter, they cut off the end of the name. They did not usually cut off its beginning. Melchizedek is the first priest that the writer mentions in Genesis. Melchizedek *worshipped God, as Abram did. The same person was not usually both a king and a priest. But Melchizedek was both.
Verse 19 Melchizedek *blessed Abram. Melchizedek did not merely pray that God would be kind to Abram. Melchizedek spoke these words as a priest. In other words, he was speaking by God’s Holy Spirit. And Melchizedek’s words reminded Abram about the words that God had spoken to him (Genesis 12:2-3; Genesis 13:14-17).
Verse 20 Abram wanted to show honour to Melchizedek. So Abram gave him a special gift.
Verse 21 Abram won the right to take the people and their possessions. The king of Sodom realised this. So he offered the possessions to Abram. The king of Sodom would allow Abram to keep the possessions, if Abram returned the people to Sodom.
Verses 22-24 Abram did not agree to keep the possessions. He remembered that he had a duty to serve God. The possessions from Sodom could make Abram very rich. But now Abram did not want anyone except God to make him (Abram) rich. Abram certainly did not want to accept any gift from the wicked people from Sodom. Later, God could not find any good people in Sodom, except Lot.
However, Abram was fair to the men who fought with him. He allowed them a share of the objects that they had won.
This chapter shows again that God was helping Abram. Abram knew that God made him successful. Abram had only a small group of men. But with them, he was able to defeat large, powerful armies that had defeated many other armies.
The *covenant with Abram, 15:1-21
Abram trusted God. And this attitude guided the decisions that Abram made.
Abram left his father’s family because Abram trusted God. Abram did not even know where God was sending him. Later, Abram refused any reward from the king of Sodom (Genesis 14:21-24). Abram did not want an evil man to make him rich.
And so, God spoke to Abram again. God himself would be Abram’s reward (verse 1). Or, the same words may mean that God would give a great reward to Abram. And so, Abram prayed for a son. This prayer was not a selfish prayer. God had already promised that Abram’s family would become a great nation (Genesis 12:2). And God would *bless people from all nations by means of Abram’s special *descendant (Genesis 12:3). So, Abram’s prayer in verses 2-3 was that God’s promise would happen. God repeated his promises in verses 4-5. But Abram still had to trust God. Abram was already old, but he had no children yet.
Then God also promised the country called Canaan (later called Israel) to Abram’s *descendants. Abram was already living there. But Abram’s *descendants would not rule the country soon. They would have to wait for 400 years until the time that God had chosen. And those 400 years would end with an awful time. Abram’s *descendants would become slaves. And the inhabitants of Canaan would become very wicked. But God had a plan. And he would do everything that he promised.
The promises in the *covenant, 15:1-6
v1 After that, the *Lord spoke to Abram. The *Lord spoke in a *vision.
‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am protecting you. I will give a very big reward to you.’
v2 But Abram said, ‘*Lord God, what will you give to me? I am still without a child. Eliezer from Damascus will have all my goods.’ v3 Abram said again, ‘Look! You have not given me a child. When I die, a slave will have all my goods. That is, a slave that was born in my house.’
v4 The *Lord spoke to Abram again. ‘That man will not have all your goods. Your own son will have all your goods.’ v5 Then the *Lord took Abram outside. And the *Lord said, ‘Look at the sky and try to count the stars. You will have quite as many *descendants.’ v6 And Abram believed the *Lord. And the *Lord considered him *righteous, because he (Abram) believed.
Verse 1 ‘After that’ may mean some time later, rather than immediately. Abram had refused a reward from the King of Sodom. God promised Abram a much greater reward.
Verses 2-3 The *Hebrew text here is difficult. A servant could *inherit goods if his owner had no children. That was a custom. Such a servant was usually young. His master would adopt him as a son.
We do not know anything about Eliezer. But perhaps he is the same man as Abram’s chief servant in chapter 24. If so, Eliezer was very loyal to his master.
Verse 4 It was not God’s plan that Eliezer would *inherit. God wanted to *bless people from every nation by means of Abram. God’s plan was that Jesus would be one of Abram’s *descendants.
Verse 5 God promised that Abram would have his own child, grandchildren, many great-grandchildren and so on.
Verse 6 Abram was not perfect, but he believed God. So God *judged him as not *sinful. We should believe that Jesus died for us. Then God will *judge us as not *sinful (Romans chapter 4).
This is a very important verse. We cannot please God because of our own efforts. We can only please God if we trust him. Paul repeats this verse in Galatians 3:6. And Hebrews 11:8-9 explains how Abram trusted God.
God speaks to Abram about the future, 15:7-21
v7 Then the *Lord said to Abram, ‘I am the *Lord. I brought you out of Ur, where the people called Chaldeans live. I wanted to give this country to you, so that you could own it. That is why I brought you out.’
v8 But Abram said, ‘*Lord God, how shall I know that I will own it?’
v9 The *Lord said to him, ‘Bring to me a calf (young *ox or cow), a female goat and a *ram. Each animal must be three years old. Also, bring to me a *dove and a very young *pigeon.’ v10 Abram brought them and he cut them down their middle. He placed the halves opposite each other. However, he did not cut the birds. v11 Then the birds that hunt came down upon the animals. Abram drove the birds away.
v12 As the sun was setting, Abram slept deeply. Thick darkness came over him and it made him feel very afraid. v13 The *Lord said to Abram, ‘You have to know this certainly. Your *descendants will be strangers in someone else’s country. They will be slaves there. The people that own the country will be cruel to them. That will continue for 400 years. v14 I will *judge the nation that makes them slaves. Afterwards, your *descendants will come out from that country. They will be very rich when they leave. v15 You will die in peace. People will bury you after you have become a wise old man. v16 The grandsons of your grandsons will come back here. Until then, I will not punish the *Amorites because of their (the *Amorites’) *sins.’
v17 The sun had set and it was dark. Then there appeared a smoking pot of fire. And there appeared a burning object from which flames were coming. Both those things passed between the halves of the animals. v18 On that day, the *Lord made a *covenant with Abram. He said, ‘I have given this country to your *descendants. That is, the whole country from the river of Egypt to the great River Euphrates. v19 This country now belongs to the people called the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, v20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, v21 the *Amorites, the *Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.’
Verse 7 This verse is like Genesis 28:13 and Exodus 3:6. God showed Abram who God himself really is. God is always the only real God. There is no other real God. It was the same God who called Abram. It was the same God who guided Abram to the country called Canaan. And it was the same God who was making these promises to Abram. So, Abram could continue to trust God.
Verses 8-11 This was a special ceremony called the *covenant. Enemies used to make a *covenant at the end of a war. Each side made serious promises. They killed animals. But Abram’s *covenant was different. He did not make this *covenant with another man. Abram’s *covenant was with God.
Verse 12 Abram was a friend of God. So, God told Abram about his plans (Genesis 18:17-19). God’s plans for Abram’s family were good, but there would be many terrible troubles. Abram waited for God to speak.
Verses 13-16 God told Abram that his *descendants would be slaves in Egypt for 400 years. The time that the writer meant was ‘about’ 400 years rather than exactly 400 years.
In the Book of Exodus, you can read about the events that God described. All these events actually happened. In the end, God used Moses to free his people. God led them back to the country called Canaan. And God gave them success in war. (See the Book of Joshua.) So God gave the country to Abram’s *descendants. These things happened as God had said.
Verse 17 When two people made a *covenant, they usually cut an animal into two halves. Then they walked between the halves. Here, only the pot and the burning object went between the halves. Abram did not. God alone made the *covenant. The pot and the burning object (with smoke and fire) showed that God was present. God often showed that he was present by means of smoke and fire.
Verses 18-21 This *covenant is different from later *covenants. In the later ones, someone on each side made promises. But in this one, only God made promises. Abram did not make any promises. Abram just had to trust God. God would do everything else.
In Genesis chapters 12 to 15:
· We can call Abram a *prophet because he had messages from God.
· We can call Abram a priest because he built *altars. And he offered *sacrifices on them.
· We can call Abram a king because he went to war like a king.