Genesis 12-13 and Early Church Writings [Clement of Rome] 51-55

Chapters 12 through 25 embrace the story of Abraham

Genesis 12 - Abraham is the next “Seed of Eve” by whom redemption will come to man, the first having been Noah.


God addresses Abram and tells him to leave Haran, the home of his father’s clan, to go to “a land that I will show you” (12:1). And then come the great promisesthat God will make of him a great nation, that He will make Abram’s name great and him a blessing to “all the communities of the earth” (12:2-3). Abram is 75 when they leave Haran.


When they get to Shechem, a land inhabited by Canaanites (12:6), the Lord appears to Abram and tells him that this is the land he is promising him.  Abram builds an altar there and dedicates it to the Lord (12:7). 


Then we are told that they go further south and “set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the Lord” (12:8). This location is just a little to the north of where Jerusalem will eventually be.


They continue traveling south in stages. A severe famine hits the land of Canaan, and Abram is forced to “go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner” (12:10).  Abram worries about Sarai’s beauty being a source of conflict, so they agree to say she is his sister.  The Pharaoh indeed does send for her, and we are not told what transpires there, if anything did.  But Abram benefits from the Pharaoh’s favoritism; the Lord is very displeased and strikes Egypt with severe plagues.


There are a number of “foreshadowing details” here in this story—a move to Egypt forced by famine, a position of honor accorded the wandering man of God from Canaan; God’s infliction of a series of plagues; and sending of God’s favored one away from Pharaoh’s kingdom to bring peace back to the kingdom. Even the wealth that Abram gets to take with them when they go. Surely this is a “type” of the later exodus.  And what then could Sarai be as a type - the beloved spouse of God, “Israel”?


Returning to the story, it is the Pharaoh who sets things right and sends the pair away. Abraham is the first of the three key players in our redemption storyto be followed by Moses and Jesus—who will in a sense “come up out of Egypt” to begin their ministries.  The story of his sojourn in Egypt (one of a triplet of like stories) establishes his prosperity, even if it comes as a result of deceit, and Sarah’s value and importance.  Like his people he comes out of Egypt loaded with goods, so much he must separate from Lot (13:5-11).


While Noah foreshadows him somewhat, Abram is the first “seed” of Eve through whom a redemptive process will be introduced into the creation.  Abram is told from the first that he is only the beginning, that it will be through him that a faithful people will be formed, and that this people will have an impact far beyond the borders of the nation they will form—that blessings will come through him and his seed to all mankind (12: 1-3; also 17: 3-8 and again in 22:16-18).  There will be much hardship along the way—exile, slavery and oppression and who knows what else in the distant, distant, future that will come before “all the nations of the earth” will “bless themselves by [Abraham’s] descendants.  But the redemptive process is set in motion through Abram.


The process begins with Abram hearing God’s voice and obeying it.  The voice tells him he must leave the traditions and ties of his father’s people, and we know from what we know of mankind at this stage of history, that family and clan ties were the life-blood of individual people.  To wander away, to break the ties, meant undertaking a great risk, divorcing oneself from the society of man generally.  God is not calling Abram to go to a new land to take up their ways, but to develop a way that God will lead him to—a new way.  That Abram will go down into Egypt briefly en route to the land God is promising is interesting mostly because it will be the start of a narrative motif that will repeat itself many times—for Joseph, for Moses and later for Jesus.  Abraham, Moses and Jesus will all “come up out of Egypt” to begin their ministries.


Genesis 13 - In response to God’s call, Abram goes to the Negeb and on to Bethel where he had built an altar on his way down. And they worship there again.


“Lot, who was traveling with Abram, had also become very wealthy with flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and many tents. But the land could not support both Abram and Lot with all their flocks and herds lving so close together. SO disputes broke out between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot” (13:5-7). Abram suggests to Lot that he go off and find himself a separate place to settle. Lot chooses the Jordan plain.  Abram stays in Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the Plain, near Sodom. 


The first thing we hear about Sodom is that in inhabitants were very wicked (13:13).


The chapter ends with the Lord recapitulating the promises he made to Abram: “Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land that you see will give to you and to your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that is one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Rise up, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I will give it to you” (13:14-17). Abram builds an altar at Hebron.


First Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians (96 AD)


Section 51 – “So let us beg forgiveness for all our misdoings, and the wrongs which our Adversary’s intervention has moved us to commit. Those who have taken the lead in promoting faction and discord should bethink themselves of that Hope which is common to us all” (44).


If we are living in the fear and love of God, we would rather suffer than see our neighbor suffer. “It is better for a man to admit his faults frankly than to harden his heart, as the hearts of those who rebelled against Moses . . . were hardened” (44).


Section 52 – Our “Master,” our God has no “need” and he asks nothing of us of us “save frank confession to Himself” (44). He wants us to call upon Him in times of trouble.


Section 53 – You all know the Sacred Scriptures. “Therefore we write to remind you how, when Moses went up into the mountain and has spent forty days and forty nights in fasting and self-abasement, God said to him, Make haste and go down from here, for your people. . . have broken my law. They have left the way you told them to follow, and have been making molten idols for themselves” . . .Now let me destroy them (44-45).


But Moses pleaded for his people, “No Lord, . . Forgive this people their sin, or else blot me too out of the book of the living” (45). “What immeasurable love! Perfection beyond compare! A minister speaking up boldy to his Lord and demanding pardon for the multitude” (45).


Section 54 – “Is there any man of noble mind among you? A man who is compassionate? A man overflowing with love? Then let such a one say, ‘If it is I who am the cause of any disorder, friction, or division among you, I will remove myself” (45). There have been like this in the past and we have them still today.


Section 55 – Even among the pagans you will occasionally find kings and rulers willing to suffer to save their people. “As for our own people, we know that many have surrendered themselves to captivity as a ransom for others, and many more have sold themselves into slavery and given the money to provide others with food. Even females have frequently been enabled by God’s grace to achieve feats of heroism” (45). He mentions Judith and Esther. “In fasting and humiliation she made her supplication to the all-seeing Lord of eternity; and when He saw the humbleness of her spirit, He delivered the people for whom she had put herself in jeopardy” (45).


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