Genesis 12:3-6

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.  Genesis 12:3-6


Listening again to the stories of Abraham and Sarah means looking back to history before history.  Looking back to a culture that was very very different from our own.  A time before time. 


The temptation is to ignore that distance and just take the story as it comes to us.  God says “Go to Canaan” and Abraham loads up the family and takes off.  The Bible says that he was 75 years old at the time and we think of our Uncle Roger who is about that age as well.  Some of us imagine the Beverly Hillbillies on camels.  Few of us catch the reference to “the persons whom they had acquired in Haran” and realize that Abraham was a slave owner in a culture dependent on the practice of slavery.


One person in church on Sunday told me that he hated this whole story.  He has spent years struggling with the idea that God would send Abraham into an otherwise peaceful land inhabited by Canaanites in order to kill them and steal their land.  He has…don’t you think….a point?


Delegations from Israel and Palestine are talking again about an illusive peace.  We might think their struggle reaches only back to 1949 but we know better.  The struggle for supremacy in that area dates back to this time before time.  The argument remains, “God told Abraham to go get this land for US.”  So they fight about who gets to be us.


We get into trouble, I think, when we look back into history only to justify what we want today.  I know that we don’t and can’t have access to “pure history”, to the unblemished, unvarnished, unspun account of what really happened.  So the values best imported into listening to history might be humility, open-mindedness, and judgment.


We look at life and see a tension between things staying the same and things changing.  We want what we like to stay the same, and we want what we don’t like to change.  The universe, however, seems little moved by what we want.  Change, movement, is the constant reality.  And movement is what is happening in this story.


This is a story about letting go of what was for the promise of something better.  About how one man following God leads to uprooting his whole family, their whole lives.  It is about a clash of cultures, of ways of being in the world.  Ultimately, and here is where our bias enters, it is all about working out God’s promises for the good of all.


Let us pray:  Dear Lord, as parents we hate to see our children fight.  We are so often afraid because we see a future our children do not see.  As your promise called a people to get on the move toward something better, may we trust as well in your wisdom to take us where we cannot see.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


3 Responses to “Genesis 12:3-6”

  1. Gloria Rockhold Says:

    “illusive” peace as well as “elusive” peace. I was in the Holy Land a year ago May. We heard a lecture by a Christian Palestinian professor who claimed that the conflict between the Palestinians and the Jews has nothing to do with the ‘history’ beginning with Abraham or the Ishmael/Isaac story. He said the people in this area have lived side by side in peace for centuries. It’s only since the Balfour Declaration that there has been civil war. Any thoughts?

  2. revkerry Says:

    Hi Gloria. Forgive my misspellings…I tend to type quickly and I am a bad proofreader. As far as the professor’s thoughts, I think he’s mostly right and he is far more knowledgeable than I am. There have been long periods of peaceful co-existence.

    • Gloria Rockhold Says:

      No problem, but I’m a “recovering” English teacher . 😉 I know about the proofreading thing. I often misspell or misuse words (their, there, for example). Luckily, one can edit postings on FB so that is convenient.

      Thanks! I enjoy your insights so much.

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