Genesis 12:1-9

Genesis 12:1-9
Narrative Lectionary 102


Now the LordA said to Abram,B “GoC from your countryD

Notes on verse 1a

A “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
B “Abram” = Abram. From the same as Abiram (exalted father, a high father – lofty) {from ab (father literal or figurative) + rum (rise, bring up, being high, extol, exalt, haughty; to raise in a literal or figurative sense)}. This is Abram, exalted father.
C “go” = halak. This is go, come, walk. It is walk literally and figuratively and includes people and animals. It can be used figuratively for one’s moral life – how we walk according to God’s way or against it. It can also refer to the walk of life as in the course one’s life takes, the choices we make, etc.
D “country” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.

and your kindredE and your father’sF houseG to the landH that I will showI you. 

Notes on verse 1b

E “kindred” = moledet. From yalad (to bear, bring forth, beget, calve, act as midwife, show lineage). This is kindred, offspring, birthplace, lineage, native country, or family.
F “father’s” = ab. Related to “Abram” in v1. See note B above.
G “house” = bayit. Probably from banah (to build, make, set up, obtain children; to build literally or figuratively). This is house, court, family, palace, temple.
H “land” = erets. Same as “country” in v1. See note D above.
I “show” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.

I will makeJ of you a greatK nation,L and I will blessM you,

Notes on verse 2a

J “make” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
K “great” = gadol. From gadal (to grow up, become great, become wealthy – to advance. The root meaning may be to twist in the sense of the process of growing). This is great, high, bigger, noble, old, marvelous. It can also refer to someone who is powerful or distinguished.
L “nation” = goy. From the same root as gevah (the back, person, or body); related to gev (among); related to gaah (to rise up). This is nation or people. Often used to refer to Gentiles or foreign nations. It can also be used figuratively for a group of animals. This is where the Yiddish “goy” comes from.
M “bless” = barak. This is to kneel, to bless. It is blessing God as part of worship and adoration or blessing humans to help them. It can be used as a euphemism to say curse God.

and make your nameN great,O so that you will beP a blessing.Q 

Notes on verse 2b

N “name” = shem. May be from sum (to put, place, set). This is name, fame, renown. A name was thought to indicate something essential about a person – something about their individuality. So, this word can also mean honor, authority, or character.
O “make…great” = gadal. Related to “great” in v2. See note K above.
P “be” = hayah. This is to be or become, to happen.
Q “blessing” = barakah. Related to “bless” in v2. From barak (see note M above). This is blessing, which implies prosperity or peace.

I will bless those who bless you, and the one who cursesR you I will curse;S and in you all the familiesT of the earthU shall be blessed.”

Notes on verse 3

R “curses” = qalal. This is to be little, insignificant, swift. It can also mean to bring down in esteem, create contempt, curse
S “curse” = arar. This is to curse.
T “families” = mishpachah. From the same as shiphcah (maid, maidservant); root means to spread out. This is one’s circle of relatives – clan, family, kindred.
U “earth” = adamah. From the same as adam (man, humankind); perhaps from ‘adom (to be red). This is ground, earth, soil as red, or land.

So Abram went, as the Lord had toldV him; and LotW went with him. Abram was seventyX-five years oldY when he departedZ from Haran.AA 

Notes on verse 4

V “told” = dabar.From dabar (to speak, declare, discuss). This is speech, a word, a matter, an affair, charge, command, message, promise, purpose, report, request. It is a word, which implies things that are spoken of in a wide sense.
W “Lot” = Lot. From the same as lot (envelope, veil); from lut(to wrap, envelop). This is Lot, “covering.”
X “seventy” = shibim. From sheba (seven – the number of perfection/sacred fullness). This is seventy.
Y “old” = ben. Related to “house” in v1. Perhaps from banah (see note G above). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense.
Z “departed” = yatsa. This is to go or come out, bring forth, appear. It is to go out in a literal or figurative sense.
AA “Haran” = Charan. 12x in OT. From Assyrian arranu (road, crossroads, junction of trade routes) OR from charar (to be scorched, burn, glow, dry up; figuratively, to show passion). This is Haran, meaning crossroads. It is also a proper name meaning parched.

Abram took his wifeBB SaraiCC and his brother’sDD sonEE Lot,

Notes on verse 5a

BB “wife” = ishshah. From ish (man); perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is woman, wife, or female.
CC “Sarai” = Saray. 17x in OT. From the same as sar (chief, ruler, lord, official, governor, prince; someone at the top of a rank or class). This is Sarai, which means princess or ruler.
DD “brother’s” = ach. This is brother, kindred, another, other, like. It is literally brother, but it can also be someone who is similar, resembling, or related to.
EE “son” = ben. Same as “old” in v4. See note Y above.

and all the possessionsFF that they had gathered,GG and the personsHH whom they had acquiredII in Haran;

Notes on verse 5b

FF “possessions” = rekush. From rakash (to get, acquire property, collect). This is property, riches, possessions.
GG “gathered” = rakash. Related to “possessions” in v5. 5x in OT. See note FF above.
HH “persons” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This is soul, self, person, emotion. It is a breathing creature. Can also refer to appetites and desires.
II “acquired” = asah. Same as “make” in v2. See note J above.

and they set forthJJ to go to the land of Canaan.KK When they had comeLL to the land of Canaan, 

Notes on verse 5c

JJ “set forth” = yatsa. Same as “departed” in v4. See note Z above.
KK “Canaan” = Kna’an. From kana’ (to be humble, subdue; properly, bend the knee). This is Canaan, his descendants, and the land where they settled. This could mean lowlands, describing their land or subjugated in reference to being conquered by Egypt. See
LL “come” = bo. This is to enter, come in, advance, fulfill, bring offerings, enter to worship, attack. It can also have a sexual connotation.

Abram passed throughMM the land to the placeNN at Shechem,OO to the oakPP of Moreh.QQ At that time the CanaanitesRR were in the land. 

Notes on verse 6

MM “passed through” = abar. This is to pass over or cross over. It is used for transitions, whether literal or figurative. It can also mean to escape, alienate, or fail. This is the root verb from which “Hebrew” is drawn.
NN “place” = maqom. From qum(to arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide; rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action; standing in a figurative sense). This is a standing, which is to say a spot or space a place. It can also refer to a locality or a physical/mental condition. HaMaqom is also a Jewish name for God – the place, i.e. the Omnipresent One.
OO “Shechem” = Shekem. From the same as shekem (shoulder, neck, or some other place that bears burdens; figuratively, the spur of a hill, or one’s allotted portion); from shakam (to rise early, begin work early; properly, this is leaning one’s shoulder or back into a load or a burden; also, loading an animal for work). This is Shechem, meaning “ridge.”
PP “oak” = elon. 10x in OT. From ayil (strength; things that are strong or powerful: political chiefs, rams, posts, trees, oaks); from the same as ul (mighty, strength, body, belly; root may mean to twist and that implies strength and power). This is terebinth, oak, or another kind of tree that is strong.
QQ “Moreh” = Moreh. 3x in OT. From the same as moreh (early rain, teacher, what is taught, archer); from yarah (to throw, shoot, be stunned; to flow as water so figuratively to instruct or teach). This is Moreh, a hill in Canaan, perhaps named for a Canaanite. It means “early rain” or “teacher.” See
RR “Canaanites” = Knaaniy. Related to “Canaan” in v5. From Kna’an (see note KK above). This is Canaanite, which in some instances would imply a peddler or sometimes used in place of Ishmaelite. See

Then the Lord appearedSS to Abram, and said, “To your offspringTT I will give this land.” So he builtUU there an altarVV to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 

Notes on verse 7

SS “appeared” = raah. Same as “show” in v1. See note I above.
TT “offspring” = zera. From zara (to sow or scatter seed; conceive or yield). This is seed or sowing. It can, thus, mean a fruit, plant, sowing time, child, offspring, or posterity.
UU “built” = banah. Related to “house” in v1 & “old” in v4. See note G above.
VV “altar” = mizbeach. From zabach (to kill, slay, offer; slaughtering an animal to offer as a sacrifice). This is an altar.

From there he movedWW on to the hill country on the eastXX of Bethel,YY and pitchedZZ his tent,AAA

Notes on verse 8a

WW “moved” = atheq. 9x in OT. This is to move, advance, remove or continue. Figuratively, it can mean to grow old or it could refer to copying or transcribing.
XX “east” = qedem. Perhaps from qadam (to come in front or be in front; to meet, anticipate, confront, receive, or rise; sometimes to meet for help). This is front, formerly, before, east, eternal, everlasting, antiquity.
YY “Bethel” = Bethel. Related to “house” in v1. From bayit (see note G above) + el (God, a god). This is Bethel, literally meaning “house of God.”
ZZ “pitched” = natah. This is to stretch or spread out, to extend, or bend. In can also imply moral deflection.
AAA “tent” = ohel. Perhaps from ahal (to shine, be clear). This is a tent, covering, home, or side pillar.

with Bethel on the westBBB and AiCCC on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invokedDDD the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyedEEE on by stagesFFF toward the Negeb.GGG

Notes on verses 8b-9

BBB “west” = yam. Root may mean to roar. This is the sea, often referring to the Mediterranean. It comes from the root in the sense of the roar of crashing surf. This word is sometimes used for rivers or other sources of water. It can mean to the west or to the south.
CCC “Ai” = Ay. Perhaps from iy (a ruin or a heap as a place that was overturned); from avah (to bend, twist, be amiss). This is Ai, a city in Canaan. It means “ruin.”
DDD “invoked” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
EEE “journeyed” = nasa. This is properly pulling up as when one pulls up tent pegs or stakes. This would imply striking tents in order to start a journey. So this could be bring, pullout, set out, journey, or cause to go away.
FFF “by stages” = halak + nasa. Halak is the same as “go” in v1. See note C above. Nasa is the same as “journeyed” in v9. See note EEE above. Nasa is Infinitive Absolute. The Infinitive Absolute serves to emphasize the sentiment of the word. It is rather like Foghorn Leghorn’s speech pattern, “I said, I said.”
GGG “Negeb” = Negeb. Root may mean to be parched. The Negeb is the south country – sometimes used to refer to Egypt. This is a land that suffers from a lot of drought.

Image credit: “Abraham and Sarah in the Pharaoh’s Palace” by Giovanni Muzzioli, 1875.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply