“Go out 3 from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household
to the land that I will show you. 4
and I will make your name great, 7
so that you will exemplify divine blessing. 8
but the one who treats you lightly 10 I must curse,
and all the families of the earth will bless one another 11 by your name.”
13:16 And I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone is able to count the dust of the earth, then your descendants also can be counted. 12
15:5 The Lord 13 took him outside and said, “Gaze into the sky and count the stars – if you are able to count them!” Then he said to him, “So will your descendants be.”
17:2 Then I will confirm my covenant 14 between me and you, and I will give you a multitude of descendants.” 15
17:4 “As for me, 16 this 17 is my covenant with you: You will be the father of a multitude of nations. 17:5 No longer will your name be 18 Abram. Instead, your name will be Abraham 19 because I will make you 20 the father of a multitude of nations. 17:6 I will make you 21 extremely 22 fruitful. I will make nations of you, and kings will descend from you. 23
1 sn The
2 tn The call of Abram begins with an imperative לֶךְ־לְךָ (lekh-lÿkha, “go out”) followed by three cohortatives (v. 2a) indicating purpose or consequence (“that I may” or “then I will”). If Abram leaves, then God will do these three things. The second imperative (v. 2b, literally “and be a blessing”) is subordinated to the preceding cohortatives and indicates God’s ultimate purpose in calling and blessing Abram. On the syntactical structure of vv. 1-2 see R. B. Chisholm, “Evidence from Genesis,” A Case for Premillennialism, 37. For a similar sequence of volitive forms see Gen 45:18.
sn It would be hard to overestimate the value of this call and this divine plan for the theology of the Bible. Here begins God’s plan to bring redemption to the world. The promises to Abram will be turned into a covenant in Gen 15 and 22 (here it is a call with conditional promises) and will then lead through the Bible to the work of the Messiah.
3 tn The initial command is the direct imperative (לֶךְ, lekh) from the verb הָלַךְ (halakh). It is followed by the lamed preposition with a pronominal suffix (לְךָ, lÿkha) emphasizing the subject of the imperative: “you leave.”
4 sn To the land that I will show you. The call of Abram illustrates the leading of the
5 tn The three first person verbs in v. 2a should be classified as cohortatives. The first two have pronominal suffixes, so the form itself does not indicate a cohortative. The third verb form is clearly cohortative.
6 sn I will bless you. The blessing of creation is now carried forward to the patriarch. In the garden God blessed Adam and Eve; in that blessing he gave them (1) a fruitful place, (2) endowed them with fertility to multiply, and (3) made them rulers over creation. That was all ruined at the fall. Now God begins to build his covenant people; in Gen 12-22 he promises to give Abram (1) a land flowing with milk and honey, (2) a great nation without number, and (3) kingship.
7 tn Or “I will make you famous.”
8 tn Heb “and be a blessing.” The verb form הְיֵה (hÿyeh) is the Qal imperative of the verb הָיָה (hayah). The vav (ו) with the imperative after the cohortatives indicates purpose or consequence. What does it mean for Abram to “be a blessing”? Will he be a channel or source of blessing for others, or a prime example of divine blessing? A similar statement occurs in Zech 8:13, where God assures his people, “You will be a blessing,” in contrast to the past when they “were a curse.” Certainly “curse” here does not refer to Israel being a source of a curse, but rather to the fact that they became a curse-word or byword among the nations, who regarded them as the epitome of an accursed people (see 2 Kgs 22:19; Jer 42:18; 44:8, 12, 22). Therefore the statement “be a blessing” seems to refer to Israel being transformed into a prime example of a blessed people, whose name will be used in blessing formulae, rather than in curses. If the statement “be a blessing” is understood in the same way in Gen 12:2, then it means that God would so bless Abram that other nations would hear of his fame and hold him up as a paradigm of divine blessing in their blessing formulae.
9 tn The Piel cohortative has as its object a Piel participle, masculine plural. Since the
10 tn In this part of God’s statement there are two significant changes that often go unnoticed. First, the parallel and contrasting participle מְקַלֶּלְךָ (mÿqallelkha) is now singular and not plural. All the versions and a few Masoretic
11 tn Theoretically the Niphal can be translated either as passive or reflexive/reciprocal. (The Niphal of “bless” is only used in formulations of the Abrahamic covenant. See Gen 12:2; 18:18; 28:14.) Traditionally the verb is taken as passive here, as if Abram were going to be a channel or source of blessing. But in later formulations of the Abrahamic covenant (see Gen 22:18; 26:4) the Hitpael replaces this Niphal form, suggesting a translation “will bless [i.e., “pronounce blessings on”] themselves [or “one another”].” The Hitpael of “bless” is used with a reflexive/reciprocal sense in Deut 29:18; Ps 72:17; Isa 65:16; Jer 4:2. Gen 12:2 predicts that Abram will be held up as a paradigm of divine blessing and that people will use his name in their blessing formulae. For examples of blessing formulae utilizing an individual as an example of blessing see Gen 48:20 and Ruth 4:11.
12 tn The translation “can be counted” (potential imperfect) is suggested by the use of יוּכַל (yukhal, “is able”) in the preceding clause.
13 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the
14 tn Following the imperative, the cohortative indicates consequence. If Abram is blameless, then the
15 tn Heb “I will multiply you exceedingly, exceedingly.” The repetition is emphatic.
16 tn Heb “I.”
17 tn Heb “is” (הִנֵּה, hinneh).
18 tn Heb “will your name be called.”
19 sn Your name will be Abraham. The renaming of Abram was a sign of confirmation to the patriarch. Every time the name was used it would be a reminder of God’s promise. “Abram” means “exalted father,” probably referring to Abram’s father Terah. The name looks to the past; Abram came from noble lineage. The name “Abraham” is a dialectical variant of the name Abram. But its significance is in the wordplay with אַב־הֲמוֹן (’av-hamon, “the father of a multitude,” which sounds like אַבְרָהָם, ’avraham, “Abraham”). The new name would be a reminder of God’s intention to make Abraham the father of a multitude. For a general discussion of renaming, see O. Eissfeldt, “Renaming in the Old Testament,” Words and Meanings, 70-83.
20 tn The perfect verbal form is used here in a rhetorical manner to emphasize God’s intention.
21 tn This verb starts a series of perfect verbal forms with vav (ו) consecutive to express God’s intentions.
22 tn Heb “exceedingly, exceedingly.” The repetition is emphatic.
23 tn Heb “and I will make you into nations, and kings will come out from you.”