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Genesis 12:3-4

Context

12:3 I will bless those who bless you, 1 

but the one who treats you lightly 2  I must curse,

and all the families of the earth will bless one another 3  by your name.”

12:4 So Abram left, 4  just as the Lord had told him to do, 5  and Lot went with him. (Now 6  Abram was 75 years old 7  when he departed from Haran.)

Genesis 12:12

Context
12:12 When the Egyptians see you they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will keep you alive. 8 

1 tn The Piel cohortative has as its object a Piel participle, masculine plural. Since the Lord binds himself to Abram by covenant, those who enrich Abram in any way share in the blessings.

2 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 mss read the plural. But if it had been plural, there would be no reason to change it to the singular and alter the parallelism. On the other hand, if it was indeed singular, it is easy to see why the versions would change it to match the first participle. The MT preserves the original reading: “the one who treats you lightly.” The point would be a contrast with the lavish way that God desires to bless many. The second change is in the vocabulary. The English usually says, “I will curse those who curse you.” But there are two different words for curse here. The first is קָלַל (qalal), which means “to be light” in the Qal, and in the Piel “to treat lightly, to treat with contempt, to curse.” The second verb is אָרַר (’arar), which means “to banish, to remove from the blessing.” The point is simple: Whoever treats Abram and the covenant with contempt as worthless God will banish from the blessing. It is important also to note that the verb is not a cohortative, but a simple imperfect. Since God is binding himself to Abram, this would then be an obligatory imperfect: “but the one who treats you with contempt I must curse.”

3 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.

4 sn So Abram left. This is the report of Abram’s obedience to God’s command (see v. 1).

5 tn Heb “just as the Lord said to him.”

6 tn The disjunctive clause (note the pattern conjunction + subject + implied “to be” verb) is parenthetical, telling the age of Abram when he left Haran.

7 tn Heb “was the son of five years and seventy year[s].”

sn Terah was 70 years old when he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran (Gen 11:26). Terah was 205 when he died in Haran (11:32). Abram left Haran at the age of 75 after his father died. Abram was born when Terah was 130. Abram was not the firstborn – he is placed first in the list of three because of his importance. The same is true of the list in Gen 10:1 (Shem, Ham and Japheth). Ham was the youngest son (9:24). Japheth was the older brother of Shem (10:21), so the birth order of Noah’s sons was Japheth, Shem, and Ham.

8 tn The Piel of the verb חָיָה (khayah, “to live”) means “to keep alive, to preserve alive,” and in some places “to make alive.” See D. Marcus, “The Verb ‘to Live’ in Ugaritic,” JSS 17 (1972): 76-82.



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