My notes on Lech lecha

Parashat Lech lecha (Genesis 12-17)

Genesis 12

12:1          Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

Comment: Abraham was 48 years old when mankind rebelled Gd by building the Tower of Babel.

Abraham’s father’s house worshipped false gds (Joshua 24:2).

“Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house,” this is a call for Abraham to leave the rebellious or idolatrous culture, and to move to “a land that I will shew thee”, that is, the land of Canaan.

Although the inhabitants of Canaan also worship false gds, they are not close relatives to Abraham. In fact, it would be much harder to be different from one’s close relatives while living together with them. To live a life of faith differently from “thy country”, “thy kindred”, and “thy father’s house”, it is easier to do so when you live far away from them.

Many Chinese people (including myself) first went overseas and then found the true religion in a new land. Like Abraham, they left their either idolatrous or atheistic culture/country/relatives/family to follow Gd.


Genesis 13

13:9          Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.

Comment: Even though Abraham is entitled to choose first, being the big uncle who has been caring for his brother’s orphan, he let his nephew choose first. Abraham was not overly competitive for personal advantage, he is willing to make a concession. This character may have also influenced his son Isaac later (see Chapter 26 where Isaac concedes water sources to the Philistines). (I learned about this observation from a Bible study session in the Grace Fellowship.)


Genesis 14

14:21          And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.

Comment: Abraham defeated the enemies of Sodom and retrieved everything, so he really was entitled to both the persons and the goods.


14:22          And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,

Comment: “possessor of heaven and earth”: In Abraham’s mind, whether the persons or the goods, all things really belong to Gd, Who even possesses heaven and earth! Although Abraham retrieved the persons and the goods in a war victory, he knows that his victory was due to Gd’s help in the first place, since with only 318 men (v14), he defeated the armies from four kingdoms.  The number 318 in Hebrew can be expressed as אליעזר, which means “My Gd is help”.


14:23          That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:

Comment: “lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich”: Abraham wants to prove that Gd makes him rich, not man. In this incident, Abraham concedes again, this time for glorifying Gd. 


14:24          Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

Comment: He returned both the persons and the goods to the King of Sodom, with the exception of what his allies were entitled to get. This teaches a lesson that when we glorify Gd by self-sacrifice, we should take care not to reduce other people’s benefits. 

Talmud (Nedarim 32a) has an opinion that disagrees with Abraham’s deed, which says that Abraham should have kept the persons in order  to bring them to Gd.

In fact all those persons, (as well as the goods), later were destroyed by Gd together with the city of Sodom in Genesis 19. Apparently they were influenced by the evil behaviors of the Sodomites, since any righteous people would have been saved, as Genesis 18-19 will tell us.


Genesis 15

15:5          And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

Comment: The last part of this verse could be combined with the next verse to derive a New Testament teaching. 

“So shall thy seed be”: The most fundamental feature of “thy seed” is defined in the following verse …


15:6          And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. 

Comment: … “thy seed” is defined to be all who “believed in the LORD” to be counted “for righteousness”.

Paul in has a detailed discussion regarding this: (Romans 4:3)    “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. ” (Romans 4:11) “ And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:”


Genesis 16

16:11          And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.

Comment: The angel that “said unto her” was a very special angel of the LRD, as we will see soon in a later verse …


16:13          And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?

Comment: … In fact it was the LRD Himself Who “spake unto her”.  The LRD can send (or can be sent by) the LRD (Zechariah 2:8-11) to interact with human beings. E.g., Zechariah 2:10-11 says “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD. And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.” In Christian concept, this special Angel of the LRD who manifests the LRD Himself, is the Word of Gd prior to His incarnation (in human form as Jesus).  From this (and quite a few other Old Testament sources), we can see that the Jewish criticism of Christianity as having “two gds” is really unfair, since the Old Testament also supports the concept that the one Gd can send His special manifestation for salvation.

I learned about this citation Zechariah 2:8-11 from a Chinese Christians online forum “Jonah’s Home” , which was recently closed by the communist government.


Genesis 17

17:5          Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

Comment: “a father of many nations”: Abraham is our ancestor in faith, even if we might not be his biological descendants. This is not just wishful fantasy, it is based on what the Creator has decreed in this Bible verse. The new name “Abraham” was formed exactly for this purpose: to be a father of many nations.


17:16          And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.

Comment: “a mother of nations”: Sarah is our matriarch in faith, even if we might not be her biological descendants.