Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary

Verses 1-3 (Genesis 12:1-3)

We have here the call by which Abram was removed out of the land of his nativity into the land of promise, which was designed both to try his faith and obedience and also to separate him and set him apart for God, and for special services and favours which were further designed. The circumstances of this call we may be somewhat helped to the knowledge of from Stephen?s speech, Acts 7:2; where we are told, 1. That the God of glory appeared to him to give him this call, appeared in such displays of his glory as left Abram no room to doubt the divine authority of this call. God spoke to him afterwards in divers manners; but this first time, when the correspondence was to be settled, he appeared to him as the God of glory, and spoke to him. 2. That this call was given him in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran; therefore we rightly read it, The Lord had said unto Abram, namely, in Ur of the Chaldees; and, in obedience to this call, as Stephen further relates the story (Acts 7:4), he came out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Charran, or Haran, about five years, and thence, when his father was dead, by a fresh command, pursuant to the former, God removed him into the land of Canaan. Some think that Haran was in Chaldea, and so was still a part of Abram?s country, or that Abram, having staid there five years, began to call it his country, and to take root there, till God let him know this was not the place he was intended for. Note, If God loves us, and has mercy in store for us, he will not suffer us to take up our rest any where short of Canaan, but will graciously repeat his calls, till the good work begun be performed, and our souls repose in God only. In the call itself we have a precept and a promise.

I. A trying precept: Get thee out of thy country, Gen. 12:1. Now,

1. By this precept he was tried whether he loved his native soil and dearest friends, and whether he could willingly leave all, to go along with God. His country had become idolatrous, his kindred and his father?s house were a constant temptation to him, and he could not continue with them without danger of being infected by them; therefore Get thee out, lk-lk?Vade tibi, Get thee gone, with all speed, escape for thy life, look not behind thee, Gen. 19:17. Note, Those that are in a sinful state are concerned to make all possible haste out of it. Get out for thyself (so some read it), that is, for thy own good. Note, Those who leave their sins, and turn to God, will themselves be unspeakable gainers by the change, Prov. 9:12. This command which God gave to Abram is much the same with the gospel call by which all the spiritual seed of faithful Abram are brought into covenant with God. For, (1.) Natural affection must give way to divine grace. Our country is dear to us, our kindred dearer, and our father?s house dearest of all; and yet they must all be hated (Luke 14:26), that is, we must love them less than Christ, hate them in comparison with him, and, whenever any of these come in competition with him, they must be postponed, and the preference given to the will and honour of the Lord Jesus. (2.) Sin, and all the occasions of it, must be forsaken, and particularly bad company; we must abandon all the idols of iniquity which have been set up in our hearts, and get out of the way of temptation, plucking out even a right eye that leads us to sin (Matt. 5:29), willingly parting with that which is dearest to us, when we cannot keep it without hazard of our integrity. Those that resolve to keep the commandments of God must quit the society of evil doers, Ps. 119:115; Acts 2:40. (3.) The world, and all our enjoyments in it, must be looked upon with a holy indifference and contempt; we must no longer look upon it as our country, or home, but as our inn, and must accordingly sit loose to it and live above it, get out of it in affection.

2. By this precept he was tried whether he could trust God further than he saw him; for he must leave his own country, to go to a land that God would show him. He does not say, ?It is a land that I will give thee,? but merely, ?a land that I will show thee.? Nor does he tell him what land it was, nor what kind of land; but he must follow God with an implicit faith, and take God?s word for it, in the general, though he had no particular securities given him that he should be no loser by leaving his country, to follow God. Note, Those that will deal with God must deal upon trust; we must quit the things that are seen for things that are not seen, and submit to the sufferings of this present time in hopes of a glory that is yet to be revealed (Rom. 8:18); for it doth not yet appear what we shall be (1 John 3:2), any more than it did to Abram, when God called him to a land he would show him, so teaching him to live in a continual dependence upon his direction, and with his eye ever towards him.

II. Here is an encouraging promise, nay, it is a complication of promises, many, and exceedingly great and precious. Note, All God?s precepts are attended with promises to the obedient. When he makes himself known also as a rewarder: if we obey the command, God will not fail to perform the promise. Here are six promises:?

1. I will make of thee a great nation. When God took him from his own people, he promised to make him the head of another; he cut him off from being the branch of a wild olive, to make him the root of a good olive. This promise was, (1.) A great relief to Abram?s burden; for he had now no child. Note, God knows how to suit his favours to the wants and necessities of his children. He that has a plaster for every sore will provide one for that first which is most painful. (2.) A great trial to Abram?s faith; for his wife had been long barren, so that, if he believe, it must be against hope, and his faith must build purely upon that power which can out of stones raise up children unto Abraham, and make them a great nation. Note, [1.] God makes nations: by him they are born at once (Isa. 66:8), and he speaks, to build and plant them, Jer. 18:9. And, [2.] If a nation be made great in wealth and power, it is God that makes it great. [3.] God can raise great nations out of dry ground, and can make a little one to be a thousand.

2. I will bless thee, either particularly with the blessing of fruitfulness and increase, as he had blessed Adam and Noah, or, in general, ?I will bless thee with all manner of blessings, both of the upper and the nether springs. Leave thy father?s house, and I will give thee a father?s blessing, better than that of they progenitors.? Note, Obedient believers will be sure to inherit the blessing.

3. I will make thy name great. By deserting his country, he lost his name there. ?Care not for that,? says God, ?but trust me, and I will make thee a greater name than ever thou couldst have had there.? Having no child, he feared he should have no name; but God will make him a great nation, and so make him a great name. Note, (1.) God is the fountain of honour, and from him promotion comes, 1 Sam. 2:8. (2.) The name of obedient believers shall certainly be celebrated and made great. The best report is that which the elders obtained by faith, Heb. 11:2.

4. Thou shalt be a blessing; that is, (1.) ?Thy happiness shall be a sample of happiness, so that those who would bless their friends shall only pray that God would make them like Abram;? as Ruth 4:11. Note, God?s dealings with obedient believers are so kind and gracious that we need not desire for ourselves or our friends to be any better dealt with: to have God for our friend is blessedness enough. (2.) ?Thy life shall be a blessing to the places where thou shalt sojourn.? Note, Good men are the blessings of their country, and it is their unspeakable honour and happiness to be made so.

5. I will bless those that bless thee and curse him that curseth thee. This made it a kind of a league, offensive and defensive, between God and Abram. Abram heartily espoused God?s cause, and here God promises to interest himself in his. (1.) He promises to be a friend to his friends, to take kindnesses shown to him as done to himself, and to recompense them accordingly. God will take care that none be losers, in the long run, by any service done for his people; even a cup of cold water shall be rewarded. (2.) He promises to appear against his enemies. There were those that hated and cursed even Abram himself; but, while their causeless curses could not hurt Abram, God?s righteous curse would certainly overtake and ruin them, Num. 24:9. This is a good reason why we should bless those that curse us, because it is enough that God will curse them, Ps. 38:13-15.

6. In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed. This was the promise that crowned all the rest; for it points at the Messiah, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. Note, (1.) Jesus Christ is the great blessing of the world, the greatest that ever the world was blessed with. He is a family blessing, by him salvation is brought to the house (Luke 19:9); when we reckon up our family blessings, let us put Christ in the imprimis?the first place, as the blessing of blessings. But how are all the families of the earth blessed in Christ, when so many are strangers to him? Answer, [1.] All that are blessed are blessed in him, Acts 4:12. [2.] All that believe, of what family soever they shall be, shall be blessed in him. [3.] Some of all the families of the earth are blessed in him. [4.] There are some blessings which all the families of the earth are blessed with in Christ; for the gospel salvation is a common salvation, Jude 1:3. (2.) It is a great honour to be related to Christ; this made Abram?s name great, that the Messiah was to descend from his loins, much more than that he should be the father of many nations. It was Abram?s honour to be his father by nature; it will be ours to be his brethren by grace, Matt. 12:50.

- Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary