Commentary on Parashat Lech-Lecha, Genesis 12:1 - 17:27
God said to Abram, “Go forth from your homeland to the land that I shall show you. I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth shall be blessed through you.”
So Abram went as God had spoken to him. Abram was 75 years old when he took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot and all their possessions and left for Canaan. God appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring will I give this land.” Abram built, in Moreh and Beth-El, altars to God and invoked God by Name.
Abram journeyed south but there was famine in the land and he ended up in Egypt. When they were about to enter Egypt, Abram said to his wife Sarai, “Look, you are a beautiful woman and it will come to pass in Egypt that they will kill me because you are my wife. Therefore, please say that you are my sister so they will keep me alive.”
It came to pass that when the Egyptians saw the beautiful woman Sarai, she was praised to the Pharaoh. Sarai was then taken into the Pharaoh’s house. The Pharaoh showed kindness to Abram for the beautiful woman’s sake and gave him animals and servants.
Then God struck Pharaoh with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. And the Pharaoh sent for Abram and said, “What have you done to me? Why did you say that she was your sister, even when I took her as my wife? Take your wife and go.”
Abram left with Sarai and all their possessions out of Egypt. Now Abram was very rich in herds and silver and gold and Lot too had flocks. Since the land could not support them both and Abram wanted no strife between them told Lot to chose his preference. Lot left to settle in the land of Jordan near Sodom which was filled with wickedness. Abram dwelled in Hebron where he built an altar to God.
War among the Kings led to the capture of the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah and its people, including Lot, Abram’s nephew. Abram goes to battle to rescue Lot and is victorious, taking back everything, including Sodom and Gomorrah. Abram dismisses all the spoils except for what is due to him and his men.
After these events, Abram in a vision heard the words of God. God said “Fear not Abram for I am a shield for you; your reward is very great.” Abram said, “O Lord, God I fear I shall remain childless and then to whom shall I give my inheritance?”
God said, “You shall have a son from your own loins.” God then took Abram outside and said, “Look at the sky and count the starts. See if you can count them. That is how numerous your descendants shall be.”
Abram believed in God and God’s charity.
A dark dream comes upon Abram with God saying to him, “One day your nation will be strangers in a land and be enslaved for 400 years. But I will judge their oppressors and set your nation free and with great wealth.”
Now Abram and Sarah were very distressed for they had no children. God said to Abram, “Look toward heaven and count the stars to see how large your family will be. I am God who brought you to this land to inherit it.” God gave Abraham specific markings of his territory.
Now Sarai, Abraham’s wife, had no children, but she did have a maidservant, Hagar. Sarai asked Abram to go to Hagar so that she might birth him a child. After Hagar conceived, she acted as if Sarai was no longer important. Sarai complained to Abraham, who told Sarai to do whatever is good in her eyes. Then Sarai humbled Hagar and Hagar fled from before her.
An angel of God found pregnant Hagar by a spring of water in the desert.
God’s angel said, “Return and submit to Sarai. I shall make your family so large you will not be able to count it. You will have a son. Name him Ishmael because God has heard your sufferings. He will be a rebel and have his hand against every man and every man’s hand against him. He will take his place over all his brothers.”
Hagar said, “You are the God of Vision.” Ishmael was born when Abram was 86.
When Abraham was 99, God said, “I wish to set My covenant between Me and you. You shall become a father of the multitude of the nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful. Kings shall come forth from your nation. This covenant will be for you and your descendants after you for all generations as an everlasting covenant. Now I will give you the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession and I shall be God to you and your descendants but you, too, must keep My covenant. Every male among you shall be circumcised at the age of eight days, including all males that are born in the house or acquired with money from any stranger. My covenant shall thus be on your flesh as an everlasting covenant.”
God further said to Abraham, “You shall not call your wife Sarai because her name is Sarah. I will bless her and have already appointed for you a son from her. I will bless her and kings of nations shall descend from her.”
And Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old or shall Sarah who is 90 years old give birth?”
Then Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live before Thy countenance.”
But God said, “Not so, Sarah shall bear a son whom you shall name Isaac. With him will I uphold My covenant. As for Ishmael, I have blessed him already and will make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget 12 princes and I shall appoint him to be a great nation. But My covenant is with Isaac.”
When God went away from Abraham, that very same day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all the male members of his household and servants. He circumcised the flesh of their foreskins and his own.
Questions For Discussion
1. Abram was called by God. What does it mean to be called by God? Have you ever felt called by God to do anything? How do you know it was God Who called you? How did Abram know it was God who called him?
2. Abram laughs at God when God suggests that he and Sarah in their old age, after years of being childless, will become parents. Have you ever laughed at God? Or with God? Explain.
3. Restate in your own words the covenant God made with Abraham. Is this Covenant still relevant and important today? Why?
Reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!