From the broad history of Genesis 1-11, God narrows down His saving work to one person, Abram. Two chapters (Genesis 12 and 15) form mountain peaks for the rest of the Genesis narrative, in fact, the entire Old Testament narrative. They set forth the direction and plan for God’s saving work. They also set the background for the New Testament understanding of what is righteousness and what is faith.
Genesis 12:1-3, 7 provide the framework for rest of the Old Testament. These find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
As with Noah building an altar after being saved in the flood, Abram does the same in 12:7. Although in this case, the altar comes with the promise, not after the fact. This seems to set the stage about what faith is, which both Paul and the writer of Hebrews explore: “things hoped for, things not seen.”
Abram immediately responds to this call: “So Abram went” (12:4). He did not wait to consider his options, nor did he ponder “what is God’s will?” He heard the word and responded in faith by obeying that word.
Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going.
Despite the promises, circumstances force Abram to leave the promised land, going to Egypt. This begins a life of wandering for Abram/Abraham and his descendants. Thus, they live a life of “now, not yet” always living in the promise, but not seeing the fulfillment. Concerning his grandson, Jacob, we read:
My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; but there he became a great, mighty and populous nation. (Deuteronomy 26:5)
In the New Testament, we find that summarizes this point:
These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. But they now desire a better place—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
We discover that this is the reality of our lives here on earth. We who are descendants of Abram/Abraham (Galatians 3:29) live by faith, having received the promises, seen them fulfilled in Jesus Christ, but only completed when we are in heaven with God.
Genesis 13-14 provide insight into how this will work out in Abram’s life. His half-truth about Sarai leads him to protect his life at the expense of Sarai’s integrity as his wife. We realize very soon that “great heroes of faith” are weak, given to compromise, and even sin. And yet, God still works in them and through them to achieve his saving purposes.
In Genesis 14:17–20, we read about Melchizedek (meaning “king of righteousness”) who is King of Salem, and serves as priest of “God Most High.” We would have expected the tithing (giving a tenth of everything) to be from Melchizedek to Abram; but the reverse happens. Melchizedek is a very unusual person, mentioned only two other places in the Bible, Psalms and Hebrews:
The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)
The other references are to this Psalm passage: Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1, 10, 11, 15, 17. Jesus is then a priest of the order of Melchizedek, not dependent on the earthly line of Aaron for that priesthood, a priesthood that eventually goes away (in terms of God’s salvation plan).
12:3 “I will curse those who treat you with contempt,”
HCSB does well to show that these two words are distinct (ארר curse, קלל treat with contempt), which most will use the same English word, “curse.” The first word describing God’s cursing relative to those who mistreatment Abram is the same used when discussing the curse after the fall into sin Genesis 3:14, 17), and also the curse on Cain after his murder of Abel (Genesis 4:11). The other interesting choice is that the Hebrew is in the singular: “the one who curses,” while HCSB uncharacteristically changes it to plural (HCSB resists switching to plural as many translations do elsewhere to avoid a masculine singular pronoun). Here are a few comparison translations:
NAS: And the one who curses you I will curse.
GW: and whoever curses you, I will curse.
ESV: and him who dishonors you I will curse
NIV 2011: and whoever curses you I will curse
NLT: curse those who treat you with contempt
CEB: those who curse you I will curse
While HCSB is be acceptable, it appears that GW, NIV 2011, and NAS offer a better solution.
HCSB: He built an altar to Yahweh there, and he called on the name of Yahweh.
Here HCSB switches to using Yahweh, continuing the inconsistency of Yahweh or LORD for God’s name (Exodus 3:14). The reader has to make a mental jump to realize that Yahweh here is identical to LORD used in 12:1 and 12:7. Not only that, but 12:7 and 12:8 deal with the same issue, worship. How many make that connection between the two verses?
12:1 The LORD said to Abram:
12:7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your offspring.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.
12:8 From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. He built an altar to Yahweh there, and he called on the name of Yahweh.
This goes back to my original complaint about the HCSB: either use LORD in all places where the Hebrew is יְהוָה֙, or use Yahweh in all places where it occurs.
Abram is blessed by God Most High, and I give praise to God Most High
Here HCSB introduces an artificial distinction in the text that misses the parallel especially when the Hebrew repeats the same word, בָּר֤וּךְ. This one leaves me scratching my head as to the choice, especially since translations at the opposite ends of the spectrum get it right.
NAS: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, And blessed be God Most High,GW (and NLT): “Blessed is Abram by God Most High, Blessed is God Most High,
None of these are deal breakers for using HCSB, but the inconsistency regarding the name of God is annoying.
This section includes a pivotal text for the entire Bible. Thus, as we read throughout the Old Testament we can catch glimpses of how these promises are fulfilled partially in time. Ultimately we see the fulfillment of all these promises in Jesus Christ. With Abram we live in the now—not yet tension, “living by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).