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Genesis 12

In: Religion Topics

Submitted By ragingpanda
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Genesis chapter 12 begins with God calling on Abram who lives in Haran with his wife Sarai. God makes a covenant with Abram, promising Abram to make him a great nation, his name great, curse his enemies, and blessings only if Abram would make the journey to Canaan. Attest to his faith, the seventy-five year old Abram left Haran with his wife Sarai, his nephew, and the wealth he had acquired in Haran to the Promise Land of Canaan. Once Abram arrives in Canaan, God calls on him again, promises to give this land to Abram’s descendants. He erects alters throughout the Promised Land to show his devotion to God. After reading this passage, many possible methods stood out as to how one could possibly analyze and interpret this passage. However, after eliminating a few opinions, there are three appropriate exegetical methods to approach this text. First, translation criticism needs to be considered because ancient manuscripts such as the bible consist of many versions and translations. Therefore, translation criticism helps determine the most reliable version of the text and trace the original version through textual evidence within the Hebrew Bible. Then, grammatical translation needs to be taken into account because it helps determine the use of words and tones in which the passage was written. It is important because through the usage of different words and tones as the message within the passage may be conveyed differently. Lastly, historical criticism is also critical for interpreting this passage because it gives insight to the place and culture of the period when the passage was originally composed. These methods will help better understand the meaning of the passage. The approach of translation criticism will mainly focus on the origin and source of this particular passage. Textual contents within the Hebrew Bible have been copied over centuries by scribes with varying abilities. Therefore, no manuscript of the Hebrew Bible is error-free. There are intentional errors along with accidental errors within the text because varying scribes would sometimes intentionally change the text for linguistic and theological reasons. Altering the text in a certain way will result in different interpretations of the passage. Grammatical criticism goes hand in hand with translation criticism. However, grammatical criticism looks specifically at word usage. It examines whether a certain word is repeated and how does that word affect the meaning of the passage. In Genesis 12, one word in particular plot the entire meaning of the passage which will be discussed in more detail later. Historical criticism mainly deals with the place and cultural of the time when the passage was written. Many believe that authorship is around1440 to 1400 B.C., when Moses let the Israelites out of Egypt. The introduction of the covenant between God and Abram appears in Genesis 12. One may ask whether Abram’s devotion and his decision to follow God’s command is a common occurrence during Abram’s time. With further comparison, Abram’s action is similar to new believers of Christ in the 21st century. Starting with translation criticism, a comparison is made between the English Standard Version of the bible and The Jewish Study Bible. One noticeable difference between the two is how they are written. The composition of verse 2 and 3 in The Jewish Study Bible is in poetic style, while English Standard Version offers a narrative style. The translation between each bible is fairly similar with minor differences. However, the poetic style in The Jewish Study Bible seems to convey a more powerful message as if God is speaking to Abram in person. God’s words come to life and give the readers a feeling of being with Abram while God is speaking to him. The way in which the bible was translated is truly important because English Stand Version expresses the same message but fails at making the words come to life due to its style and format. Despite the differences between verses 2 and 3; both versions of the bible exhibit similar narrative writing style from verse four through twelve. Grammatical criticism of Genesis 12 reveals that one particular word in this chapter defines the meaning of the entire passage. The word “Go” in the first verse of Genesis 12 is God’s command that will essentially change Abram and the world forever. Within verse 2 and 3, God’s promise to Abram is “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse him that curses you; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.” Genesis 12:2-3 Essentially, God’s promise can only be realized if Abram carries out that command. Another word that may also raise a different interpretation for this passage is the world “bless”. It is a word that’s often repeated in verse 2 and 3. Unlike the word “Go” which carries a commanding connotation, “bless” might really be the main word to this passage and the catalyst behind Abram’s journey to Canaan because why should Abram leave Haran with his wife and nephew? Why should Abram take what he had acquired in Haran and set out to a place of unknown? The reason behind this is that “Go” can be interpreted as a more subtle verb, while “bless” carries an inviting tone that urges Abram to realize what was promised to him. This is a plausible interpretation if taking into today’s perspective. In today’s world, most people think of blessings from God in a spiritual sense. People believe that by doing what is right, they shall receive good luck and protection from God. This is unlikely what Abram had in mind since evidence in previous and later chapters show Abram’s obedience to God despite not knowing what he’ll find in Canaan. Because of his devotion to God, a covenant was established between God and Abram in Genesis 15. Historical exegesis reveals the culture in the ancient Middle East through verse 2 of Genesis 12. The evidence that support this interpretation is “name great”. It is widely believed that ancient Middle Eastern culture value heritage greatly. The goal in life is to pass on the family name and legacy to descendants. Unfortunately, Abram does not have any descendants due to his wife Sarai’s infertility. Children are the key to the future and without children, Abram has no future. God’s promise to make his name great is the only future Abram has at the moment as he makes the journey to Canaan. Abram’s decision portrays the same decision people would make in modern time. Much like new believers of Christ today, they step into the Promised Land and fail to see God’s plan, but does not become discouraged. No matter what kind of difficulties they face in life, they keep on believing that there will be a brighter future, just as Abram believed that God will somehow make his name great. Abram’s devotion to God is that light that guides him through the path of unknown. Biblical scriptures are not something that is easily understood. People may think they understand the meaning of this passage, but only at face value. The true meaning of this passage can only be understood by utilizing various exegetical methods in order to fully understand its powerful message. It is mind boggling how one word can be so meaningful that misinterpreting it will end up obtaining a different message. Realizing that the format in which the passage is written also plays a crucial role in conveying the meaning of the passage. It is important to employ exegetical methods such as translation, grammatical, and historical criticisms when reading biblical scriptures as they help extract the true meaning of the text.

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