The story of Abram in Genesis 12 and his calling by God contains particular genre characteristics that are unique. The original context of his calling and obedience to go from his country, his kindred, and his father’s house resulted in blessings that have implications to this day. This royal grant-type of covenant “is a golden thread stitching together the whole Scriptural fabric.”1 This covenant is unconditional.2 This thread is interwoven throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament (Gen. 12:1-3, 18:18, 22:18, 26:4, 28:15; Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:8). There are many such narratives in the Bible of this oft repeated covenantal promise which are woven throughout the Old and New Testament Scriptures just like “the just shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11, Heb. 10:38) promise.3 By Abram leaving his own nation of Ur, which was one of the most powerful and wealthy in the known world (Gen. 15:7) to start and become the father of nations and the one through whom all families (nations) would be blessed clearly means that this blessing would come through the Promised Seed, Jesus Christ. We can imply that when God said “all families of the earth shall be blessed” that nations are simply families grown large (Gen 12:3).
The genre of Genesis 12 is in the narrative form and has a prologue (Gen. 11:31-32), is historical (Gen. 11:27-30), within the narrative (Gen. 12:1-3), while containing accounts (Gen. 12:4-7). There is even irony (Gen. 12:10-20) when the “father of the faithful” lies (in a half-truth) about his wife being his sister when he goes to Egypt to protect his own life. This occurred shortly after God had already promised him, unconditionally, to make him into a father of a great nation (Gen. 12:2) so the reader can assume that Abram knew that he must survive in order to have this covenantal promise fulfilled. Gone is the man of faith who fears an earthly king over the promises of the Omnipotent God. The theology is that God sovereignly calls Abram, which is a display of election by grace that is granted to him, yet Abram’s faith falters when faced by the perceived threat in the human realm. This happened despite the promise from the sovereign God.
The author, Moses, was restating the promise to Abraham (Ex. 19:3-8) for the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt and was repeated due to this covenantal promise’s importance.4 The account of Abram’s call and subsequent obedience to that call is frequently repeated in the Pentateuch and for the nation of Israel’s benefit however it is also written for the church that was founded on the day of Pentecost and still relevant for Christians today even though some biblical critiques do not believe that Abram even existed as a real person and in real time only because “there are no contemporaneous non-biblical sources corroborating either the individuals or the events described in Genesis” which makes some question whether there was ever an Abram(ham) .5 This is a weak argument from silence from which we could also argue that Aristotle never existed because we have only 5 remaining manuscripts from his work, none of which are originals .6 Author and Bible critic Michael David Coogan, who has been a vocal critic of the book of Genesis and its associated historical accounts, including the characters, has been proven wrong today by archeological evidence to the contrary that Abram(ham) actually did exist.7
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon
1. Andreas J. and Kostenberger and Richard D. Patterson. Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2011), 180.
2. Ibid., p. 181.
3. Ibid., p. 251.
4. Gleason L. Archer. A Survey of Old Testament: Introduction. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2007), 208.
5. Michael David Coogan. The Old Testament: A Very Short Introduction. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 115. Accessed January 23, 2014. EBSCO Host Library.
6. “Jesus Christ: An Historical Fact,” Jesus, the Topic of the Most Historians in All of Human History, last modified May 4, 2009, accessed January 23, 2014,
7. Ibid., 99.