According to the Biblical text, when God called Abraham and told him to leave his country, Abraham was living in Mesopotamia, in the city of Ur. In his infinite sovereignty, God singled out an individual from whom the nation of Israel was to spring.
In God’s infinite wisdom, he chose one individual and eventually one nation to become instruments for the manifestation of his redeeming love. God’s call to Abraham is described in Genesis 12:1:
“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’”
The expression “Go for thyself,” as expressed in the Young’s Literal Translation, is an English rendition of the Hebrew “Lekh Lekha.” In the Jewish religious community, the Parashat Lekh Lekha is a section of the book of Genesis that includes Genesis 12:1-17:27. A Parashah (a Hebrew word meaning “portion”) is a section of a Biblical book in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) that is read weekly in the Synagogue. The Parashat Lekh Lekha is the Torah Reading for the Week of October 25-31, 2009.
Eugene Korn has written a good devotional on the Lekh Lekha which was published in the Jewish Standard. Below is an excerpt taken from his article:
The Bible tells the story of the Jewish people—who we are and who we are challenged to be. Our national birth occurs in Chapter 12 of Genesis, when God instructs Abraham to leave his family and pagan Mesopotamian culture and journey to Canaan. Here he will start a new life, a new culture and a new people: the Jewish people in covenant with God.
Genesis 12 also signals a literary and theological change of direction. Genesis’ first eleven chapters are a narrative of the cosmos and humanity, suffused with the grandeur of God’s universal concern. Yet from chapter 12 onward, the Bible’s focus narrows dramatically, restricting itself to God’s stormy relationship with a small, particular people—Abraham’s descendants. It is the story of two lovers so smitten with each other that they leave the rest of the world behind. The God of the universe has gone ethnic.
Looking closely, we can still detect the universal plan. A critical part of the particularistic covenant with Abraham is a bold challenge: “Be a blessing…. Through you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God calls upon the Jewish people to be a partner in creation and to carry the divine blessing to all humanity. It is so essential to the covenant that the Bible repeats it twice more to Abraham, once to Isaac when he inherits the covenant and once more to Jacob when the covenant is passed to the third generation. Jews are not to be an isolated ghetto people, or an insignificant minority relegated to a footnote to the larger human story. The covenant calls on us to be a major player—the major player—in the culture and history of the world.
In his article, Korn discusses the universal implications of Abraham’s call and the mission of the Jewish people to bestow God’s blessings upon the nations of the world. He also discusses the reasons “the covenant’s universal dimension has receded into the background of Jewish life.”
It is a good article that deserves to be read by non-Jewish people who want to gain a Jewish perspective of Abraham’s call.
If you interested in reading my views on God’s promises to Abraham, read my post, Abraham and the Promises of God.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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