Genesis 9-12
(Two Eternal Promises)
January 3rd

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Updated 2021

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

When they arrived in Canaan, Abram travelled through the land until he came to the sacred tree of Moreh, the holy place at Shechem. (At that time the Canaanites were still living in the land.) The LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “This is the country that I am going to give to your descendants.” Then Abram built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

- Genesis 12:5b-7

Summary of Chapters

These chapters continue the story of Noah and provide a bridge to the story of Abram (who later became Abraham). Chapter 9 begins with a covenant promise from God:

    I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

    And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

    - Genesis 9:11-13 (NIV)

The subsequent chapters summarize the lives of Noah’s family and the genealogy leading up to Abraham. Chapter 10 lists the immediate descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japeth. The sons of Ham included Canaan, who was the patriarch of the Canaanites that will later be defeated by Joshua. Japeth's sons dispersed across the land. Shem's descendants include the Hebrews and other Semites.

Chapter 11 describes the folly of the people who went east and tried to build a tower in their own honor in Babel. This angered God who then scattered the people and confused them with different languages. The remainder of chapter 11 adds further notes to Shem's family tree, including the genealogical path to Abram, the son of Terar.

In chapter 12, we learn more about Abram (the original spelling of his name) and read about God's instructions for him to leave his country and promises that he will make him into a great nation:

    "I'll make you a great nation
       and bless you.
    I'll make you famous;
       you'll be a blessing.
    I'll bless those who bless you;
       those who curse you I'll curse.
    All the families of the Earth
       will be blessed through you."

    - Genesis 12:2-3 (MSG)

Subsequently, God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham. He settled there but left because of a famine and moved to Egypt. On the way to Egypt he asked his wife Sarai to say that she was his sister so that the Egyptians would not kill him. The plan had an unintended consequence as the king brought Sarai to the palace and then began to experience terrible diseases. When the king realized why this happened he kicked Abram and Sarai out of the country.

Reflection and Application

Note the different attitudes towards God that we witnessed in this group of chapters. In the beginning and the end of this group we see the faithful obedience of Noah and Abraham, and learn about the covenants that God established through each of them. But in between these stories we heard about a rebellious group of people who disregarded God and paid a price for it.

Abram was very comfortable in the country of his family and forefathers, but obeyed the call of God. A lesson for us is to remember not to let comfort and security make us miss God’s specific plans for each one of us.

The message that all peoples will be blessed through Abram is one that is referenced in the New Testament as a reminder that salvation would be available for all people. For example, in the book of Acts, when Peter explained the source of the healing power that he had demonstrated:

    You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham, ‘In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’

    For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

    - Acts 3:25-26 (NAB)

The descendants of Abram that became the nation of Israel were called the chosen ones because they were to be a light to the world. However, if they thought that salvation was supposed to be limited to them, then they forgot this important declaration from the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures. There may be times when we are also tempted to believe that only certain types of people can be saved, but that is a false trap into which someone else wants us to fall.

Remember: All peoples on earth have been blessed through Abram.

For further reflection on why the Tower of Babel was such a bad idea we recommend the following sermon by the Rev. Greg Doll, who reminds us of the eternal problems and consequences of ego and pride. Click the play button on the object below to hear it (requires QuickTime to play):

"East of Eden," Genesis 11:1-9, sermon by Rev. Gregory Doll, November 11th, 2012

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What aspects of your life give you security and comfort?
    2. What are the ways in which you sense God calling you to step out of your comfort zone?
    3. In what ways does our culture presume limits on who can be saved?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father, please help us to step out of our comfort zone to serve you.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Those beginning a new life in a new land this year

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Genesis 13-17 (Patience is a Virtue).

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