The Abraham narrative begins with movement from one land, Ur of the Chaldeans (11:28) to another land, the land of Canaan (11:31). The first words we hear from God to Abraham are for him to leave his land and his family to go to another land (12:1). Already the themes of land and seed are present. The fact that Abram travels with his father, Terah to Haran and remained there until Terah died (Acts 7:4) may indicate a lack of obedience on Abram’s part. Verse 4, however, indicates Abram’s obedience.
Preceding the obedience of verse 4 is a recitation of the promises of God to Abram. These promises are often summarized under the headings of land, seed, and blessing. These themes have their genesis in chapter 1 at the climax of the creation narrative. Genesis 1:28 identifies God’s words in 1:28-30 as a blessing. The blessing centers on seed (“be fruitful, and multiply”) and land (“fill the earth and subdue it”). When Adam and Eve sin the blessing is replaced with a curse (Gen. 3:17). The content of the judgment focuses on seed (3:16) and land (3:17). Therefore it should come as little surprise that God’s plan of redemption includes promises to Abraham regarding land, seed, and blessing.
The promises hang on a command regarding land and seed. Abraham is to leave his land and his family in order to receive God’s blessing. The land promise is not given in these opening verses, but it is hinted at by God’s promise to show Abram a land (12:1). It is also implied in the promise to make Abram a great nation (12:2). The term גוי may imply both people and land.
The climax of God’s promise to Abraham is that in him “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (12:3). Interestingly, all the land words in this chapter are אֶ֫רֶץ except in this verse where אֲדָמָה is used. The energies of the commentators is spent on determining whether נִבְרְכ֣וּ should be understood as passive or reflexive. Little reflection is given to why the word אֲדָמָה is chosen over אֶ֫רֶץ. It could be free variation. Wenham notes that אֲדָמָה is used here and in 28:14 but that אֶ֫רֶץ is used when this promise is repeated in 26:4l 22:18; 18:18. However, there may be an allusion back to Adam. All are cursed in Adam, but in Abraham all the families of אֲדָמָה shall be blessed.
Verse 4 testifies to Abram’s obedience to the Lord’s command. In verses 5-7 אֶ֫רֶץ occurs five times and in verses 8-9 the recurrence of geographical locations indicates that land is a major theme of 5-7. These verses reveal Abram’s entrance into the land and his travels through it from top to bottom in a survey of the land.
And yet the land is clearly not yet Abram’s. In the first two mentions of land in verses 5-9, the land is identified as “the land of Canaan.” After noting that “Abram passed through the land to the place at Schechem,” Moses says, “At that time the Canaanites were in the land” (12:6). The reference to the oak of Moreh may be a reference to a place of Canaanite worship, and its mention may be another means of driving the point home: Abram is a sojourner in this land. It is in this context that God appears to Abram and for the first time explicitly promises the land to Abram’s seed. Abram responds by building an altar to the Lord. This may serve as a counterpoint to the oak of Moreh, and it reveals that Israelite possession of the land should displace pagan worship with the worship of Yahweh.
Verses 10-20 reveal that the path to fulfillment is not going to be straight. Already facing a barren wife (11:30), Abram now faces a barren land (12:10). Abram does not respond to the challenge of the barren land by faith. He leaves the land for Egypt, he places the seed promise in jeopardy (from a human perspective) by lying about Sarah, and as a result Abram is a curse to Pharaoh rather than a blessing.
 Abram’s obedience to God’s command does not merit the promises. His obedience is a testimony to his faith in God’s promises. Abraham’s later behavior in this chapter and God’s blessing of Abram despite his failures is a testimony that Abram is blessed because of God’s grace and not because of his goodness.
 On ways to harmonize Genesis 11:32 with Acts 7:4, see Hamilton, 1:367-68; Waltke, 201.
 Waltke, 201; Kidner, 111.
 Wenham, 1:275; Hamilton, 1:371-72; Mathews, 2:112; Currid, 252; Gentry & Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 235.
 Conservative commentators favor the passive. Kidner, TOTC, 114; Wenham, 1:277-78; Hamilton, 1:375; Mathews, 2:117.
 Wenham, 1:278.
 Wenham, 1:283; Hamilton, 1:379; cf. Sailhamer, EBC, 112.
 See Wenham, 1:279. This oak is identified by name in Deuteronomy 11:30 and seems to be mentioned in Genesis 35:4; Joshua 24:26; and Judges 9:6, 37.
 Mathew Henry emphasized the sojourning nature of Abram in these verses. Commentary on the Whole Bible, 35.
 Currid, 1:58.
 It is difficult to determine whether Abram’s departure because of the famine was acceptable or indicated a lack of faith. On the one hand there are many parallels between this passage and the divinely ordained sojourn of the people of Israel from Jacob to Moses: famine results in the emigration to Egypt, plagues are visited on Pharaoh by God, Abraham/the people leave with great wealth from Egypt. On the other hand, Abraham is not recorded here as leaving the land with a word from the Lord. In a context in which Abram is told by God to go to the land and in which his faith is tested, and in which he in other matters is showing a lack of faith, a negative reading seems most likely.