Divine Imperative: Vs. 1
The waw consecutive with the imperfect prefixing our first verb (rma) signifies the sequential nature of 12:1-4 with 11:26-32. That is, Yahweh’s call presupposes the deaths of Abram’s father and brother and bares in mind Sarai’s barrenness.
Yahweh’s imperative of command, “Go forth” (^±l.-%l,) , governs all the verbs through vs. 3, indicating that apart from obedience to Yahweh’s command, Abram will not experience Yahweh’s blessings and He will continue in the barrenness and death marking his life to this point.
The imperative’s force does not merely lie in Abram going to an unknown destination, but in leaving all his stability and identity – from your land (^ïc.r>a;me) , your family relations (^ßT.d>l;AM)miW), and the house of your father (^ybi_a’ tyBeämiW). An element of climax operates within Yahweh’s list. He moves from lesser to greater intimacy, climaxing in the necessity of Abram leaving his father’s house.
A. Land → B. Familial Relations → C. Father’s House
With a concluding contrast, Yahweh promises to restore the stability and identity Abram will lose: as opposed to all your land and family, you will go to a land that I show you and I will give you a large family, etc. Despite all Abram is commanded to leave, Yahweh only promises to bring him to a land “which I will cause you to see” (&’a<)r>a; rv<ïa]). The Hiphil stem is causative – God will cause Abram to see the land and Abram will participate as the one being acted upon. The ability to access this land is not within Abram’s volitional capabilities, but with the resolve of Yahweh to fulfill His promises.
Divine Promises: Vs. 2
This verse begins a series of blessings received upon Abram’s obedience to Yahweh. There are seven total blessings, the first four of which appear here. Of these, the initial three are imperfects and the last an imperative.
The first blessing involves Yahweh making (‘^f.[,a,(w>) Abram into a great nation. This initial verb is a Cohortative of Resolve which implies that Yahweh performs an action (in the future) which lies within His ability to accomplish. There is a certainty with regards to this blessing – Yahweh is willing and able to fulfill His promise.
Nations, incidentally, imply autonomy and territory. While vs. 1 suggests that Abram will be given a plot of land, that land remains unknown. Yahweh commands Abram to be a wanderer before He will make him give him the security of nation status.
The next verb (^êk.r<b'äa]w) is the first of five recurrences of $rb. Yahweh saturates Abram’s obedience with blessing. Obedience remedies Abram and Sarai’s barreness by the bestowal of blessing.
The writer employs a second Piel stem and speaks of Yahweh making Abram’s name great. In the ANE, having a great name communicated that one was a morally upright and virtuous person. Yahweh is not only saying Abram will be recognized as a virtuous person, but He resolves to make Abram a virtuous person.
Finally, Yahweh uses an imperative in the fourth line (hyEßh.w<). The employment is odd, however, as it seems to command Abram to “be a blessing” to others. However, this is most likely an Imperative of Promise where the speaker assures the recipient of the imperative that He will take the action in the future, although the action is outside the power of the receiver. Yahweh will make Abram a blessing even though Abram, on his own, does not have the ability to be a blessing.
Additionally, the imperative surfaces in center line of a seven line structure. There seems to be no indication of a Chiasm, but placing this at the center of the structure seems to indicate some importance which I could not determine. Whatever the case, it should be noted, again, that this blessing is still conditioned upon Abram’s obedience to the original command for Abram to “Go forth.”
Divine Protection: Vs. 3
The waw consecutive prefixing the first verb is consequential. The result of God making Abram’s name great is blessing and curses upon nations in accordance with how they relate to Abram.
Initializing a series of three Piel’s, hk’r]b”)a]w: begins a chiastic structure operating throughout this verse:
(A) I will bless (hk’r]b”)a]w: )
(B) the one’s blessing you (^yk,êr>b”åm.)
(B’) The one cursing you (^ßl.L,q;m.W.)
(A’) I will inflict with a curse (rao=a’)
First, mysteriously the two participles do not agree in number. Whatever this may signify, the conjunctive waw on the second participle is adversative, indicating strong contrast. Blessing Abram inevitably results in a contrast cursing of “the one” who does not bless Abram. Nations, even individuals, are blessed or cursed in accordance with their relationship to Abram.
Second, different words used for “curse” are employed. llq occurs eighty-four times in the Hebrew Bible and refers, among other things, to Yahweh’s cursing of the ground in the Flood narrative. But within the Abrahamic narratives, the word is used two other times in reference to Sarai’s despising of Hagar, even to the point of having her removed from the community of blessing. In the Piel form, it indicates a declaration of someone being cursed or abused.
Rra, however, communicates the idea of being deprived of divine benefits or placed under a ban. The strength of the statement is reinforced by the Qal stem which highlights the activeness of the cursing.
The end goal, and climax of these seven lines, is the blessing of all nations through Abram. The Niphal stem is a bit difficult to work with primarily because it could legitimately be passive or a reflexive. The passive seems most likely, as it is difficult to see how the nations could bless themselves when the whole of the passage points to them being blessed by Yahweh according to their relationship to Abram.
Abram’s Obedience: Vs. 4
The $lh in the final verse forms an inclusio with the first word of Yahweh’s command in vs. 1. The writer places the word upfront, not only as a matter of sentence structure, but also in order to clearly and immediately demonstrate Abram’s obedience.
Abram’s obedience paralleled Yahweh’s command (rB<ÜDI). Furthermore, the author tells us that when Abram and Lot were obedient to God’s command, Abram was seventy-five years old. This is possibly an exaggerated number intended to boost the honor of Abram in later generations. But really, such an assertion falls outside the realm of the narrative and the text.
Genesis 12:1-4 follows on the heels of eleven chapters of primeval history, providing a bridge from there to the history of Israel’s patriarchs. This pericope demonstrates that, though the nations have rebelled against Him, Yahweh is not finished with humanity. In the midst of cosmological mutiny, Yahweh calls a man with no heir (11:30) and makes him the father of, and blessing to, many nations.
**Sorry about the Hebrew fonts. I was having trouble even posting this thing for some reason, let along getting all the fonts to show up correctly.**