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Genesis 12:1-3: An Alternate Reading

Updated: Jan 23, 2019

Parashat Lech Lecha ("Go to yourself") from Genesis 12:1-3 is the foundation for the biblical lessons that concern the Hebrew patriarch Avraham. In this alternative reading, I address what was prophetically spoken about to Avraham from YHWH (YHVH). From my reading of the narrative, I see direct inferences to the Messianic hope and resurrection life that was to come through Yeshua.

Genesis 12:1-3 Alternative Reading Beyond P’shat

By Avi ben Mordechai

Let us consider Yeshua’s statement as recorded in Luke 24.27:

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

This said, I want to propose an alternate reading of Genesis 12:1-3 that takes us beyond P’shat (the simple straight-forward narrative) and into something a bit deeper. Below is the English narrative of Genesis 12:1-3 as understood in the New King James Version:

Now YHVH had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Let us consider an alternative reading from the Hebrew narrative in the BHS, based on the 11th century Leningrad Codex:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ׃

וְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל וַאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ וֶהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה׃

וַאֲבָֽרֲכָה֙ מְבָ֣רְכֶ֔יךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ֖ אָאֹ֑ר וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָאֲדָמָֽה׃


וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛

And he יהוה said to Avram “Lech Lecha.”

“Lech” is pointed feminine and “Lecha” is pointed masculine showing us the natural man Avram (lecha) and the Spirit-man (lech/lach). In other words, the vowel pointing in lech lecha seems to suggest that Avram the man should look deep into his spirit/soul conscience or in Hebrew, his neshamah. We might refer to this as an introspection or soul-searching. Each of us is a creation duality of flesh and spirit expressed through body and soul.

מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ

[Walk or go]…From your land, and from your birth, and from the house of your father.

Avram the natural man is told to deeply go into himself (into his spirit) and fulfil the instruction of יהוה to do three things: 1) Leave his land, 2) Leave his birth and 3) Leave his father’s house.

1) First, leave his land. The Hebraic idea of “land” is more than something earthy and natural. In scripture, land is also a metaphor to show us the condition of our own heart. Consider Yeshua’s statement in Matthew 13:19, “When anyone hears the Word of the Kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.” Also, the same metaphor appears in James 1:21, “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

2) Second, leave his birth. Again, birth is more than just something physical and natural. Birth is also spiritual. Consider what Yeshua said in two places when he was speaking with Nicodemus.

  • First, in John 3:3 - “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

  • Second, in John 3:7 - “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’” English translations use the term “born again,” but in Greek as in Hebrew, the idea is to be “born from above.” If one is not born from above, then one cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven in the Garden of Eden.

When we enter the world through our physical birth, we enter with a sin imprint from below, in the depths of the earth, which was the ground that was cursed (see Genesis 3:17). This is further explained in Psalm 139:15, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” We are not born into this life from Heaven above. We are born into this life from the earth below, attached to the curse of the ground where Sin and Death dwell. In this life, our destiny is death because of sin, and until the connection is severed, we are creatures of earth. The objective is to leave this land of our first birth to enter the land of our second or new birth. Thus, Paul could say concerning the Spirit in Galatians 4:26, “…but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.”

3) Third, leave his father’s house. The severance path that each of us must take is the same path that Avram had to take when he made his cut. When we are physically born into this world attached to the Sin and Death of Eden’s Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, we enter with the imprinted DNA from our progenitors; that is, our genetic parents -- Sin and Death. Put another way, our natural birth into this world is a genetic product of our mother Sin (a feminine concept in Hebrew) and our father Death (a masculine concept in Hebrew). To experience new life, we need new parents, hence, we must disconnect from Sin and Death and connect to Life and Good. This is the adoption theology of Paul’s teaching in Romans 8. In this, we have a new family and we are a new creation from above. Therefore, the metaphor is that we must leave our father and our mother and cling to our wife (see Genesis 2:23).

In a theology discussion about Avram, between Yeshua and the religious leaders of his day (the Pharisees), he said to them, “You are of your father the Serpent (Nachash, devil), and the desires of your father you want to do (John 8:44).” According to the dialogue leading up to Yeshua’s retort, they believed that Avram was their spiritual father, but Yeshua corrected them. We are no different when we are born into this natural world. We too must leave our father’s house and be born from above. So, did Yeshua say to the religious leaders of his day, the Pharisees, “See! Your house is left to you desolate.” The house is a Hebraic feminine idea; “your house is left to you desolate” means the Spirit of יהוה was to be removed from their house (physical and spiritual) which also refers to a “dynasty” that comes to an end. Their religious system was destined to function as that of a single-parent home with a father but no mother.

Therefore, in Genesis 12:1, Avram the natural man goes deeply into himself (into his spirit) and fulfills the instruction of יהוה to 1) Leave his land, 2) Leave his birth, and 3) Leave his

father’s house.

אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ׃

Towards (to) the land that I will cause you to see.

For Avram, the Land that he was shown was not solely physical or natural. The writer of Hebrews 11:9-10 and 13-16 understood it this way:

Hebrews 11:9-10; 13-16. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God…These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the land. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly land. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.


וְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל

And I will make you, towards the Goy, (the “Gentile”) great!

Here, we have a broad definition for the term “Goy” or gentile. In this defining moment, “Goy” is a nickname, moniker, or signature for one who remains as when he first was born into this world. A goy is one who has not had a regeneration of his original birth spirit conscience. Here is how it was said in Titus 3:4-6: “But when the kindness and the love of God our savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the holy spirit, whom he poured out on us abundantly through Yeshua haMashiach our savior. The Hebraic idea of regeneration is derived from the Hebrew root Nun-Lamed-Dalet which means to birth new life. This is what Yeshua was referring to in Matthew 18:4 when he said, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” The Hebrew term for a child is Yeled, directly related to the Hebrew word molad (birth).

We all enter the world as goyim (“Gentiles”) in the sense that we are birthed from below, not from above. When born from above, we receive a new name and come to be identified with the spiritual people called “Israel.” Paul spoke of it in Galatians 6:16 when he referred to believers in Yeshua as “the Israel of Elohim” or the “Israel of God.”

The creation of all humanity could be expressed through two categories – the goy of the goyim (see Deuteronomy 4:7-8) and the goy of the Hebrews (see Ephesians 4:17-18). One may be a native-born Hebrew or non-Hebrew; a native-born Jew or non-Jew, yet still can carry the signature of a “goy” because it is a spiritual term more than a biological one.

The Word to Avram was that he, the natural man, would be viewed as great in the eyes of all goyim who were looking for an example of spiritual greatness in a man. Avram came to be that man because he was spiritually regenerated. Yeshua defined greatness through the action of Avram when he said in Matthew 5:19, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” This is what made Avram great according to Genesis 26:4-5, “And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

After Adam’s fall, Avram was then chosen to raise up a dynasty or house of earth’s regenerated ones among those who are born from above. Therefore, Avram was called a Hebrew (“ivri”); that is, one who crossed-over (from below to above). In doing so, Avram confirmed his belief and faith in the Word saying, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad (John 8:56).” Thus, Avram would be called faithful and great. However, among those that were not looking for greatness in a spirit of regeneration, they were destined to remain as goyim and in this, they would come to hate the Word of regeneration, as Yeshua said in his prayer to the father, “I have given them your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world (John 17:14).”

וַאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ

And I will bless you (the natural man) and will exalt you – your name!

Avram’s greatness (his testimony of spiritual regeneration) would be established through his name. In this, יהוה raised up Avram’s natural identity, which means elevated father and gave him a spiritual identity, regenerated as it was said five chapters later in Genesis 17:5, “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.” In other words, here, in Avram’s birth name, he is transformed from a natural man to a spiritual man when the Hebrew Hehה, which expresses the breath of יהוה, is added to his name. Therefore, Avraham will be known as the father of a multitude (Hebrew: hamon), as it says in the Hebrew of Genesis 12:2, “a fathered multitude, I will give to you.”

Only those who come to be regenerated or born from above can rightfully claim the title “sons of Avraham” or “children of Avraham.” This was well understood from a dialogue between Yeshua and the religious leaders of his day in John 8:33-34: They (the religious leaders) answered him (Yeshua), “We are Abraham’s descendants (seed, sons, children) and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?” Yeshua answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” The sin that Yeshua was referring to is likely a reference to the Hebrew term ahvon (עון), which is linguistically linked to the bent, twisted actions of the Serpent in the Garden; actions that led to the fall of Adam and Eve and all humanity. Yeshua then went on to compare the earthly work or action of the religious leaders in the natural (meaning in their corrupted flesh) saying to them, “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill me, because my Word (the Son of Elohim above) has no place IN YOU.” Yeshua then finalizes his statement with no ambiguity saying in John 8:38, “I speak what I have seen with my father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” They responded to him saying, “Abraham is our father.” In other words, “we are sons or children of Avraham!”

In the next verse, John 8:39, Yeshua retorts, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.” Grammatically, Yeshua was speaking collectively to a group of religious leaders. Therefore, according to Hebrew grammar rules, he was saying, “if each of you were Avraham’s sons (children), each of you would do the work (singular) of Avraham.” This is a clear reference to one singular work of Avraham and not specifically to many works of Avraham begging the question, “What was (is) the work of Avraham?” Scripture answers this at Genesis 15:6 saying, “And he (Avraham) believed in YHVH, and he accounted it to him for righteousness (justice).” The lesson was repeated by Paul in Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, and yet again in James 2:23. When all is said, the conclusion is that Avraham’s greatness was not of himself, but rather, a greatness because he was filled with the Spirit of God and in this, he walked in the Spirit of יהוה. It was the Spirit who regenerated Avram and gave him a new exalted spiritual name by attaching the Hebrew letter Hehה to his name. In this, the Almighty raised up, elevated, exalted, and made his name great among those that would receive his spiritual testimony. This is Avraham’s testimony among those who are born into this earthly world, unregenerate but desire to be regenerated; that is, born from above.

וֶהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה

And it (she) came to pass, the blessing.

The decree of the blessing of the Spirit from above came to pass as a blessing that could not be revoked, understood from Matthew 19:6, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” The same principle is also found as a declaration between Bilaam (Baalam) and Balak in Numbers 23:19-20, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do? Or has he spoken, and will he not make it good? Behold, I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.” Genesis 12:3 builds on this declaration begging the question, what happens if one cuts down, belittles, or makes light of someone who is blessed in the raised-up Word as Avraham believed and received him?


וַאֲבָֽרֲכָה֙ מְבָ֣רְכֶ֔יךָ

And I will cause a blessing from your blessing.

In other words, divine blessings come out of divine decrees. I think Yeshua might have had this in mind when he declared to his disciples the following in his prayer to the father in John 17:20-21, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their Word; that they all may be one, as you, father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”

וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ֖ אָאֹ֑ר

And from your belittling, I will cause a curse!

If someone were to make or cause a blessing from the Word to be of little or no value; that is, to cut that blessing down to nothing or belittle it, then there is the risk of inviting a divine curse to come. I can understand it this way from the Hebrew term kalal which can be translated using any number of other English synonyms such as: criticize, decry, deride, discredit, disparage, downplay, scorn, squelch, deprecate, depreciate, minimize, roast, smear, underrate, undervalue, bad-mouth, put down, scoff at, sneer at, take down, tear down, write off. Regardless, take your pick of whatever term you want. They all basically can translate the Hebrew concept of kalal. In other words, tearing down that which is elevated by יהוה is not a good idea. Here is a statement that Paul said in Romans 14:12-13, “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore, let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”

A curse, according to Yeshua, is manifest in an interesting way. Yeshua said in John 12:48, “He who rejects me, and does not receive my words, has that (him), which judges him—the Word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” Second, Paul said, “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason, God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Paul’s statement, “send them a strong delusion” fits a causative curse idea. An example is in the story of Pharaoh and the Hebrews (Exodus chapters 8/9.) Pharaoh “hardened” (Hebrew: kavayd) his heart through his own free will, causing a kind of spiritual cirrhosis or a densifying of the liver (kavayd). Responsively, scripture then tells us that יהוה caused Pharaoh’s heart to be strong (Hebrew: chazak) in his resolve to not let the Hebrews go. Thus, Pharaoh “livered” his heart and יהוה locked it in place. This would be nothing short of a curse. I am reminded of the statement in Hebrews 6:7-8, “For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.”

וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔

And they will be grafted in you (as you).

The Hebrew for the spiritual blessing of the Word in Avraham changes from something intangible to something that looks more tangible. This “blessing” term is an agricultural idea more than it is a theological idea. The Hebrew word is nivrechu which carries the idea of a graft from one plant or shoot to another plant or shoot. It is related to the biblical concept of bending a knee, which is the basis for the Hebrew word Bless. In Talmudic times (2rd – 5th centuries), the term nivrechu (from the Hebrew word for bless) was, in fact, a term used to describe an agricultural grafting process (see the Talmudic Hebrew dictionary of Marcus Jastrow). It would appear that Paul had a similar understanding in Romans 11:19-26.

The grafting that is referred to could be read as either IN YOU or perhaps AS YOU given that the preposition Betב is a prefix that carries a few different meanings. Thus, the sentence might be understood as, "they will be grafted INTO YOU (or AS YOU).” This leads us to better understand the dialogue of John 8:38-42 between Yeshua and some of the religious leaders of his day.

In John 8:39, the work (singular) of Avraham (according to the grammar rules) would be one unique work or action that set Avraham apart from all other works or actions. That one thing was his trusting faith (belief), which was credited to him as righteousness (also, a term that means justice in Hebrew). Therefore, Avraham believed in the Word (Greek: Logos; Hebrew: D’var; Aramaic: Memra) who showed him the coming divine plan of salvation:

  • John 8:51. Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word he shall never see death (a reference the second death as referenced in the Hebrew of Genesis 2:17 and repeated in the Greek of Revelation 2:11).

  • John 8:53. Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? (first death, natural). And the prophets are dead (first death, natural). Who do you make yourself out to be?”(one that can cause another to overcome death!?).

  • John 8:56. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day (when the Word resurrected out of the second death), and he saw it and was glad.

  • Yeshua was speaking of Genesis 2:17, “In dying (first death) you will die (second death).” Avraham accepted what he saw. Thus, his name was raised up in and with the Word. All who come to יהוה through the same path that Avraham took can also expect to receive the same credit of righteousness.

כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָאֲדָמָֽה

All the families of the ground (will be grafted in).

The blessing of the grafting-in was promised to all the families of the ground because all the family of man is “ground-based,” meaning all are birthed into Sin and Death from the ground that received the curse of Genesis 3:17. Put another way, no one comes naturally birthed into this world grafted-in and born from above. We do not start in Heaven and then come to Earth. Rather, we start on Earth and we are to come to Heaven.

In choosing (through faith) to accept the death (second death) and third day resurrection of the Word, to them he granted the blessing of the יהוה divine decree – severance from our “ground-based” status below and conveyance into the Kingdom of Heaven above. In this, we are called b’ney haElohim, “sons of God” (see John 1:12-13). In this, Yeshua enacted a new covenant from out of the second death and into eternal life. Yeshua’s resurrection out of the burning ground of the second death defines Genesis 3:19, Genesis 3:23, Luke 18:33, and Luke 24:7.

Please note that it was not my intention to supersede the P’shat (simple meaning) of the Genesis 12:1-3 narrative. Rather, I think this might offer us an alternative reading for our Torah study. At least, it is something to think about based on what Yeshua said in Luke 24:27.

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

-Avi ben Mordechai

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