Torah Pearls #3 – Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

In The Original Torah Pearls, Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27), we revel in the extraordinary drama of Abraham’s epic: a call from heaven, famine, war, plagues, dreadful and great darkness, bisected animals, flaming torches, battles with vultures, sister wives and kings. Then the cliffhanger—the God-who-sees promises to make an everlasting covenant with a yet-to-be-conceived son, and to make him the father of 12 princes.

Word studies provide their own degree of drama in this portion as we learn the action implied in the Hebrew word for “belief” as well as details concerning the following phrases: “circumcised with foreskin,” “he gave tithes to him,” “make covenant,” and most telling, the three little words that sum up Abraham’s M.O., “So Abram left”.

While not depicting Abraham as “every-man”—we’re led to imagine at least a smidgen of our own story in Abraham’s faithful life and wonder—what if we were prone to a little less conversation, a little more action?

I look forward to reading your comments!

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38 thoughts on “Torah Pearls #3 – Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

  1. I’ve always wondered what the reason or the significance for the covenant to be made using the flesh of the foreskin. Can someone offer some explanation or insight please?

  2. My comments… The Stone Edition and, the Koren Jerusalem Bible do not have any level of recognition!
    More likely because they are not as much known and/or recognized?
    Quite the shame.

  3. Both the book of Hebrews and Rashy who is the canonical commentator of the Jews, agree that Melchizedek received the tithe from Abraham, not the other way around. It is good to remember that Adam is before Abram, and the Gentiles before the Jews.

  4. Nehemia, you stated that Abraham had passed between the pieces before Yehovah did. Can you tell me where the Scripture tells of Abraham walking through the pieces? Do you mean while he was chasing away the vultures? This is important to me because I had understood that only Yehovah had taken on the consequences of a broken covenant. In other words, if Abraham breaks this covenant, it is Yehovah who pays the penalty out of His great love for Abraham (and his seed in him). I am looking only for truth (not to back up any preconceived notion). Thanks for all your help. I appreciate your scholarship as well as your sense of humor, thoughtfulness and faithfulness to our God.

  5. To anyone/everyone, if Melchizedek was giving a tithe to Abram, then 1) what was his motivation, and 2) what/whose property was he giving?

    We have no indication that Melchizedek was one of the ones who had been looted by Chedorlaomer, or I should say I see no such indication. Since neither he or Salem was not listed among the victims, it seems more likely that he was not a combatant at all but was a host on Abram’s route home.

    By the way, we tend to assume that the king of Sodom was present with Abram and Melchizedek and that the blessing and the giftings were all one event, but the scripture doesn’t actually say that.

    If Melchizedek was in fact one of the looted, then I could see him giving Abram 10% as a reward. If he was NOT one of the looted, then he would be giving away property that either belonged to those originally looted OR belonged to Abram (as the victor in battle). Neither makes any sense to me.

    On the other hand, if Abram is giving away a 10th, then we should ask the same question: whose stuff is Abram giving away?

    The only thing that seems to fit here is that all the people and property now belonged to Abram as spoils of war. Melchizedek offers hospitality to Abram on his return, blessing both God and Abram. Abram, in a customary “honor swap”, gives Melchizedek a tenth of everything he has brought back since it is by custom his (Abram’s) to do with as he pleases. Then when Abram encounters the looted kings and the king of Sodom offers to give Abram all the goods, Abram tells him off and returns it all except the 1/10th that has already been given away (to Melchizedek).

    • As I read this it sure seems like this was a meeting between the king of Sodom and Melchizedek the king of kings and Salem.

      Why do I say the king of kings. Nimrod did it that way. He had seven kings each over nine kings and they had their own kingdom making a total of ten kingdoms each. Obviously this is not from the Bible.

      What is from the Old Testament is Melchizedek praised El Elyon. Abram praised Yehovah as the El Elyon. Nimrod demanded he be called El Elyon or the most high God. So it is not at all unlikely that is whom he he praised Abram in the name of. Abram was clear Yehovah is my God not Nimrod or whomever Melchizedek was blessing through.

      Later Abram left this area. it seems clear to me Abram wanted nothing to do with Melchizedek. He kept nothing he had won in war. Seems clear to me that this is what was going on. As king of kings this was all Melchizedeks. The King of Sodom offered Abram all the goods but none of the slaves. Remember slaves were part of that 10%. Tithing meaning giving slaves? There is no indication Abram brought with him from his possessions 10%.

      Most versions of the Old Testament get this translated very poorly if not just plain selling their religious beliefs through the disguise of translation. Some add Abram to the verse on the 10% offer. It is not in the Hebrew. There is no valid excuse for doing this. The Hebrew is quite clear this was an offer to keep 10% of both the goods and the slaves.

      Regardless the Bible is not perfect. Many read the same verses and see them quite differently. You have the right to believe it says what you chaim. I have the right to see it how I see it.

    • Neville Newman’s comment makes sense also, especially since it is believed that Shem, Son of Noah, was still alive, and was Melchizedek.But that would be a problem for those ho claim that Abraham was he first one to know/realize that Yehovah is the One and only God, Creator of heaven and earth–the first Jew, as they say.

      • It would. Furthermore there is absolutely nothing to support Shem being Melchizedek. Wrong name and the assumption that the name itself is meaningful is simply ridiculous. Many very evil people in the Old Testament have names praising Yehovah. A parent just names the child. Parents are not generally prophets.

  6. Circumcision may have some flexibility, in every time. As we read, Abraham was called while uncircumcised in the flesh, and none were circumcised during the 40 year wilderness sojourn. All evidence indicates a contrite and obedient (circumcised) heart is most important in all times. There will come a time when the flesh will be dealt with by Yah himself, for those for whom it has not been done by the regular mohel. It seems interesting how secular circumcision came so into fashion after WW2. Did Yah think too many Jews had died, and more circumcised people were needed now? I was born 1950, and Doc White figured I needed it done, parents were not informed, and were surprised after the fact. I’m not complaining, its fine with me.

  7. When you had us read Jeremiah 9: 24-25 it reads pretty similar in both the JPS Tanakh and the NIV. Is there a better Hebrew to English translation for the Tanakh than JPS? Thanks

  8. I heard that Abram knew Shem, or as a descendant wouldn’t he have known at least about Yehovah? I think it would be possible he had a relationship with the true God in order to be able to respond, which would still take faith. Just thinking.

  9. Stone Chumash pg 53, chart of chronological line Adam to Jacob, shows everyone was alive at some point in Abraham’s life from Noah thru Abraham; so perhaps Abraham heard of One God; through one of his ancestors, and like the Israelites,in Eqypt God pulled Abraham out before he was totally assimilated into the pagan lifestyles.

  10. About minute 33, I could almost here my old Eng. Lit. teacher,”The Old English and Middle English speaker knew full well that ‘what you’re believing is how you be living’.” Additionally, she pointed out Old German; Leiben und Bleiben means Living and Believing…. if memory serves… Regarding Abram asking ‘how’ will he inherit the land, seems he wanted or needed some clarification so as not to cling to some erroneous image in his own mind. And of course, he got an answer. Thanks again – always a blessing!

  11. Awesome . All glory be to Yehovah .

    In Genesis chapter 15 : 1 – it says Abraham had a vision and does the vision end in verse 6 or does it extend up to verse 21 of the same chapter .

  12. This episode has put me in a situation that I have being crying a lot. The book of Hebrew a allegory!! The same that teachers say about the book of Job. Melquisedec give the 10th to Avraham. Definitely I will put all my heart to learn Hebrew and I am going to get the Bible that Yeshua used… Nehemiah thank you so much for this Torah pearls..

  13. Howdy! Grammar question. In Gen 15:2, the vowel pointers for YHVH are different. The yod has a chataph-seghol instead of a sheva and the vav has a hiriq instead of a qamats. It occurs in other cases when the translation is “Lord GOD”, but not in all cases. What is the reason for this? Is there a secret meaning? 🙂 Thanks!

  14. Sarahi, was not a “hot” looking wife. Her beauty was in her purity, and holiness, not your American braven reaction to your hot western male harmone reation; which is animalistic. nature. The circusision is an issue of blood indexing, all Abran’s seed Holy to YeHovah (seed belongs to HIM for His purpose) that’s why is unlawful to pour seed onto the ground, and why mikveh wss needed for noctornal emmision. Abraham’s life was more imortant than “just his life” he wss called to be a Father of nations; if he dies what happens then? If Sarah was not returned he could lawfully get another wife or mother of his seed.
    Also, there is a cultural understanding about sister-wife, that we don’t have as yet. It appears in Song of Solomon, my sister my bride.I thnk we may find out Abraham did not lie; we need to be careful when we are dealing with ancient customs.

    Appreciate your sharing with us, Nehemiah, I realize it comes as a great price, sometimes loss of family or friends, ridicule and persecution. I agree greek form of debate is not concerned with truth, but who is the best orator, which is the language of politics.truth is like gold it takes time, digging, sifting, melting, refereeing.

    Appreciate your friendship with Keith, which allows us to be your friend also.

    Correct about when using the term G-d. Yes, Abraham would have understood the significance of “cutting covenant” it is we who are ignorant of his culture not him. Animals cut in half, both parties usually walk between the pieces. Which means if either person violate the covenant ‘may he be cut to pieces as well. G-d’s mercy put abrahm to sleep, so Yehovan goes between the piences, meaning He’ll be responsible for both parts of the covenant. He’ll bring it about.

  15. How could a “tithe” be given to Abraham when the very concept of a tithe was for the priest? At least that is the only tithe that is actually given over. Other tithe(s) was consumed with everyone.

    Wouldn’t that be the reason the writer of Hebrews assigns the giver as Abraham and the receiver as the priest since the tithe concept itself is that the tithe is given to the priest?

    • Tithes were given to the Levites, not the Kohanim (Aaronic Priests), although the Levites did give a tithe of a tithe (1%) to the Aaronic Kohanim. Of course, there were neither Levites nor Aaronic Priests in the time of Abram.

      • Nehemia, tithe is such a hot topic. I have read where the 10th between Av and Mel was in fact not a traditional “tithe” which was only on agricultural products. Since it was cut from spoils of war, a different set of rules applied. So it was a voluntary and perhaps expedient exchange, but did not really fit into a “torath yhwh” mandate concept.

  16. I love all of your teachings here. I’ve been looking at the topic of ‘Covenant’ this past year and would really appreciate you doing a more exhaustive teaching on Covenant in the Torah. Specifically I would like your opinion on the parallel with the Suzerain-Vassal covenant and the Mosaic covenant. After looking at this, I can’t help but to see ‘covenant language all through out the Torah. This also provoked me to looking at the Messiah relationship with Yehovah, and the ‘power of attorney’ that is given to Messiah. (yes i know power of attorney is not in the Scripture, but all the evidences of it are present). Any comment on this would be much appreciated, as well as any recommended references. Shalom Nehemia….daniel sevilla

  17. It’s amazing! Every time I listen to one of your episodes of “Pearls” I learn new information (Torah and/or Prophets). I use NKJV, NRSV, and JPS, but it takes hearing Nehemia give the true meanings from the Hebrew to really make it clear! What a gift! Thank you, Nehemia!

  18. Can’t get the idea of Melchizedek giving Abraham a 10th. And what this means to Or applies to Messiah and to us. Is there something there as or possibly a transfer of position given to Abraham as Melchizedek blessed him and gave him a 10th.

    • This was after Abraham rescued Lot defeating five kings in the process. He took many slaves and much loot.

      The remaining kings met with Abraham on how to deal with this new force. They were probably afraid Abraham would become a greater threat. They thus sat down to eat and decide what to do.

      Genesis 14:17-22 KJV  And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale.  18  And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest (cohen or ruler) of the most high God(El Elyon).  

      (So we see that king Melchizedek brought forth wine and bread. The meal for the event. I will add the Hebrew for God as it is less than clear in the English)
      19  And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God(El Elyon), possessor of heaven and earth:  20  And blessed be the most high God(El Elyon), which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.  
      (Remember they met to decide what to do. This was Melchizedeks turn to speak. He blessed Abraham in the name of his God El Elyon (not kjv LORD (Yahovah)). He then offered Abraham could keep a tenth of all. A tenth of the slaves and goods taken. The word Abraham is not there and it says he gave not received.)

      21  And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.  

      (So now Sodom did not want Abraham to receive any of the slaves. So he offered Abraham all the goods but none of the slaves. Countering Melchizedeks offer.)

      22  And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD (Yahovah), the most high God(El Elyon), the possessor of heaven and earth,

      The first thing Abraham does is correct Melchizedek. He does not want the blessings of any El Elyon just Yahovah El Elyon. The true God not the god of Melchizedek. The Hebrew is clear. Abraham said I lift my hand to Yahovah. He is clearly saying he worships Yahovah as the Most High. Not a generic Most High.

      Also Cohen can mean priest. It also means rulers. A King is a ruler so all are Cohen (meaning rulers not priest). They translate the word wrong it should not say priest it should say ruler.

      If you want to believe the Book of Jasher supports what you say here. The Old Testament, in the Hebrew, does not. Psalms 110 is the same. David was a ruler after the order of Melchizedek. He ruled over the same land Melchizedek ruled over. Lorc meant master. LORD is God.

      I will correct it

      Psalms 110:1 KJV  A Psalm of David. Yahovah said unto the king, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
      Psalms 110:4 KJV  Yahovah hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a king for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

      El Elyon is only used 43 times in the Old Testament. Most of the verses make clear it is Yahovah. These in Genesis make it clear it is not. We also have this about the King of Babylon Nimrod. I know again the KJV confuses.

      Isaiah 14:12-14 KJV  How art thou fallen from heaven (from what you were not heaven), O Lucifer(no king of Babylon) , son of the morning!(the first great king) how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!  13  For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:  14  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High(elyon).

      Nimrod fashioned himself a god. El Elyon. The God Melchizedek served. He was the king of all nations and cut down. Killed by Abraham according to the book of Jasher (false book). Most likely though recorded in many stories known when Jasher was written.

      This is what the Hebrew says. The question I suppose is is the Hebrew correct in this case. Hard to believe there are no errors in the Old Testament. Feel free to check it out. Download e-sword or my sword (android). Both are free. They will let you see the Hebrew and what the words can mean. Be careful. It is not as easy as these make it seem. Also Strongs is biased toward the New Testament. Not honest in just saying what the Hebrew means. BDB is a bit better, more likely to give the true meaning as well as the biased meaning.

      Nehemiah has 25,000 followers. He is unlikely to answer. Hope this helps. I try to not shake faith. I am a Karaite Jew but from Christianity. I see faith as a good thing regardless of whether you believe in Jesus or not. A good thing. May you be blessed by our God.

      • Hi Steve,

        you seem to be quite literate and to have a sound reasoning. Me, I also research as much as possible, but I acknowledge that it will still take many years to at least partly understand some of the secrets in scripture. There is only one thing 100% clear to me: In order to live a righteous life and to reach a high spiritual level, one definitely has to follow God´s laws and teachings – genuinely and with a pure heart. Not out of religious motives and traditions, like most conservative jews do (not to mention any form of Christians with their paganized pseudo monotheistic belief that perverts the actual teachings of the great prophet Yeshua) , without acknowledging the true essence of Jah´s teachings, as they lay the foundation to a harmonic life with God, the people and nature (which constitutes the actual teaching of Yeshua).
        Or as Solomon puts it at the end of the deeply philosophical Ecclesiastes: 12; 13-14: “Now all has been heard, here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

        Anyways, enough of reporting about my background. This is my actual request. Maybe you are able to help me out with this one (or anyone else who feels encouraged to reply): Today, I came across the following passage: Judges 11; 29-40. The passage is very confusing to me, as it mentions a human sacrifice to God as part of a vow. The vow was taken by Jiftach in exchange for the defeat of the sons of Ammos. Perhaps the passage is ought to emphasize the importance of paying a vow to God, no matter the price? I would really like to hear your thoughts towards this issue.
        Take care and be blessed. Greetings from Germany

        • Jdg 11:29 And the Spirit of יהוה came upon Yiphtaḥ, and he passed through Gilʽaḏ and Menashsheh, and passed through Mitspeh of Gilʽaḏ. And from Mitspeh of Gilʽaḏ he passed on toward the children of Ammon. 30 And Yiphtaḥ made a vow to יהוה, and said, “If You give the children of Ammon into my hands, 31 then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall belong to יהוה, and I shall offer it up as a burnt offering.”

          Pay attention to what is being said. He does not ask Yahovah what he should do he simply makes a vow to follow his pagan beliefs. Human sacrifice. Only humans would come out of his house after all.

          Throughout the Bible God acted for pagans. Cyrus was anointed of Yahovah. Ba’al worshipers are still loved by Yahovah. He does not force them to leave evil. He actually helps them in many cases. He does what he can to get them to do good. But evil is in their hearts. Thus they do evil.

          The people of Israel would not properly follow God. Thus God acted through the people who would at least do some of what needed done.

          I hope that helps. This concept of God controlling all evil is a difficult one for many. Remember God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Allows his magicians to do many miracles.

          Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 The Scriptures 1998+ 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the entire matter: Fear Elohim and guard His commands, for this applies to all mankind! 14 For Elohim shall bring every work into right-ruling, including all that is hidden, whether good or whether evil.

          Sad how some versions insert doctrine rather than translate. Yes Yahovah will make all things right in the end. Peace on all the earth. Lamb and lion shall lie down together with no ire.

          I assume you are referring to the humane gospels or some such. Jews for Judaism is a good source as well to understand the Jewish mindset. Perhaps Yeshua was a great prophet. But Noah sacrificed animals and because of it no more flood is ever to come. God creates all life. If he has us end it that is God’s choice. In the end God will create a new plant and all will cease eating meat. Also for now animal sacrifice would be a sin. Not when God comes to earth. Ezekiel is clear animal sacrifice will return with the third Temple.

          I pray this helps you in your journey. If it is working for you continue.

  19. Shalom Nehemiah! Yesterday our study group had a discussion over Genesis 14:20. Could you please help us determine who gave who the tenth? Jenny in Michigan

  20. Nehemia, you referenced Joshua 24:2 regarding the alter but I was reminded of something a friend showed be awhile ago. Both Joshua 24 and Psalm 78 give a detailed history of the Jewish people including being slaves in Egypt, the plagues, crossing the sea, manna, water, etc…But both omit Har Sinai and the 10 Commandments. My friend’s point was this serious omission shows that the story of Mt Sinai had not yet been written and was not part of our narrative until much later in history, that the Torah was clearly written by man, not the word of God or God inspired. My question is why do you think those two chapters omitted the giving of the 10 Commandments and the Golden Calf? Thank you

    • You can’t expect a systematic history in a prayer or poetry and then when you don’t get what you expect deny the historicity of the select events not mentioned. The revelation at Mount Sinai has the strongest proof of any event in the history of Israel. It was witnessed by 2-3 million people. If Exodus and Deuteronomy fabricated these events, someone would have called them on it. The revelation at Sinai is also mentioned in Judges 5:5; 1 Kings 8:9; Malachi 3:22; Psalms 68:9; Nehemiah 9:13; and others. Regarding the Golden Calf, I would expect that to be selectively omitted as it wasn’t our proudest hour.

      • I thank you for your insight. It frustrates me that people will not look at the context here . They take turns. It is Melchizedek’s turn to do the giving. Also as you point out Melchizedek is wicked and worships just the Most High not YHVH the Most High.

        I also like you throw them the bone.

        But to me this was the straw. Melchizedek was wicked not good. Thus Christianity is false. It is all based on another Priesthood. To me I saw that other Priesthood was of Ba’al. Though I have many other reasons to so believe.

        Is this a major reason why you could never accept Y’shua?

        I am listening to these are there other resources for ones such as I leaving Christianity and fully accepting the Bible (Old Testament only)?

  21. I am learning so much! I am addicted to listening to your shows and I love sharing on Facebook so others can learn also. We just had the discussion in our study group on circumcism and we had some unhappy people when we seen that circumcism is a requirement. I believe this and I hope others in our group will learn this too. Thanks so much!

  22. Shalom Nehemiah, I love this series and I love your website. Thank you for taking the time to share your incites with all of us. I really enjoyed this portion, but I just have one question regarding Melchizedek and how you inferred that he was a pagan priest rather than a priest of YHVH. How would you interpret Psalm 110 than when it reads, “YHVH has sworn and will not repent you are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” ?

    • In Psalms 110 Melchizedek is a type of priest who is also king of Jerusalem (Salem in Genesis). So he’s an example for the future Messiah who will serve God not as a sacrifice offering priest, but as a King-Priest over Jerusalem. Anyway, I don’t think Melchizedek was pagan, although he lived in a pagan society and served the Most High God Creator of Heaven and Earth.

      • Not really sure how Melchizedek could have been King in the Kingdom of Nimrod and Nimrod the second without serving Nimrod and Nimrod the second as his most high God. Both insisted they were god on earth.

        Do you simply discount all the record of these men that have been found?

        Each of the Kings Abram defeated were ultimately answerable to Nimrod.

        Abram was clear I lift my cup to Yahovah as my El Elyon. Do I get that wrong in the Hebrew? How is this not Abram making it clear His God is not the God of Melchizedek? If not the same God well only pagan and God exist.

        Just how I see it. I also see how objectionable this is to Christians.

        I also see the Messiah differently than you. I see David back from the dead as King and Yahovah speaking to David in the Temple. I see David as King and Yahovah as Yahovah. Same relationship as before except now David is 100% righteous. David or whomever this King is.

        I pray you do not respond, I greatly respect your work. If you do I pray you not step on the toes of Christians.

        Although if I am wrong on the Hebrew a response on that would be useful to me. I barely know Hebrew can not speak or write it. I know some words from the Bible and that alone.

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