Genesis 12:6 MEANING

Genesis 12:6
(6) The place of Sichern.--Heb., Shechem. This word signifies "shoulder," and was the name of the ridge uniting Mounts Ebal and Gerizim, the summits of which are about two miles apart. As the name is thus taken from the natural conformation of the ground, it may be very ancient. The modern name of the place is Nablous, a contraction of Flavia Neapolis, a title given it in honour of Vespasian. Mr. Conder ( Tent Work in Palestine, 1:61) describes the valley as an oasis of remarkable beauty and luxuriance, but set, like Damascus, in a desert, and girt around by strong and barren mountains.

The plain of Moreh.--Heb., the oak of Moreh, It was here that Jacob buried the strange gods brought by his household from Haran (Genesis 35:4), and here, too, Joshua set up the stone of testimony (Joshua 24:26; Judges 9:6); but as in Deuteronomy 11:30 the oaks (wrongly translated in most places in our version "plains") are described in the plural, it is probable that the word is to be taken as a collective for an oak grove. Such shady spots were favourite places for the tents of the wandering patriarchs. A famous terebinth, called after Abram's name, long existed at Mamre, and under it, in the time of Vespasian, the captive Jews were sold for slaves. It disappeared about A.D. 330, and no tree now marks the site of Abram's grove. The Hebrew word, however, for terebinth is elah, while that used here is elon. It was probably the quercus pseudococcifera (see Tristram, Nat. Hist. of Bible, p. 369). This tree often grows to a vast size.

Moreh.--Literally, teacher (Isaiah 9:15). Probably in this cool grove some religious personage had given instruction to the people. In Judges 7:1 we find a place called the "teacher's hill," and it is thus possible that among a people so religious as the race of Shem, men from time to time arose revered by the people as teachers of holiness. Such an one was Melchisedech.

The Canaanite was then in the land.--This is no sign of post-Mosaic authorship, nor a later interpolation, as if the meaning were that the Canaanite was there at that time, but is so no longer. What really is meant is that Abram on his arrival found the country no longer in the hands of the old Semitic stock, but occupied by the Canaanites, who seem to have gained the ascendancy, not so much by conquest as by gradual and peaceful means. We gather from the Egyptian records that this had taken place not very long before Abram's time. In the early inscriptions we read only of the Sati and Aamu, both apparently Semitic races, the latter name being derived from the Heb. am, "people." Subsequently we find frequent mention of the Amaor and the Kheta--that is, the Amorites and Hittites, evidently in Abram's time the two most powerful races of Canaan. (See Tomkins' Studies, 82 ff.) For their previous wanderings, see on Genesis 10:15-19.

Verse 6. - And Abram passed through - literally, passed over, or traveled about as a pilgrim (cf. Hebrews 11:9) in - the land unto (or as far as) the place of Sichem. A prolepsis for the place where the city Shechem (either built by or named after the Hivite prince, Genesis 34:2) was afterwards situated, viz., between Ebal and Gerizim, in the middle of the land; "the most beautiful, perhaps the only very beautiful, spot in Central Palestine" (Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine,' 5:234). The modern name of Sichem is Nablus, a corruption of Neapolis. Unto the plain. אֵלון, from אוּל or אִיל, to be strong, a strong, hardy tree: the terebinth, as opposed to the oak, אַלּון, from אָלַל (Celsius Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Keil); the oak, as distinguished from אֵלָה, the turpentine tree, or terebinth (Gesenius, Kalisch, Murphy). But it seems demonstrable that these and the other cognate terms, אַלָּה אֵיל, are frequently used as synonymous for any large, strong tree (cf. Genesis 35:5; Judges 9:9; 24:26; Joshua 19:33 with Judges 4:11), though commonly אֵלון, oak, is opposed to אֵלָה, terebinth, as in Isaiah 6:13; Hosea 4:13. The translation of אֵלון by plain (Targums, A.V.) is inaccurate, though "the truth is it was both a plain and set with oaks" (Willet). Of Moreh. like Mature (Genesis 13:18), the name of the owner of the oak-grove (Murphy, Kalisch, Alford); probably a priestly character (Moreh signifying a teacher, Judges 7:1; 2 Kings 17:28; Isaiah 9:15) who instituted the Divine cultus in the locality (Luther); though it has also been regarded as the name of the place (Calvin), which maybe here given to it by anticipation (Wordsworth), being derived from raah, to see, and equivalent to the place of vision (Samaritan), because God there appeared to the patriarch (Fagius), and showed him the land of Canaan (Masius, Lyra). Knobel renders "the oak of the teacher," comparing it with "the oak of the witches" (Judges 9:37). The LXX. translate by ὑψηλήν, lofty, and the Vulgate by illustrem. And the Canaanite was then in the land. A sign of post-Mosaic authorship (Tuch, Bleek, Colenso); an interpolation Eben Ezra; rather

(1) a proclamation of the miserable exile in which the patriarch lived (Luther); or

(2) a reminder to Abram of his heavenly country, seeing he was a stranger in his earthly one (Calvin); or, better,

(3) an intimation of the fact that already the Canaanites were in possession of the land which bore their name (Kalisch), or perhaps simply

(4) a declaration that the land was not a stretch of unoccupied territory, but a populated region (Hengstenberg), thus making the fulfillment of the ensuing promise all the more difficult, and all the greater a trial to the faith of the patriarch (Keil, Murphy, Wordsworth, Alford); or

(5), but not so good, an explanation of the previous selection of the oak of Moreh as his habitation (Lange, Havernick, vide Introduction, § 18).

12:6-9 Abram found the country peopled by Canaanites, who were bad neighbours. He journeyed, going on still. Sometimes it is the lot of good men to be unsettled, and often to remove into various states. Believers must look on themselves as strangers and sojourners in this world, Heb 11:8,13,14. But observe how much comfort Abram had in God. When he could have little satisfaction in converse with the Canaanites whom he found there, he had abundance of pleasure in communion with that God, who brought him thither, and did not leave him. Communion with God is kept up by the word and by prayer. God reveals himself and his favours to his people by degrees; before, he had promised to show Abram this land, now, to give it to him: as grace is growing, so is comfort. It should seem, Abram understood it also as a grant of a better land, of which this was a type; for he looked for a heavenly country, Heb 11:16. As soon as Abram was got to Canaan, though he was but a stranger and sojourner there, yet he set up, and kept up, the worship of God in his family. He not only minded the ceremonial part of religion, the offering of sacrifice; but he made conscience of seeking his God, and calling on his name; that spiritual sacrifice with which God is well pleased. He preached concerning the name of the Lord; he taught his family and neighbours the knowledge of the true God, and his holy religion. The way of family worship is a good old way, no new thing, but the ancient usage of the saints. Abram was rich, and had a numerous family, was now unsettled, and in the midst of enemies; yet, wherever he pitched his tent, he built an altar: wherever we go, let us not fail to take our religion along with us.And Abram passed through the land,.... Entering the northern part of it, as appears by his going southward, Genesis 12:9 he went on

unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh; the place afterwards called Shechem, from a prince of that name in the times of Jacob; and so it was called when Moses wrote, and therefore, by way of anticipation, calls it so here; it was about the middle of the land of Canaan, and the same with Sychar, a city of Samaria, in the times of Christ, John 4:5. Moreh was the name of a man, from whence the plain took its name, which was near Sichem; some render it the oak of Moreh (e), perhaps the same with that in Genesis 35:4 or a grove of oaks of that name; the Syriac and Arabic versions render it the oak of Mamre wrongly.

And the Canaanite was then in the land; in that part of the land where they were in Jacob's time, see Genesis 34:30 this land belonged to the posterity of Shem, but Canaan's offspring seized upon it and held it, as they did in the times of Moses, but were then quickly to be removed from it; but now they were settled in it in Abram's time, which was a trial of his faith, in the promise of it to his seed, as well as it was troublesome and dangerous to be in a country where such wicked and irreligious persons lived.

(e) "quercetum More", Tigurine version, "quercum Moreh", Pagninus, Montanus.

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