The Return to Canaan
“So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb” (Gen. 13:1).
- Genesis 13:1-4
Despite his faithful travel from Ur to Canaan, Abram soon left the Promised Land in order to find food in Egypt (Gen. 12:10). While there, he distrusted God by lying about his relationship with Sarai (vv. 11–20), but God still allowed him to leave that country wealthy, even while frowning upon his deception.
Having escaped a potentially bad situation by God’s grace, Abram left Egypt. In many ways, this account parallels the events the nation of Israel faced. Moses wrote Genesis as a means to emphasize Yahweh’s gracious desire to liberate His people from Egyptian tyranny. When they heard the story of Abram leaving Egypt for Canaan, the Israelite nation would understand their calling was to do the same. Famine led Abram and Israel to enter Egypt (12:10; 42:1–46:27) and plagues sparked the exodus of each (12:17–20; Ex. 7:14–12:32). Likewise, both left the Nile delta with riches (Gen. 13:2; Ex. 12:35–36).
In His wisdom, God worked out His plan of redemption through the history of His people, and we often see early events in Israel’s history come to symbolize the greater events promised by God.
This helps us to interpret Scripture better too. For example, Matthew 2:13–15 tells us that Jesus’ own exodus from Egypt fulfills Hosea 11:1, identifying Jesus with Israel, God’s people. Israel was redeemed from Egypt in order to serve Yahweh as His light to the world (Ex. 7:16), but they failed to keep covenant. Jesus’ miraculous rescue from Herod and His return from Egypt revealed that His mission was the same as Israel’s (Heb. 10:7). The big difference is, Jesus did not fail (1 Peter 2:22); therefore, He is the true Israel of God (see John 15:1–17).
Genesis 13:1–4 highlights divine providence as well. Abram’s reasons for lying to Pharaoh are not commendable, but God enriches him despite his distrust. In like manner, we see that God often blesses us despite our sin, and He does so because He loves us. We are to trust Him in the midst of our trials, even if we did not earn them, for His hand is moving for the good of His glory, which is our good as well (Rom. 8:28). The story of Joseph makes this last point especially clear.
All of those who are in Christ are also the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16). We can therefore expect that God is moving to provide for His faithful servants just as He did under the old covenant, even if it may seem at times that God has left this world behind. If you feel trapped by difficult circumstances, be encouraged that if you know Jesus, you are sharing in His sufferings, and thus you have the hope of eternal resurrected life.
Passages for Further Study
- Gen. 50:15–21
- Est. 4
- Ps. 111
- Matt. 2
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