Genesis Chapters 12-14: Godly Entrepreneurs Look Different
Note: PRS.work is a plug-and-play video Bible Study. Everything you need to connect the Bible to your work is in the video above. Feel free to press play and just listen. Or follow along with the transcript below.
Welcome to PRS.work, a video series that helps us hear the Bible together at work. In this video you'll hear a brief introduction, a Psalm read as an opening prayer, a long passage from the Bible, and a commentary about what this means for work, workers, and the workplace. When the video ends you can discuss how this applies to your work.
Our Public Reading of Scripture today opens and closes with blessings on Abraham. God tells Abraham that he will become a great nation. All of the people of the world will be blessed through his family.
As Abraham follows God away from the land of his birth, this promise starts to come true. His wealth increases, so much that Abraham and his nephew Lot need to split up to divide the land between them.
This involves them in local politics. Abraham goes to war against a ruler who had been oppressing the neighboring kingdoms. Abraham prevails and offers a tenth of his spoils to Melchizedek, king of Salem. Our reading ends with Melchizedek proclaiming blessing over Abraham.
Before reading along to a dramatic recording of Genesis Chapters 12-14, we will begin with Psalm 68 in prayer.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
Now the Lord 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.
2 I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
3 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.”
4 So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. 6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land.
7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. 9 So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.
10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.”
14 So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful. 15 The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house. 16 He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
17 But the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way.” 20 So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had.
Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South. 2 Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. 3 And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4 to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the Lord.
5 Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents. 6 Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. 7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.
8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.”
10 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. 11 Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. 12 Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. 13 But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.
14 And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; 15 for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. 16 And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. 17 Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.”
18 Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the Lord.
And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, 2 that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 All these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). 4 Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
5 In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh Kiriathaim, 6 and the Horites in their mountain of Seir, as far as El Paran, which is by the wilderness. 7 Then they turned back and came to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and attacked all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Hazezon Tamar.
8 And the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim 9 against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled; some fell there, and the remainder fled to the mountains. 11 Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. 12 They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.
13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram. 14 Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16 So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.
17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him.
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
And he gave him a tithe of all.
21 Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.”
22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’— 24 except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”
Pause for Reflection
Now we'll take a moment to reflect silently on what we have just read and heard in Scripture.
Godly Entrepreneurs Look Different
From the Theology of Work Bible Commentary on Genesis
God called Abraham into a covenant of faithful service. By leaving the territory of his faithless extended family and following God’s call, Abraham distinguished himself sharply from his distant relatives who stayed in Mesopotamia and attempted to build the Tower of Babel. The comparison between Abraham’s immediate family and Noah’s other descendants highlights five contrasts between those who do and those who do not follow God.
First, Abraham put his trust in God’s guidance, rather than in human device. In contrast, the tower builders believed that by their own skill and ingenuity, they could devise a tower “with its top in the heavens” (Genesis 11:4). They attempted to achieve significance and security in a way that usurped God’s authority. Abraham, on the other hand, relied on God’s authority for his source of security.
Second, the builders sought to make a name for themselves, while Abraham trusted God’s promise that God would make his name great. The difference was not in their desire to achieve greatness. Both Abraham and the tower builders may have longed for significance. The difference is that the builders pursued fame on their own terms, while Abraham looked to God for guidance. God did indeed make Abraham famous, but not for Abraham’s own sake. God made Abraham famous in order that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). The builders, by contrast, sought fame for their own sake, and the effect is that they remain anonymous to this day.
Third, Abraham was willing to go wherever God led him, while the builders attempted to huddle together in their accustomed space. They created their tower project out of fear that they would be “scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). In doing so, they rejected God’s purpose for humanity to “fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). They seem to have feared that spreading out in an apparently hostile world would be too difficult for them. Even though they were creative and technologically innovative, they were unwilling to fully embrace God’s purpose for them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Their fear of engaging the fullness of creation coincided with their decision to substitute human ingenuity for God’s guidance and grace. This is both an encouragement and a warning for entrepreneurs today. When we fill the earth with useful goods and services, we are more likely to bless others through our work. But when we cease to aspire for more than we can attain on our own, our aspirations become hollow and insignificant.
God made Abraham into the original entrepreneur, always moving on to fresh endeavors in new locations. God called him away from the city of Haran toward the land of Canaan where Abraham would never settle into a fixed address. He was known as a “wandering Aramean” (Deuteronomy 26:5). This lifestyle was inherently God-centered in that Abraham would have to depend on God’s word and leadership in order to find his significance, security, and success.
Abraham had to “set out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). In the world of work, believers must perceive the contrast between these two fundamental orientations. All work entails planning and building. Ungodly work stems from the desire to depend on no one but ourselves. It restricts itself narrowly to benefit only ourselves and the few who may be close to us. Godly work is willing to depend on God’s guidance and authority. It desires to grow widely as a blessing to all the world.
Fourth, Abraham was willing to let God lead him into new relationships. While the tower builders sought to close themselves off in a guarded fortress, Abraham trusted God’s promise that his family would grow into a great nation. Though they lived among strangers in the land of Canaan, Abraham’s family had good relationships with those they came in contact with. God’s design for people includes experiencing the gift of community and working in healthy networks of relationships.
Finally, Abraham was blessed with the patience to take a long-term view. God’s promises were to be realized in the time of Abraham’s offspring, not in the time of Abraham himself. In Galatians 3:19, the Apostle Paul interpreted the “offspring” to be Jesus, meaning that Abraham’s payoff date was more than a thousand years in the future. The tower builders, by comparison, took no thought for how their project would affect future generations, and God criticized them for this before confusing their language and scattering them throughout the earth.
To sum up, God promised Abraham fame and fruitfulness, by which he meant that Abraham and his family would bless the whole world. Unlike others who did not trust God so readily, Abraham realized that an attempt to grasp these blessings on his own would be futile. Instead, he trusted God and depended every day on God’s guidance and provision. Although these promises were not fully realized by the end of Genesis, they initiated the covenant between God and God’s people through which the redemption of the world will eventually come to completion. Abraham’s family were themselves blessed beyond imagining, and so are all people today who follow Abraham’s example.