Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. (12:1-4)
There are many issues that we could pick up on and discuss in Genesis 11:27-12:9. The journey began with his father and brother when they left Ur of the Chaldean’s and traveled up to Haran or Harran. Both Tremper Longman III (Genesis in the Story of God Bible Commentary), and Bill Arnold (Genesis (New Cambridge Bible Commentary)) agree that the Ur refereed to in the text is the well known city of Babylon although “of the Chaldeans” is an anachronism added to allow the reader to identify the city. The Chaldeans were not in Ur until well after the time of Abraham and even the time of Moses. John Walton (The NIV Application Commentary Genesis), on the other hand, argues that Ur may be some other city up near Harran, otherwise he finds it hard to understand why they’d stop in Harran as it is off the direct route. Longman suggests that they may have stopped in Harran because this was their ancestral homeland. This seems a reasonable suggestion. The exact path, however, isn’t really the point of the story. (The image outlines an “as the crow flies” path on a NASA image of the area.)
Although it is important not to drive a wedge between Genesis 1-11 and Genesis 12 and following, it is also clear that the story takes a dramatic turn. Genesis 1-11 dealt with deep history. The authors and editors may well have told this deep history in a manner that revealed God’s mission in the world but used the stories current among the people. Whatever we think of the literary construction of Genesis 1-11, Chapter 12 takes us in a new direction. It is still an ancient book written in the conventions of the time to an original audience removed from us, but it is telling the history of the call of Israel. This is ancient history, but it isn’t deep history. There are connections with 1-11, but there is also a clear change in tone and focus.