Bible Review 3:1, Spring 1987


Bible Review

Abraham Cut Off from His Past and Future by the Awkward Divine Command: “Go You!”

Two short Hebrew words connect two pivotal episodes in Abraham’s life.

The two Hebrew words are spelled identically in the consonantal Hebrew script: LH| LH|. They are pronounced differently, however, because the vowels, which are understood in biblical Hebrew,a are different. The two-word phrase is pronounced lech lecha (emphasis on the last syllable). Literally, the two words mean “go you.”

This is an awkward phrase in English, and it is a problem for translators (more about this later). In Hebrew, the phrase has the resonance of a direct command.

These two words, lech lecha(!), appear together in this precise form only in two places in the entire Bible—in the two pivotal episodes in Abraham’s life. In both, it is God who says to Abraham, “Go you!”

The first time the phrase is used is in the first sentence of the opening episode in Abraham’s life, in Genesis 12:1. There God tells Abram (as he then was named)b to leave his native land, his family and his father’s house and to go to a strange, unknown land that God would show him. The command of the Lord is, “Go you [!] out of your country and from your kinsmen and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).

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