What does Genesis 12:1 mean?Genesis chapter 12 begins one of the most crucial sections in the entire book of Genesis. Genesis is deeply focused on God's relationship with the nation of Israel. That relationship has its first official beginning in this verse.
Scripture gives us no information on whether Abram experienced some prior relationship with God, or if he had previously communicated with the Lord. Abram's people, including his father Terah, worshipped false gods (Joshua 24:2). Ur and Haran, Abram's former and current homes, were apparently centers of worship of the moon. Prior to his calling by God, Abram was pagan in every sense of that word.
Very much middle aged for his era—75 years old—Abram was wealthy and settled with his father's extended family in Haran. He was married to Sarai, but they were barren and childless. We're not told that he was an especially good or bad man. As with many of the human instruments used by God, this is secondary—all that ultimately matters is that God intends to accomplish His will through this particular man and his family.
God shows up in Abram's life with very specific commands and staggering promises. God's first word to Abram is "go." It's important to note that Abram is given a two-sided instruction: both to "go from," and to "go to." God calls Abram to leave behind three things: his country, his extended family or people group, and his father's household. He was to go to an unnamed land which God will show to him.
Abram could not stay where he was and still obey God. He is being called to leave His pagan culture in order to commit himself to the Lord. In going, though, God will promise to do great things for Abram.