Summary: Abram’s first failure was not decision to lie, nor was his primary failure the decision to go to Egypt; Abraham’s failure started when he failed to take God’s revealed word into account.
Abraham, when his name was only Abram was told to leave Haran when he was 75 years old (Gen... 12:5) So Abram packs up his stuff, picks up his family in the caravan and heads East Southeast. He proceeds down to Canaan, Where he worshipped God a time or two, and God himself showed himself to Abram. It’s roughly about this time, in verse 6 that we learn of the bad news that the Canaanites are living in the land. Why that information is there depends upon who you ask, but I personally believe that Moses was simply trying to help the nation of Israel put this piece of history into perspective, because he couldn’t give nice round dates like 1400 BC.
He makes a few key stops at some major landmarks of the day, this is the first recorded instance of a tour of the Holy Land. While he’s at the tree of Moreh near Shechem God appears to Abram again and promises him that his descendants will one day own the land. You know, I bet Abram was a bit concerned about the Canaanites, and God was hoping to calm his doubts and fears. Unfortunately Abram would later have a very hard time remembering and relying upon this promise.
Up to now, Abram has only seen the northern portion of Israel, and he decides to extend his tour. He packs his tent and moves only a bit south where he takes up residence between Bethel and Ai. There he sets up a worship center complete with an altar and here he calls upon the name of the Lord.
Continuing southward, perhaps in an attempt to get his money’s worth for the tour he heads off to the deep south of Canaan to what is called the Negev.
Now, the Negev is the rugged, hilly, desert territory south of Israel. So here’s Abram headed south to the bottom of Israel’s future territory; when he decides he want’s a chili dog. There’s not a single hot dog stand in sight, besides there’s no flour to make the buns anyhow because verse 10 reveals to us that a Famine arose in the land at that point, which many commentators blame upon the godlessness of the Canaanites that verse 6 goes out of the way to tell us were there.
Personally I do not doubt at all that a portion of the drought was the working of God’s judgment upon the Canaanites, but I’m more inclined to think something a bit different, since the focus in this chapter is upon Abram, and because it’s recorded so incredibly close to the giving of the Abrahamic Covenant that it was for his BENEFIT alone that God either sent or allowed this particular drought.
Remember God has a long history of using rather annoying things to get people moving. He used a goad of sorts on Paul, he used Snakes amid the Israelites, he used the angel of death among the Egyptians, and he used Famine more than once to get people out of Canaan and into Egypt.
John Wesley also assumed that this drought was to test Abram’s faith. He had been called by God into a new life. This is a test of faith, Peter writes about tests like these saying that God designs them in order to purify us. The question then for this chapter isn’t so much what was God doing with this drought, but would Abram trust God to provide his needs both present and future?