1) Promises to Abraham
At around 2000BC an important man named Abraham lived. He is recognised in the basis of each of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths. The reason for his significance is in being specially chosen by God. The Bible doesn't say why he in particular was chosen, but simply that he was chosen by God to receive a special promise.
The promise was that he would become the father of a great nation for God if he would choose to accept it. To accept it, he had to move away from his life in what is modern Turkey, to the south. As part of God's promise, the nation formed from his descendents would be given Caanan as their homeland, which is in the area of modern day Israel.
Genesis 12 introduces Abramam (initially known as Abram) and records the first set of promises that were given. The first promise was about his own inheritance and the nation that would be formed out of his descendents, but they also extended to how all the people of the earth would be blessed though his descendent. We find later that blessing to the whole would would be through his special descendent of Jesus.
After the deeply important promises, the second half of Genesis 12 is comparitavely mundane. It records an incident of history when Abraham later travelled to Egypt. This is the typical nature of this section of the Bible. It reads as a historical account, and the combination of all the incidents builds up a picture of the lifestyles of the times.
Genesis 12:1: Now Yahweh said to Abram, "Get out of your country, and from your relatives, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you, and make your name great. You will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. In you will all of the families of the earth be blessed."
4 So Abram went, as Yahweh had spoken to him. Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed out of Haran. 5 Abram took Sarai his wife, Lot his brother's son, all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls who they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan. Into the land of Canaan they came. 6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. The Canaanite was then in the land.
7 Yahweh appeared to Abram, and said, "I will give this land to your seed ." He built an altar there to Yahweh, who appeared to him. 8 He left from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to Yahweh, and called on the name of Yahweh. 9 Abram traveled, going on still toward the South.
10 There was a famine in the land. Abram went down into Egypt to live as a foreigner there, for the famine was sore in the land. 11 It happened, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, "See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman to look on. 12 It will happen, when the Egyptians will see you, that they will say, `This is his wife.' They will kill me, but they will save you alive. 13 Please say that you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that my soul may live because of you."
14 It happened that when Abram had come into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 The princes of Pharaoh saw her, and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. 16 He dealt well with Abram for her sake. He had sheep, and oxen, and male donkeys, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and female donkeys, and camels. 17 Yahweh plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. 18 Pharaoh called Abram, and said, "What is this that you have done to me? Why didn't you tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, `She is my sister,' so that I took her to be my wife? Now therefore, see your wife, take her, and go your way."
20 Pharaoh gave men charge concerning him: and they brought him on the way, and his wife, and all that he had. WEB
Following this chapter, the record in Genesis continues on to describe further incidents from the life of Abraham and his descendents. In particular, there is a focus turns to one of his sons Isaac, and then to one grandson named Jacob. The reason they are singled out is that the promise of the special nation of people was to happen through Jacob.
At one stage in his life, Jacob was given a new name of “Israel”, which is the name taken on by his descendants as the name for the nation they formed. So this represents the formation of the nation of Israel. It came about because of the promise of God to one man.