Genesis 15




1 “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision,

saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”

After these things - the events just recorded - the word of the Lord - Deb ar Jehovah;

the first occurrence of this remarkable phrase, afterwards so common in the Hebrew

Scriptures (Exodus 9:20; Numbers 3:16; Deuteronomy 34:5; I Samuel 3:1; Psalm 33:6,

et passim – frequently, here and there). That this was a personal designation of the

pre-incarnate Logos, if not susceptible of complete demonstration, yet receives not

a little sanction from the language employed throughout this narrative (compare

vs. 5, 7, 9, 13-14). At least the expression denotes "the Lord manifesting Himself

by speech to His servant" (Murphy; see ch. 1:3) - came (literally, was) unto

Abram in a vision - a night vision, but no dream (see v. 5). Biblically viewed,

the vision, as distinguished from the ordinary dream, defines the presentation

to the bodily senses or to the mental consciousness of objects usually beyond

the sphere of their natural activities; hence visions might be imparted in

dreams (Numbers 12:6), or in trances (ibid. 24:4, 16-17). Saying, Fear not, Abram.

With allusion, doubtless, to the patriarch's mental dejection, which was probably

occasioned by the natural reaction consequent upon his late high-pitched

excitement (compare I Kings 19:4), which might lead him to anticipate either

a war of revenge from the Asiatic monarchs (Jonathan), or an assault from the

heathen Canaanites, already jealous of his growing power, or perhaps both.

Wordsworth observes that the words here addressed to Abram are commonly

employed in Scripture to introduce announcements of Christ (Luke 1:13, 30;

John 12:15; compare St. John's vision, Revelation 4:1). I am thy shield, and thy

exceeding great reward. Literally, thy reward, exceeding abundantly, the hiphil

infinitive abstract הַרְבֵּה being always used adverbially (compare Nehemiah 2:2;

3:33), The other rendering, "thy reward m exceeding great" (Septuaint, Rosenmüller,

Delitzsch, Ewald), fails to give prominence to the thought that the patriarch's reward

was to be the all-sufficient Jehovah Himself.




What the Lord is to His People (v. 1)


  • A SHIELD against:


Ø      The charges of the law (Isaiah 45:24-25).

Ø      The accusations of conscience (Romans 15:13).

Ø      The force of temptation (Revelation 3:10).

Ø      The opposition of the world (Romans 8:31).

Ø      The fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).




Ø      For sufferings patiently endured (II Timothy 2:12).

Ø      For sacrifices cheerfully made (Matthew 19:28).

Ø      For service faithfully accomplished (Revelation 2:28).




Ø      Admire the exceeding richness of Divine grace.

Ø      Appreciate the fullness of Divine salvation.

Ø      Realize the height of Divine privilege accorded to the saint.


2 “And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless,

and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?”  And Abram said,

Lord God. Adonai Jehovah; the first use of these terms in combination, the

second, which usually has the vowel-points of the first, being here written with

the vocalization of Elohim. Adonai, an older plural form of Adonim, pluralis

excellentive (Gesenius), though by some the termination is regarded as a suffix

(Ewald, Furst), is a term descriptive of the Divine sovereignty, from adan = dun,

or din, to rule or judge; connected with which is the Phoenician aden, an honorary

epithet of deity, and recognized as such in Deuteronomy 10:17 (see Furst, 'Hebrew

Lexicon,' sub voce). What wilt thou give me, seeing I go literally, and I going –

ἐγὼ δὲ ἀπολύομαι – ego de apoluomai - (Septuagint, Jonathan); ex hac vita

discedam (Rosenmüller); but this, though the word "go" is sometimes used in

the sense of "die" (Psalm 39:14), does not seem necessary - childless - solitary,

desolate, hence devoid of offspring, as in Leviticus 20:20-21; Jeremiah 22:30 –

and the steward - Ben-Meshek; either:


(1) the son of running (from shakak, to run) = filius dis-cursitatis, i.e. the steward

who attends to my domestic affairs (Onkelos, Drusius); or, and with greater probability,


(2) the son of possession (from mashak, to hold),. i.e. the possessor of my house,

or heir of my property (Gesenius, Furst, Delitzsch, Keel, Halisch) - of my house

is this Eliezer of Damascus. Literally, Dammesek Eliezer. The paronomasia of

this utterance is apparent, and was obviously designed to impart a touch of

pathos to the patriarch's grief by pointing out the coincidence that the Ben-shek

of his house was either Dammesek (Damascus) in the person of Eliezer (Delitzsch,

Keil), or the Damascene Eliezer (Onkelos, Syriac, Aben Ezra, Calvin, Lange,

Murphy), or Dammesek-Eliezer as one word (Kalisch).


3 “And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one

born in my house (literally, the son of my house, i.e. Eliezer) is mine heir.”

The language of the patriarch discovers three things:


(1) a natural desire to have a child of his own;


(2) a struggle to hold on by the promise in face of almost insuperable difficulties;



(3) an obvious unwillingness to part with the hope that the promise, however

seemingly impossible, would eventually be realized. This unwillingness it was

which caused him, as it were, so pathetically to call the Divine attention to his

childless condition; in response to which he received an assurance that must

have thrilled his anxious heart with joy.


4 “And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall

not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall

be thine heir.  5 And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now

toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He

said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”  And He (Jehovah, or "the Word of the

Lord") brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell

the stars, if thou be able to number them (a proof that Abram's vision was not

a dream): and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. Hence it has been inferred

that Abram's vision was miraculously quickened to penetrate the depths of space

and gaze upon the vastness of the stellar world, since the stars visible to the naked

eye would not represent an innumerable multitude (Candlish).


6 “And he believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness.”

And he believed in the Lord. The hiphil of the verb aman, to prop or stay, signifies

to build upon, hence to rest one's faith upon; and this describes exactly the mental

act of the patriarch, who reposed his confidence in the Divine character, and based

his hope of a future seed on the Divine word. And he counted it to him. Ἐλογίσθη

αὐτῷ - Elogisthae auto – He reckoned it to him (Septuagint), which is followed by

nearly all the ancient versions, and by Paul in Romans 4:3; but the suffix ך (a feminine

for a neuter, as in Job 5:9; Psalm 12:4; 27:4; see Glass, ' Phil,' lib. 3. cp. 1:19), clearly

indicates the object of the action expressed by the verb הָשַׁב, to think, to meditate,

and then to impute (λογίζομαιlogizomai), followed by לְ of pers. and acc. of the

thing (compare II Samuel 19:20; Psalm 32:2). The thing in this case was his faith

in the Divine promise. For righteousness. צְדְקְהְ - εἰς δίκαιοσύνηνeis

dikaiosunaen - (Septuagint); neither for merit and justice (Rabbi Solomon, Jarchi,

Ealiseh), nor as a proof of his probity [the quality of having strong moral principles;

honesty and decency] (Gesenius, Rosenmüller); but unto and with a view to

justification (Romans 4:3), so that God treated him as a righteous person (A Lapide),

not, however, in the sense that he was now "correspondent to the will of God both

in character and conduct" (Keil), but in the sense that he was now before God

accepted and forgiven' (Luther, Calvin, Murphy, Candlish), which "passive

righteousness, however, ultimately wrought in him an "active righteousness

of complete conformity to the Divine will" ('Speaker's Commentary').



Under the Stars with God (vs. 1-6)




Ø      Apprehensive of danger. Victorious over the Asiatic monarchs, Abram

nevertheless dreaded their return. Signal deliverances are not seldom

followed by depressing fears; e.g. David (I Samuel 27:1) and Elijah

(I Kings 19:10). Having emancipated the people of the land by

breaking “the yoke of their burden, and the staff of their shoulder, the rod

of their oppressor,” he yet feared an outbreak of their hostility. The enmity

of those they serve is not an infrequent reward of patriots: witness Moses

(Exodus 17:4) and Christ (John 10:31).


Ø      Disappointed in hope. Notwithstanding repeated assurances that he

would one day become a mighty nation, the long-continued barrenness of

Sarai appears to have lain upon his heart like a heavy burden. Partaking to

all more or less of the nature of a deprivation, the lack of offspring was to

Abram an acute grief and serious affliction. The pent-up yearnings of his

nature, rendered the more intense by reason of the promise, could not

longer be restrained. In language full of pathos he complains to God about

his childless condition. So “hope deferred maketh the heart sick”

(Proverbs 13:12).


Ø      Anxious about the promise. He could not discern the possibility of its

fulfillment, with years rapidly advancing on himself and Sarai. It is doubtful

if any saints, more than Abram, can predict beforehand how the Divine

promises shall be accomplished. Yet a recollection of whose promises they

are should enable them, as it might have assisted him, to perceive that not a

single word of God’s can fall to the ground. (I Samuel 3:19)  But, owing partly

to limitations in the human mind and imperfections in the human heart, doubts

insensibly insinuate themselves against even the clearest and the strongest

evidence. And when danger, disappointment, and doubt conjoin to invade

the soul, dejection must inevitably follow.




Ø      A shield for his peril. Divinely given, all sufficient, ever present. “I,”

Jehovah, “am,now and always, “thy shield”i.e. thine impregnable

defense. And the like protection is vouchsafed to Abram’s children when

imperiled: as to character, Divine (Proverbs 30:5); as to extent,

complete, universal, defending from all forms of evil, warding off assaults

from all quarters (Psalm 5:12); as to duration, perpetual (Psalm 121:8).


Ø      A solace for his sorrow. Happy as the birth of an heir in Sarai’s tent

would make him, Jehovah gives him to understand that not that was to be

his recompense for the trials he had passed through, the sacrifices he had

made, and the feats he had performed since leaving Ur, but HIMSELF!

God’s saints are prone to seek their happiness in God’s gifts, rather than

in the Giver. Here they are recalled along with Abram to the sublime thought

that God Himself is His people’s best reward, and that the possession and

enjoyment of His friendship should abundantly compensate for the absence

of creature comforts, however dearly prized and ardently desired.


Ø      A son for his heir. Instead of Eliezer, whom in his perplexity he thought

of adopting as his son, a veritable child of his own is promised. Let saints

learn how blind is human reason, and how feeble faith becomes when it

tries to walk by sight; let them also notice and consider how sure are God’s

promises, and how inexhaustible are God’s resources.




Ø      The object of Abram’s faith. That at this stage of the patriarch’s history

attention is so markedly directed to his faith can only be explained on the

supposition that he now for the first time clearly and implicitly received,

embraced, and rested in the promise of a seed, and consequently of a

Savior. And the faith which justifies and saves under the gospel

dispensation has an outlook nothing different from that of Abram. The

object which it contemplates and appropriates is not simply the Divine

promise of salvation, but the specific offer of a Savior. God is the Justifier

of him who believes in Jesus (Romans 3:26).


Ø      The ground of Abram’s faith. Neither reason nor sense, but the solemnly

given, clearly stated, perfectly sufficient, wholly unsupported word of God.

And of a like description is the basis of a Christian’s faith — God s

promise in its naked simplicity, which promise (of a Savior, or of salvation

through Jesus Christ) has, like that delivered to Abram, been:


o        solemnly announced,

o        clearly exhibited;

o        declared to be perfectly sufficient,


but left wholly unsupported in the gospel (John 3:36).


Ø      The acting of Abram’s faith. It was instantaneous, accepting and resting

on the Divine promise the moment it was explicitly made known; full-

hearted, without reservation of doubt or uncertainty, implicitly reposing on

the naked word of God; and conclusive, not admitting of further opening

of the question, “being fully persuaded that God was able also to perform

that which he had promised” (Romans 4:21).


  • ACCEPTED WITH GOD. Whatever exegesis be adopted of the

clause, ‘‘it was counted unto him for righteousness,” the transaction which

took place beneath the starry firmament is regarded in the New Testament

as the pattern or model of a sinner’s justification, and employed to teach:


Ø      The nature of justification, which is the reckoning of righteousness to

one in himself destitute of such excellence, and, on the ground of such

imputed righteousness, the acquittal in the eye of the Divine law of one

otherwise obnoxious to just condemnation. Possessing no inherent

righteousness of his own, Abram had the righteousness of another (not at

that time revealed to him) set to his account, and was accordingly justified

or declared righteous before God.


Ø      The condition of justification, which is not works, but faith, Abram

having been accepted solely on the ground of belief in the Divine promise

(Romans 4:2-5); not, however, faith as an opus operatum or

meritorious act, but as a subjective condition, without which the act of

imputation cannot proceed upon the person.


Ø      The time of justification, which is the instant a soul believes, whether

that soul be cognizant of the act or not, Abram again being justified,

according to the Scripture, from the moment he accepted the Divine

promise, though it is not said that Abram at the time was aware of the

indemnatory act passed in his favor in the court of heaven.




1. God’s saints may sometimes be cast down in God’s presence (Psalm 43:5).

2. It is God’s special character and care to comfort those who are cast

    down (II Corinthians 7:6).

3. God’s promises are the wells of comfort which He has opened for the

                solace of dejected saints.




Faith and Righteousness (v. 6)


“And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness.”

Even by itself this passage claims attention. How does the idea of

righteousness come into it at all? What is meant by “counting” or

imputation”? And what is the connection between belief and imputed

righteousness? But it does not stand alone.


(1) In Psalm 106:30 (compare Numbers 25:7-8) the same “counting” takes

place on an act of an entirely different character; and


(2) it is thrice quoted in the New Testament as an example of the action of

faith in the spiritual life. Imputation must not be explained away. Its

meaning is seen in Leviticus 7:18; 17:4; II Samuel 19:19. There is

here the germ of “the Lord our righteousness.” In Romans 4:3-5, 23-25,

St. Paul refers to it as an instance of justification by faith, connecting it

with “the reward;” and this again with forgiveness and acceptance

(Psalm 32:2), the psalm almost repeating the words of the text (see also

Galatians 3:6). We need not suppose that now for the first time Abram

was accepted of God, or that he alone was counted righteous. Mark,

Abram believed not merely the particular promise, but “in the Lord.” This

instance is specially noticed by St. Paul as an instance of faith, because

from the nature of the case there was no opportunity of action.


  • THE WORKING OF FAITH — simple belief of what God has said,

because He is true; casting all care upon Him. No merit in this. Faith is the

channel, not the source of justification. By the look of faith the dying

Israelites lived (Numbers 21:9 – I highly recommend – CY – 2019 -

Spurgeon Sermon – NUMBER 1500, OR LIFTING UP THE BRAZEN SERPENT - #6), but the

healing was from God. God offers salvation freely (John 7:37; Revelation

22:17), because He loves us even while in our sins (Ephesians 2:4-5). What

hinders that love from being effectual is UNBELIEF!  Many “believe a lie”

e.g. that they must become better ere they can believe (compare Acts 15:1).

(I would like to warn everyone of what is happening in these last days!

That is the words from II Thessalonians 2:10-11 – “......because they

received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for

this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they SHOULD

BELIEVE A LIE.”  - CY – 2019) The primary lesson of

practical Christianity is that we must begin by receiving, not by giving;

must learn to believe His word because it is His word. This delivers from the

spirit of bondage (Romans 8:15), and enables to ask with confidence

(ibid. v. 32). And this faith is counted for righteousness.


  • FAITH GROWS BY USE. It is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8),

but it is given according to laws. Sometimes it springs up suddenly — e.g.

Nathanael, St. Paul, the Philippian jailer; but usually it is like the growth of

the seed, hardly to be traced — a gradual growth from efforts to live by

faith. Let none think, I can believe when I will. The endeavor delayed will

meet with many difficulties, suggestions of doubt, or habits of indecision.

And let none despise the training which prepares the soul to believe. It may

seem to be labor in vain, yet the Holy Spirit may be working unseen to

prepare the soul for life and peace.


  • FAITH LEADS TO HOLINESS. It renders possible a service which

cannot otherwise be given. The faith which was counted to Abram for

righteousness formed the character which enabled him afterwards to offer

up Isaac (compare James 2:21-28). Thus growth in holiness is the test of real

faith. There is a faith which has no power (ibid. v. 18; I Corinthians 13:2;

II Timothy 4:10). It is with the heart that man believes unto righteousness

(Romans 10:10).


7 “And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the

Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.”  And he (Jehovah, or the Word of

the Lord) said unto him (after the act of faith on the part of the patriarch, and the

act of imputation or justification on the part of God, and in explication of the

exact nature of that relationship which had been constituted between them by the

spiritual transaction so described), I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of

 the Chaldees (see ch. 11:28), to give thee this land to inherit (or, to possess) it.


8 “And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?”

And he said, Lord God (Adonai Jehovah; see v. 2), whereby shall I know that

I shall inherit it? Not the language of doubt, though slight misgivings are not

incompatible with faith (compare Judges 6:17; II Kings 20:8; Luke 1:34), and

questioning with God "is rather a proof of faith than a sign of incredulity" (Calvin);

but of desire for a sign in confirmation of the grant (Luther), either for the

strengthening of his own faith (Chrysostom, Augustine, Keil, 'Speaker's Commentary'),

or for the sake of his posterity (Jarchi, Michaelis), or for some intimation as to the

time and mode of taking possession (Murphy). Rosenmüller conceives the question

put in Abram's mouth to be only a device of the narrator's to lead up to the subject





The Strength and Weakness of Faith (vs. 7-8)




Ø      Looking up to the Divine character“I am the Lord.”

Ø      Looking back to the Divine grace“that brought thee out of Ur of the


Ø      3. Looking out to the Divine promise“to give thee this land to

inherit it.”




Ø      Looking forward — the fulfillment of the promise seeming far away.

Ø      Looking in — discovering nothing either in or about itself to guarantee

its ultimate realization.


9 “And He said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of

three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”

And he said unto him, Take me (literally, for me, i.e. for my use in sacrifice) an heifer

of three years old. So rightly (Septuagint, Syriac, Samaritan, Arabic, Josephus, Bochart,

Rosenmüller, Keil); not three heifers (Onkelos, Jarchi, Kimchi, et alii). And a she goat

of three years old, and a ram of three years old. These offerings, afterwards prescribed

by the law (Exodus 29:15; Numbers 15:27; 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3), were three in

number, and of three years each, to symbolize him who was, and is, and is to come

(Wordsworth); perhaps rather to indicate-the perfection of the victim in respect of

maturity (Murphy). And a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon - also prescribed by the

law (Leviticus 1:14; Luke 2:24).


10 “And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each

piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.”  And he took unto him

all these, and divided (a word occurring only here in Genesis, and supposed by

Michaelis to have been taken by Moses from the ancient document from which he

transcribed this portion of his work. The word is afterwards found in Song of

Solomon 2:17, and Jeremiah 34:18) them in the midst, - μέσαmesa -  (Septuagint);

in equal parts (Onkelos) - and laid each piece one against another: but the birds

divided he not. So afterwards in the Mosaic legislation (Leviticus 1:7). Wordsworth

detects in the non-dividing of the birds an emblem of "the Holy Spirit, the Spirit

of peace and love; which is a Spirit of unity, and of "Christ's human spirit, which

was not divisible." Kalisch, with more probability, recognizes as the reason of their

not being divided the fact that such division was not required, both fowls being

regarded as one part of the sacrifice only, and each, as the half, being placed

opposite the other. Wordsworth numbers seven parts in the sacrifice, and sees a

symbol of completeness and finality, the number seven being the root of shaba,

to swear (Gesenius, p. 802); Kalisch reckons four, which he regards as "denoting

perfection, but rather the external perfection of form than the internal one of the

mind," and pointing "to the perfect possession of the Holy Land." The ritual here

described is the same which was afterwards observed among the Hebrews in the

formation of covenants (compare ch. 34:18), and appears to have extensively

prevailed among heathen nations (cf. ' Iliad,' b. 124, "ὅρκια πιστὰ ταμόντες;"

(oaths of loyalty) and the Latin phrase, "foedus icere" - to make a treaty).


11 “And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.”

And when the fowls - literally, and the bird of prey, a collective singular with the

article, as in ch. 14:13, symbolizing the Egyptians and other adversaries of Israel,

as in Ezekiel 17:3, 7, 12;  39:4, 17; Revelation 19:17-18 (Knobel, Rosenmüller,

Lunge, Keil, Kalisch), which may be regarded as probable if the divided victims

represented Israel in affliction, which is doubtful. It does not appear necessary to

attach any special significance to the descent of the vultures, which are always

attracted towards carrion, and the introduction of which here completes the

naturalness of the scene - came down upon the caresses (the Septuagint interpolates,

ἐπὶ τὰ διχοτομήματαepi ta dichotomaemataupon the divided), Abram drove

them away. Literally, caused them to be blown away, i.e. by blowing. "Though

Abram is here represented as the instrument, yet the effect is to be ascribed primarily

to the tutelar agency of omnipotence" (Bush; compare Exodus 15:10; Ezekiel 21:31).

The act of scaring the voracious birds has been taken to represent the ease with

which Abram or Israel would ward off his enemies (Jonathan, Targums,

Rosenmüller, Bush); the averting of destruction from the Israelites through Abram's

merit  (Kalisch, Keil); Abram's religious regard for and observance of God's treaty

(Wordsworth); the patriarch's expectation that God was about to employ the

sacrificial victims for some holy purpose (Alford); simply his anxiety to preserve

the victims pure and un-mutilated for whatever end they might have to serve






The Silent Worshipper (v. 11)




Ø      Divine in its appointment.

Ø      Simple in its ritual.

Ø      Sacrificial in its character.

Ø      Believing in its spirit.

Ø      Patient in its continuance.

Ø      Expectant in its attitude.




Ø      What they were. The descent of the fowls may be regarded as

emblematic of those obstructions to communion with God which

arise from:

o       The principalities and powers of the air.

o       The persecutions and oppressions (or, where these are absent,

the pleasures and engagements) of the world.

o       The disturbances and distractions of vain thoughts and sinful

notions in the heart.


Ø      How they were removed.

o       By watchfulness.

o       By opposition.

o       By perseverance.

o       By Divine help — the breath of Abram’s mouth being probably

accompanied by a wind from God.




Ø      By the approach of God at night-fall towards the scene.

Ø      By the supernatural revelation accorded to the patriarch.

Ø      By the passage of the symbol of Jehovah’s presence between the divided


Ø      By the announcement that God had taken him into covenant with


Ø      By the vision of the land which was granted to him.


  • LEARN:


1. The sinfulness and worthlessness of all forms of worship except that

    which God has appointed.

2. The need for self-examination and Divine assistance when engaged in

    serving God.

3. The certain acceptance and spiritual enrichment of those who worship

    God in spirit and in truth.


12 “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo,

an horror of great darkness fell upon him.”  And when the sun was going down.

Literally, was about to go down. The vision having commenced the previous evening,

an entire day has already passed, the interval being designed to typify the time between

the promise and its fulfillment (Kalisch). A deep sleep - tardemah (compare Adam’s

sleep, ch. 2:21); ἔκστασις ekstasisecstacy (Septuagint); a supernatural slumber,

as the darkness following was not solely due to natural causes - fell upon Abram;

and, lo, an horror of great darkness - literally, an, horror, a great darkness, i.e.

an overwhelming dread occasioned by the dense gloom with which he was

encircled, and which, besides being designed to conceal the working of the

Deity from mortal vision (Knobel), was meant to symbolize the Egyptian bondage

(Grotius, Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil, Aalisch), and perhaps also, since Abram's faith

embraced a larger sphere than Canaan (Hebrews 11:10, 14, 16), and a nobler seed

than Sarah's son (John 8:56), the sufferings of Christ (Wordsworth, Inglis) - fell

upon him.


13 And He said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger

in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four

hundred years;”  And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety - literally, knowing

know (compare ch. 2:17; see Ewald's 'Hebrew Syntax,' § 312) - that thy seed shall

be a stranger in a land which is not theirs (literally, not to them, viz., Egypt, or

Egypt and Canaan, according to the view which is taken of the point of departure

for the reckoning of the 400 years), and shall serve them (i.e. the inhabitants of that

alien country); and they (i.e. these foreigners) shall afflict them - three different

stages of adverse fortune are described:


(1) exile;


(2) bondage;


(3) affliction;


or the two last clauses depict the contents of the first (Kalisch) - four hundred years.

The duration not of their affliction merely, but either of their bondage and affliction,

or more probably of their exile, bondage, and affliction; either a round number for

430 (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil, Alford), to be reckoned from the date of the descent

into Egypt (Kalisch, Lunge), as Moses (Exodus 12:39) and Stephen (Acts 7:6) seem

to say, and to be reconciled with the statement of Paul (Galatians 3:17) by regarding

the death of Jacob as the closing of the time of promise (Lange, Inglis); or an exact

number dating from the birth of Isaac (Willet, Murphy, Wordsworth), which was

thirty years after the call in Ur, thus making the entire interval correspond with the

430 years of Paul, or from the persecution of Ishmael (Ainsworth, Clarke, Bush),

which occurred thirty years after the promise in ch.12:3.


14 “And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward

shall they come out with great substance.”  And also that nation (the name of

which He does not reveal, in case of seeming to interfere with the free volition

of His creatures, who, while accomplishing His high designs and secret purposes,

are ever conscious of their moral freedom), whom they shall serve, will I judge: -

i.e. punish after judging, which prediction was in due course fulfilled (Exodus 6:11) –

and afterward shall they come out with great substance - recush (ch. 13:6; see

Exodus 12:36).


15 “And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good

old age.”  And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace (compare ch. 25:8; 35:29;

49:33). Not a periphrasis for going to the grave (Rosenmüller), since Abram s

ancestors were not entombed in Canaan; but a proof of the survival of departed

spirits in a state of conscious existence after death (Knobel, Murphy, Wordsworth,

'Speaker s Commentary,' Inglis), to the company of which the patriarch was in due

time to be gathered. The disposal of his remains is provided for in what follows.

Thou shalt be buried in a good old age.


16 “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity

of the Amorites is not yet full.”  But in the fourth generation, - τετάρτη δὲ γενεᾷ -

tetartae de geneain the fourth generation (Septuagint); but, more correctly, the

fourth generation, calculating 100 years to a generation. "Caleb was the fourth from

Judah, and Moses from Levi, and so doubtless many others" (Bush). Drs. Oort and

Kuenen, reckoning four generations as a far shorter space of time than four centuries,

detect a contradiction between this verse and v. 13, and an evidence of the free use

which the ancient and uncritical Israelitish author made of his materials ('Bible for

Young People,' vol. 1. p. 158). On the import of דּור see Genesis 6:9 - they shall

come hither again (literally, shall return hither): for the iniquity of the Amorites

is not yet full. Literally, for not completed the iniquity of the Amorites (see ch. 14:7;

here put for the entire population! until then (the same word as "hither, which is its

usual signification).


17 “And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold

a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.”

And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, - literally, and it was (i.e.

this took place), the sun went down; less accurately, ἐπεὶ δὲ ἐγίνετο ἥλιος πρὸς

δυσμαῖς  - epei de egineto ho haelios pros dusmaisit came to pass that when the

sun went down (Septuagint), which was the state of matters in v. 12. Here the sun,

which was then setting, is described as having set - and it was dark, - literally, and

darkness was, i.e. a darkness that might be felt, as in v. 12; certainly not φλὸξ ἐγένετο

- phlox egeneto - (Septuagint), as if there were another flame besides the one specified

in the description - behold a smoking furnace, - the תַּנּוּר, or Oriental furnace, had

the form of a cylindrical fire-pot  - and a burning lamp - a lamp of fire, or fiery torch,

emerging from the smoking stove: an emblem of THE DIVINE PRESENCE (compare

Exodus 19:18) - that passed between those pieces - in ratification of the covenant.




Abram’s Watch and Vision (vs. 12-17)


“And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram.”

The great blessings promised are still afar off. As yet Abraham has no son to

hand down his name to posterity. By means of a vision God strengthened his

faith. Weird is the picture in this fifteenth chapter. See the solitary sheik in

the desert offering his varied sacrifice, then watching until the sun goes

down to drive off the vultures from the slain offerings. His arms become

weary with waving and his eyes with their vigils. As the sun sinks below

the widespread horizon, and night quickly steals over the desert, a horror

of great darkness creeps over his spirit. Then a deep sleep falls upon him,

and in that sleep come visions and a voice. The vision was of a furnace and

a shining lamp moving steadily between the divided emblems. Look at the

meaning of that vision.



East is generally understood to be a solemn witness to any engagement. To

confirm an oath some Orientals will point to the lamp and say, “It is

witness.” Nuptial ceremonies are sometimes solemnized by walking round

a fire three times, and the parties uttering certain words meanwhile.






Ø      Both the Israel after the flesh and that after the spirit had to pass through

the fire of persecution; but the lamp of truth had always been kept alight by

the prophets, apostles, martyrs, and confessors of the Church.


Ø      The life and work of Christ may also have been shadowed forth in that

furnace and lamp. Christ knew the bitterness:


o        betrayal,

o        denial, and

o        death;


but He knew also the joy of:


o        conscious sinlessness,

o        complete self-sacrifice, and

o        unending power of salvation.


Ø      They illustrated the character of the life of many believers. Trial and joy

must be intermingled. As Abram saw the vision in connection with

sacrifice, so on Calvary shall we best learn the meaning of the smoking

furnace and burning lamp.


18 “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy

seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the

river Euphrates:  19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,

20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,  21 And the

Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”  

In that day the Lord made a covenant - literally, cut a covenant

(compare ὅρκια τέμνεινhorkia temnein -  foedus icere). On the import of בְּרִית

see ch. 9:9) - with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the

river of Egypt - the Nile (Keil, Kurtz, Hengstenberg, Kalisch) rather than the Wady

el Arch, or Brook of Egypt (Knobel, Lange, Clarke), at the southern limits of the

country (Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:4; Isaiah 27:12) - unto the great river, the river

Euphrates. The ideal limits of the Holy Land, which were practically reached

under David and Solomon (see I Kings 4:21; II Chronicles 9:26), and which

embraced the following subject populations, ten in number, "to convey the

impression of universality without exception, of unqualified completeness"

(Delitzsch). The Kenites, - inhabiting the mountainous tracts in the southwest

Palestine, near the Amalekites (Numbers 24:21; I Samuel 15:6;  27:10); a people

of uncertain origin, though (Judges 1:16; 4:11) Hobab, the brother-in-law of

Moses, was a Kenite - and the Kenizzites, - mentioned only in this passage;

a people dwelling apparently in the same region with the Kenites (Murphy),

who probably became extinct between the times of Abraham and Moses (Bochart),

and cannot now be identified (Keil, Kalisch), though they have been connected

with Kenaz the Edomite, ch. 36:15, 42 (Knobel) - and the Kadmonites, - never

again referred to, but, as their name implies, an Eastern people, whose settlements

extended towards the Euphrates (Kalisch) - and the Hittites, - the descendants of

Heth (see ch. 10:15); identified with the Kheta and Katti of the Egyptian and

Assyrian monuments, and supposed by Mr. Gladstone to be the Kheteians of

the 'Odyssey;' a powerful Asiatic tribe who must have early established themselves

on the Euphrates, and spread from thence southward to Canaan and Egypt, and

westward to Lydia and Greece, carrying with them, towards the shores of the

AEgean Sea, the art and culture of Assyria and Babylon, already modified by

the forms and conceptions of Egypt. The northern capital of their empire was

Carchemish, about sixteen miles south of the modern Birejik; and the southern

Kadesh, on an island of the Orontes (Prof. Sayce in 'Frazer's Magazine,' August,

1880, art. 'A forgotten Empire in Asia Minor') - and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims

(see ch. 13:7; 14:5), and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites,

and the Jebusites (see ch. 10:15-19). The boundaries of the Holy Land as here

defined are regarded by some (Bohlen) as contradictory of those designated in

Numbers 34:1-12. But:


(1) the former may be viewed as the ideal (or poetical), and the latter as the actual

(and prosaic), limits of the country assigned to Israel (Hengstenbreg, Keil); or


(2) the former may represent the maxima, and the latter the minima, of the promise,

which admitted of a larger or a smaller fulfillment, according as Israel should in

the sequel prove fit for its occupation (Augustine, Pererius, Willet, Poole, Gerlach,

Kalisch, and others); or,


(3) according to a certain school of interpreters, the former may point to the wide

extent of country to be occupied by the Jews on occasion of their restoration to

their own land, as distinguished from their first occupation on coming up out

of Egypt, or their second on returning from Babylon; or


(4) the rivers may be put for the countries with which the promised land was

coterminous (Kurtz, Murphy); or


(5) strict geographical accuracy may not have been intended in defining the limits

of the land of promise ('Speaker s Commentary,' Inglis).




Taken into Covenant (v. 18)




Ø      The ultimate blessing, to which, in both the commencement and close of

the present section, the prominence is assigned, was a splendid inheritance

the land of Canaan for his descendants, and for himself the better

country, of which that earthly possession was a type.


Ø      The mediate blessing, through which alone the last could be reached,

was a distinguished seed — a numerous posterity to occupy the land, and a

living Savior to secure for himself the bettor country.


Ø      The proximate blessing, to be enjoyed while as yet the second and the

third were unfulfilled, was a celestial alliance by which Jehovah Himself

engaged to be his shield and exceeding great reward. It is obvious that

these are the blessings which the gospel confers on believers:


o        a heavenly Friend,

o        an all-sufficient Savior,

o        a future inheritance;


whence the Abrahamic covenant was nothing different from the covenant

of grace.


  • THE REASON OF THE COVENANT. The essential idea in a

covenant being a visible pledge for the fulfillment of a promise, the

necessity for such a guarantee on the present occasion, it is apparent, could

not lie with God. On the contrary, the proposal on the part of God to bind

Himself by a superadded engagement to implement His own gracious and

spontaneous promise was an explicit condescension, if not to the feebleness

of the patriarch’s faith, at least to the weakness of his human nature.

Perhaps the recollection of who Jehovah was, and what He had already

accomplished in bringing Abram from Ur, should have proved sufficient to

authenticate the promise; but it would almost seem as if human nature, in

its innocent no less than in its fallen state, instinctively craved the

assistance of external symbols to enable it to clearly apprehend and firmly

grasp the unseen and spiritual blessings that are wrapped up in God’s

promises. In the garden of Eden the tree of life was Adam’s sacramental

pledge of immortality; after the Flood the many-colored rainbow was a

sign to Noah; in the Hebrew Church material symbols of unseen verifies

were not wanting; while in the Christian Church the passover and

circumcision have been replaced by the Lord’s Supper and baptism. The

reasons that required the institution of these external signs may be held as

having necessitated the solemn ritual which was exhibited to Abram.




Ø      The sacrificial victims. Seeing that these were afterwards prescribed in

the Mosaic legislation, which itself was a shadow of the good things to

come, to be employed as propitiatory offerings, it is impossible not to

regard them, though not necessarily understood as such by Abram, as types

(not of Israel, Abram’s seed after the flesh simply, nor of the Church of

God generally, i.e. Abram’s seed according to the spirit, though perhaps

neither of these should be excluded, but) of Abram’s greater Seed whose

perfect, Divinely-appointed, and substitutionary sacrifice alone

constitutes the basis of the everlasting covenant.


Ø      The smoking furnace and the burning lamp. Compared with the smoke

and fire that afterwards appeared on Sinai when Jehovah descended to

covenant with Israel, and the pillar of cloud and fire that led the march of

Israel from Egypt, these at once suggest their own interpretation. They

were emblems of God’s presence, and may be viewed as suggesting


o        the combination of justice and mercy in the Divine character,


o        the twofold attitude in which the Deity exhibits Himself to men

according as they are His enemies or friends.


  • THE IMPORT OF THE COVENANT. Partly through visible sign,

partly in spiritual vision, partly by audible words, the patriarch was

instructed as to:


Ø      The objective basis of his own justification, which was neither personal

merit nor faith considered as an opus operatum, but the Divinely-appointed

sacrifice which God was graciously pleased to accept in propitiation for

human sin.


Ø      The true security for Gods fulfillment of the promise, which was not

any outward sign or token, but the everlasting covenant which in

mysterious symbol had been unfolded to him.


Ø      The interval of discipline allotted to the heirs of the land; for his

descendants three generations of exile, servitude, and affliction, to prepare

them for receiving Canaan in the fourth; and for himself a continual

sojourning, without a final settling within its borders; in both cases

emblematic of the saint’s experience after justification and before



Ø      The ultimate assumption of the inheritance by his seed — a Divine

voice solemnly foretelling their return from captivity, as it afterwards

declared that his spiritual descendants should be emancipated and brought

back to their celestial abode, and a Divine vision unfolding to his gaze the

wide extent of territory they should eventually possess — perhaps the

limits of the earthly land melting away, as his spirit stood entranced before

the gorgeous panorama, into the confines of THE BETTER COUNTRY!


Ø      His own certain passage to the heavenly Canaan, for which he was even

at that time looking — a promise which belongs individually to all who are

the children of Abram BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST!




1. The fullness of Divine blessing which the covenant contains.

2. The depth of Divine condescension which the covenant reveals.

3. The glorious securities which the covenant affords.




Faith (vs. 1-21)


The substance of this chapter is the special communion between Jehovah

and Abram. On that foundation faith rests. It is not feeling after God, if

haply He be found; it is a living confidence and obedience, based upon

revelation, promise, covenant, solemn ratification by signs, detailed

prediction of the future. God said, “I am thy shield and thy exceeding great

rewardi.e. I am with thee day by day as the God of providence; I will

abundantly bless thee hereafter. The promise of a numerous offspring, of

descendants like the stars for multitude, was not a merely temporal

promise, it was a spiritual blessing set in the framework of national

prosperity. Abram believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for

righteousness” (v. 6; compare Romans 4.; Galatians 3.; Hebrews 11.).



JEHOVAH, not merely in a word, or in a sign, or in a prospect, but

in the Lord.”



COVENANT. Faith on the one side, God dealing with a sinful creature as

righteous on the other. The elements of that bond are:


Ø      gracious acceptance,

Ø      gracious revelation,

Ø      gracious reward of obedience — in each case vouchsafed to



Thus the faith which justifies is the faith which sanctifies, for the

sanctification, as the Apostle Paul shows in Romans 8., is as truly the

outcome of the grace which accepts as the acceptance itself.





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