The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Genesis 15

Gen 15:1

Gen 15: Sacrifices of covenant: ie, Jer 34:18,19. The animals were divided, and the makers of the covenant met in the midst to agree on terms and eat together. Christ's sacrifice: the blood of the new covenant: Mat 26:26-29.

THE WORD OF THE LORD: The first time "the word of Yahweh" occurs in the Bible. See Eur 1:89-124.

DO NOT BE AFRAID (FEAR NOT): "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?" (1Pe 3:12,13).

SHIELD: "Magen": small shield, or buckler. Perh, fig, the sovereign, who is the "shield" of his people. First time used in Bible. God is our shield: 2Sa 22:3; Psa 3:3; 28:7; 33:20; 59:11; 84:9,11; 115:9-11; 119:114; 18:35...

REWARD: Ref back to the victory of Gen 14. The mention of "reward" turns Abraham's mind suddenly to God's previous promises: Gen 12,13.

Gen 15:2

SOVEREIGN LORD (LORD GOD): Adonai Yahweh = He who shall become the Lord, or ruler.

SINCE I REMAIN CHILDLESS: And knowing my "seed" will inherit land: Gen 13:15.

THE ONE WHO WILL INHERIT: "Steward" (AV). "The man who is over my house" -- from "ben (son) meshek (hold)".

ELIEZER: "Help of God". Did Abraham intend to help God by naming an heir?

Gen 15:3

AND ABRAM SAID: Even with no immediate answer, Abraham continues to pray.

A SERVANT (ONE BORN IN MY HOUSE)... WILL BE MY HEIR: Notice the close tribal or paternal relationship between master and servants (though not abject slaves). Eliezer was the designated heir, not such close relatives as Lot.

Gen 15:5

OUTSIDE: In the fields, not in the city. There he could find true communion with God.

STARS: An innumerable seed, ie Dan 12:3; Rev 1:20; Mat 13:43; Psa 147:4. Typ Christ the spiritual seed, in his heavenly exaltation to God's right hand (Eph 1:20; Phil 3:20; 1Pe 3:22; Act 3:21). Ct Gen 13:16: seed as sand.

"According to recent findings, the number of stars in the universe totals approximately 10 to the 23rd power (a number that also approximates the sum of the grains of sand on the seashores)" (Hugh Ross, "The Finger of God" 153).


"Our five-year-old granddaughter, Samantha, is quite a girl. She is bright, funny, loving, curious, and generous. She brings us great joy just by her very existence, and we are grateful to have such a wonderful young girl in our lives.

"One of her favorite things to do is lie out in the yard at night on a quilt, looking up at the stars with her daddy. A shooting star is something she has always wanted to see but she hasn't seen one yet. Her voice is sad but hopeful when she quietly says, 'Daddy has seen one, but I haven't -- not yet.' This morning my husband and I rose early to watch the Perseids meteor shower, predicted to be very visible and active between 2 am and dawn. We stood together quietly on the deck, listening to the insect and animal sounds that a night in the mountains brings. Staring up into the northeastern sky, I thought about Sam, and I also thought about Abraham.

"Abraham lived almost four thousand years ago, on the other side of the world from me, and yet I feel I know him. I read the stories of how he loved and trusted God, how he treated his family and servants, his enemies and friends. I have a picture of him in my mind.

"I thought of him because of what happened to him one clear, dark night out on the open rolling hills of Israel. He had a visitor, a heavenly messenger, who told him not to fear, that God was his shield and his very great reward. Abraham appreciated that, I am sure, what could be better? But Abraham admitted he was sad because he had no children, and at his death all his vast wealth and possessions would pass along to a servant in his household.

"The angel then took Abraham outside and said, 'Look up at the heavens and count the stars –- if you can count them.' Then he said, 'So shall your offspring be.' How thrilled he must have been! Incredulous, too, because he and his wife had been together a long time and were very old, past the normal time for a couple to have children. He believed God, though, and God gave him credit for his honorable, respectful goodness and belief.

"Though Abraham and his wife Sarah had to wait a long time to have a child together, they did have a son, Isaac, born when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90. Isaac married, had two sons, and those sons had children. So God kept His promise to Abraham that he would have children, grandchildren, and so on and on, even up until this day. His physical descendents through Isaac and Jacob -- one of Isaac's sons -- are the Jewish people. His physical descendents through another son, Ishmael, and the other of Isaac's sons, Esau, are the Arab nations.

"God also promised Abraham that since he was faithful in leaving his homeland in what is now Iraq and traveling to the land of Canaan, now known as Israel, as directed by God, that he and his descendents would inherit that land and possess it forever.

"Now here is where it really gets interesting, because it directly relates to you and me. In about the year 50, Paul wrote a letter to Christians who lived in Galatia, near modern Ankara, Turkey. He told them this amazing thing –- that all those years later, generation after generation, Abraham was still gaining descendents, even those who were not physically his offspring. How could this be?

"The promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed, Paul said, especially meaning Jesus, who lived two thousand years after his ancestor Abraham.

"Jesus was a descendent from Abraham, through one of Abraham's great-grandsons, Judah. But Jesus did not marry and have children, so how does this connect with us?

"We look to Paul again to explain what he meant. 'If you have been baptized into Christ, then you have clothed yourself with Christ...' he said. 'If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and an heir according to the promise.'

"To belong to Christ, we accept that he was and is the son of God who presented himself as a pure, living sacrifice, and that with his blood he purchased men and women for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. After baptism, symbolizing our regret for our shortcomings, and recognition that we need to follow Jesus in dying to this life, we rise up joyfully to a new life. Belonging to Christ, we are adopted into his 'family' as heirs to the promises. We are become one of Abraham's multitudinous offspring -- one of those many stars he looked up at so long ago, and marveled, 'I'm going to have that many descendents -- incredible!'

"I have made that decision, to be one belonging to Christ, and thus am one of Abraham's children. And so, as I looked up at that brilliant sky this morning, I thought to myself, 'by the grace of God and the love of Christ, I am one of those stars you love so much, Sam –- your grandmother is one of those stars!' " (Sharee Grazda).

Gen 15:6

BELIEVED: Lit, "rested upon". Lesson: Rom 4:18-23. Complete belief shown later, in sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22): cp Jam 2:21. Also, Rom 10:17; Heb 11:1.

CREDITED IT TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS: Said of only two men: Abraham and Phinehas (Psa 106:30,31). God could have determined that other aspects of Abram's life (such as good works) be reckoned as righteousness, but he chose to look upon "faith" in that way. The reasons: (a) True faith is a harder thing to manifest than are good works. Good works depend on self, on that which is seen, whereas faith does not. (b) Faith depends on God and sees the invisible as more real than what is seen with the literal eyes (2Co 4:18). And (c) faith glorifies God as the one who fulfills His promises, whereas works tend to glorify the doer of the works. See Elp 259,260.

Gen 15:7

Separation for a purpose!

Gen 15:8

Abraham has already believed (v 6): "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." Requests for such signs are not inconsistent with the conviction of faith: Gen 24:13,14; Jdg 6:17,27; 1Sa 14:9,10; Psa 18:17; Isa 7:1-13; Luk 1:18.

Apparently Abraham's request was acceptable, because God does not castigate him for the question but instead confirms it (vv 18-21) and gives Abraham other promises (vv 13-16). God at other times has acted in the same way toward his servants.

All sacrifices point to Christ, who confirmed the Abraham covenant with his death.

Gen 15:9

HEIFER: See Num 19: the red heifer. Ashes... water of separation... cleansing, purification.

GOAT: The day of atonement: the scapegoat (Lev 16).

RAM: Used for burnt offering (Lev 1:2). Exod 28: at consecration of priesthood.

THREE YEARS: The age of maturity, vigor. The animals were all cut off in their prime. The killing of these animals pointed to Christ's death; Jesus was put to death in his prime, and after approx three years of ministry.

DOVE (TURTLEDOVE)... PIGEON: Burnt offerings for the poor: Lev 1:14.

Gen 15:10

From an ancient custom of sealing covenants: 2 pieces = 2 parties to covenant; worthy of death if break covenant. Carcasses = our bodies and lives, divided so that the fire (God's spirit and purpose) may more easily reach each part (cp Heb 4:12; Rom 12;1,2). The covenant: Heb 9:16n.

Gen 15:11

BIRDS OF PREY (FOWLS): Repr Gentile nations: Dan 4:12; Eze 39:17. Who would thwart God's plan if possible.

CARCASSES: Repr Israel: Mat 24:28.

ABRAM DROVE THEM AWAY: Protecting the sacrifices. Abraham is willing to help in any way possible to forward God's purpose.

"Shall not we chase from our meditations those worldly and sinful thoughts which defile both our minds and the sacred themes upon which we are occupied? Away, ye birds of evil wing! Leave the sacrifice alone!" (CHS).

Gen 15:12

AS THE SUN WAS SETTING: The time of Christ's death (Mar 15:33,34,42), as the Passover lamb (Exo 12:6). Mat 27:45: from the 6th to 9th hour.

ABRAM FELL INTO A DEEP SLEEP: This was probably done to teach Abram the lesson that the promises of vv 5,7 would only be fulfilled after he died and when he was resurrected (cp Dan 10:9-11; 8:18; Rev 1:17). Also, Adam was put to sleep so that Eve, his bride, could be taken from his side. This pointed to the redeemed ecclesia, the Bride of Christ, being formed after "the last Adam" died.

DREADFUL DARKNESS (HORROR OF GREAT DARKNESS): Psa 55:3,4: "At the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me." Terror of death, oppression by Egyptians.

Gen 15:13

It was not in Canaan that Abraham's seed would develop into a great nation, but rather in another country (Egypt). Cp saints, developed into a great nation in "Egypt" before entering the Land of Promise.

FOUR HUNDRED YEARS: The sojourning of Abraham's descendants (from the call of their ancestor) was 400 years (including Abraham's own sojourning: Heb 11:8,9). From call of Abraham to birth of Isaac = 25 years (Gen 12:4; 21:5). Isaac at 5 years was mocked by Ishmael (Gen 21:8,9). Affliction begins, and 400 years begin (Gal 4:29). Thus 430 - 30 = 400 years sojourning of Abraham's seed: cp Exo 12:40; Act 7:6; Gal 3 :16,17.

Gen 15:16

IN THE FOURTH GENERATION: Jacob, Levi, Amram, Moses. During the same period, Joshua had approx 12 generations: 1Ch 7:20-27.

THE SIN... HAS NOT YET REACHED ITS FULL MEASURE (THE INIQUITY... IS NOT YET FULL): Through the longsuffering of God the Amorites (which probably included the nations listed in vv 19-21) were given time to repent, and if they did not, God's judgment would come. The 4 generations from the time Abraham died were probably Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Moses. Finally the curse came upon the Amorites, etc. in the words of God through Moses in Deu 20:16-18, demonstrating that they had not changed. Ct Rev 14:15: "Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, 'Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.' "

Why the Amorites especially? Was it because Abraham was then dwelling in the territory specifically inhabited by this tribe (Gen 14:13)?

"Man is in such a rush. God is not. 'Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.' God does not execute His work speedily. Because he does not, many are led to thinking that He is dead. God told Abraham that the 'iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.' When it was full, and it took hundreds and hundreds of years for it to happen, God sent His children into the promised land under the leadership of Joshua. Evidently the iniquity of the Gentiles is not yet full, but when it is, God will bring His children into the promised land under the leadership of Jesus. In the meantime those who are not wise think that God is either dead or doesn't care" (MM).

Gen 15:17

WHEN THE SUN HAD SET: "The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them" (Mic 3:6). The ratifying death of Christ the Sun (Mal 4:12). Cp v 12.

FIREPOT (SMOKING FURNACE): Sym purification through fire.

BLAZING TORCH (BURNING LAMP): Sym God's Spirit: Exo 3:2,3; Jdg 13:20. God's salvation: Isa 62:1; Rev 4:8. Quite likely the "flaming torch" was the Shekinah Glory of God, revealed elsewhere as the pillar of fire (Exo 14:24, etc). The cutting open of animals, after which some object or person passed between the pieces, was a normal way to sig a covenant. Here the Glory of God passed between the parts, showing that it was a one-sided covenant. God was giving and Abram the receiving (although later on Abram did have a part to do -- Gen 17:10). This normal process of making a covenant is spoken of in Jer 34:18,19.

BETWEEN THE PIECES: God only passed thru the parts. Abraham did not. Thus, the covenant was unconditional on Abraham's part. It was God who promised.

Gen 15:18

MADE: Lit "cut" (Heb "karath"): cp Jer 34:18,19.

RIVER (of Egypt): "Nachar" = river, flood, sea, stream (esp Nile) (Strong). Cp Gen 2:13,14; Exo 7. Nsw as "river (nachal) of Egypt" = Wadi el Arish, a (narrow) valley in Sinai (Strong). These are not bounds of land under Joshua: cp Eze 47:13-21 with Jos 23:4n. Jews' inheritance in national era, based on law at Horeb, not covenant here: Deu 28:1-14; 5:3. (Also see FLD 299; Eur 1:183; Elp 237-249.)

Gen 15:19

Note: 10 nations (cp Rev 17:10-12; Psa 83; Est 9:10). Cp also Gen 10:15-18. See Lesson, Arena of Bible history and prophecy.

KENITES: "Striker, smith". ie Jethro (Jdg 1:16). Perh itinerant smiths of Edom (Num 24:20). Some lived in s Judah in David's time (1Sa 30:29).

KENIZZITES: "Hunter", lived in mountain Seir, subject to Edomites (Deu 2:12). Othniel and Caleb in Josh 15:17.

KADMONITES: "Ancient, eastern".

Gen 15:20

HITTITES: "To break down, abolish". A great empire, c 1800 BC, rivaled Syria in Asia Minor. An oriental people. Impressed by Solomon: 1Ki 9:20.

PERIZZITES: "Tribesman". Wanderers whom Solomon impressed (1Ki 9:20). Cp Gen 13:7.

REPHAITES: "Giant". Dwelt near Jordan (Gen 14:5), later among Philistines (2Sa 21:16,18).

Gen 15:21

AMORITES: "Prominent, boaster". From Palestine to Mesopotamia; then at Dead Sea (Gen 14:7) and later throughout Israel. Made peace with Samuel (1Sa 7:14), and served Solomon (1Ki 9:20).

CANAANITES: "Merchant". Doomed to destruction (Deu 20:17), but simply put to tribute (Jdg 1:27-36).

GIRGASHITES: Cp Mar 5:1n. Sig "driven out".

JEBUSITES: "Trodden, trampled". Mountain tribe (Num 13:29) at Jerusalem, defeated by Joshua (Jos 10:23), but returned (Jdg 1:21).

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