|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
15:7-11 Assurance was given to Abram of the land of Canaan for an inheritance. God never promises more than he is able to perform, as men often do. Abram did as God commanded him. He divided the beasts in the midst, according to the ceremony used in confirming covenants, Jer 34:18,19. Having prepared according to God's appointment, he set himself to wait for the sign God might give him. A watch must be kept upon our spiritual sacrifices. When vain thoughts, like these fowls, come down upon our sacrifices, we must drive them away, and seek to attend on God without distraction.
Verse 11. - And when the fowls - literally, and the bird of prey, a collective singular with the article, as in Genesis 14:13, symbolizing the Egyptians and other adversaries of Israel, as in Ezekiel 17:3, 7, 12; Ezekiel 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 (vide supra). 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 LXX. interpolates, ἐπὶ τὰ διχοτομήματα), 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; cf. 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 (Murphy).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And when the fowls came down upon the carcasses,.... Upon the birds, as Aben Ezra and Ben Melech interpret it, whose carcasses were whole; or rather upon the divided carcasses of the animals, and indeed on both: this is to be understood of birds of prey, as eagles, vultures, kites, crows, &c. and are an emblem of the Egyptians chiefly, and other enemies of Israel, who came upon them to devour them; so the Targum of Jonathan,"and the idolatrous nations descended, who were like to an unclean fowl, to spoil the goods of the Israelites;''and likewise the Targum of Jerusalem,"this unclean fowl are the idolatrous kingdoms of the earth:"
Abram drove them away: that they might not settle upon the carcasses, and devour them: the Septuagint version is, "Abram sat with them"; he sat by the carcasses and watched them, that no hurt came to them, and to take notice of them, and consider and learn what they were an emblem of. The Jews (l) also observe, that"Abram sat and waved over them with his napkin or handkerchief, that the birds might not have power over them until the evening.''This may respect not the merit of Abram, as the above Targums, by which his posterity were protected, and the designs of their enemies frustrated; but the effectual fervent prayer of Abram, his prayer of faith for them, in answer to which they were delivered out of the hands of the Egyptians, and other enemies, whom Abram foresaw they would be distressed with.
(l) Pirke Eliezer, ut supra. (c. 28)
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