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.
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(1) After these things.—After the war with Chedorlaomer.

The word of the Lord came (Heb., was) unto Abram.—This phrase, used so constantly afterwards to signify revelation, occurs here for the first time. The revelation on this occasion is made by night (Genesis 15:5), not however in a dream, but in a trance, in which the senses of Abram were closed to all earthly impressions and he became passive in the hands of the Almighty. Up to this time Abram had received only general promises of offspring, and of the land being the possession of his seed; but years were passing by, and the fulfilment of his hopes remained distant as ever. By the war with the Elamite king he had also made for himself powerful enemies; and though the immediate result was fortunate, yet many Canaanite nations may have witnessed with displeasure so remarkable an exhibition of the power and energy of an “immigrant.” And thus the time had come when the patriarch needed and obtained more formal assurances, first, of the bestowal upon him of offspring (Genesis 15:1-6), and, secondly, of the future possession of Palestine (Genesis 15:18-21).



Genesis 15:1


Abram was now apparently about eighty-five years old. He had been fourteen years in Palestine, and had, for the only time in his life, quite recently been driven to have recourse to arms against a formidable league of northern kings, whom, after a swift forced march from the extreme south to the extreme north of the land, he had defeated. He might well fear attack from their overwhelmingly superior forces. So this vision, like all God’s words, fits closely to moments needs, but is also for all time and all men.

1. The call to conquer fear.

Fear not.-{a} There is abundant reason for fear in facts of life. There are so many certain evils, and so many possible evils, that any man who is not a feather-brained fool must sometimes quail.

{b} Reasons for fear in our relations to divine law.

{c} The only rational way of conquering fears is by showing them to be unfounded. It is waste of breath to say, Don’t be afraid, and to do nothing to remove the occasions of fear. It is childish to try to get rid of fears by shutting the eyes tight and refusing to look formidable facts in the face.

{d} The revelation of God is the true antidote to fear.

{e} ‘Fear not’ is the characteristic word of divine revelation. It is of frequent occurrence from Abraham till John in Patmos.

2. The ground of the call in the Revelation of God as Shield.

{a} As to outward evils, His protection assures us, not of absolute exemption, but of His entire control of them, so that men and circumstances are His instruments, and His will only is powerful. Chedorlaomer and all the allied kings are nothing; ‘a noise,’ as the prophet said of a later conqueror. All the bitterness and terror is taken out of evil. If any fiery dart pass through the shield, all its poison is wiped off in passage. So there remains no reason for fear, since all things work together for good. Behind that shield we are safe as diver in his bell, though seas rave and sea-monsters swim around.

{b} As to inward evils, our Shield assures us of absolute exemption. ‘Shield of faith.’ Faith is shield because it takes hold of God’s strength.

3. The ground of the call in the Revelation of God as Reward. Abraham had refused all share in booty, a large sacrifice, and here he is promised, A Reward in God, i.e. He gives Himself in recompense for all sacrifices in path of duty. ‘The Lord is able to give thee much more than these.’ This promise opens out to general truth that God Himself is the true reward of a devout life. There are many recompenses for all sacrifices for God, some of them outward and material, some of them inward and spiritual, but the reward which surpasses all others is that by such sacrifices we attain to greater capacity for God, and therefore possess more of Him. This is the only Reward worth thinking of-God only satisfies the soul. With Him we are rich; without Him poor; ‘exceeding great’-’riches in glory,’ transcending all measure. The revelations of God as Shield and Reward are both given in reference to the present life, but the former applies only to earth, where ‘without are fighters, within are fears’; while ‘the latter is mainly true for heaven, where those who have fought, having God for their Shield, will possess Him for their Reward, in a measure and manner which will make all earthly experiences seem poor. Here the ‘heirs of God’ get subsistence money, which is a small instalment of their inheritance; there they enter into possession of it all.


Many years have passed since Abram was called to go forth from his father’s house, assured that God would make of him a great nation. They had been years of growing power. He has been dwelling at Mamre, as a prince among the people of the land, a power. There sweeps down on Southern Palestine the earliest of those invasions from the vast plains of the North which afterwards for generations were the standing dread of Abram’s descendants. Like the storm pillars in their own deserts, are these wild marauders with the wild names that never appear again in the history. Down on the rich valleys and peaceful pasture lands they swoop for booty, not for conquest. Like some sea-bird, they snatch their prey and away. They carry with them among the long train of captives Abram’s ungenerous brother-in-law, Lot. Then the friend of God, the father of the faithful, musters his men, like an Arab sheikh as he was, and swiftly follows the track of the marauders over the hills of Samaria, and across the plain of Jezreel. The night falls, and down he swoops upon them and scatters them. Coming back he had interviews with the King of Sodom, when he refuses to take any of the spoil, and with Melchizedek. Abram is back at Mamre. How natural that fear and depression should seize him: the reaction from high excitement; the dread that from the swarming East vengeance would come for his success in that night surprise; the thought that if it did, he was a wandering stranger in a strange land and could not count on allies. Then there would come, perhaps, the remembrance of how long God had delayed the very beginnings of the fulfilment, ‘Seeing I go childless.’

To this mood of mind the divine vision is addressed. ‘Fear not-I am thy shield’ whatever force comes against thee, ‘and thine exceeding great reward,’-perhaps in reference to his refusal to take anything from the spoil. But God says this to us all. In these antique words the very loftiest and purest principles of spiritual religion are set forth.

He that loves and trusts God possesses God.

He that possesses God has enough for earth.

He that possesses God has enough for heaven.

1. It is possible for a man to have God for his. ‘I am thy Reward,’-not merely Rewarder, but Reward.

How can one spiritual Being belong to another?-plainly, By mutual love.

The Gospel assures us of God’s love, and makes it possible for ours to be fixed on Him.

Faith gives us God for ours.

The highest view of the blessings of the Gospel is that God Himself becomes our reward.

How sad the insanity of men appears, in the ordinary aims of their life, its rewards and its objects of desire! How they chase after variety!

How much loftier and truer a conception of the blessing of religion this is than notions of mere escape and the like!

2. The possession of God is enough for earth.

God the all-sufficient object for our spirits, His love, the communication of Himself, the sense of His presence, the depths of His infinite character, of His wondrous ways, of His revealed Truth as an object for thought: of His authoritative will as imperative for will and conscience: aspiration towards Him.

God the Eternal Object.

To find Him in everything, and everything in Him, is to be at rest.

This is what He promises-

Not a life of outward success and ease-much nobler than if He did.

Take Abram’s as a type.

In war He will be our Defence.

In absence of other joys He will be Enough.

Sphered and included in Him is all sweetness. He sustains all relations, and does for us what these other joys and goods partially do.

The possession of His love should put away all fear, since having Him we are not at the mercy of externals.

What, then, is Life as men ordinarily make it?-what a blunder!

3. To possess God is enough for heaven.

Such a relationship is the great proof of immortality.

Christ and Sadducees.

The true glory of heaven is in fuller possession of God: no doubt other things, but these subsidiary.

The Reward is God.

The idea of recompense ample and full for all sorrow.

More than adequate wages for all work.

That final reward will show how wise the wanderer was, who left his father’s house and ‘looked for a city.’ God is not ashamed to be called their God.

Christ comes to us-offers Himself.

Think of how rich with Him, and oh, think of how poor without Him!

Which will you have on earth?

Which will you have in another world?

Genesis 15:1. After these things — 1st, After that act of generous charity which Abram had done, in rescuing his neighbours, God made him this gracious visit. 2d, After that victory which he had obtained over four kings: lest Abram should be too much elevated with that, God comes to tell him he had better things in store for him. The word of the Lord came unto Abram — That is, God manifested himself to Abram; in a vision — Which supposes that Abram was awake, and had some sensible token of the presence of the divine glory saying, Fear not, Abram — Abram might fear lest the four kings he had routed should rally and fall upon him. No, saith God, fear not: fear not their revenge, nor thy neighbours’ envy; I will take care of thee. I am thy shield — Or, emphatically, I am a shield to thee, present with thee, actually defending thee. The consideration of this, that God himself is a shield to his people, to secure them from all destructive evils, a shield “ready to them,” and a shield “round about them,” should silence all perplexing fears. And thy exceeding great reward — Not only thy rewarder, but thy reward. God himself is the felicity of holy souls; he is the “portion of their inheritance, and their cup.”

15:1 God assured Abram of safety and happiness; that he should for ever be safe. I am thy shield; or, I am a shield to thee, present with thee, actually caring for thee. The consideration that God himself is, and will be a shield to his people, to secure them from all evils, a shield ready to them, and a shield round about them, should silence all perplexing, tormenting fears.After these things, - - the victory, the blessing, and the self-denial recorded in the previous chapter. "The word of the Lord," manifesting himself by speech to his servant. "In the vision" the intelligent observer passes from the merely sensible to the supersensible sphere of reality. "Fear not, Abram." The patriarch had some reason to fear. The formidable allies had indeed been defeated, and the fruits of their marauding enterprise wrested from them. But they might resume their purpose, and return with an overwhelming force. And Abram was still a stranger in a foreign land, preoccupied by tribes of another race, who would combine against him as soon as they suspected him of being an intruder. But the Lord had stood by him and given him the victory, and now speaks to him in the language of encouragement. "I am thy shield, thy exceeding great reward." The word I is separately expressed, and, therefore, emphatic in the original.

I, Jehovah (Yahweh), the Self-existent One, the Author of existence, the Performer of promise, the Manifester of myself to man, and not any creature however exalted. This was something beyond a seed, or a land, or any temporal thing. The Creator infinitely transcends the creature. The mind of Abram is here lifted up to the spiritual and the eternal. (1) thy shield. (2) thy exceeding great reward. Abram has two fears - the presence of evil, and the absence of good. Experience and conscience had begun to teach him that both of these were justly his doom. But Yahweh has chosen him, and here engages himself to stand between him and all harm, and himself to be to him all good. With such a shield from all evil, and such a source of all good, he need not be afraid. The Lord, we see, begins, as usual, with the immediate and the tangible; but he propounds a principle that reaches to the eternal and the spiritual. We have here the opening germ of the great doctrine of "the Lord our righteousness," redeeming us on the one hand from the sentence of death, and on the other to a title to eternal life.


Ge 15:1-21. Divine Encouragement.

1. After these things—the conquest of the invading kings.

the word of the Lord—a phrase used, when connected with a vision, to denote a prophetic message.

Fear not, Abram—When the excitement of the enterprise was over, he had become a prey to despondency and terror at the probable revenge that might be meditated against him. To dispel his fear, he was favored with this gracious announcement. Having such a promise, how well did it become him (and all God's people who have the same promise) to dismiss fears, and cast all burdens on the Lord (Ps 27:3).A comfortable promise to Abram, Genesis 15:1. His prayer for an heir, Genesis 15:2,3. The promise of an answer to his prayer, Genesis 15:4,5. Abram’s faith, Genesis 15:6. He desires a sign, Genesis 15:7,8. God gives him one, Genesis 15:9. He observes it, Genesis 15:10,11. God appears to him when in a deep sleep, Genesis 15:12. A prediction of evil to befall his posterity, Genesis 15:13. Their deliverance, Genesis 15:14-16. The covenant concerning Canaan renewed, Genesis 15:17-21.

God anciently revealed himself to men two ways; either,

1. When the man was asleep, in a dream; or,

2. In a vision, Numbers 12:6, when he was awake: and this either,

1. When he was rapt into an ecstasy, wherein his senses are idle, but his mind is active and elevated to the contemplation and understanding of what God reveals. See Numbers 12:6-8 24:4 Isaiah 1:1 Acts 10:10,11. Or,

2. When the thing was manifested by an external representation. So here, God seems to have appeared to Abram in the shape of a man, as he did Genesis 18:1-33, as may be gathered from Genesis 15:5,10.

Fear not, Abram; neither the return of those enemies whom thou hast smitten and provoked, nor the envy of thy neighbours for this glorious victory, nor for thy own desolate condition. Seeing thou didst trust to my protection, I will be a shield or a protector to thee; and seeing thou didst so honourably and for my sake reject other rewards, taken by thyself, and offered by the king of Sodom, thou shalt be no loser by it; I will abundantly recompense all thy piety to me, and charity to thy afflicted kinsman Lot, and thy liberality towards others: I will bless thee with all sorts of good things, as well as defend thee from all evil; which two things make a man completely happy.

After these things,.... The battle of the kings, the captivity of Lot, the rescue of him and his goods, and of those of Sodom and Gomorrah by Abram, and the conversation that passed between him, and the kings of Sodom and Salem:

the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision; Christ, the essential Word, appeared to Abram in an human form, visible to him, and with an articulate voice spoke unto him:

saying, as follows:

fear not, Abram; calling him by his name, the more to encourage him, and to dissipate his fears to which he was subject; which might be, lest the nations that belonged to the four kings he had conquered and slain should recruit their armies, and come against him with greater force; and the brethren and relations of those he had slain should avenge themselves on him, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem suggest; and therefore the Lord bids him not give way to those fears, for, adds he:

I am thy shield; to protect him against all his enemies, be they ever so strong and numerous; as Christ is the shield of his people against all their spiritual enemies, sin, Satan, and the world, which being held up in the hand of faith, called therefore the shield of faith, is a security against them:

and thy exceeding great reward; though he had generously refused taking any reward for the service he had done in pursuing the kings, and slaughtering them, and bringing back the persons and goods they had took away; yet he should be no loser by it, the Lord would reward him in a way of grace with greater and better things; nay, he himself would be his reward, and which must be a great one, an exceeding great one; as Christ is to his people in his person, offices, and grace, all being theirs, and he all in all to them; all the blessings of grace and glory coming along with him, and he being their portion here and hereafter, to all eternity; for since he is theirs, all are theirs, all things appertaining to life and godliness, and eternal life itself.

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.
1–6. The Promise of an Heir

1. After these things] A vague note of time. Cf. Genesis 22:1; Genesis 22:20; Genesis 40:1; Genesis 48:1.

the word of the Lord] i.e. the word of Jehovah, as in Genesis 15:4. This is a technical expression in the O.T. for a Divine revelation to a prophet. It occurs nowhere else in the Pentateuch. It suggests the prophetic character of Abram, and should be compared with Genesis 20:7 (E), where Abram is spoken of as a prophet.

in a vision] Evidently, as is shewn by Genesis 15:5, the vision occurs in a dream, or in the condition described in Numbers 24:3-4; cf. Job 4:13, “in thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men.”

Fear not] The situation requiring this particular encouragement is not described. Abram, alone, childless, surrounded with foreigners, is not a coward, but is tempted, at times of depression, to fear that there is to be no fulfilment of the promise.

thy shield] A poetical simile of frequent occurrence, e.g. Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalm 3:3; Proverbs 2:7, “He is a shield to them that walk in integrity”; Genesis 30:5, “He is a shield unto them that trust in him.”

and thy exceeding great reward] So the Lat. et merces tua magna nimis. But R.V. marg. thy reward shall be exceeding great is preferable. So the LXX. That for which Abram shall be rewarded is his trust.

Verse 1. - 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; 1 Samuel 3:1; Psalm 33:6, et passim). 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 (cf. Vers. 5, 7, 9, 13, 14, &c.). At least the expression denotes "the Lord manifesting himself by speech to his servant" (Murphy; vide Genesis 1:3) - came (literally, was) unto Abram in a vision - a night vision, but no dream (vide Ver. 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 (Numbers 24:4, 16, 17). Saying, Fear not, Abram. With allusion, doubtless, to the patriarch's mental dejection, which was probably occasioned by the natural re action consequent upon his late high-pitched excitement (cf. 1 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; cf. St. John's vision, Revelation 4:1). I am thy shield, and thy exceed lag great reward. Literally, thy reward, exceeding abundantly, the hiphil inf. abs. הַרְבֵּה being always used adverbially (cf. Nehemiah 2:2; Nehemiah 3:33), The other rendering, "thy reward m exceeding great" (LXX., Rosenmüller, Delitzsch, Ewald), fails to give prominence to the thought that the patriarch's reward was to be the all-sufficient Jehovah himself. It is not needful to suppose with Lange an actual vision of a shield and treasure. Genesis 15:1The words of Jehovah run thus: "Fear not, Abram: I am a shield to thee, thy reward very much." הרבּה an inf. absol., generally used adverbially, but here as an adjective, equivalent to "thy very great reward." The divine promise to be a shield to him, that is to say, a protection against all enemies, and a reward, i.e., richly to reward his confidence, his ready obedience, stands here, as the opening words "after these things" indicate, in close connection with the previous guidance of Abram. Whilst the protection of his wife in Egypt was a practical pledge of the possibility of his having a posterity, and the separation of Lot, followed by the conquest of the kings of the East, was also a pledge of the possibility of his one day possessing the promised land, there was as yet no prospect whatever of the promise being realized, that he should become a great nation, and possess an innumerable posterity. In these circumstances, anxiety about the future might naturally arise in his mind. To meet this, the word of the Lord came to him with the comforting assurance, "Fear not, I am thy shield." But when the Lord added, "and thy very great reward," Abram could only reply, as he thought of his childless condition: "Lord Jehovah, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless?" Of what avail are all my possessions, wealth, and power, since I have no child, and the heir of my house is Eliezer the Damascene? משׁק, synonymous with ממשׁק (Zephaniah 2:9), possession, or the seizure of possession, is chosen on account of its assonance with דּמּשׂק. בּן־משׁק, son of the seizing of possession equals seizer of possession, or heir. Eliezer of Damascus (lit., Damascus viz., Eliezer): Eliezer is an explanatory apposition to Damascus, in the sense of the Damascene Eliezer; though דּמּשׂק, on account of its position before אליעזר, cannot be taken grammatically as equivalent to דּמּשׂקי.

(Note: The legend of Abram having been king in Damascus appears to have originated in this, though the passage before us does not so much as show that Abram obtained possession of Eliezer on his way through Damascus.)

To give still more distinct utterance to his grief, Abram adds (Genesis 15:3): "Behold, to me Thou hast given no seed; and lo, an inmate of my house (בּן־בּיתי in distinction from יליד־בּית, home-born, Genesis 14:14) will be my heir." The word of the Lord then came to him: "Not he, but one who shall come forth from thy body, he will be thine heir." God then took him into the open air, told him to look up to heaven, and promised him a posterity as numerous as the innumerable host of stars (cf. Genesis 22:17; Genesis 24:4; Exodus 32:13, etc.). Whether Abram at this time was "in the body or out of the body," is a matter of no moment. The reality of the occurrence is the same in either case. This is evident from the remark made by Moses (the historian) as to the conduct of Abram in relation to the promise of God: "And he believed in Jehovah, and He counted it to him for righteousness." In the strictly objective character of the account in Genesis, in accordance with which the simple facts are related throughout without any introduction of subjective opinions, this remark appears so striking, that the question naturally arises, What led Moses to introduce it? In what way did Abram make known his faith in Jehovah? And in what way did Jehovah count it to him as righteousness? The reply to both questions must not be sought in the New Testament, but must be given or indicated in the context. What reply did Abram make on receiving the promise, or what did he do in consequence? When God, to confirm the promise, declared Himself to be Jehovah, who brought him out of Ur of the Chaldees to give him that land as a possession, Abram replied, "Lord, whereby shall I know that I shall possess it?" God then directed him to "fetch a heifer of three years old," etc.; and Abram fetched the animals required, and arranged them (as we may certainly suppose, thought it is not expressly stated) as God had commanded him. By this readiness to perform what God commanded him, Abram gave a practical proof that he believed Jehovah; and what God did with the animals so arranged was a practical declaration on the part of Jehovah, that He reckoned this faith to Abram as righteousness.

The significance of the divine act is, finally, summed up in Genesis 15:18, in the words, "On that day Jehovah made a covenant with Abram." Consequently Jehovah reckoned Abram's faith to him as righteousness, by making a covenant with him, by taking Abram into covenant fellowship with Himself. האמין, from אמן to continue and the preserve, to be firm and to confirm, in Hiphil to trust, believe (πιστεύσιν), expresses "that state of mind which is sure of its object, and relies firmly upon it;" and as denoting conduct towards God, as "a firm, inward, personal, self-surrendering reliance upon a personal being, especially upon the source of all being," it is construed sometimes with ל (e.g., Deuteronomy 9:23), but more frequently with בּ (Numbers 14:11; Numbers 20:12; Deuteronomy 1:32), "to believe the Lord," and "to believe on the Lord," to trust in Him, - πιστεύειν ἐπὶ τὸν Θεόν, as the apostle has more correctly rendered the ἐπίστευσεν τῷ Θεῷ of the lxx (vid., Romans 4:5). Faith therefore is not merely assensus, but fiducia also, unconditional trust in the Lord and His word, even where the natural course of events furnishes no ground for hope or expectation. This faith Abram manifested, as the apostle has shown in Romans 4; and this faith God reckoned to him as righteousness by the actual conclusion of a covenant with him. צדקה, righteousness, as a human characteristic, is correspondence to the will of God both in character and conduct, or a state answering to the divine purpose of a man's being. This was the state in which man was first created in the image of God; but it was lost by sin, through which he placed himself in opposition to the will of God and to his own divinely appointed destiny, and could only be restored by God. When the human race had universally corrupted its way, Noah alone was found righteous before God (Genesis 7:1), because he was blameless and walked with God (Genesis 6:9). This righteousness Abram acquired through his unconditional trust in the Lord, his undoubting faith in His promise, and his ready obedience to His word. This state of mind, which is expressed in the words בּיהוה האמין, was reckoned to him as righteousness, so that God treated him as a righteous man, and formed such a relationship with him, that he was placed in living fellowship with God. The foundation of this relationship was laid in the manner described in Genesis 15:7-11.

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