Genesis 15:11
And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.
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(11) And when the fowls . . . —Heb., And the birds of prey came down upon the carcases, and Abram scared them away. Had there been a sacrifice the fire would have kept the vultures from approaching; but the bodies lay exposed, and Abram therefore kept guard over them, lest the purpose of the ceremonial should be frustrated by any want of respect shown to the outward symbols.

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.The Lord next confirms and explains the promise of "the land" to Abram. When God announces himself as Yahweh, who purposed to give him the land, Abram asks, Whereby "shall I know that I shall possess it?" He appears to expect some intimation as to the time and mode of entering upon possession. The Lord now directs him to make ready the things requisite for entering into a formal covenant regarding the land. These include all the kinds of animals afterward used in sacrifice. The number three is sacred, and denotes the perfection of the victim in point of maturity. The division of the animals refers to the covenant between two parties, who participate in the rights which it guarantees. The birds are two without being divided. "Abram drove them away." As the animals slain and divided represent the only mean and way through which the two parties can meet in a covenant of peace, they must be preserved pure and unmutilated for the end they have to serve.9-21. Take me an heifer, &c.—On occasions of great importance, when two or more parties join in a compact, they either observe precisely the same rites as Abram did, or, where they do not, they invoke the lamp as their witness. According to these ideas, which have been from time immemorial engraven on the minds of Eastern people, the Lord Himself condescended to enter into covenant with Abram. The patriarch did not pass between the sacrifice and the reason was that in this transaction he was bound to nothing. He asked a sign, and God was pleased to give him a sign, by which, according to Eastern ideas, He bound Himself. In like manner God has entered into covenant with us; and in the glory of the only-begotten Son, who passed through between God and us, all who believe have, like Abram, a sign or pledge in the gift of the Spirit, whereby they may know that they shall inherit the heavenly Canaan. The fowls came to devour them; whereby is signified, either,

1. The disturbance and distraction which good men are exposed to in the service of God from evil spirits and men; or rather,

2. The great peril of Abram’s posterity, who were not only torn in pieces like these sacrifices, but even the remainder of them were likely to be devoured by the Egyptians, whose king is compared to an eagle, the chief of the birds of prey, Ezekiel 17:1-24.

Abram drove them away by the blast of his mouth, as the Hebrew word signifies; representing Abram’s conquest over all his enemies by faith and prayer, whereby he engaged God to be the Preserver and Deliverer of his people.

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)

And when the fowls came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
11. And the birds of prey, &c.] The birds of prey, regarded as unclean, swooping down threatened to carry off the pieces of flesh. This would have interrupted the ceremony with an evil omen, polluted the sacrifice, and impaired the covenant. Abram drives away the birds of ill omen. In the context, these birds evidently symbolized the Egyptians, who threatened, by enslaving Israel in Egypt, to frustrate the fulfilment of the Divine promise to the seed of Abram. The chasing away of the birds typified the surmounting of all obstacles.

The LXX συνεκάθισεν αὐτοῖς = “he sat with them” for “he drove them away” (reading vay-yêsheb ittâm for vay-yasshêb ôthâm) is a strange example of the mistakes arising from Hebrew writing without vowel points.

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). Genesis 15:11"Then birds of prey (העיט with the article, as Genesis 14:13) came down upon the carcases, and Abram frightened them away." The birds of prey represented the foes of Israel, who would seek to eat up, i.e., exterminate it. And the fact that Abram frightened them away was a sign, that Abram's faith and his relation to the Lord would preserve the whole of his posterity from destruction, that Israel would be saved for Abram's sake (Psalm 105:42).
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