Genesis 15:13
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;
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(13) Four hundred years.—The exact duration of the sojourn in Egypt was 430 years (Exodus 12:40-41), and with this agrees the genealogy of Jehoshua (1Chronicles 7:23-27).

Genesis 15:13. Thy seed shall be strangers — So they were in Canaan first, Psalm 105:12, and afterward in Egypt: before they were lords of their own land, they were strangers in a strange land. The inconveniences of an unsettled state make a happy settlement the more welcome. Thus the heirs of heaven are first strangers on earth. And they shall serve them — So they did the Egyptians, Exodus 1:13. See how that which was the doom of the Canaanites, Genesis 9:25, proves the distress of Abram’s seed: they are made to serve; but with this difference, the Canaanites serve under a curse, the Hebrews under a blessing. And they shall afflict them — See Exodus 1:11. Those that are blessed and beloved of God are often afflicted by wicked men. This persecution began with mocking, when Ishmael, the son of an Egyptian, persecuted Isaac, (Genesis 21:9,) and it came at last to murder, the basest of murders, that of their new-born children; so that, more or less, it continued four hundred years.

15:12-16 A deep sleep fell upon Abram; with this sleep a horror of great darkness fell upon him: a sudden change. The children of light do not always walk in the light. Several things were then foretold. 1. The suffering state of Abram's seed for a long time. They shall be strangers. The heirs of heaven are strangers on earth. They shall be servants; but Canaanites serve under a curse, the Hebrews under a blessing. They shall be suffers. Those that are blessed and beloved of God, are often sorely afflicted by wicked men. 2. The judgment of the enemies of Abram's seed. Though God may allow persecutors and oppressors to trample upon his people a great while, he will certainly reckon with them at last. 3. That great event, the deliverance of Abram's seed out of Egypt, is here foretold. 4. Their happy settlement in Canaan. They shall come hither again. The measure of sin fills gradually. Some people's measure of sin fills slowly. The knowledge of future events would seldom add to our comfort. In the most favoured families, and most happy lives, there are so many afflictions, that it is merciful in God to conceal what will befall us and ours.Know, know thou. - Know certainly. This responds to Abram's question, Whereby shall I know? Genesis 15:8. Four hundred years are to elapse before the seed of Abram shall actually proceed to take possession of the land. This interval can only commence when the seed is born; that is, at the birth of Isaac, when Abram was a hundred years of age and therefore thirty years after the call. During this interval they are to be, "first, strangers in a land not theirs" for one hundred and ninety years; and then for the remaining two hundred and ten years in Egypt: at first, servants, with considerable privilege and position; and at last, afflicted serfs, under a hard and cruel bondage. At the end of this period Pharaoh and his nation were visited with a succession of tremendous judgments, and Israel went out free from bondage "with great wealth" Exodus 12-14. "Go to thy fathers." This implies that the fathers, though dead, still exist. To go from one place to another implies, not annihilation, but the continuance of existence. The doctrine of the soul's perpetual existence is here intimated. Abram died in peace and happiness, one hundred and fifteen years before the descent into Egypt.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. In a land that is not theirs, i.e. in Canaan and Egypt; for though Canaan was theirs by promise, to be fulfilled in after-times, yet it was not theirs by actual donation and possession; but they were strangers in it, Genesis 17:8 Psalm 105:11,12.

Four hundred years, exactly four hundred and five years; but a small sum is commonly neglected in a great number, both in sacred and profane writers. There were four hundred and thirty years between the first promise, or between the renewing and confirming of the promise by the gift of Isaac, and Israel’s going out of Egypt, or God’s giving of the law, Exodus 12:40 Galatians 3:17; but part of this time Abraham with his son Isaac lived in much honour and comfort; but after Isaac grew up, the affliction here mentioned began with Isaac in Canaan, and continued to him and his posterity in Egypt till this time was expired.

And he said unto Abram,.... While he was in a deep sleep; this he said to him in a vision of prophecy:

know of a surety, or "in knowing thou shall or mayest know" (n); and be assured of it, being now told it by the Lord himself, who foreknows all things that ever come to pass; many of which he acquaints his people with beforehand, nor would he hide from Abram his friend what should befall his posterity, as follows:

that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs; this prophecy could not take place at this time, since Abram had then no seed; but at the birth of Isaac, in whom his seed was called, who sojourned, or was a stranger in Gerar, a part of the land of Canaan, as Jacob also in the same land, Genesis 36:3; as well as he and his posterity sojourned or lived as strangers in the land of Ham, in Egypt, Psalm 105:23; and neither of these countries were theirs; for though there was a grant of Canaan to Abram and his seed, yet it was not in possession; though a land of promise, it was a strange land, a land of their pilgrimage, and where all the patriarchs lived in it as such, see Exodus 6:4,

and shall serve them; the inhabitants of the land not theirs, that is, the Canaanites and the Egyptians, especially the latter; and these they served after the death of Joseph, by whom their lives were made bitter with hard bondage:

and they shall afflict them four hundred years; this term "four hundred years" is not to be joined either with the word "afflict" or "serve"; for their hard servitude and severe affliction did not last long, but a few years at most; but with the phrase, "a stranger in a land not theirs"; and the rest is to be included in a parenthesis thus, and "thy seed shall be a stranger in the land not theirs (and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them) four hundred years"; so long they should be strangers and sojourners, as they were partly in the land of Canaan, and partly in the land of Egypt, neither of which were in their own land, however not in possession; within which space of time they would be in a state of subjection and servitude, and be greatly afflicted and oppressed, as they were particularly by the Egyptians before their deliverance from them, see Exodus 1:11. These four hundred years, as before observed, are to be reckoned from the birth of Isaac to the Israelites going out of Egypt, and are counted by Jarchi thus; Isaac was sixty years of age when Jacob was born, and Jacob when he went down into Egypt was one hundred and thirty, which make one hundred and ninety; and the Israelites were in Egypt two hundred and ten years, which complete the sum of four hundred: according to Eusebius, there were four hundred and five years from the birth of Isaac to the Exodus of Israel; but the round number is only given, as is very usual; and though the sojourning of the Israelites is said to be four hundred and thirty years, Exodus 12:40, this takes in the sojourning of Abram in that land, who entered into it sixty five years before the birth of Isaac, which added to four hundred and five, the sum total is four hundred and thirty; for Abram was seventy five years of age when he left Haran and went to Canaan, and Isaac was born when he was an hundred years old, see Genesis 12:4.

(n) "cognoscendo cognosces", Pagninus, Montanus; so Schmidt.

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 {d} four hundred years;

(d) Counting from the birth of Isaac to their departure of Egypt: Which declares that God will allow his to be afflicted in this world.

13. a stranger] The word used (gêr) (LXX πάροικος) means more than a “sojourner” (cf. Genesis 23:4, Exodus 2:22).

A stranger (gêr) is properly a guest residing in another country, whose rights are in a sense protected. He may be merely a temporary sojourner (tôshâb). But as a “stranger” (gêr) he has a recognized status in the community. As a “sojourner” (tôshâb), he has none; he is a mere social “bird of passage.” The difference is that between a “resident foreigner” and “a foreign visitor.”

and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them] The personal pronouns in English are ambiguous. There is a change of subject. Israel shall be slaves to the people of a land that is not theirs, i.e. to the Egyptians; and the Egyptians shall afflict them. The LXX δουλώσουσιν, “they, i.e. the Egyptians, shall make bondmen of them, i.e. the Israelites,” gives a different turn to the first clause, and avoids the interchange of subject and object: cf. the quotation in Acts 7:6.

four hundred years] See note on Genesis 15:16. The figure agrees in round numbers with the number of 430 years assigned, in Exodus 12:40, to the sojourning of Israel in Egypt. Cf. Acts 7:6; Galatians 3:17.

Verse 13. - And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety - literally, knowing know (cf. Genesis 2:17; vide Ewald's 'Hebrew Syntax,' § 312) - that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land which is not there (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 (Murphy);

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 12:89) 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 Genesis 12:3. Genesis 15:13"And when the sun was just about to go down (on the construction, see Ges. 132), and deep sleep (תּרדּמה, as in Genesis 2:21, a deep sleep produced by God) had fallen upon Abram, behold there fell upon him terror, great darkness." The vision here passes into a prophetic sleep produced by God. In this sleep there fell upon Abram dread and darkness; this is shown by the interchange of the perfect נפלה and the participle נפלת. The reference to the time is intended to show "the supernatural character of the darkness and sleep, and the distinction between the vision and a dream" (O. v. Gerlach). It also possesses a symbolical meaning. The setting of the sun prefigured to Abram the departure of the sun of grace, which shone upon Israel, and the commencement of a dark and dreadful period of suffering for his posterity, the very anticipation of which involved Abram in darkness. For the words which he heard in the darkness were these (Genesis 15:13.): "Know of a surety, that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them (the lords of the strange land), and they (the foreigners) shall oppress them 400 years." That these words had reference to the sojourn of the children of Israel in Egypt, is placed beyond all doubt by the fulfilment. The 400 years were, according to prophetic language, a round number for the 430 years that Israel spent in Egypt (Exodus 12:40). "Also that nation whom they shall serve will I judge (see the fulfilment, Exodus 6:11); and afterward shall they come out with great substance (the actual fact according to Exodus 12:31-36). And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace, and be buried in a good old age (cf. Genesis 25:7-8); and in the fourth generation they shall come hither again." The calculations are made here on the basis of a hundred years to a generation: not too much for those times, when the average duration of life was above 150 years, and Isaac was born in the hundredth year of Abraham's life. "For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." Amorite, the name of the most powerful tribe of the Canaanites, is used here as the common name of all the inhabitants of Canaan, just as in Joshua 24:15 (cf. Genesis 10:5), Judges 6:10, etc.).

By this revelation Abram had the future history of his seed pointed out to him in general outlines, and was informed at the same time why neither he nor his descendants could obtain immediate possession of the promised land, viz., because the Canaanites were not yet ripe for the sentence of extermination.

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