Genesis 15
Pulpit Commentary
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.
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.
And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?
Verse 2. - And Abram said, Lord God. Adonai Jehovah; the first use of these terms in combination, the second, which usually has the vowel-points of the first, being here written with the vocalization of Elohim. Adonai, an older plural form of Adonim, pluralis excellentive (Gesenius), though by some the termination is regarded as a suffix (Ewald, Furst), is a term descriptive of the Divine sovereignty, from adan = dun, or din, to rule or judge; connected with which is the Phoenician aden, an honorary epithet of deity, and recognized as such in Deuteronomy 10:17 (vide Furst, 'Hebrew Lexicon,' sub voce). What wilt thou give me, seeing I go literally, and I going - ἐγὼ δὲ ἀπολύομαι (LXX., Jonathan); ex hac vita discedam (Rosenmüller); but this, though the word "go" is sometimes used in the sense of "die" (Psalm 39:14), does not seem necessary - childless - solitary, desolate, hence devoid of offspring, as in Leviticus 20:20, 21; Jeremiah 22:30 - and the steward - Ben-Meshek; either

(1) the son of running (from shakak, to run) = filius dis-cursitatis, i.e. the steward who attends to my domestic affairs (Onkelos, Drusius); or, and with greater probability,

(2) the son of possession (from mashak, to hold),. i.e. the possessor of my house, or heir of my property (Gesenius, Furst, Delitzsch, Keel, Halisch) - of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus. Literally, Dammesek Eliezer. The paronomasia of this utterance is apparent, and was obviously designed to impart a touch of pathos to the patriarch's grief by pointing out the coincidence that the Ben-shek of his house was either Dammesek (Damascus) in the person of Eliezer (Delitzsch, Keil), or the Damascene Eliezer (Onkelos, Syriac, Aben Ezra, Calvin, Lange, Murphy), or Dammesek-Eliezer as one word (Kalisch).
And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.
Verse 3. - And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house (literally, the son of my house, i.e. Eliezer) is mine heir. The language of the patriarch discovers three things:

(1) a natural desire to have a child of his own;

(2) a struggle to hold on by the promise in face of almost insuperable difficulties; and

(3) an obvious unwillingness to part with the hope that the promise, however seemingly impossible, would eventually be realized. This unwillingness it was which caused him, as it were, so pathetically to call the Divine attention to his childless condition; in response to which he received an assurance that must have thrilled his anxious heart with joy.
And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.
Verse 4. - And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.
And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
Verse 5. - And he (Jehovah, or "the Word of the Lord") brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them (a proof that Abram's vision was not a dream): and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. Hence it has been inferred that Abram's vision was miraculously quickened to penetrate the depths of space and gaze upon the vastness of the stellar world, since the stars visible to the naked eye would not represent an innumerable multitude (Candlish).
And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
Verse 6. - And he believed in the Lord. The hiphil of the verb aman, to prop or stay, signifies to build upon, hence to rest one's faith upon; and this describes exactly the mental act of the patriarch, who reposed his confidence in the Divine character, and based his hope of a future seed on the Divine word. And he counted it to him. Ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ (LXX.), which is followed by nearly all the ancient versions, and by Paul in Romans 4:3; but the suffix ך (a feminine for a neuter, as in Job 5:9; Psalm 12:4; Psalm 27:4; vide Glass, ' Phil,' lib. 3. cp. 1:19), clearly indicates the object of the action expressed by the verb הָשַׁב, to think, to meditate, and then to impute (λογίζομαι), followed by לְ of pers. and acc. of the thing (cf. 2 Samuel 19:20; Psalm 32:2). The thing in this case was his faith in the Divine promise. For righteousness. צְדְקְהְ - εἰς δίκαιοσύνην (LXX.); neither for merit and justice (Rabbi Solomon, Jarchi, Ealiseh), nor as a proof of his probity (Gesenius, Rosenmüller); but unto and with a view to justification (Romans 4:3), so that God treated him as a righteous person (A Lapide), not, however, in the sense that he was now "correspondent to the will of God both in character and conduct" (Keil), but in the sense that he was now before God accepted and forgiven' (Luther, Calvin, Murphy, Candlish), which "passive righteousness, however, ultimately wrought in him an "active righteousness of complete conformity to the Divine will" ('Speaker's Commentary').

CHAPTER 15:7-21
And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.
Verse 7. - And he (Jehovah, or the Word of the Lord) said unto him (after the act of faith on the part of the patriarch, and the act of imputation or justification on the part of God, and in explication of the exact nature of that relationship which had been constituted between them by the spiritual transaction so described), I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees (vide Genesis 11:28), to give thee this land to inherit (or, to possess) it.
And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?
Verse 8. - And he said, Lord God (Adonai Jehovah; vide Ver. 2), whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? Not the language of doubt, though slight misgivings are not incompatible with faith (cf. Judges 6:17; 2 Kings 20:8; Luke 1:34), and questioning with God "is rather a proof of faith than a sign of incredulity" (Calvin); but of desire for a sign in confirmation of the grant (Luther), either for the strengthening of his own faith (Chrysostom, Augustine, Keil, 'Speaker's Commentary'), or for the sake of his posterity (Jarchi, Michaelis), or for some intimation as to the time and mode of taking possession (Murphy). Rosenmüller conceives the question put in Abram's mouth to be only a device of the narrator's to lead up to the subject following.
And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.
Verse 9. - And he said unto him, Take me (literally, for me, i.e. for my use in sacrifice) an heifer of three years old. So rightly (LXX., Syriac, Samaritan, Arabic, Josephus, Bochart, Rosenmüller, Keil); not three heifers (Onkelos, Jarchi, Kimchi, et alii). And a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old. These offerings, afterwards prescribed by the law (Exodus 29:15; Numbers 15:27; Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3), were three in number, and of three years each, to symbolize him who was, and is, and is to come (Wordsworth); perhaps rather to indicate-the perfection of the victim in respect of maturity (Murphy). Cf. Ganymede's offering (in 'Lucian's Dialogues') of a three years old ram for a ransom. And a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon - also prescribed by the law (Leviticus 1:14; Luke 2:24).
And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.
Verse 10. - And he took unto him all these, and divided (a word occurring only here in Genesis, and supposed by Michaelis to have been taken by Moses from the ancient document from which he transcribed this portion of his work. The word is afterwards found in Song of Solomon 2:17, and Jeremiah 34:18) them in the midst, - μέσα (LXX.); in equal parts (Onkelos) - and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. So afterwards in the Mosaic legislation (Leviticus 1:7). Wordsworth detects in the non-dividing of the birds an emblem of "the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of peace and love; which is a Spirit of unity, and of "Christ's human spirit, which was not divisible." Kalisch, with more probability, recognizes as the reason of their not being divided the fact that such division was not required, both fowls being regarded as one part of the sacrifice only, and each, as the half, being placed opposite the other. Wordsworth numbers seven parts in the sacrifice, and sees a symbol of completeness and finality, the number seven being the root of shaba, to swear (Gesenius, p. 802); Kalisch reckons four, which he regards as "denoting perfection, but rather the external perfection of form than the internal one of the mind," and pointing "to the perfect possession of the Holy Land." The ritual here described is the same which was afterwards observed among the Hebrews in the formation of covenants (cf. Genesis 34:18), and appears to have extensively prevailed among heathen nations (cf. ' Iliad,' b. 124, "ὅρκια πιστὰ ταμόντες;" and the Latin phrase, "foedus icere").
And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.
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).
And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.
Verse 12. - And when the sun was going down. Literally, was about to go down (cf. Gesenius, § 132). The vision having commenced the previous evening, an entire day has already passed, the interval being designed to typify the time between the pro-raise and its fulfillment (Kalisch). A deep sleep - tardemah (cf. Adam s sleep, Genesis 2:21); ἔκστασις (LXX.); a supernatural slumber, as the darkness following was not solely due to natural causes - fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness - literally, an, horror, a great darkness, i.e. an overwhelming dread occasioned by the dense gloom with which he was encircled, and which, besides Being designed to conceal the working of the Deity from mortal vision (Knobel), was meant to symbolize the Egyptian bondage (Grotius, Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil, Aalisch), and perhaps also, since Abram's faith embraced a larger sphere than Canaan (Hebrews 11:10, 14, 16), and a nobler seed than Sarah's son (John 8:56), the sufferings of Christ (Wordsworth, Inglis) - fell upon him.
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;
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.
And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
Verse 14. - And also that nation (the name of which he does not reveal, in case of seeming to interfere with the free volition of his creatures, who, while accomplishing his high designs and secret purposes, are ever conscious of their moral freedom), whom they shall serve, will I judge: - i.e. punish after judging, which prediction was in due course fulfilled (Exodus 6:11) - and afterward shall they come out with great substance - recush (cf. Genesis 13:6; vide Exodus 12:36).
And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.
Verse 15. - And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace (cf. Genesis 25:8; Genesis 35:29; Genesis 49:33). Not a periphrasis for going to the grave (Rosenmüller), since Abram s ancestors were not entombed in Canaan; but a proof of the survival of departed spirits in a state of conscious existence after death (Knobel, Murphy, Wordsworth, 'Speaker s Commentary,' Inglis), to the company of which the patriarch was in due time to be gathered. The disposal of his remains is provided for in what follows. Thou shalt be buried in a good old age.
But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
Verse 16. - But in the fourth generation, - τετάρτη δὲ γενεᾷ (LXX.); but, more correctly, the fourth generation, calculating 100 years to a generation. "Caleb was the fourth from Judah, and Moses from Levi, and so doubtless many others" (Bush). Drs. Oort and Kuenen, reckoning four generations as a far shorter space of time than four centuries, detect a contradiction between this verse and Ver. 13, and an evidence of the free use which the ancient and uncritical Israelitish author made of his materials ('Bible for Young People,' vol. 1. p. 158). On the import of דּור vide Genesis 6:9 - they shall come hither again (literally, shall return hither): for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. Literally, for not completed the iniquity of the Amorites (vide Genesis 14:7; here put for the entire population! until then (the same word as "hither, which is its usual signification).
And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.
Verse 17. - And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, - literally, and it was (i.e. this took place), the sun went down; less accurately, ἐπεὶ δὲ ὁ ἤλιιος ἐγένετο πρὸς δυσμὰς (LXX.), which was the state of matters in Ver. 12. Here the sun, which was then setting, is described as having set - and it was dark, - literally, and darkness was, i.e. a darkness that might be felt, as in Ver. 12; certainly not φλὸξ ἐγένετο (LXX.), as if there were another flame besides the one specified in the description - behold a smoking furnace, - the תַּנּוּר, or Oriental furnace, had the form of a cylindrical fire-pot (cf. Gesenius, p. 869; Keil in loco) - and a burning lamp - a lamp of fire, or fiery torch, emerging from the smoking stove: an emblem of the Divine presence (cf. Exodus 19:18) - that passed between those pieces - in ratification of the covenant.
In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
Verses 18-21. - In that day the Lord made a covenant - literally, cut a covenant (cf. ὅρκια τέμνειν, foedus icere). On the import of בְּרִית vide Genesis 9:9) - with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt - the Nile (Keil, Kurtz, Hengstenberg, Kalisch) rather than the Wady el Arch, or Brook of Egypt (Knobel, Lange, Clarke), at the southern limits of the country (Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:4; Isaiah 27:12) - unto the great river, the river Euphrates. The ideal limits of the Holy Land, which were practically reached under David and Solomon (vide 1 Kings 4:21; 2 Chronicles 9:26), and which embraced the following subject populations, ten in number, "to convey the impression of universality without exception, of unqualified completeness" (Delitzsch). The Kenites, - inhabiting the mountainous tracts in the south-west of Palestine, near the Amalekites (Numbers 24:21; 1 Samuel 15:6; 1 Samuel 27:10); a people of uncertain origin, though (Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11) Hobab, the brother-in-law of Moses, was a Kenite - and the Kenizzites, - mentioned only in this passage; a people dwelling apparently in the same region with the Kenites (Murphy), who probably became extinct between the times of Abraham and Moses (Bochart), and cannot now be identified (Keil, Kalisch), though they have been connected with Kenaz the Edomite, Genesis 36:15, 42 (Knobel) - and the Kadmonites, - never again referred to, but, as their name implies, an Eastern people, whose settlements extended towards the Euphrates (Kalisch) - and the Hittites, - the descendants of Heth (vide Genesis 10:15); identified with the Kheta and Katti of the Egyptian and Assyrian monuments, and supposed by Mr. Gladstone to be the Kheteians of the 'Odyssey;' a powerful Asiatic tribe who must have early established themselves on the Euphrates, and spread from thence southward to Canaan and Egypt, and westward to Lydia and Greece, carrying with them, towards the shores of the AEgean Sea, the art and culture of Assyria and Babylon, already modified by the forms and conceptions of Egypt. The northern capital of their empire was Carchemish, about sixteen miles south of the modern Birejik; and the southern Kadesh, on an island of the Orontes (Prof. Sayce in 'Frazer's Magazine,' August, 1880, art. 'A forgotten Empire in Asia Minor') - and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims (vide Genesis 13:7; Genesis 14:5), and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Oirgashites, and the Jebusites (vide Genesis 10:15-19). The boundaries of the Holy Land as here defined are regarded by some (Bohlen) as contradictory of those designated in Numbers 34:1-12. But

(1) the former may be viewed as the ideal (or poetical), and the latter as the actual (and prosaic), limits of the country assigned to Israel (Hengstenbreg, Keil); or

(2) the former may represent the maxima, and the latter the minima, of the promise, which admitted of a larger or a smaller fulfillment, according as Israel should in the sequel prove fit for its occupation (Augustine, Pererius, Willet, Poole, Gerlach, Kalisch, and others); or,

(3) according to a certain school of interpreters, the former may point to the wide extent of country to be occupied by the Jews on occasion of their restoration to their own land, as distinguished from their first occupation on coming up out of Egypt, or their second on returning from Babylon; or

(4) the rivers may be put for the countries with which the promised land was coterminous (Kurtz, Murphy); or

(5) strict geographical accuracy may not have been intended in defining the limits of the land of promise ('Speaker s Commentary,' Inglis).

The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,
And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,
And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.
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