Genesis 15:1-2 “After these things…Do not be afraid…I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward…what will You give me, seeing I go childless”
We’re not told what Abram was thinking or feeling. Can only go by what God says to him and what he asks of God. He’s just gone through an intense situation and would be dealing with the after stress, after these things. He’s been told by God to go to a new land where he was supposed to receive a blessing and become a blessing. And God has blessed him greatly financially, but all of that could be gone in an instance as demonstrated by the raiders. He put his life at risk to rescue his nephew and all of the others from surrounding cities, yet he has no legacy. What good are possessions if you have no one to leave them to, and they could disappear at any moment? So God reminds him that He is his protection, and He will provide the legacy.
4-5 “…one who will come from your own body shall be your heir…count the stars…So shall your descendants be”
God promises that Abram’s legacy will come from himself biologically, not from someone he adopts. And his descendants will be as numerous as the stars. Abram’s physical descendants are mentioned here specifically, but God’s promise that Abram would be a blessing to the entire world expands his promise of descendants to those outside the physical.
6 “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”
The basis for our relationship with God and Abram’s increased descendants, faith in God. Our salvation comes from the actions of God and our faith in Him. Even though we have no righteousness of our own, our faith in God becomes righteousness. Abram expressed this faith in God here and thus is the father of all who would express the same faith, both Jew and Gentile, the entire world.
9-11 Abram asked for assurance of God’s promise, so God sets up a binding ceremony with which Abram would be familiar. Strange ceremony, but makes sense once you understand the parts and idea behind it. Had to check with commentaries, and there are different ideas, but I think I found the jest of it. To enter into a covenant, bargain, or deal, two or more parties would take animals used for sacrifice and cut them in two pieces, then lay the pieces apart providing space to walk between them. In the case of the birds, since there were two there was no reason to split them, just one per side. Those walking between the pieces were binding themselves to the covenant and, if they failed to uphold their part of it, would suffer the fate of the animals cut in two. Apparently it is where we get the phrases to cut a deal or to strike a bargain, the latter also referring to something or someone dead or that has been killed. The idea is that the same fate of the object will be assessed upon the participant should he not fulfill his part of the deal.
12 “…deep sleep…horror and great darkness fell upon him”
Checked with commentary to confirm idea. I get the idea that, once the ceremony is set up, God is arriving to participate. His presence causes great fear, awe, and reverence. Horror was not that of fear of evil, but an expression of the awe felt in the presence of such power and holiness.
13-14 “…your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them…afflict them four hundred years…nation whom they serve I will judge…shall come out with great possessions”
Abram asked for a sign of the promise of his inheritance. God sets up the covenant ceremony then gives Abram specifics on the presentation of the promise. Here is the prophecy of the Israelites time in Egypt. Abram’s descendants would be in a foreign land where they would be afflicted for four hundred years. God will then judge the land that afflicted them. He will bring out the descendants with great possessions and bring them back into the promised land.
15 “…you shall go to your fathers in peace…”
Abram won’t see the fulfillment of the promise. He will live a good, full life then be buried. I don’t think the idea of not seeing the fulfillment was that big a deal to Abram. I think the assurance came from knowing that, even after he was gone, God was going to do all He promised. He understood the promise would take much time, and he wouldn’t be around for that long, but now he’s been given a view of what it will look like. The promise of God was enough, but God was gracious in giving the preview.
16 “…they shall return here…iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete”
They will return when the time is right. Here is the answer to those who accuse Israel of being conquerors with no real claim to their land and to those who claim God was unfair to those He drove out before Israel. God could have allowed the Israelites to remain in the land as they grew into a great nation, but he removed them to give the current inhabitants time to repent. The Canaanites died or were destroyed due to their own wickedness. God gave them four hundred years before passing judgment on them. He then brought the Israelites back into the land and used them as His instrument of judgment on the Canaanites. Same thing can be seen throughout history once a civilization becomes corrupt. God’s patience eventually ends, and He allows the nation or people to be destroyed. The first chapter of Romans gives the checklist of the path of destruction a people follow. It can be clearly seen in the fall of the Roman Empire. The sad part is that the final steps are being seen today in the United States. Unless we as Americans repent, we’ll end up like all the other destroyed civilizations of history.
17 “…there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces”
Representation of God Himself. Commentaries had quite a variety of things to say about what the oven and torch meant, but most saw the two items as being one device, like the torch was sticking out of the oven or pot. I see it as how God chose to represent Himself in this action. Point is that God Himself passed between the pieces. There is no mention of Abram doing so. God is binding Himself to the covenant without Abram having to do anything. In reality, what could he do? He had no power or anything to bring to the covenant but his faith, which he has already expressed. An antitype of God’s covenant of salvation to us. He provides the way of salvation and binds Himself to it. No action on our part as we have nothing to bring, only our faith in Him which imparts His righteousness to us.
18 “…To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates”
Description of the land that God is giving to Abram and his descendants. Pretty big chunk. Not sure which river of Egypt is being referenced. Could be the Nile, but other scriptures seem to refer to a smaller river east of the Nile between the upper part of the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. I wonder if the modern Suez Canal is located where this river was. Commentary pointed out that the list of nations is probably a limiting factor. God is giving Abram the lands currently occupied by these other peoples which falls between the two rivers. During the reign of Solomon, the boundaries of Israel may have extended to these limits, but I’m not sure, and there are differing opinions. However, since God promised this land to the Israelites, once Christ returns, I’m sure they will occupy all of the land.
I hope you enjoy reading and studying His word. May it accomplish what He desires. Please feel free to comment or post questions. Thanks for reading!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.