Genesis 15

 

אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה הָיָה דְבַר יְהוָה אֶל אַבְרָם בַּמַּחֲזֶה לֵאמֹר אַל תִּירָא אַבְרָם אָנֹכִי מָגֵן  15:1

לָךְ שְׂכָרְךָ הַרְבֵּה מְאֹד

Gene. 15:1  After these things, the word of the Lord occurred to Abram in a vision saying, “You need not fear, Abram; I am a Shield for you; your reward shall be exceedingly great.”

What is it that Abram should fear?  Is this phrase a prophetic reference to the Israelites fearing their enemies around them in the future, i.e., another possible support for my contention that Abram is representative of the Israelites early period?  Or is Abram afraid that he will have no heirs (see next verse)?  Also, notice that the word of the Lord occurs in a vision – probably in a dream.

וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָם אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה מַה תִּתֶּן לִי וְאָנֹכִי הוֹלֵךְ עֲרִירִי וּבֶן מֶשֶׁק בֵּיתִי הוּא דַּמֶּשֶׂק אֱלִיעֶזֶר  15:2

Gene. 15:2  And Abram said, “O Lord, my Master, what can You give me when I am proceeding childless and the inheritor of my house shall be the Damascene, Eliezer?”

                                                                                                                              [Return to Gene. 24:67]

Might this be a reference to the future destruction of the first temple?

וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָם הֵן לִי לֹא נָתַתָּה זָרַע וְהִנֵּה בֶן בֵּיתִי יוֹרֵשׁ אֹתִי  15:3

Gene. 15:3  And Abram said, “Behold, You have not given me seed, or lo, a son of my house to be my heir.”

וְהִנֵּה דְבַר יְהוָה אֵלָיו לֵאמֹר לֹא יִירָשְׁךָ זֶה כִּיאִם אֲשֶׁר יֵצֵא מִמֵּעֶיךָ הוּא יִירָשֶׁךָ  15:4

Gene. 15:4  And behold the word of the Lord to him saying, “This one will not be your heir, but he who shall emerge from your own bowels, he shall be your heir.”

 וַיּוֹצֵא אֹתוֹ הַחוּצָה וַיֹּאמֶר הַבֶּטנָא הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וּסְפֹר הַכּוֹכָבִים אִם תּוּכַל לִסְפֹּר אֹתָם וַיֹּאמֶר  15:5

לוֹ, כֹּה יִהְיֶה זַרְעֶךָ

Gene. 15:5  And He brought him outside and said, “Now regard the sky and count the stars, if you could be able to count them.”  And He said to him, “So shall be your seed.”

Now the number of visible stars might then have been 20,000, possibly up to 40,000.  Surely this is not what God meant.  Yet if He was referring to all the stars, seen and unseen, that is a very large number, in the billion billions and much more.  So what does this verse mean?  As Abram was the father of many of the nations on the earth, this may mean that humans (Abram’s seed) will eventually fill the universe of stars and indeed be as numerous as the stars.  That has to be a long way off.  Does this verse assure us that humanity will be around for an extended future?  Or is it the product of the naive view of an awed scribe who assumed that the stars were far more numerous?   Unlikely!  The sky was reasonably well known to the ancients.  I think it’s entirely possible that we are party to a prophecy in this verse that is more important than many people perceive.

וְהֶאֱמִן בַּיהוָה וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ לּוֹ צְדָקָה  15:6

Gene. 15:6  And believing in the Lord, then he esteemed it his righteousness.

The first word of this verse is rather strange.  It is translated elsewhere as “And he believed ...,” under the assumption that the vav prefix is non-inverting.  This particular form of the word appears no where else in the bible, so it presents some difficulty for its accurate translation.  I have assumed that the word is not a verb, but a participle.  My basis for this assumption is found in Numb. 11:12.  There the word appears without the vav, and in that instance  it is understood  to be a participle. 

To make another point, it’s interesting that in my translation Abram here assumes that God is favoring him because of his righteousness.  We know that God favored Noah because of his righteousness.  So why not Abram also?  Others translate the second part of this verse as “… and He counted it to him for righteousness.”  That is, God counted Abram’s belief in Him for righteousness.  The problem I have with the latter translation is that there is no word in the Hebrew of the verse for the word for.  Moreover, Abram demonstrates his questioning of God on several occasions, as we shall see.  So why would God count it for Abram’s righteousness that he believes in Him at this time?  See v. 15:8 below.

וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אֲנִי יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיךָ מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים לָתֶת לְךָ אֶת הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת לְרִשְׁתָּהּ  15:7

Gene. 15:7  And He said to him, “I am the Lord Who took you out from Ur of the Chaldees, to give this land to you to inherit.

Later in the bible God twice makes virtually the same statement to the Israelites.  This further supports my theory.

וַיֹּאמַר אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה בַּמָּה אֵדַע כִּי אִירָשֶׁנָּה  15:8

Gene. 15:8  And he said, “O Lord, my Master, How may I know that I shall inherit it?”

Bible commentators assert that this question does not imply that Abram’s faith is limited, only that he is merely inquiring how it will come about.  I’m inclined to disagree with that interpretation.  I think this verse follows directly from v. 15:3.  Abram believes, yet he can’t imagine how it will come about.  What does that say?  I think it says that Abram believes God’s statement, but he doesn’t believe in God’s ability to bring it about.  After all, Abram hasn’t yet seen any of God’s miracles and what He is capable of.                       [Return to Gene. 17:18]

וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו קְחָה לִי עֶגְלָה מְשֻׁלֶּשֶׁת וְעֵז מְשֻׁלֶּשֶׁת וְאַיִל מְשֻׁלָּשׁ וְתֹר וְגוֹזָל  15:9

Gene. 15:9  And He said to him, “Take for Me a heifer of three years and a she-goat of three years and a ram of three years and a turtle-dove and a baby bird.”

וַיִּקַּחלוֹ אֶת כָּל אֵלֶּה וַיְבַתֵּר אֹתָם בַּתָּוֶךְ וַיִּתֵּן אִישׁ בִּתְרוֹ לִקְרַאת רֵעֵהוּ וְאֶת הַצִּפֹּר לֹא בָתָר  15:10

Gene. 15:10   And he brought Him all these and dissected them in the middle and laid each half against the other; but he did not dissect the birds.

וַיֵּרֶד הָעַיִט עַל־הַפְּגָרִים וַיַּשֵּׁב אֹתָם אַבְרָם  15:11

Gene. 15:11   And the vultures came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.

וַיְהִי הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ לָבֹוא וְתַרְדֵּמָה נָפְלָה עַל־אַבְרָם וְהִנֵּה אֵימָה חֲשֵׁכָה גְדֹלָה נֹפֶלֶת עָלָיו  15:12

Gene. 15:12   And it happened that the sun was setting and a sound sleep fell upon Abram and behold, a great dread of the darkness was cast down upon him.

I thought all this was happening in a vision (v. 15:1).  Nothing has changed since that first reference.  Thus it’s still part of the vision.  Well, maybe Abram wasn’t asleep before, and this wasn’t a dream.  Maybe Abram was asleep and now he dreams that he falls asleep in his dream.

וַיֹּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם יָדֹעַ תֵּדַע כִּי־גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאֹות שָׁנָה  15:13

Gene. 15:13   And He said to Abram, “You will surely know that your seed will be a stranger in a land not theirs and they shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years.”

                                                                                           [Return to Exod.1:8]

וְגַם אֶת־הַגֹּוי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבֹדוּ דָּן אָנֹכִי וְאַחֲרֵי־כֵן יֵצְאוּ בִּרְכֻשׁ גָּדֹול  15:14

Gene. 15:14   “And the nation that they serve I will also be judging, so that afterward they shall come out with great substance.”

וְאַתָּה תָּבֹוא אֶל־אֲבֹתֶיךָ בְּשָׁלֹום תִּקָּבֵר בְּשֵׂיבָה טֹובָה  15:15

Gene. 15:15   “But you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.”

וְדֹור רְבִיעִי יָשׁוּבוּ הֵנָּה כִּי לֹא־שָׁלֵם עֲוֹן הָאֱמֹרִי עַד־הֵנָּה  15:16

Gene. 15:16   “And they of the fourth generation shall return here, for the sin of the Amorite is not yet complete.”

What does the Lord mean when He says the sin of the Amorite is not yet complete?  Are the Isrealites destined to be involved in the completion of the Amorite’s sin?  Let’s wait and see.  Maybe we’ll also come to understand the meaning of the fourth generation as well.  If the fourth generation is meant to be literal, then it would be the children of Jacob.  But maybe the fourth generation is symbolic and it is the Children of Israel.  But meanwhile, we can speculate about destiny as opposed to free will.  The Lord seems to be often portrayed as a Manipulator of events.  Are we being told that we are all actors in a cosmic universal production being directed and orchestrated by God?  To this question I can only answer simply, to what end?  Of course, we cannot see very much (if any) of the BIG picture, and we must concede (reluctantly?) that we do not know God’s purpose.  So I will delay commenting beyond this.  What I can address is an alternative interpretation of these few verses.  Let us say that God, Who knows and sees all, is merely describing what is in the future as the result of our free-will choices, He is not “arranging” it.  This lets us off the fate/free-will hook for now.

וַיְהִי הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ בָּאָה וַעֲלָטָה הָיָה וְהִנֵּה תַנּוּר עָשָׁן וְלַפִּיד אֵשׁ אֲשֶׁר עָבַר בֵּין הַגְּזָרִים הָאֵלֶּה  15:17

Gene. 15:17   When the sun had set, then there was a darkness.  And behold, a smoking furnace and a flaming torch that passed between these pieces!

Remember that all the foregoing (v. 15:1 and v. 15:12 ff.) is happening in a dream of Abram’s.  So it’s difficult to determine to what “these pieces” refers.  It’s interesting and intriguing that the noun ~yrIz"G>h, pieces, comes from the root rzG, which is also the root of the verb meaning decide or ordain.  “These pieces” probably refers to the pieces of Abram’s offering.  So was Abram still asleep in his dream?

בַּיֹּום הַהוּא כָּרַת יְהוָה אֶת־אַבְרָם בְּרִית לֵאמֹר לְזַרְעֲךָ נָתַתִּי אֶת־הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת מִנְּהַר מִצְרַיִם   15:18

עַד־הַנָּהָר הַגָּדֹל נְהַר־פְּרָת

Gene. 15:18   In that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram saying, “To your seed have I given this land from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,

                                                                                                           [Return to Jere. 34:21]

אֶת־הַקֵּינִי וְאֶת־הַקְּנִזִּי וְאֵת הַקַּדְמֹנִי  15:18

Gene. 15:19   the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite

וְאֶת־הַחִתִּי וְאֶת־הַפְּרִזִּי וְאֶת־הָרְפָאִים  15:20

Gene. 15:20   and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim

וְאֶת־הָאֱמֹרִי וְאֶת־הַכְּנַעֲנִי וְאֶת־הַגִּרְגָּשִׁי וְאֶת־הַיְבוּסִי  15:21

Gene. 15:21   and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”

The extent of this land can be conjectured about.  It obviously lies as far as the Nile in the west, thereby including parts of Egypt and the Sinai, and takes in regions now occupied by Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.

 

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