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Genesis 15

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The Covenant with Abram.#In the first section (vv. 1–6), Abraham is promised a son and heir, and in the second (vv. 7–21), he is promised a land. The structure is similar in both: each of the two promises is not immediately accepted; the first is met with a complaint (vv. 2–3) and the second with a request for a sign (v. 8). God’s answer differs in each section—a sign in v. 5 and an oath in vv. 9–21. Some scholars believe that the Genesis promises of progeny and land were originally separate and only later combined, but progeny and land are persistent concerns especially of ancient peoples and it is hard to imagine one without the other. 1Some time afterward, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: Do not fear, Abram! I am your shield; I will make your reward very great.
2But Abram said, “Lord God, what can you give me, if I die childless and have only a servant of my household, Eliezer of Damascus?” 3Abram continued, “Look, you have given me no offspring, so a servant of my household will be my heir.” 4Then the word of the Lord came to him: No, that one will not be your heir; your own offspring will be your heir.#Gn 17:16. 5He took him outside and said: Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so, he added, will your descendants be.#Gn 22:17; 28:14; Ex 32:13; Dt 1:10; Sir 44:21; Rom 4:18; Heb 11:12. 6#1 Mc 2:52; Rom 4:3, 9, 22; Gal 3:6–7; Jas 2:23. Abram put his faith in the Lord, who attributed it to him as an act of righteousness.#Abraham’s act of faith in God’s promises was regarded as an act of righteousness, i.e., as fully expressive of his relationship with God. St. Paul (Rom 4:1–25; Gal 3:6–9) makes Abraham’s faith a model for Christians.
7He then said to him: I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as a possession.#Gn 11:31; 12:1; Ex 32:13; Neh 9:7–8; Acts 7:2–3. 8“Lord God,” he asked, “how will I know that I will possess it?” 9#Cutting up animals was a well-attested way of making a treaty in antiquity. Jer 34:17–20 shows the rite is a form of self-imprecation in which violators invoke the fate of the animals upon themselves. The eighth-century B.C. Sefire treaty from Syria reads, “As this calf is cut up, thus Matti’el shall be cut up.” The smoking fire pot and the flaming torch (v. 17), which represent God, pass between the pieces, making God a signatory to the covenant. He answered him: Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.#Lv 1:14. 10He brought him all these, split them in two, and placed each half opposite the other; but the birds he did not cut up. 11Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram scared them away. 12As the sun was about to set, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a great, dark dread descended upon him.
13#The verses clarify the promise of the land by providing a timetable of its possession: after four hundred years of servitude, your descendants will actually possess the land in the fourth generation (a patriarchal generation seems to be one hundred years). The iniquity of the current inhabitants (called here the Amorites) has not yet reached the point where God must intervene in punishment. Another table is given in Ex 12:40, which is not compatible with this one. Then the Lord said to Abram: Know for certain that your descendants will reside as aliens in a land not their own, where they shall be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years.#Ex 12:40; Nm 20:15; Jdt 5:9–10; Is 52:4; Acts 13:20; Gal 3:17. 14But I will bring judgment on the nation they must serve, and after this they will go out with great wealth.#Ex 3:8, 21–22. 15You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace; you will be buried at a ripe old age. 16In the fourth generation#Generation: the Hebrew term dor is commonly rendered as “generation,” but it may signify a period of varying length. A “generation” is the period between the birth of children and the birth of their parents, normally about twenty to twenty-five years. The actual length of a generation can vary, however; in Jb 42:16 it is thirty-five and in Nm 32:13 it is forty. The meaning may be life spans, which in Gn 6:3 is one hundred twenty years and in Is 65:20 is one hundred years. your descendants will return here, for the wickedness of the Amorites is not yet complete.#1 Kgs 21:26.
17When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, which passed between those pieces. 18#The Wadi, i.e., a gully or ravine, of Egypt is the Wadi-el-‘Arish, which is the boundary between the settled land and the Sinai desert. Some scholars suggest that the boundaries are those of a Davidic empire at its greatest extent; others that they are idealized boundaries. Most lists of the ancient inhabitants of the promised land give three, six, or seven peoples, but vv. 19–21 give a grand total of ten. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates,#Ex 32:13; Neh 9:8; Ps 105:11; Sir 44:21. 19#Dt 7:1. the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.
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God promised to give Abram a son
1Later on, after Abram saved Lot, Abram had a dream, and God talked to him in that dream. God said, “Abram, don’t be frightened, I will always keep you safe, so that nobody can ever hurt you, and I am going to give you lots of good things.”
2-3But Abram said, “Yes, God, you are very powerful. But look, I’ve got no son, so it doesn’t matter what you give me. You haven’t given me the one thing I really want. You haven’t given me any kids. So when I die, one of my work-men will get all my things. His name is Eliyezer. He is from Damascus.”
4Then Abram heard God talk to him again. God said, “I tell you, that work-man will not get all your things after you die. I am going to give you a son, and he will get all your things after you die.”
5Then God took Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and try to count all those stars. There are a lot of stars. You can’t count them all. Well, you will have a son, and later on lots of people will be born into his family, and later on they will be a real big family. And just like nobody can count the stars, nobody will be able to count all your family.”#Romans 4:18; Hebrews 11:12
6And Abram believed what God said, so God was really happy with him, and told him, “You believe me, so now I’m saying you are properly good, like you never did anything wrong.”#Romans 4:3, 9, 22; Galatians 3:6; Hebrews 11:11; James 2:23
God did a ceremony to make Abram sure about his promises
7Then God said to Abram, “I am your God. I am the one that brought you out of your home country, from the town called Ur, in Chaldia country. And I am going to give you this country here. It will be yours. You will own all this country.”
8Abram said, “I know you are very powerful, God, but how can I be really sure that I will get all this country?”
9So God said to Abram, “Bring me a cow that hasn’t had a baby, and a female goat, and a male sheep. All those animals have to be 3 years old. And I want you to bring me 2 different sorts of pigeons too.”
10Then Abram did what God told him. He killed those animals and birds, and he cut the animals in half. He put the halves of each animal on the ground in 2 lines facing each other. But he didn’t cut the birds in half. 11Then some hawks flew down and tried to eat the animals, but Abram chased them away.
12While the sun was going down, Abram went to sleep. It was a strong deep sleep. Then Abram had something like a dream. It was really dark for him, and he felt really frightened.#Job 4:13-14 13-15God said to Abram, “I want you to know for sure what will happen after you get really old. You don’t have to worry about anything. You see, you will live to be a very old man, and then, when you are dying, you will feel good inside, and your family will bury you right here, in this country. But I have to tell you something. After you die, your family will leave this country and move to another country that belongs to other people. Your family will live in that country, and later on, the other people in that country will make your family like prisoners, and your family will have to work very hard for them. Those people will do really bad things to your family for 400 years. After that, I will save your family from that hard time, and I will punish those people for doing bad things to your family. Then your family will leave that country, and they will take a lot of animals and things with them. They will be really rich.#Exodus 1:1-14; Acts 7:6 16And I will bring your family back here to this country. You see, the Amor tribe that are here in this country now, they do really bad things, and they are getting worse and worse. But I will not punish them yet. I will punish them later, after your grand-kids grow up and have grand-kids. Then I will do payback to the mob in this country for the bad things that they do. I will take their country from them, and I will give it to your family.” That’s what God told Abram.
17After the sun went down and it was dark, Abram saw a bucket full of fire, with smoke coming out of it, and he saw a burning stick with it. That bucket and stick moved along between the halves of those animals that Abram killed. 18-21That’s how God showed Abram that he was really going to do everything that he promised. God said to him again, “I am going to give your family all this country, from the river in Egypt in the south, right up to the big river called Euphrates in the north.
These are the tribes in this country now,
– the Ken tribe,
– the Keniz tribe,
– the Kadmon tribe,
– the Heth tribe,
– the Periz tribe,
– the Refa tribe,
– the Amor tribe,
– the Canaan tribe,
– the Girgash tribe,
– the Jebus tribe.
I will take this country away from all those tribes, and I will give it to your family.” God promised that to Abram.#Acts 7:5