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Genesis 15

15
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.
15
God Makes a Covenant With Abram
1Some time later, Abram had a vision. The Lord said to him,
“Abram, do not be afraid.
I am like a shield to you.
I am your very great reward.”
2But Abram said, “Lord and King, what can you give me? I still don’t have any children. My servant Eliezer comes from Damascus. When I die, he will get everything I own.” 3Abram continued, “You haven’t given me any children. So this servant of mine will get everything I own.”
4Then a message from the Lord came to Abram. The Lord said, “When you die, what you have will not go to this man. You will have a son of your own. He will get everything you have.” 5The Lord took Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky. Count the stars, if you can.” Then he said to him, “That’s how many children will be born into your family.”
6Abram believed the Lord. The Lord was pleased with Abram because he believed. So Abram’s faith made him right with the Lord.
7He also said to Abram, “I am the Lord. I brought you out of Ur in the land of Babylon. I will give you this land to have as your very own.”
8But Abram said, “Lord and King, how can I know I will have this land as my own?”
9So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a young cow, a goat and a ram. Each must be three years old. Bring a dove and a young pigeon along with them.”
10Abram brought all of them to the Lord. Abram cut them in two and placed the halves opposite each other. But he didn’t cut the birds in half. 11Then large birds came down to eat the dead bodies of the animals and birds. But Abram chased the large birds away.
12As the sun was going down, Abram fell into a deep sleep. A thick and scary darkness covered him. 13Then the Lord said to him, “You can be sure of what I am about to tell you. For 400 years, your family who comes after you will be strangers in another country. They will become slaves there and will be treated badly. 14But I will punish the nation that makes them slaves. After that, they will leave with many possessions. 15But you will die in peace. You will join the members of your family who have already died. And you will be buried when you are very old. 16Your children’s grandchildren will come back here. That’s because the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached the point where I must punish them.”
17The sun set and it became dark. Then a burning torch and a pot filled with smoking coals appeared. They passed between the pieces of the animals that had been cut in two. 18On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram. He said, “I am giving this land to your family who comes after you. It reaches from the River of Egypt to the great Euphrates River. 19It includes the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20Hittites, Perizzites and Rephaites. 21The Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites also live there.”