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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
The Lord’s covenant with Abram
1After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
‘Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,#15:1 Or sovereign
your very great reward.#15:1 Or shield; / your reward will be very great
2But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit#15:2 The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain. my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ 3And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’
4Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’ 5He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring#15:5 Or seed be.’
6Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
7He also said to him, ‘I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.’
8But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I shall gain possession of it?’
9So the Lord said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.’
10Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
12As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and ill-treated there. 14But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions. 15You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.’
17When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking brazier with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi#15:18 Or river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates – 19the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.’