(Gen 15:1 NASB) After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.”
Gen 15:1: Abram had just rescued Lot and his household from the kings of the east. He was probably fearful of their retribution. Elohim tells him not to fear them. Elohim is his shield. The enemy is powerless against him.
Elohim tells Abram, “Your reward shall be very great.” Abram is going to find out more about his reward in this chapter.
(Gen 15:2 NASB) And Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”
(Gen 15:3 NASB) And Abram said, “Since Thou hast given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.”
Gen 15:3: Abram is confused concerning the provision of Elohim. He is thinking that perhaps Elohim is not going to provide in the direct and literal manner in which it was stated. Abram thought that Elohim was speaking in a metaphorical sense instead of in the literal manner in which His Word was intended.
Literal Interpretation of Scripture
The “Pashat” meaning of scripture is its literal meaning. This means scripture is understood to mean exactly what it says — it’s not an allegory. If scripture’s literal meaning is denied, then verses could be made to mean most anything!
If scripture is read as an allegory, then no two people would agree on much. When I studied literature in college we had so many opinions on what each author *really* meant. Everyone saw a different meaning, and since it was subjective, who could really say who was right? But in science courses, where textbooks were accepted as fact and read literally, everyone agreed on their meaning. Scripture isn’t fiction, its G-d’s Word to us — the “textbook” G-d gives us. And I think He revealed absolute truth in it, not allegories alluding to truths. If scripture is reduced to allegory status, what separates it from the pagan legends? And even if we only relegated parts of scripture to allegory status, who’s to say which parts are allegory and which are absolute fact?
I use the golden rule of interpretation when I study:
“When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.” 1
(David L. Cooper, “The World’s Greatest Library: Graphically Illustrated [Los Angeles: Biblical Research Society, 1970], 11)
Abram was not letting the Word of Elohim speak plainly and literally. It would appear that Abram was patient concerning the promise of Elohim. Perhaps Abram was silent for many years concerning his lack of progeny and the years of disappointment were reaching their climax. His words to Elohim at this point seem as though it is a cry for help instead of an attempt at correction.
Abram is apparently trying to arrange for an adoption of one of his servants in order to have an heir.
(Gen 15:4 NASB) Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.”
Gen 15:4: Elohim did not want Eliezer of Damascus to be the heir of Abram. He assures Abram that he will have a son.
(Gen 15:5 NASB) And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
Gen 15:5: Abram was told to count the stars if he is able to number them. It was obviously a clear night and the stars visible.
The obvious literal meaning is that Abram would have more descendants then he could count. It is interesting that while Abram could only see and count perhaps a few thousand stars with his naked eye, Scripture compares the number of stars in the sky with the number of grains of sand on the earth (Jer. 33:22). We now know today that this is a very close approximation in number.
(Gen 15:6 NASB) Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Gen 15:6: Abram was counted as righteous by believing in Elohim through this act. Abram had been patient and his cry for help was answered. He was declared righteous due to his faithfulness in Yahweh. The Hebrew word for “believed” is “aman”.
Believe – H539. aman, aw-man’; a prim. root; prop. to build up or support; to foster as a parent or nurse; fig. to render (or be) firm or faithful, to trust or believe, to be permanent or quiet; mor. to be true or certain; once (Isa. 30 : 21; by interch. for H541) to go to the right hand:–hence assurance, believe, bring up, establish, + fail, be faithful (of long continuance, stedfast, sure, surely, trusty, verified), nurse, (-ing father), (put), trust, turn to the right.
Along the same lines, the term for “faithfulness” in Hebrew is a word derived from “aman.”
Faithfulness – H530. emunah, [53c]; from H539; firmness, steadfastness, fidelity:– faith(1), faithful(3), faithfully(8), faithfulness(25), honestly(1), responsibility(m)(1), stability(m)(1), steady(1), trust(2), truth(5).
Paul speaks of this event also. He points out the fact that Abram’s faithfulness was reckoned to him as righteousness long before he was circumcised (Romans 4:3-25, Gal. 3:6-14). Paul emphasizes that Abraham was saved because he believed (was faithful to) Elohim long before he was circumcised and Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised and that no man was declared righteous solely because of Torah. If Abraham was declared righteous before Mt. Sinai, then how could Torah have just been revealed when it was given to Israel several hundred years later? Because it was through Abraham’s faithfulness in following Torah that he was declared righteous (Gen. 26:3-5).
(Gen 15:7 NASB) And He said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.”
Gen 15:7: The wording of the deliverance of Abram from Ur is very similar to the wording of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt (Lev. 25:38). The deliverance of Abram to the Kingdom of Heaven is at least a foreshadowing of the deliverance of Israel. Both were delivered from Pharaoh by plagues. Both left Egypt with great wealth. Both had Pharaoh’s army follow them out of Egypt.
(Gen 15:8 NASB) And he said, “O Lord GOD, how may I know that I shall possess it?”
Gen 15:8: Abram was confident in Elohim’s words. But he wanted to know how he and others would know it is his to possess.
(Gen 15:9 NASB) So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
(Gen 15:10 NASB) Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds.
Gen 15:10: The text does not give the details of the ritual involved here. This is not exactly a sacrifice because an altar is not involved and there is no mention of the sprinkling of blood. The Hebrew word for covenant-making is b-r-t berit. This actually means “to cut a covenant.” The five creatures listed here are five of the six creatures allowed as offerings to Elohim. The only allowable offering not listed that Abram was supposed to supply is a lamb. It is likely that Elohim is saying that He will provide the Lamb for the covenant at a later date.
Covenants in Scripture are sealed with blood. This covenant with Abram is no different. The previously mentioned or alluded covenants with man involved the shedding of blood. The covenant with Adam involved the killing and skinning of one or more animals. The covenant with Noah was sealed with the sacrifices Noah was told to offer. The covenant with Israel was made in Exodus 19-20. It was sealed with the blood of the covenant (Ex. 24:3-8).
(Gen 15:11 NASB) And the birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.
Gen 15:11: Abram was waiting on Elohim to confirm the agreement the two of them would have. Enough time had elapsed that the vultures had shown up. The fact that Abram drove them away is another indication that Abram understood their uncleanness according to the Torah of Elohim.
(Gen 15:12 NASB) Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him.
Gen 15:12: The “deep sleep” is the same Hebrew word used to describe the state of Adam when Elohim took a part of his side to make Chavah (Eve). The significance of his sleep is that Abram did not take part in the covenant ceremony. The focus of the covenant is the promises of Elohim and not anything on the part of Abram whatsoever.
(Gen 15:13 NASB) And God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.
(Gen 15:14 NASB) “But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions.
Gen 15:14: Elohim is assuring Abram of the promises He has made with him. Abram will have many descendants. Abrams descendants will inherit this land. Elohim is giving Abram a brief look at prewritten history. These things took place in the fashion they were described to Abram.
(Gen 15:15 NASB) “And as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.
(Gen 15:16 NASB) “Then in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”
Gen 15:16: The term for “generation” means a revolution of time. It usually means the time from when a man is born until he has his first son. This number varies greatly in Scripture. In Job 42:16, four generations are 140 years. In Gen. 6:3, a generation is 120 years. In Isaiah 65:20, it is 100 years. But keep in mind to whom this prophecy was given. Abram lived to be 175 years old, but his first son was born when he was 100 years old (Gen. 21:5). If this mention of the fourth generation to Abram is a reference to what HE would consider a generation, then 400 years would be the amount of time that the children of Israel were afflicted in Egypt.
(Gen 15:17 NASB) And it came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces.
Gen 15:17: The consummation of the covenant takes place and Abram sleeps through it. The fact is, Abram had nothing to offer for his end of the treaty. He might as well be asleep. Elohim, as a smoking oven and a flaming torch, passed through the pieces of the animals cut up by Abram.
Abram is not placed on an equal plane with Elohim at all. As a matter of fact, Elohim must condescend in grace to come to the man. Abram was merely a recipient of this gift from Yahweh. His sole qualification was the willingness to receive Elohim’s gift of mercy. And this willingness was a gift from Elohim also.
The parallels between this covenant and the covenant we have through the sacrifice of Yeshua are numerous and profound.
Neither covenant involved traditional Levitical sacrifices that include an altar and the sprinkling of blood.
Both sacrifices involved the cutting of the sacrifices (Isaiah 53:4-5).
Unclean vultures were present for both covenants (Mark 15:29-30).
Both covenants involve the sons of Abraham alone (Gal. 3:28-29, Heb. 8:8,10).
It was dark when both covenants were made (Mark 15:33-34).
Both covenants involve those in a dark enslavement to be brought to the land of inheritance, which is Israel (Ezek. 37:11-12).
(Gen 15:18 NASB) On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:
(Gen 15:19 NASB) the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite
(Gen 15:20 NASB) and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim
(Gen 15:21 NASB) and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”
Gen 15:21: The covenant with Abram is the land. It is much larger than the land of Israel as we know it today (see map). We will inherit that land for all eternity in resurrected bodies through faithfulness in Yeshua as Messiah.
Patrick McGuireCopyright 2014 Patrick McGuire and Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly All rights reserved, no portion of this Lesson may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews. Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly Fort Smith, Arkansas