Bible Commentaries
Genesis 15

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Verse 1


Here begins a new part in the history of Abram. This part can be divided into three parts containing
1. in Genesis 12-14: God’s public acts with Abram;
2. in Genesis 15-21: God’s ‘private conversations’ with Abraham;
3. in Genesis 22-24: Abraham as a picture of God the Father.

Who the LORD Is for Abram

After his refusal to accept anything from the king of Sodom, the LORD speaks to Abram in a vision. From what He says, we can conclude that Abram needs comfort, encouragement. The LORD encourages him by saying Who He is for him. Is Abram afraid, perhaps of retribution of his defeated enemies? The LORD saith unto him that he himself is his shield, his protector. Did Abram refuse goods? The LORD says to him that He Himself – not: shall be, but – is his very great reward.

This is a great encouragement to anyone who refuses to have anything to do with the world. For everything we refuse for the sake of the Lord Jesus, the reward is not so much something the Lord gives us, but what He Himself is for us. For what we refuse for His sake, He Himself comes in place with all His riches. Owning the Giver is much more than owning what He gives. The Lord wants to be everything to the heart of every one who forsakes the wealth of the world.

Verses 2-5

Two Promises

Abram still has a question. The LORD can indeed give him much, but to whom will he leave it? Abram cannot see further than his immediate surroundings. The only one who qualifies as his successor is his domestic servant. Will he be his heir?

Then Abram gets the wonderful promise that he will have a son himself. In that son, the son of the promise, God will fulfill his promises. That speaks for us of the Lord Jesus, the Son, in Whom all the promises of God are yes and amen (2 Corinthians 1:20).

To give an impression of the size and nature of his offspring, the LORD takes Abram outside. He invites him to count the stars. They are untenable. Such will be his descendants. The stars also say that Abram will also have a heavenly people as descendants.

Verse 6

Abram Believes the LORD

Abram believes that the LORD is able to raise life from his already dead body and from the barren and now also dead womb of Sarai (Romans 4:19-Proverbs :; Hebrews 11:11). That faith is reckoned to him as righteousness. This truth, that righteousness before God is obtained by faith, is repeated three times in the New Testament (Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23).

Abram is declared righteous. His trust in God, that is faith, is answered by God with the awareness that he may and can be in God’s presence. Abram’s faith does justice to God, it does justice to Whom God is. The point is not so much that he believes in God, that he believes that He exists, but that he believes God, that he believes in what God says, that He will do what He says. On this basis God speaks the right of Abram and convinces him in his heart that there is nothing that hinders of being with God. Abram trusts God on His word, while the external circumstances show the opposite.

In Romans 4 this is extended to all who believe: “Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, [He] who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:23-Lamentations :). We read here that whoever believes in God Who raised up the Lord Jesus from the dead, Who was delivered over because of our transgressions and was raised because of our justification, is justified by God, that is: declared righteous. Righteousness means being able to be in the presence of God without charge, completely free and in accordance with the right, without any fear of condemnation.

Verse 7

The LORD Promises Abram the Land

After the promise of an heir, the LORD Abram also promises an inheritance: the land. Heir and inheritance belong together. The LORD promises not only that Abram will possess the land, but that he will possess it as an inheritance. This means that the LORD gives him the inalienable right to it.

Verses 8-17

The Promise Is Based on a Sacrifice

As with the promise of an heir, Abram has the question of how this will happen with the promise of the inheritance. Then the LORD teaches him about the sacrifice. In picture, this means that God fulfils His promises on the basis of His Son’s sacrifice, that is, on the basis of His death.

The different animals represent different aspects of the Lord Jesus and His work. The three year old young heifer represents the strength and perseverance with which the Lord Jesus accomplished His work on the cross. The goat is mainly used as a sin offering, also an important aspect of the Lord Jesus’ work, for that speaks of Him as the One Who is made sin. The ram speaks of devotion and is used in the ordination of priests. The dove and the pigeons speak of Him as the heavenly Man.

The cutting in two speaks of God’s wish that we reflect on all parts of the sacrifice. Chasing away the birds of prey means that we do not allow things or thoughts that prevent us from being busy with the Lord Jesus. The deep sleep that falls on Abram is the identification of Abram with the sacrifice.

God wants us to see how closely we are connected with the Lord Jesus, so that we can personally say, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Then God will be able to show us what future His people face, as He does here.

Before the people will reach the glorious land, it will be oppressed first. The “smoking oven” speaks of this (Genesis 15:17; Deuteronomy 4:20). The people will be oppressed in Egypt (Exodus 1:13). This situation will last 400 years. But directly connected to this is the “flaming torch”, which speaks of the hope of salvation (Isaiah 62:1; Zechariah 12:6). That the flaming torch passes between the pieces is also the confirmation of the promise (cf. Jeremiah 34:18-Psalms :). This is always the way that God’s children must go and that the Lord Jesus also went: first suffering in this world, then glory with Him (Luke 24:26).

Abram will not experience that the good land is in the possession of his descendants. He lived in it as a stranger and will die in it as a stranger. But neither will he experience the misfortune that shall come upon his seed and much less he will share into it (2 Kings 22:20; Isaiah 57:1). In peace and in old age he will go to his ancestors (Psalms 37:37).

If God frees His people, it will be the judgment of the oppressors. However, God will only judge when the measure of sin is full. He is long-suffering, “because He does not want anyone to perish, but that all come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Verses 18-21

The Covenant with Abram

God’s covenant with Abram is without conditions. Here God describes the land in a vastness that it has not had so far, but which it will have in the kingdom of peace.

The land of us, Christians, is the heavenly places. God has already given us this in all its extent because we are connected with the Lord Jesus. God has given everything to Him, and we may share it with Him.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Genesis 15". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.