Bible Commentaries
Genesis 15

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-6


Genesis 15:1

After these things—the events just recorded—the word of the Lord—Debar Jehovah; the first occurrence of this remarkable phrase, afterwards so common in the Hebrew Scriptures (Exodus 9:20; Numbers 3:16; Deu 34:5; 1 Samuel 3:1; Psalms 33:6, et passim). That this was a personal designation of the pre-incarnate Loges, if not susceptible of complete demonstration, yet receives not a little sanction from the language employed throughout this narrative (cf. Genesis 15:5, Genesis 15:7, Genesis 15:9, Genesis 15:13, Genesis 15:14, &c.). At least the expression denotes "the Lord manifesting himself by speech to his servant" (Murphy; vide Genesis 1:3)—came (literally, was) unto Abram in a vision—a night vision, but no dream (vide Genesis 15:5). Biblically viewed, the vision, as distinguished from the ordinary dream, defines the presentation to the bodily senses or to the mental consciousness of objects usually beyond the sphere of their natural activities; hence visions might be imparted in dreams (Numbers 12:6), or in trances (Numbers 24:4, Numbers 24:16, Numbers 24:17). Saying, Fear not, Abram. With allusion, doubtless, to the patriarch's mental dejection, which was probably occasioned by the natural re action consequent upon his late high-pitched excitement (cf. 1 Kings 19:4), which might lead him to anticipate either a war of revenge from the Asiatic monarchs (Jonathan), or an assault from the heathen Canaanites, already jealous of his growing power, or perhaps both. Wordsworth observes that the words here addressed to Abram are commonly employed in Scripture to introduce announcements of Christ (Luke 1:13, Luke 1:30; Luke 2:10; John 12:15; cf. St. John's vision, Revelation 4:1). I am thy shield, and thy exceed lag great reward. Literally, thy reward, exceeding abundantly, the hiphil inf. abs. הַרְבֵּה being always used adverbially (cf. Nehemiah 2:2; Neh 3:1-32 :33), The other rendering, "thy reward m exceeding great" (LXX; Rosenmüller, Delitzsch, Ewald), fails to give prominence to the thought that the patriarch's reward was to be the all-sufficient Jehovah himself. It is not needful to suppose with Lange an actual vision of a shield and treasure.

Genesis 15:2

And Abram said, Lord God. Adonai Jehovah; the first use of these terms in combination, the second, which usually has the vowel-points of the first, being here written with the vocalization of Elohim. Adonai, an older plural form of Adonim, pluralis excellentive (Gesenius), though by some the termination is regarded as a suffix (Ewald, Furst), is a term descriptive of the Divine sovereignty, from adan = dun, or din, to rule or judge; connected with which is the Phoenician aden, an honorary epithet of deity, and recognized as such in Deuteronomy 10:17 (vide Furst, 'Hebrew Lexicon,' sub voce). What wilt thou give me, seeing I go literally, and I going—ἐγὼ δὲ ἀπολύομαι (LXX; Jonathan); ex hac vita discedam (Rosenmüller); but this, though the word "go" is sometimes used in the sense of "die" (Ps 39:14), does not seem necessary—childless—solitary, desolate, hence devoid of offspring, as in Leviticus Gen 20:1-18 :20, 21; Jeremiah 22:30—and the steward—Ben-Meshek; either

(1) the son of running (from shakak, to run) = filius discursitatis, i.e. the steward who attends to my domestic affairs (Onkelos, Drusius); or, and with greater probability,

(2) the son of possession (from mashak, to hold),. i.e. the possessor of my house, or heir of my property (Gesenius, Furst, Delitzsch, Keel, Halisch)—of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus. Literally, Dammesek Eliezer. The paronomasia of this utterance is apparent, and was obviously designed to impart a touch of pathos to the patriarch's grief by ienting out the coincidence that the Ben-shek of his house was either Dammesek (Damascus) in the person of Eliezer (Delitzsch, Keil), or the Damascene Eliezer (Onkelos, Syriac, Aben Ezra, Calvin, Lange, Murphy), or Dammesek-Eliezer as one word (Kalisch).

Genesis 15:3

And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house (literally, the son of my house, i.e. Eliezer) is mine heir. The language of the patriarch discovers three things:

(1) a natural desire to have a child of his own;

(2) a struggle to hold on by the promise in face of almost insuperable difficulties; and

(3) an obvious unwillingness to part with the hope that the promise, however seemingly impossible, would eventually be realized. This unwillingness it was which caused him, as it were, so pathetically to call the Divine attention to his childless condition; in response to which he received an assurance that must have thrilled his anxious heart with joy.

Genesis 15:4

And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.

Genesis 15:5

And he (Jehovah, or "the Word of the Lord") brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them (a proof that Abram's vision was not a dream): and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. Hence it has been inferred that Abram's vision was miraculously quickened to penetrate the depths of space and gaze upon the vastness of the stellar world, since the stars visible to the naked eye would not represent an innumerable multitude (Candlish).

Genesis 15:6

And he believed in the Lord. The hiphil of the verb aman, to prop or stay, signifies to build upon, hence to rest one's faith upon; and this describes exactly the mental act of the patriarch, who reposed his confidence in the Divine character, and based his hope of a future seed on the Divine word. And he counted it to him. Ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ (LXX.), which is followed by nearly all the ancient versions, and by Paul in Romans 4:3; but the suffix ךָ, clearly indicates the object of the action expressed by the verb הָשַׁב b, to think, to meditate, and then to impute (λογίζομαι), followed by לְ of pers. and acc. of the thing (cf. 2 Samuel 19:20; Psalms 32:2). The thing in this case was his faith in the Divine promise. For righteousness. צְדְקְהְ—εἰς δίκαιοσύνην (LXX.); neither for merit and justice (Rabbi Solomon, Jarchi, Ealiseh), nor as a proof of his probity (Gesenius, Rosenmüller); but unto and with a view to justification (Romans 4:3), so that God treated him as a righteous person (A Lapide), not, however, in the sense that he was now "correspondent to the will of God both in character and conduct" (Keil), but in the sense that he was now before God accepted and forgiven' (Luther, Calvin, Murphy, Candlish), which "passive righteousness, however, ultimately wrought in him an "active righteousness of complete conformity to the Divine will" ('Speaker's Commentary').


Genesis 15:1-6

Under the stars with God.


1. Apprehensive of danger. Victorious over the Asiatic monarchs, Abram nevertheless dreaded their return. Signal deliverances are not seldom followed by depressing fears; e.g. David (1 Samuel 27:1) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:10). Having emancipated the people of the land by breaking "the yoke of their burden, and the staff of their shoulder, the rod of their oppressor," he yet feared an outbreak of their hostility. The enmity of those they serve is not an infrequent reward of patriots: witness Moses (Exodus 17:4) and Christ (John 10:31).

2. Disappointed in hope. Notwithstanding repeated assurances that he would one day become a mighty nation, the long-continued barrenness of Sarai appears to have lain upon his heart like a heavy burden. Partaking to all more or less of the nature of a deprivation, the lack of offspring was to Abram an acute grief and serious affliction. The pent-up yearnings of his nature, rendered the more intense by reason of the promise, could not longer be restrained. In language full of pathos he complains to God about his childless condition. So "hope deferred maketh the heart sick" (Proverbs 13:12).

3. Anxious about the promise. He could not discern the possibility of its fulfillment, with years rapidly advancing on himself and Sarai. It is doubtful if any saints, more than Abram, can predict beforehand how the Divine promises shall be accomplished. Yet a recollection of whose promises they are should enable them, as it might have assisted him, to perceive that not a single word of God's can fall to the ground. But, owing partly to limitations in the human mind and imperfections in the human heart, doubts insensibly insinuate themselves against even the clearest and the strongest evidence. And when danger, disappointment, and doubt conjoin to invade the soul, dejection must inevitably follow.


1. A shield for his peril. Divinely given, all sufficient, ever present. "I," Jehovah, "am," now and always, "thy shield"—i.e. thine impregnable defense. And the like protection is vouchsafed to Abram's children when imperiled: as to character, Divine (Proverbs 30:5); as to extent, complete, universal, defending from all forms of evil, warding off assaults from all quarters (Psalms 5:12); as to duration, perpetual (Psalms 121:8).

2. A solace for his sorrow. Happy as the birth of an heir in Sarai's tent would make him, Jehovah gives him to understand that not that was to be his recompense for the trials he had passed through, the sacrifices he had made, and the feats he had performed since leaving Ur, but himself. God's saints are prone to seek their happiness in God's gifts, rather than in the Giver. Here they are recalled along with Abram to the sublime thought that God himself is his people's best reward, and that the possession and enjoyment of his friendship should abundantly compensate for the absence of creature comforts, however dearly prized and ardently desired.

3. A son for his heir. Instead of Eliezer, whom in his perplexity he thought of adopting as his son, a veritable child of his own is promised. Let saints learn how blind is human reason, and how feeble faith becomes when it tries to walk by sight; let them also notice and consider how sure are God's promises, and how inexhaustible are God's resources.


1. The object of Abram's faith. That at this stage of the patriarch's history attention is so markedly directed to his faith can only be explained on the supposition that he now for the first time clearly and implicitly received, embraced, and rested in the promise of a seed, and consequently of a Savior. And the faith which justifies and saves under the gospel dispensation has an outlook nothing different from that of Abram. The object which it contemplates and appropriates is not simply the Divine promise of salvation, but the specific offer of a Savior. God is the Justifier of him who believes in Jesus (Romans 3:26).

2. The ground of Abram's faith. Neither reason nor sense, but the solemnly given, clearly stated, perfectly sufficient, wholly unsupported word of God. And of a like description is the basis of a Christian's faith—God's promise in its naked simplicity, which promise (of a Savior, or of salvation through Jesus Christ) has, like that delivered to Abram, been solemnly announced, clearly exhibited; declared to be perfectly sufficient, but left wholly unsupported in the gospel (John 3:36).

3. The acting of Abram's faith. It was instantaneous, accepting and resting on the Divine promise the moment it was explicitly made known; full-hearted, without reservation of doubt or uncertainty, implicitly reposing on the naked word of God; and conclusive, not admitting of further opening of the question, "being fully persuaded that God was able also to perform that which he had promised" (Romans 4:21).

IV. ACCEPTED WITH GOD. Whatever exegesis be adopted of the clause, ''it was counted unto him for righteousness," the transaction which took place beneath the starry firmament is regarded in the New Testament as the pattern or model of a sinner's justification, and employed to teach—

1. The nature of justification, which is the reckoning of righteousness to one in himself destitute of such excellence, and, on the ground of such imputed righteousness, the acquittal in the eye of the Divine law of one otherwise obnoxious to just condemnation. Possessing no inherent righteousness of his own, Abram had the righteousness of another (not at that time revealed to him) set to his account, and was accordingly justified or declared righteous before God.

2. The condition of justification, which is not works, but faith, Abram having been accepted solely on the ground of belief in the Divine promise (Romans 4:2-5); not, however, faith as an opus operatum or meritorious act, but as a subjective condition, without which the act of imputation cannot proceed upon the person.

3. The time of justification, which is the instant a soul believes, whether that soul be cognizant of the act or not, Abram again being justified, according to the Scripture, from the moment he accepted the Divine promise, though it is not said that Abram at the time was aware of the indemnatory act passed in his favor in the court of heaven.


1. God's saints may sometimes be cast down in God's presence (Psalms 43:5).

2. It is God's special character and care to comfort those who are cast down (2 Corinthians 7:6).

3. God's promises are the wells of comfort which he has opened for the solace of dejected saints.


Genesis 15:1-21


The substance of this chapter is the special intercourse between Jehovah and Abram. On that foundation faith rests. It is not feeling after God, if haply he be found; it is a living confidence and obedience, based upon revelation, promise, covenant, solemn ratification by signs, detailed prediction of the future. God said, "I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward"—i.e. I am with thee day by day as the God of providence; I will abundantly bless thee hereafter. The pro-raise of a numerous offspring, of descendants like the stars for multitude, was not a merely temporal promise, it was a spiritual blessing set in the framework of national prosperity. Abram believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness" (Genesis 15:6; cf. Romans 4:1-25.; Galatians 3:1-29.; Hebrews 11:1-40.).

I. It was a FAITH IN THE PERSONAL, revealed, covenant Jehovah; not merely in a word, or in a sign, or in a prospect, but "in the Lord."

II. THE GRACIOUS BOND OF RELATIONSHIP AND OF COVENANT. Faith on the one side, God dealing with a sinful creature as righteous on the other. The elements of that bond are

(1) gracious acceptance,

(2) gracious revelation,

(3) gracious reward of obedience—in each case vouchsafed to faith.

Thus the faith which justifies is the faith which sanctifies, for the sanctification, as the Apostle Paul shows in Romans 8:1-39; is as truly the outcome of the grace which accepts as the acceptance itself.—R.


Genesis 15:1

What the Lord is to his people.

I. A SHIELD against—

1. The charges of the law (Isaiah 45:24).

2. The accusations of conscience (Romans 15:13).

3. The force of temptation (Revelation 3:10).

4. The opposition of the world (Romans 8:31).

5. The fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).


1. For sufferings patiently endured (2 Timothy 2:12).

2. For sacrifices cheerfully made (Matthew 19:28).

3. For service faithfully accomplished (Revelation 2:28).


1. Admire the exceeding richness of Divine grace.

2. Appreciate the fullness of Divine salvation.

3. Realize the height of Divine privilege accorded to the saint.—W.


Genesis 15:6

Faith and Righteousness.

"And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Even by itself this passage claims attention. How does the idea of righteousness come into it at all? What is meant by "counting" or "imputation"? And what is the connection between belief and imputed righteousness? But it does not stand alone.

(1) In Psalms 106:30 (cf. Numbers 25:7) the same "counting" takes place on an act of an entirely different character; and

(2) it is thrice quoted in the New Testament as an example of the action of faith in the spiritual life. Imputation must not be explained away. Its meaning is seen in Leviticus 7:18; Psalms 17:4; 2 Samuel 19:19. There is here the germ of "the Lord our righteousness." In Romans 4:3-5, Romans 4:23-25, St. Paul refers to it as an instance of justification by faith, connecting it with "the reward;" and this again with forgiveness and acceptance (Psalms 32:2), the psalm almost repeating the words of the text (see also Galatians 3:6). We need not suppose that now for the first time Abram was accepted of God, or that he alone was counted righteous. Mark, Abram believed not merely the particular promise, but "in the Lord." This instance is specially noticed by St. Paul as an instance of faith, because from the nature of the case there was no opportunity of action.

I. THE WORKING Or FAITH—simple belief of what God has said, because he is true; casting all care upon him. No merit in this. Faith is the channel, not the source of justification. By the look of faith the dying Israelites lived (Numbers 21:9), but the healing was from God. God offers salvation freely (John 7:37; Revelation 22:17), because he loves us even while in our sins (Ephesians 2:4). What hinders that love from being effectual is unbelief. Many "believe a lie"—e.g. that they must become better ere they can believe (cf. Acts 15:1). Primary lesson of practical Christianity is that we must begin by receiving, not by giving; must learn to believe his word because it is his word. This delivers from the spirit of bondage (Romans 8:15), and enables to ask with confidence (Romans 8:32). And this faith is counted for righteousness.

II. FAITH GROWS BY USE. It is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), but it is given according to laws. Sometimes it springs up suddenly—e.g. Nathanael, St. Paul, the Philippian jailer; but usually it is like the growth of the seed, hardly to be traced—a gradual growth from efforts to live by faith. Let none think, I can believe when I will. The endeavor delayed will meet with many difficulties, suggestions of doubt, or habits of indecision. And let none despise the training which prepares the soul to believe. It may seem to be labor in vain, yet the Holy Spirit may be working unseen to prepare the soul for life and peace.

III. FAITH LEADS TO HOLINESS. It renders possible a service which cannot otherwise be given. The faith which was counted to Abram for righteousness formed the character which enabled him afterwards to offer up Isaac (cf. Jas 2:21 -28). Thus growth in holiness is the test of real faith. There is a faith which has no power (cf. James 2:19; 1 Corinthians 13:2; 2 Timothy 4:10). It is with the heart that man believes unto righteousness (cf. Psalms 84:6, Psalms 84:7; Proverbs 4:23).—M.

Verses 7-21


Genesis 15:7

And he (Jehovah, or the Word of the Lord) said unto him (after the act of faith on the part of the patriarch, and the act of imputation or justification on the part of God, and in explication of the exact nature of that relationship which had been constituted between them by the spiritual transaction so described), I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees (vide Genesis 11:28), to give thee this land to inherit (or, to possess) it.

Genesis 15:8

And he said, Lord God (Adonai Jehovah; vide Genesis 15:2), whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? Not the language of doubt, though slight misgivings are not incompatible with faith (cf. Judges 6:17; 2 Kings 20:8; Luke 1:34), and questioning with God "is rather a proof of faith than a sign of incredulity" (Calvin); but of desire for a sign in confirmation of the grant (Luther), either for the strengthening of his own faith, or for the sake of his posterity (Jarchi, Michaelis), or for some intimation as to the time and mode of taking possession (Murphy). Rosenmüller conceives the question put in Abram's mouth to be only a device of the narrator's to lead up to the subject following.

Genesis 15:9

And he said unto him, Take me (literally, for me, i.e. for my use in sacrifice) an heifer of three years old. So rightly (LXX; Syriac, Samaritan, Arabic, Josephus, Bochart, Rosenmüller, Keil); not three heifers (Onkelos, Jarchi, Kimchi, et alii). And a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old. These offerings, afterwards prescribed by the law (Exodus 29:15; Numbers 15:27; Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3), were three in number, and of three years each, to symbolize him who was, and is, and is to come (Wordsworth); perhaps rather to indicate-the perfection of the victim in respect of maturity (Murphy). Cf. Ganymede's offering (in 'Lucian's Dialogues') of a three years old ram for a ransom. And a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon—also prescribed by the law (Le Genesis 1:14; Luke 2:24).

Genesis 15:10

And he took unto him all these, and divided (a word occurring only here in Genesis, and supposed by Michaelis to have been taken by Moses from the ancient document from which he transcribed this portion of his work. The word is afterwards found in So Genesis 2:17, and Jeremiah 34:18) them in the midst,—μέσα (LXX.); in equal parts (Onkelos)—and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. So afterwards in the Mosaic legislation (Le Genesis 1:7). Wordsworth detects in the non-dividing of the birds an emblem of "the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of peace and love; which is a Spirit of unity, and of "Christ's human spirit, which was not divisible." Kalisch, with more probability, recognizes as the reason of their not being divided the fact that such division was not required, both fowls being regarded as one part of the sacrifice only, and each, as the half, being placed opposite the other. Wordsworth numbers seven parts in the sacrifice, and sees a symbol of completeness and finality, the number seven being the root of shaba, to swear; Kalisch reckons four, which he regards as "denoting perfection, but rather the external perfection of form than the internal one of the mind," and pointing "to the perfect possession of the Holy Land." The ritual here described is the same which was afterwards observed among the Hebrews in the formation of covenants (cf. Genesis 34:18), and appears to have extensively prevailed among heathen nations.

Genesis 15:11

And when the fowls—literally, and the bird of prey, a collective singular with the article, as in Genesis 14:13, symbolizing the Egyptians and other adversaries of Israel, as in Ezekiel 17:3, Ezekiel 17:7, Ezekiel 17:12; Ezekiel 39:4, Ezekiel 39:17; Revelation 19:17, Revelation 19:18 (Knobel, Rosenmüller, Lunge, Keil, Kalisch), which may be regarded as probable if the divided victims represented Israel in affliction, which is doubtful (vide supra). It does not appear necessary to attach any special significance to the descent of the vultures, which are always attracted towards carrion, and the introduction of which here completes the naturalness of the scene—came down upon the caresses (the LXX. interpolates, ἐπὶ τὰ διχοτομήματα), Abram drove them away. Literally, caused them to be blown away, i.e. by blowing. "Though Abram is here represented as the instrument, yet the effect is to be ascribed primarily to the tutelar agency of omnipotence" (Bush; cf. Exodus 15:10; Ezekiel 21:31). The act of scaring the voracious birds has been taken to represent the ease with which Abram or Israel would ward off his enemies (Jonathan, Targums, Rosenmüller, Bush); the averting of destruction from the Israelites through Abram's merit (Kalisch, Keil); Abram's religious regard for and observance of God's treaty (Wordsworth); the patriarch's expectation that God was about to employ the sacrificial victims for some holy purpose (Alford); simply his anxiety to preserve the victims pure and un-mutilated for whatever end they might have to serve (Murphy).

Genesis 15:12

And when the sun was going down. Literally, was about to go down. The vision having commenced the previous evening, an entire day has already passed, the interval being designed to typify the time between the pro-raise and its fulfillment (Kalisch). A deep sleeptardemah (cf. Adam's sleep, Genesis 2:21); ἔκστασις (LXX.); a supernatural slumber, as the darkness following was not solely due to natural causes—fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness—literally, an, horror, a great darkness, i.e. an overwhelming dread occasioned by the dense gloom with which he was encircled, and which, besides Being designed to conceal the working of the Deity from mortal vision (Knobel), was meant to symbolize the Egyptian bondage (Grotius, Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil, Aalisch), and perhaps also, since Abram's faith embraced a larger sphere than Canaan (Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:14, Hebrews 11:16), and a nobler seed than Sarah's son (John 8:56), the sufferings of Christ (Wordsworth, Inglis)—fell upon him.

Genesis 15:13

And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety—literally, knowing knowthat thy seed shall be a stranger in a land which is not there, and shall serve them (i.e. the inhabitants of that alien country); and they (i.e. these foreigners) shall afflict them—three different stages of adverse fortune are described:—

(1) exile;

(2) bondage;

(3) affliction (Murphy);

or the two last clauses depict the contents of the first (Kalisch)—four hundred years. The duration not of their affliction merely, but either of their bondage and affliction, or more probably of their exile, bondage, and affliction; either a round number for 430 (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil, Alford), to Be reckoned from the date of the descent into Egypt (Kalisch, Lunge), as Moses (Exo 12:1-51 :89) and Stephen (Acts 7:6) seem to say, and to be reconciled with the statement of Paul (Galatians 3:17) by regarding the death of Jacob as the closing of the time of promise (Lange, Inglis); or an exact number dating from the birth of Isaac (Willet, Murphy, Wordsworth), which was thirty years after the call in Ur, thus making the entire interval correspond with the 430 years of Paul, or from the persecution of Ishmael (Ainsworth, Clarke, Bush), which occurred thirty years after the promise in Genesis 12:3.

Genesis 15:14

And also that nation (the name of which he does not reveal, in case of seeming to interfere with the free volition of his creatures, who, while accomplishing his high designs and secret purposes, are ever conscious of their moral freedom), whom they shall serve, will I judge:i.e. punish after judging, which prediction was in due course fulfilled (Exodus 6:11)—and afterward shall they come out with great substancerecush (cf. Genesis 13:6; vide Exodus 12:36).

Genesis 15:15

And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace (cf. Genesis 25:8; Genesis 35:29; Genesis 49:33). Not a periphrasis for going to the grave (Rosenmüller), since Abram's ancestors were not entombed in Canaan; but a proof of the survival of departed spirits in a state of conscious existence after death (Knobel, Murphy, Wordsworth, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Inglis), to the company of which the patriarch was in due time to be gathered. The disposal of his remains is provided for in what follows. Thou shalt be buried in a good old age.

Genesis 15:16

But in the fourth generation,—τετάρτη δὲ γενεᾷ (LXX.); but, more correctly, the fourth generation, calculating 100 years to a generation. "Caleb was the fourth from Judah, and Moses from Levi, and so doubtless many others" (Bush). Drs. Oort and Kuenen, reckoning four generations as a far shorter space of time than four centuries, detect a contradiction between this verse and Genesis 15:13, and an evidence of the free use which the ancient and uncritical Israelitish author made of his materials. On the import of דּוֹר vide Genesis 6:9they shall come hither again (literally, shall return hither): for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. Literally, for not completed the iniquity of the Amorites (vide Genesis 14:7; here put for the entire population! until then (the same word as "hither, which is its usual signification).

Genesis 15:17

And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down,—literally, and it was (i.e. this took place), the sun went down; less accurately, ἐπεὶ δὲ ὁ ἤλιιος ἐγένετο πρὸς δυσμὰς (LXX.), which was the state of matters in Genesis 15:12. Here the sun, which was then setting, is described as having set—and it was dark,—literally, and darkness was, i.e. a darkness that might be felt, as in Genesis 15:12; certainly not φλὸξ ἐγένετο (LXX.), as if there were another flame besides the one specified in the description—behold a smoking furnace,—the תַּנּוּר, or Oriental furnace, had the form of a cylindrical fire-pot—and a burning lamp—a lamp of fire, or fiery torch, emerging from the smoking stove: an emblem of the Divine presence (cf. Exodus 19:18)—that passed between those pieces—in ratification of the covenant.

Genesis 15:18-21

In that day the Lord made a covenant—literally, cut a covenant (cf. ὅρκια τέμνειν, foedus icere). On the import of בְּרִית vide Genesis 9:9)—with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt—the Nile (Keil, Kurtz, Hengstenberg, Kalisch) rather than the Wady el Arch, or Brook of Egypt (Knobel, Lange, Clarke), at the southern limits of the country (Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:4; Isaiah 27:12)—unto the great river, the river Euphrates. The ideal limits of the Holy Land, which were practically reached under David and Solomon (vide 1 Kings 4:21; 2 Chronicles 9:26), and which embraced the following subject populations, ten in number, "to convey the impression of universality without exception, of unqualified completeness" (Delitzsch). The Kenites,—inhabiting the mountainous tracts in the south-west of Palestine, near the Amalekites (Numbers 24:21; 1 Samuel 15:6; 1 Samuel 27:10); a people of uncertain origin, though (Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11) Hobab, the brother-in-law of Moses, was a Kenite—and the Kenizzites,—mentioned only in this passage; a people dwelling apparently in the same region with the Kenites (Murphy), who probably became extinct between the times of Abraham and Moses (Bochart), and cannot now be identified (Keil, Kalisch), though they have been connected with Kenaz the Edomite, Genesis 36:15, Genesis 36:42 (Knobel)—and the Kadmonites,—never again referred to, but, as their name implies, an Eastern people, whose settlements extended towards the Euphrates (Kalisch)—and the Hittites,—the descendants of Heth (vide Genesis 10:15); identified with the Kheta and Katti of the Egyptian and Assyrian monuments, and supposed by Mr. Gladstone to be the Kheteians of the 'Odyssey;' a powerful Asiatic tribe who must have early established themselves on the Euphrates, and spread from thence southward to Canaan and Egypt, and westward to Lydia and Greece, carrying with them, towards the shores of the AEgean Sea, the art and culture of Assyria and Babylon, already modified by the forms and conceptions of Egypt. The northern capital of their empire was Carchemish, about sixteen miles south of the modern Birejik; and the southern Kadesh, on an island of the Orontes—and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims (vide Genesis 13:7; Genesis 14:5), and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Oirgashites, and the Jebusites (vide Genesis 10:15-19). The boundaries of the Holy Land as here defined are regarded by some (Bohlen) as contradictory of those designated in Numbers 34:1-12. But

(1) the former may be viewed as the ideal (or poetical), and the latter as the actual (and prosaic), limits of the country assigned to Israel (Hengstenbreg, Keil); or

(2) the former may represent the maxima, and the latter the minima, of the promise, which admitted of a larger or a smaller fulfillment, according as Israel should in the sequel prove fit for its occupation; or,

(3) according to a certain school of interpreters, the former may point to the wide extent of country to be occupied by the Jews on occasion of their restoration to their own land, as distinguished from their first occupation on coming up out of Egypt, or their second on returning from Babylon; or

(4) the rivers may be put for the countries with which the promised land was coterminous (Kurtz, Murphy); or

(5) strict geographical accuracy may not have been intended in defining the limits of the land of promise ('Speaker's Commentary,' Inglis).


Genesis 15:18

Taken into covenant.


1. The ultimate blessing, to which, in both the commencement and close of the present section, the prominence is assigned, was a splendid inheritance—the land of Canaan for his descendants, and for himself the better country, of which that earthly possession was a type.

2. The mediate blessing, through which alone the last could be reached, was a distinguished seed—a numerous posterity to occupy the land, and a living Savior to secure for himself the bettor country.

3. The proximate blessing, to be enjoyed while as yet the second and the third were unfulfilled, was a celestial alliance by which Jehovah himself engaged to be his shield and exceeding great reward. It is obvious that these are the blessings which the gospel confers on believers—a heavenly Friend, an all-sufficient Savior, a future inheritance; whence the Abrahamic covenant was nothing different from the covenant of grace.

II. THE REASON OF THE COVENANT. The essential idea in a covenant being a visible pledge for the fulfillment of a promise, the necessity for such a guarantee on the present occasion, it is apparent, could not lie with God. On the contrary, the proposal on the part of God to bind himself by a superadded engagement to implement his own gracious and spontaneous promise was an explicit condescension, if not to the feebleness of the patriarch's faith, at least to the weakness of his human nature. Perhaps the recollection of who Jehovah was, and what he had already accomplished in bringing Abram from Ur, should have proved sufficient to authenticate the promise; but it would almost seem as if human nature, in its innocent no less than in its fallen state, instinctively craved the assistance of external symbols to enable it to clearly apprehend and firmly grasp the unseen and spiritual blessings that are wrapped up in God's promises. In the garden of Eden the tree of life was Adam's sacramental pledge of immortality; after the Flood the many-colored rainbow was a sign to Noah; in the Hebrew Church material symbols of unseen verifies were not awanting; while in the Christian Church the passover and circumcision have been replaced by the Lord's Supper and baptism. The reasons that required the institution of these external signs may be held as having necessitated the solemn ritual which was exhibited to Abram.


1. The sacrificial victims. Seeing that these were afterwards prescribed in the Mosaic legislation, which itself was a shadow of the good things to come, to be employed as propitiatory offerings, it is impossible not to regard them, though not necessarily understood as such by Abram, as types (not of Israel, Abram's seed after the flesh simply, nor of the Church of God generally, i.e. Abram's seed according to the spirit, though perhaps neither of these should be excluded, but) of Abram's greater Seeds whose perfect, Divinely-appointed, and substitutionary sacrifice alone constitutes the basis of the everlasting covenant.

2. The smoking furnace and the burning lamp. Compared with the smoke and fire that afterwards appeared on Sinai when Jehovah descended to covenant with Israel, and the pillar of cloud and fire that led the march of Israel from Egypt, these at once suggest their own interpretation. They were emblems of God's presence, and may be viewed as suggesting

(1) the combination of justice and mercy in the Divine character, and

(2) the twofold attitude in which the Deity exhibits himself to men according as they are his enemies or friends.

IV. THE IMPORT OF THE COVENANT. Partly through visible sign, partly in spiritual vision, partly by audible words, the patriarch was instructed as to—

1. The objective basis of his own justification, which was neither personal merit nor faith considered as an opus operatum, but the Divinely-appointed sacrifice which God was graciously pleased to accept in propitiation for human sin.

2. The true security for God's fulfillment of the promise, which was not any outward sign or token, but the everlasting covenant which in mysterious symbol had been unfolded to him.

3. The interval of discipline allotted to the heirs of the land; for his descendants three generations of exile, servitude, and affliction, to prepare them for receiving Canaan in the fourth; and for himself a continual sojourning, without a final settling within its borders; in both cases emblematic of the saint's experience after justification and before glorification.

4. The ultimate assumption of the inheritance by his seed—a Divine voice solemnly foretelling their return from captivity, as it afterwards declared that his spiritual descendants should be emancipated and brought back to their celestial abode, and a Divine vision unfolding to his gaze the wide extent of territory they should eventually possess—perhaps the limits of the earthly land melting away, as his spirit stood entranced before the gorgeous panorama, into the confines of the better country..

5. His own certain passage to the heavenly Canaan, for which he was even at that time looking—a promise which belongs individually to all who are the children of Abram by faith in Jesus Christ.

See from this subject—

1. The fullness of Divine blessing which the covenant con-rains.

2. The depth of Divine condescension which the covenant reveals.

3. The glorious securities which the covenant affords.


Genesis 15:7, Genesis 15:8

The strength and weakness of faith.


1. Looking up to the Divine character—"I am the Lord."

2. Looking back to the Divine grace—"that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees."

3. Looking oat to the Divine promise—"to give thee this land to inherit it."


1. Looking forward—the fulfillment of the promise seeming far away.

2. Looking in—discovering nothing either in or about itself to guarantee its ultimate realization.—W.

Genesis 15:11

The silent worshipper.


1. Divine in its appointment.

2. Simple in its ritual.

3. Sacrificial in its character.

4. Believing in its spirit.

5. Patient in its continuance.

6. Expectant in its attitude.


1. What they were. The descent of the fowls may be regarded as emblematic of those obstructions to communion with God which arise from—

(1) The principalities and powers of the air.

(2) The persecutions and oppressions (or, where these are absent, the pleasures and engagements) of the world.

(3) The disturbances and distractions of vain thoughts and sinful motions in the heart.

2. How they were removed.

(1) By watchfulness.

(2) By opposition.

(3) By perseverance.

(4) By Divine help—the breath of Abram's mouth being probably accompanied by a wind from God.


1. By the approach of God at night-fall towards the scene.

2. By the supernatural revelation accorded to the patriarch.

3. By the passage of the symbol of Jehovah's presence between the divided victims.

4. By the announcement that God had taken him into covenant with himself.

5. By the vision of the land which was granted to him.


1. The sinfulness and worthlessness of all forms of worship except that which God has appointed.

2. The need for self-examination and Divine assistance when engaged in serving God.

3. The certain acceptance and spiritual enrichment of those who worship God in spirit and in truth.—W.


Genesis 15:12-17

Abraham's watch and vision.

"And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep," &c. The great blessings promised are still afar off. As yet Abraham has no son to hand down his name to posterity. By means of a vision God strengthened his faith. Weird is the picture in this fifteenth chapter. See the solitary sheik in the desert offering his varied sacrifice, then watching until the sun goes down to drive off the vultures from the slain offerings. His arms become weary with waving and his eyes with their vigils. As the sun sinks below the widespread horizon, and night quickly steals over the desert, a horror of great darkness creeps over his spirit. Then a deep sleep falls upon him, and in that sleep come visions and a voice. The vision was of a furnace and a shining lamp moving steadily between the divided emblems. Look at the meaning of that vision.

I. It indicated the ACCEPTANCE OF THE OFFERINGS. Fire in the East is generally understood to be a solemn witness to any engagement. To confirm an oath some Orientals will point to the lamp and say, "It is witness." Nuptial ceremonies are sometimes solemnized by walking round a fire three times, and the parties uttering certain words meanwhile.


1. Both the Israel after the flesh and that after the spirit had to pass through the fire of persecution; but the lamp of truth had always been kept alight by the prophets, apostles, martyrs, and confessors of the Church.

2. The life and work of Christ may also have been shadowed forth in that furnace and lamp. Christ knew the bitterness of betrayal, denial, and death; but he knew also the joy of conscious sinlessness, complete self-sacrifice, and unending power of salvation.

3. They illustrated the character of the life of many believers. Trial and joy must be intermingled. As Abraham saw the vision in connection with sacrifice, so on Calvary shall we best learn the meaning of the smoking furnace and burning lamp.—H.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 15". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.