When Lot had left Abram with a less-fertile land, the LORD promised Abram that his descendants would be as the dust of the earth and the land which he saw would be his and his descendants. In the following section, the LORD not also re-confirmed His promises to Abram through a covenant but also told him specific prophecies concerning his descendants and the land. Abram’s reaction in this passage teaches us the faith in believing promises unseen, afar-off, and not-yet received.
Did You Know...?
- Heir (15:2): In the examples where the head of a household had no male heir, it was possible for a servant to be legally adopted as the heir, as particularly stated in an Old Babylonian text from Larsa. This would most likely have been an option of last resort, since it would mean reassignment of property to a person (and his line) who was (1) originally a servant or bondsman, and (2) not a blood relative. [ref]
Why did the word of the LORD come to Abram after “these things”?Hide Answer
“These things” in verse 1 refers to the past event that Abram had faced. In the previous chapter, because of the capture of Lot, Abram was “forced” to battle the four kings, including King Chedorlaomer (Gen 14:15). Such actions of Abram, as an immigrant, might have evoked hatred and revenge from the surrounding native Canaanites. The word of the LORD to Abram after these events served as a consolation to Abram’s fear. The LORD confirmed to Abram that He was Abram’s shield and Abram’s exceedingly great reward (Gen 15:1).
What was Abram afraid of?Hide Answer
Abram feared that he would go childless, without an heir from his own body, throughout his remaining life (Gen 15:2-3). Abram also was fearful with the uncertainty whether or not he would inherit the land (Gen 15:7-8) which the LORD had promised him back when Abram was in Shechem (Gen 12:6-7).
What is the significance of the phrase “your shield” to Abram?Hide Answer
A shield is used to protect oneself from the attack that will be harmful to oneself. For Abram, the phrase “your shield” meant the LORD would personally guarantee to protect Abram from the fear that befell him, his problem of childlessness and his worry about the uncertainty of the inheritance land (Gen 15:1-8).
For Moses, the phrase “the LORD is a shield” meant the help of God from the enemies. In Deuteronomy 33:29, Moses gave his sayings concerning Israel that the LORD would be a shield of their help from their enemies. With the LORD as the shield for His people, not only did He make the “enemies submit to [His people]” but He would also make His people “tread down [the enemies’] high places.” Thus, with the LORD as the shield, the people of God were happy and saved.
For David, the phrase “the LORD is a shield” had several meanings. First, the book of
mentioned how King David spoke to the LORD the words of a song on the day when the LORD had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. King David considered the LORD as his shield because He had saved him from violence and He became David’s strength, trust, stronghold, salvation and refuge ( 2 Sam 22:3, 31, 36). The LORD as David’s shield also meant that the LORD was his glory and the One who lifted his head (Ps 3:3). In addition, the LORD as a shield for David, according to the book of Psalms, meant that He would not withhold good thing “from those who [had walked] uprightly” (Ps 84:11).
In Solomon’s time: See Prov 2:7-9 and 30:5-6;Hide Answer
For Solomon, the phrase “the LORD is a shield” meant that God “guards the path” of “those who walk uprightly” (Prov 2:7-8). Thus, one who was shielded by God would be able to discern “equity and every good path” (Prov 2:9). Furthermore, “the LORD is a shield” for Solomon meant that one could trust in the pureness of God’s word completely (Prov 30:5) and there was no deceit in His pureness (Prov 30:6).
Share an experience when God has been a shield to you;
The LORD’s saying to Abram, “I am your exceedingly great reward” serves as a confirmation to Abram’s fear of being childless. In the Old Testament, the word “reward” can be used to refer to the fruit of the womb or a child from God. The Psalmists says that “children are a heritage from the LORD. The fruit of the womb is a reward” (Ps 127:3). Also, the book of Genesis records that God listened to Leah’s request and gave her the wages (reward), Issachar—her fifth son bore to Jacob (Gen 30:17-18). Thus, not only that the LORD would give Abram his reward—a son and an heir, but also an exceedingly great one—the LORD would make Abram a great nation (Gen 12:2).
Share an experience when God has been a great reward to you.
How did God console and assure Abram that he would not remain childless?Hide Answer
The LORD consoled Abram by reaffirming that Eliezer of Damascus would not be his heir but one who would come from his own body would be his heir (Gen 15:4). Furthermore, the LORD gave assurance to Abram by bringing him outside to look toward heaven and to count the stars if he was able to number them. Just as the stars are innumerable, so “shall [Abram’s] descendants be” (Gen 15:5).
What was Abram’s reaction to the LORD’s assurance? See also Heb 11:11.Hide Answer
In responding to the LORD’s assurance, Abram believed in Him (Gen 15:6). The book of Hebrews explains that in believing the LORD, Abram judged Him faithful to what He had promised. In his belief, even though Sarai was already past the age, Abram and his wife received strength to conceive the promised seed (Heb 11:11).
How did Abram’s belief account for righteousness by God? See Rom 4:18-21.Hide Answer
Abram’s belief was accounted for righteousness by God when there was no basis to believe and to hope for the promise given. According to the apostle Paul, the faith of Abram was as follows: First, Abram believed and hoped for the things which did not exist as though they did (Rom 4:18-19). Second, Abram was not weak in faith and did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief. Since he was about a hundred years old and Sarah’s womb was already dead, he did not consider these factors as a hindrance. In fact, Abram was convinced that what the LORD had promised, He was also able to fulfill it (Rom 4:19-21). Abram’s faith was shown through his works, together with Sarah, in continuing to conceive the promised seed (Heb 11:11).
Today, how is our faith accounted for righteousness by God?Hide Answer
According to the apostle Paul, our faith is accounted for righteousness by God when we “believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses and was raised because of our justification” (Rom 4:24-25). The righteousness imputed is due to the belief that our Lord Jesus was delivered up because of our sins. Though we personally did not witness the crucifixion or the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, we believe He was raised from the dead.
Furthermore, the righteousness imputed was due to the faith shown through our deeds. Since the Lord was delivered up because of our offenses, we ought to live for Christ and not to our old selves (
2 Cor 5:15). Like Abram did, we also ought not to waver in faith at His promises through unbelief. For example, the epistle of 2 Peter explains that there were people who doubted the promise of the Lord’s coming. But the apostle Peter continues to encourage the believers not to waver in their belief ( 2 Pet 3:4, 9).
What was the significance of the LORD’s saying to Abram in verse 7?Hide Answer
The LORD said to Abram, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it” (Gen 15:7). The saying of the LORD meant that God was guiding Abram’s journey to the land of Canaan all along. Though Abram was an immigrant, the LORD reminded him that he needed not to be afraid. In fact, God promised Abram that he would inherit the land which was not his.
How did God confirm His promise to Abram?Hide Answer
The LORD confirmed His promise to Abram by telling him to bring a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon (Gen 15:9). Through these offerings, the LORD made a covenant with Abram and emphasized the land of inheritance would be given to Abram’s descendants (Gen 15:18-21).
According to the Scriptures, the animals mentioned in Abram’s offering—the heifer, the female-goat, the ram, the turtledove and the pigeon—were also used for burnt offerings (Gen 22:13; Ex 29:18; Lev 1:14, 8:18) , sin offerings (Lev 5:7; Num 15:27), trespass offerings (Lev 5:15) and atonement for the guilt of innocent blood (Deut 21:1-4).
What happened to Abram when the sun was going down?
In the book of Isaiah, darkness signifies trouble and gloom of anguish (Isa 8:22). Similarly, the darkness that fell upon Abram implied the upcoming trouble and anguish that the descendants of Abram would experience in Egypt (Gen 15:13). Later, the book of Exodus tells us that the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage and they cried out (Ex 2:23).
Furthermore, the book of Exodus mentions how terror signifies the feeling of dread and fear experienced due to the greatness of God’s arm (Ex 15:16). Likewise, the terror that fell upon Abram indicated the fear and dread of the judgment of God toward Egypt (Gen 15:14). In the time of Moses, the book of Exodus narrates how the LORD would stretch out His hand and strike Egypt with all His wonders (Ex 3:20).
What were the prophecies of the LORD to Abram during his deep sleep? About his descendants;
About the afflicter of his descendants;
About the Amorites;
Before the children of Israel entered the land of Canaan, the LORD told Moses to give them a set of laws and regulations to live by. One of these was about how they were not to follow the doings of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, of which the Amorites was one of them (Lev 18:3, 24-30; Gen 15:21).
The doings and ordinances of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan were as follows: First, the writer of the book of Leviticus warned the Israelites neither to follow “the doings of the land of Canaan” nor “their ordinances” (Lev 18:3). The specific abomination and perversion which the LORD prohibited the children of Israel to follow were the deed of lying with a male as with a woman and the deed of mating with any animal (Lev 18:22-23).
Second, the book of Deuteronomy explained how the LORD prohibited the children of Israel to learn the abominations of those nations when “[the Israelites] came into the land” (Deut 18:9). According to the book of Deuteronomy, the mentioned abominations of those nations were the deed of passing one’s son or one’s daughter through the fire, the deed of witchcraft or soothsaying, the deed of interpreting omens, the deed of sorcery, the deed of conjuring spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, and the deed of calling up the dead (Deut 18:10-11).
Third, the writer of
2nd Kings narrated how the LORD God punished His people because Manasseh, the king of Judah, had done the abominations even “more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him” ( 2 Kgs 21:11). The evil deeds performed by Manasseh were as follows: Building the high places for Baal, making a wooden image, worshipping and serving all the host of heaven, building altars for all the host of heaven in the house of the LORD, setting a carved image of Asherah and seducing the children of Israel to “do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed” ( 2 Kgs 21:3-9).
When and how did the LORD establish His covenant with Abram?
What was the content of the covenant of the LORD?Hide Answer
The content of the LORD’s covenant was to give to Abram’s descendants a land, from the river of Egypt to the great River Euphrates—the land of the Kenites, the land of the Kenezzites, the land of the Kadmonites, the land of the Hittites, the land of the Perizzites, the land of the Rephaim, the land of the Amorites, the Canaanites, the land of the Girgashites and the land of the Jebusites (Gen 15:18-21).
When was the covenant fulfilled?
According to the book of Hebrews, what was Abraham’s reaction in knowing that the land of inheritance would not be given to him in his life-time? See Heb 11:13-16.Hide Answer
In the book of Genesis, the LORD told Abram that in the fourth generation, they would return to the promised land. But Abram would go to his fathers in peace and would be buried at a good old age (Gen 15:15, 16). Therefore, at this point Abram knew that in his life-time, he would not receive the Promised Land. The book of Hebrews explains further, though Abram did not receive the promises, he had seen them afar off and was assured of them. If Abram called to mind the country from which he had come out, he would have had opportunity to return. But he desired a better, that is, a heavenly country (Heb 11:13-16). In other words, Abram had the opportunity to return to his home country if he wanted to, yet he remained a stranger and he believed in God’s promise, willingly accepted the fact of not receiving the land in his life-time.
What were the examples of the “afar-off” promises of God in your life? And how do you learn from Abram in holding to such promises?