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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 15

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verses 1-21

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God’s covenant with Abram (15:1-21)

Earlier God had promised Abram a people and a land (see 12:2; 13:15). Abram’s faith concerning the promised land had been tested through drought and conflict, and his faith concerning the promised people was constantly being tested through his wife’s inability to have children. According to a custom of the time, a childless couple could adopt a person and make him heir to the family property. Abram therefore decided to adopt his trusted slave Eliezer. But God persuaded him not to, reassuring him that he would have a son and, through that son, countless descendants. Abram believed God, and on the basis of his faith God accepted him as righteous (15:1-6; cf. Romans 4:1-5,Romans 4:13-22).

God then confirmed his promise to Abram of a people and a land in a traditional covenant-making ceremony. Normally in such ceremonies sacrificial animals were cut in halves, after which the two parties to the covenant walked between the halves, calling down the fate of the slaughtered animals upon themselves should they break the covenant. God therefore commanded Abram to prepare the animals (7-11; cf. Jeremiah 34:18).

In this case, however, God alone (symbolized by a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch) passed between the pieces of the slaughtered animals, because he alone took the responsibility to fulfil the covenant promises. All was by God’s grace, and was received by Abram through faith. Yet Abram felt a terrifying darkness upon him, for the covenant would be fulfilled amid opposition, bondage, judgment and oppression over a period of hundreds of years. God would be patient with the peoples of Canaan and give them ample opportunity to repent. Only when their wickedness had reached uncontrollable limits would he allow Israel to destroy them and possess their land (12-21).

The reason God established the descendants of Abram as the nation Israel was chiefly to use Israel to produce Jesus the Saviour. God’s promise of worldwide blessing through Abram was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, through whom people of all nations may receive God’s salvation. Jesus Christ was, in a special sense, the promised descendant of Abram (see 12:2-3; Luke 1:54-55,Luke 1:72-73; Galatians 3:16). When believers become Christ’s people, they become, through him, Abram’s descendants also, and so share in the blessings promised to Abram (Romans 4:16-17; Galatians 3:6-9,Galatians 3:14,Galatians 3:29; Ephesians 3:6). The permanent rest God gives them is more than a dwelling place in Canaan; it is salvation through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:6-10).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Genesis 15". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/genesis-15.html. 2005.
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