Bible Commentaries
Genesis 15

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Verses 1-21

God Promises an Heir to Abraham and the Land of Canaan for his Descendants. The Promise is Ratified by a Covenant

The passage is from the Primitive source. A somewhat similar account from the Priestly narrative is given in Genesis 17. The repetition shows the importance attached by the compiler of Genesis to these records of the promises as testifying to the divine purposes for the Hebrew people.

1. Vision] probably a trance, with the senses dormant, but the mind awake to spiritual impressions: cp. Numbers 24:3-4, Numbers 24:15, Numbers 24:16. Fear not] It is thought that Abraham was depressed at the thought (1) of his childlessness, and (2) of the powerful enemies he had made through the rescue of Lot. To remove the latter fear God promises Himself to be his shield. Thy exceeding great reward] RM ’thy reward shall be exceeding great.’

2. What wilt thou give me] of what avail are these promised possessions, with no child to inherit them? The steward, etc.] RV ’he that shall be possessor of my house,’ i.e. the heir, would be Eliezer of Damascus, a servant. The Damascenes have always boasted a connexion with Abraham.

4. Abraham is assured that his heir should be a child of his own begetting.

5. He brought him forth] This was probably part of the vision. Tell the stars] i.e. count them.

6. He counted it to him for righteousness] Faithful Abraham gave up his own will to the will of God, did not seek to force his way in the world (Genesis 14:22), but awaited God’s blessing in His good time. And this attitude of trust and submission was esteemed by God. St. Paul quotes this passage to show that mankind are accepted by God through their faith apart from any observance of the Mosaic law, which indeed had not at the period referred to in this passage come into existence. See Romans 4, 5; Galatians 3; Hebrews 11; James 2.

8. Abraham asks for some pledge of the fulfilment of the promises.

9. God condescends to confirm the promise of the possession of the land by a visible sign. Abraham is directed to make the usual preparations observed in old times when two parties were about to make an important covenant or alliance: cp. Jeremiah 34:18. Certain animals and birds used in sacrifice were slain, and the bodies of the former divided in two parts: hence the expression to ’strike’ or ’cut’ a covenant. The two parties then passed between the parts, met in the middle, and took an oath of agreement, the position signifying that if they were false to the covenant they merited a similar fate to that of the slain animals.

10. The birds divided he not] see on Leviticus 1:17. Probably they were put opposite one another.

11. Fowls] RV ’birds of prey’: an omen of the troubles which his descendants must encounter before entering into their possession.

12. An horror of great darkness] lit. ’a terror, even great darkness,’ preceding the wondrous sight of Genesis 15:17.

13. Abraham is given a glimpse of the fortunes of his descendants. A land that is not theirs] i.e. Egypt. Centuries must elapse before the family of Abraham had grown into a nation fit to take possession of Canaan. Much of this time was to be spent in Egypt, where trials and afflictions would discipline them to become the consecrated nation who were to preserve the knowledge of Jehovah.

Four hundred years] see on Exodus 12:40. The four generations of Genesis 16:16 taken in agreement with this v. must mean periods of a hundred years each, but there are no data by which we. can verify or correct the figures.

15. Go to thy fathers] see on Genesis 25:8.

16. The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full] The Amorites here stand for the races of Canaan generally. They are to be spared for 400 years, until their idolatry and gross vices have exhausted the forbearance of God: cp. Deuteronomy 7:1 and Intro. to Joshua.

17. Burning lamp] probably ’torch,’ though the meaning is uncertain. The ratification of the covenant now took place by a bright light enveloped in cloud, the symbol of God’s presence, passing between the victims: cp. Exodus 3:2-3; Exodus 40:34, etc. God gave the promise of the inheritance of the land: Abraham’s part was continued trust, patience, and obedience.

18. The river of Egypt] probably the Wady el Arish on the border of Egypt. In the days of Solomon the promise was fulfilled (1 Kings 4:21, 1 Kings 4:24).

19. Kenites and Kenizzites] Tribes of the Negeb and Southern Desert. The Kenites were widely spread from Midian to Naphtali: cp. Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11. Kadmonites] of the Syro-Arabian Desert.

20, 21. Peiizzites] see on Genesis 13:7. Rephaims] see on Genesis 14:5. The others were peoples of Canaan: see on Genesis 10:16.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Genesis 15". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.