Genesis Chapter 15  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Genesis 15
Gen 15:1(top)
Gen 15:2

“what will you give me.” Abram was already wealthy, but even if he wasn’t, the feeling of the value of having a family in biblical times was so strong that Abram’s sentiment could have been (and likely was) expressed many times in the biblical period. If a man lived and died without children to enjoy and inherit the work of his years, he was considered cursed. Nothing was as valuable as a family. Abram would die having had eight sons. Ishmael, Isaac, and six by Keturah (Gen. 25:1-2).

“childless.” Abraham did not have any children yet, and at this point in Sarah’s life she was still barren, and therefore not naturally expected to have any children. Nevertheless, God had told Abram that he would have heirs (Gen. 12:2, 7; 13:16).

“Eliezer of Damascus.” Nothing is said of him other than what is in this verse (some assume that he is the chief servant mentioned in Gen. 24:2, and although that may be the case, there is no way to know for certain). This had led many scholars to think that the text has been corrupted or needs to be amended, but that would not have to be the case. Abraham was a powerful Bedouin sheik, with hundreds in his household (see commentary on Gen. 14:14), and he would have no doubt had powerful political and financial connections. It is likely that at that time, before Abram had children, he had made arrangements for this Eliezer to take over his household if he died. The fact that we know nothing else about Eliezer makes sense. He just comes up in a frank and intimate conversation between Abraham and God, and once Abraham had a male child he would no longer inherit the estate.

Gen 15:3

“one born in my house is my heir.” The Hebrew text, translation, and customs are in question here, and the scholars are divided. It is possible that Eleazar was actually one of the members of Abraham’s extended household although he was certainly not a literal son of Abraham. As such, Eleazar was a servant who currently resided in Damasus, which was a major finance and cultural center at that time. If that was the case, then Abraham seems to be considering a custom of the Near East at that time, which was an adoption procedure whereby Eleazar could inherit Abraham’s estate. However, God intervenes here and assures Abraham that he will father his own son who will then be the legitimate heir.

Gen 15:4(top)
Gen 15:5

“So your seed will be.” God promised Abraham that his seed would be a great multitude on a number of different occasions (Gen. 12:2; 13:16; 15:5; 16:10 (via Hagar); Gen. 17:6; 22:17).

Gen 15:6

“He believed in Yahweh.” In this context, the statement that Abraham “believed in Yahweh” means much more than just that Abraham “believed in God.” It means that Abraham believed what God said. Many people today “believe in God” in the sense that they believe that God exists, but they do not believe what God actually says (many through ignorance of what God actually says). Abraham believed what God said about him having more descendants than the stars he could see in the sky. Although there certainly seem to be a lot of stars in the night sky, astronomers estimate that a person can see with the naked eye 2,000-10,000 stars on a clear night. Abraham was over 75 years old and still childless when God told Abraham that he would have more descendants than the stars he could see in the sky, yet Abraham believed—really believed—what God said, and God counted Abraham righteous because of that. Abraham now has millions of descendants, far more than the stars he could see in the sky that night.

“and he credited it to him as righteousness.­­­” This statement teaches us a lot about what it means to be declared righteous in God’s sight due to trust, which is very important for people to know and understand because today people are saved—are granted everlasting life—because of their trust in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:22, 26-31). All Abraham had to do to be declared righteous in God’s sight was to trust what God said (cp. Rom. 4:1-5). All we have to do to be saved today is trust that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was raised from the dead, and now is our Lord (Rom. 10:9).

Through the centuries, many well-meaning teachers have wrongly taught that trust (“faith”) in Jesus Christ is not enough to be saved. Many things have been added by various teachers or denominations to the simple truth that all a person had to do to be saved was trust in Jesus; that he died, was raised, and is Lord. Some of those wrongly added things include: being water baptized, confessing one’s sins, believing in the Trinity, going to church regularly, not sinning after “getting saved,” and not committing a “mortal” sin.

But in Abraham we see the Old Testament foreshadow of the New Testament salvation that is so clearly articulated in the New Testament epistles. God declared Abraham righteous based only on his trust in God. Trust, nothing more. Abraham was declared “righteous!” before he was circumcised, which occurred after God declared him righteous (Abraham was circumcised in Gen. 17). Furthermore, Abraham was never water baptized. In fact, the kind of baptism practiced by John and Jesus does not seem to have been practiced by the Jews until after the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC, well over 1,000 years after Abraham, and exactly when and under what circumstances the New Testament form of baptism came into existence is not known.

Also, Abraham sinned after God declared him righteous and there is no hint that Abraham was no longer saved because of that, he was clearly under the grace of God. For example, on two different occasions, Abraham told the lie that his wife was his sister, resulting in Sarah being taken into other men’s harems (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-18). While Sarah was in fact Abraham’s half-sister, that does not change the fact that he lied about her and allowed her to be taken into another man’s harem just to ensure his own safety. What about her safety and well-being?

It is due to the example of Abraham, and some other Old Testament verses and examples as well (cp. Ps. 40:6-8; Ps. 51; Hos. 6:6), that Romans says that salvation, being righteousness by trust, does not nullify the law but instead upholds the law (Rom. 3:31), and also that the Law and the prophets (i.e., the books written by the prophets, e.g., Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.) testify to “a righteousness from God apart from the law” (Rom. 3:21).

Salvation through trust in Jesus Christ is a major theme throughout the New Testament epistles, but in Romans it is a very prominent theme and is stated in different ways through the book (cp. Rom. 1:17; 3:22, 28, 30; 4:2-3, 6, 9, 11, 13, 16, 22-24; 5:1; 9:30; 10:4, 6, 9). It is a great blessing from God, and a great comfort, to know that because God gave his only begotten Son to die in our place (Rom. 5:8), we can simply accept God’s gift and gain everlasting life because we trust in Jesus. God saves sinners, not “perfect people,” and He saves them because they trust that Jesus died for their sins, was raised from the dead, and now is Lord.

[For more on “faith” being “trust,” see Appendix 16, “‘Faith’ is ‘Trust.’” For more on Mark 16:16, which seems to say that a person must be baptized to be saved, not being in the original text of Mark, see commentary on Mark 16:9, 16.]

Gen 15:7

“to give you this land.” For notes on God promising the land to Abraham and his descendants, see commentary on Genesis 15:18.

Gen 15:8(top)
Gen 15:9(top)
Gen 15:10

“cut them down the middle.” There were many different ways of making a blood covenant in the ancient world—although there were always some similarities, the exact way the covenant was made differed somewhat from place to place and through time. One of the ancient ways to make a blood covenant was to cut the animals in half, after which the parties making the covenant would walk between the bloody pieces (or, in the case of birds, between the bloody animals). This method was obviously practiced in the time of Abraham, and it was still in practice over 1,000 years later (Jer. 34:18). This particular covenant God made was unique because ordinarily, both parties to the covenant would walk between the pieces, but in this case, God put Abraham to sleep and made a covenant with himself; it was just a smoking firepot with a flaming torch, symbols that represented God, that went between the halves of the sacrifice. Thus, in effect, God made the covenant with Himself and so did away with the possibility of “human error.” In other words, by making the covenant with Himself, God was guaranteeing that Abraham and his descendants would get the Promised Land (cp. Gen. 15:8). God did not want Abraham’s descendants breaking any terms of the covenant and forfeiting the right to the Promised Land.

Gen 15:11(top)
Gen 15:12(top)
Gen 15:13

“400 years.” The time of the sojourning of the children of Israel from the time of the weaning-feast of Isaac (Gen. 21:8-13) until the Exodus from Egypt and giving of the Law was 400 years. Israel was not enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, as most people believe. See commentary on Exodus 12:40.

“know, yes, know.” This is the figure of speech polyptoton, emphasizing that Abraham was to absolutely know this information.

[For more on polyptoton, and why it is translated the way it is, see commentary on Genesis 2:16.]

[See figure of speech “polyptoton.”]

Gen 15:14(top)
Gen 15:15(top)
Gen 15:16

“In the fourth generation they will come here again.” This is not the fourth generation from Abraham, because from the promise to the Exodus was 430 years. It is the fourth generation that Israel was in Egypt. Those four generations are Levi (Joseph’s half-brother), Kohath, Amram, Moses

[For a more detailed account of the time periods between Abraham and the Exodus, see the commentary on Exod. 12:40.]

Gen 15:17(top)
Gen 15:18

“I have given this land.” We would say, “I will give this land,” because the promise will be fulfilled in the future. The Hebrew text and translation use the Hebrew idiom of the prophetic perfect, which occurs when something that is future is spoken of as if it is in the past in order to emphasize the certainty that it will happen. God was absolutely going to give the land to the descendants of Abraham, so He said He had already given it to them. This prophecy was fulfilled in part at times in Israel’s history, but it will be ultimately and completely fulfilled only in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom on earth.

God repeated the promise that He would give the land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants many times, and said it in slightly different ways. He told Abraham that he and his descendants would get the land (Gen. 12:7; 13:15-17; 15:7, 18; 17:8). He told it to Isaac (Gen. 26:3). He told it to Jacob (Gen. 28:13; 35:12; 48:4). Then over and over He told Israel about the promise or that He would give them the land (cp. Exod. 6:4, 8; 12:25; 13:5, 11; Lev. 14:34; 20:24; 23:10; 25:2).

[For more on the prophetic perfect idiom, see commentary on Ephesians 2:6. For more on the Millennial Kingdom on earth during which time God’s promise will be completely fulfilled, see Appendix 3: “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.”]

Gen 15:19(top)
Gen 15:20(top)
Gen 15:21(top)

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