Abraham (Genesis 15)

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Patriarchs

  • All was not well after Abraham’s great victory over the kings.
  • Abraham must have been worried because God showed up and said, “Fear not, Abram.”
  • Maybe Abraham thought the kings would try to get even with him.
  • God told him, “I am a shield to you; Your very great reward.”
  • Abraham did not need to fear the kings; God would protect him.
  • God would also reward him; he didn’t need the spoils of war.
  • Instead of being grateful, Abraham shouted, “What good are your gifts as long as I’m childless?”
  • With no son or heir, his estate would go to a servant in his household, Eliezar of Damascus.
  • This is the first time Abraham spoke to God, and he’s sort of yelling at him.
  • The law allowed Abraham to legally adopt a servant who would inherit everything and in return give him a proper burial.  If Abraham had a natural son later on, this adopted son would be legally protected.
  • But God said, “This man shall not be your heir.  Your heir will be a son coming from your own body.”
  • Then, God took him outside and told him to look up at the stars.  “Can you count them all?  That’s how many offspring you will have.”
  • Immediately, Abraham “believed the Lord.”  And God “credited it to him as righteousness.”
  • “Believe” means to have faith in something or someone; it’s active trusting. “Righteousness” usually means “right conduct,” but here it probably means “right with God.”  Because Abraham believed, God judged him as being “right with God.”
  • God credited righteousness to Abraham for believing Him even though none of the facts had changed.
  • Up to this point, Abraham had tried to solve the problem himself.  Now he believed God’s promises, even though they were still unfulfilled.
  • Abraham was learning that God's delays were not denials.
  • Abraham had complained to God and then gave those concerns completely over to God.  And God responded.
  • Then God reminded Abraham that He had been his benefactor, the one who had brought him out of Ur.  He renewed the promise of land.
  • Abraham asked, “How will I know?”
  • God responded with a sign and a symbolic ceremony.
  • The form of this covenant was modeled after an ancient royal land-grant treaty. It was used when a king bestowed a gift upon a servant or vassal for some good deed.
  • Specifically, God told Abraham to bring three animals, each three years old (i.e. full grown), and two birds.
  • Abraham knew something about this ritual because as soon as he brought the animals, he cut them up and arranged them in pairs, one bird on each side. 
  • The idea was that the person starting the covenant would pass between the animals, as if to say, “Like these animals, so may I be cut up if I break the covenant.”
  • God was letting him know that He was willing to enter into a covenant with him. 
  • To Abraham, this meant that from now on, nothing could stand in the way of God's promises.
  • Abraham prepared the ritual and waited -- all day.
  • When it was dark, fiery elements of smoke and fire passed through the pieces – traditional signs of God.
  • Abraham did not pass through the pieces.
  • The one who passed through the pieces was the one making the promise.
  • Now, Abraham had solemn assurance that the promises were forever sure. 

Bible Characters