Genesis Chapter Fifteen


Read Genesis 15:1-6 – God Promises Abram an Heir


v.1After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”


            After peace is returned again to the Jordan Valley God speaks to Abram in a dream or vision.   Abram has again proven his faith in God and his integrity by responding to the needs of his neighbors and his nephew in their distress.  And by refusing to enrich himself by war and giving a tithe of the spoils to Melchizedek, a priest of God.

            Since at this time there is no recorded revelation of the will of God for Abram to turn to as we have today; God communicates with Abram in a dream or vision.  God uses visions and angels for this purpose throughout the history of mankind until his will is completely revealed and recorded for our use.  One example is Isaac:


Genesis 26:24-25And the LORD appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake. 25And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well.”


A few of the other examples are: Daniel in Daniel 10:1; Zacharias by angels in Luke 1:13; Mary, the mother of Jesus in Luke 1:30; Peter in a vision in Acts 10:10.  Is it necessary for God to communicate to us today in this manner?  No.  We have God’s complete revelation to man (II Timothy 3:16-17), our Bible.


v.2-3And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? 3And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.


            God and Abram are in fellowship, in communication.  Abram believes in God and believes that God indeed is his shield and reward.  But Abram has a great sorrow in his heart that he now pours out to God, much the same as Hannah did in I Samuel 1.  He not only has no son but has no seed, no daughter either that could carry on the promise; he does not own any of the land himself that he can provide as an inheritance as Stephen in his great sermon tells us. 


Acts 7:5  And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.”


If Abram did own this land the only person that would benefit would be his steward, Eliezer; a Syrian from Damascus.


v.4And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.”


            God reassures Abram, just as He gave instructions to Samuel to tell David that through his seed an everlasting kingdom would be established.


II Samuel 7:12-13And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.”


v.5And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”


            God further impresses his word upon Abram by taking him outside and showing him the stars of heaven as an example of the number of his seed or descendants.  The Holy Spirit uses this analogy in another place as well to assure his prophet in the depth of Judah’s despair:


Jeremiah 33:22As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me.”


A promise that the Holy Spirit confirms for us God kept:


Hebrews 11:12Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.”


v.6And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”


            Abram believed God and God counted that belief as righteousness.  Sometimes one asks “What is righteousness?”  In this context it is belief in God, the kind of belief that generates actions or obedience as we will see later in our study of Abram.  This definition is confirmed in the New Testament as well:


Galatians 3:6Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”


            Another characteristic of Genesis 15:6 is that it is verified by the Holy Spirit through the pens of two of the New Testament writers as being “scripture” given by God.  First the Apostle Paul:


Romans 4:3For what saith the scripture?  Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”


Then James:


James 2:23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.


Read Genesis 15:7-17 – God Confirms the Land Promise


v.7And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.”


            The conversation between Abram and God now turns to the land in which Abram is living.  God’s purpose in bringing Abram out of Ur is to allow him to live in the land which his descendants will be given Genesis 11:31.


v.8And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?”


            Abram in their conversation is asking God; how can I know that I shall inherit this land?  The scripture doesn’t tell us that Abram asked this question out of doubt; that would imply that Abram was not a man of faith.  The scripture implies with this question that Abram is honestly seeking information; more like Ok, God, how do you plan to accomplish what you have promised?  Abram is looking for a sign, much like others have done.  (Judges 6:17, Luke 1:18)


v.9And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”


            God doesn’t answer Abram directly but rather directs him to prepare a sacrifice; a sacrifice of those animals designated as “clean” both in the preparation of the ark and in the Mosaic dispensation.


v.10-11And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. 11And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.”


            Abram does as God directs.  He takes each of these animals, prepares them, and lays them out as a sacrifice dividing the heifer, goat and ram by cutting them down the middle.  Of course, this attracts scavenger birds so Abram protects his sacrifice by keeping these birds away.  We aren’t told the significance of dividing the carcasses of these animals.


v.12And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.”


            When the day is ended and the sun is setting Abram falls into a deep sleep.  The implication of the scripture is that God caused this sleep to fall upon Abram, much like the deep sleep induced into Adam when Eve was formed (Genesis 2:21).  We’re also told that a great horror of darkness fell upon him.  We don’t know what this horror was but Eliphaz the Temanite gives us a description in Job of something very similar:


In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, 14Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. 15Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up:” Job 4:13-15


v.13And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;”


            Abram had asked for a sign; a way that he or his descendants could tell when God had fulfilled his promise.  First of all they would be strangers in a land that was not theirs and that they would be afflicted.  We find this fulfilled in:


Exodus 1:8-11Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. 9And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 10Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. 11Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.”


God also tells Abram how long his descendants would sojourn in this strange land and again we find this information confirmed in later scripture:


Exodus 12:40Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.”


v.14And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.”


            God tells Abram that the nation that afflicts his children will also be judged and that they will leave that land with great substance, great material wealth as a result.  We find that promise fulfilled:


Exodus 12:35-36And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: 36And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.”


This is confirmed further in a Psalm about God’s providence:




v.15And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.”


            God assures Abram that he would die in peace and at a good old age.  This same wording is found in the description of Abraham’s death:


Genesis 25:8Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.”


v.16 “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”


            This coming out of Israel would be in the fourth generation.  It would appear that God is counting a generation as about 100 years, far more that we count it today.  One of the reasons for this delay in giving the land to Abram and his descendants is that God was not ready to destroy the Amorites yet; their iniquity was not yet full.  What was the iniquity of the Amorites?  Speaking of Ahab the inspired writer tells us:


“And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. I Kings 21:16


v.17And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.”


            God passes between the pieces of the sacrificed animals in the form of a smoking furnace and a burning lamp.  We’re not told but it is quite likely that these sacrifices were also consumed at this time.


Read Genesis 15:18-21 – The Land Covenant


v. 18In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:”


            The land that God gave Abram’s seed stretched from the Nile River and the Mediterrean on the west to the Euphrates River on the east.  Did Israel ever occupy all of that land?  No.  Their actual occupation and ownership never reached that far east nor further north toward Euphrates closer than about 300 – 350 miles south of it’s headwaters.


v.19-21The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, 20And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, 21And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”


            Now God’s revelation and commitment to Abram gives us the peoples that were to be displaced:


            The Kenites were a part of Midian.  Jethro, Moses father-in-law was called both a Kenite and a Midanite in scripture.

            The Kenizzites are described as another tribe of Edom or part of the Edomites and are linked by scholars to the area of southern Judah.

            The Kadmonites are identified as a people that lived in the northern part of Palestine, between the Mediterrean Sea and the Euphrates during the time of Abraham.

            The Hitties were the descendants of Heth, son of Canaan and grandson of Ham.  They occupied much of the land north of Israel and again between the Mediterrean Sea and the Euphrates River along with the Kadmonites.

            The Perizzites and the Girgashites were tribes that occupied the open country between the mountain range west of Jordan and the Mediterrean.  Some were village dwellers but most were herdsmen and farmers in that fertile area of plains.

            Rephiam was a tribe of giants.  We have very little information about them beyond this and that they had all but disappeared by the time Israel occupied Canaan.

            The Amorites occupied all of the land east of Jordan from the Dead Sea up to Mt. Herman and Damascus.

            The Canaanites are a more general term applied to the other peoples who lived in Canaan including some of those listed above.

            The city of Jerusalem was known as Jebus before being captured by King David and made into the capital of Israel.  The Jebusites occupied this portion of Canaan.