by Robert Brow    (

Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: 2004

Introduction | Genesis 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11| 12| 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30

31 | 32 | 33| 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41| 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50| PostScript


Table Of Contents:

Genesis 15:1 Genesis 15:13-14
Genesis 15:2 Genesis 15:15
Genesis 15:3-4 Genesis 15:16
Genesis 15:5-6 Genesis 15:17
Genesis 15:7-8 Genesis 15:18
Genesis 15:9-10 Genesis 15:19
Genesis 15:11-12  

GENESIS 15:1-6    (Promise of an Heir for Abraham)

 15:1    After the exhilaration of a great victory when he delivered his nephew Lot from the huge army of  Chedorlaomer (14:15), Abraham found himself anxious and fearful about the future.  He was conscious of being surrounded by potential enemies.  He had refused the reward from the King of Sodom (14:22-23).  So the LORD came to assure him of his protection and very great reward.

15:2   Abraham was glad of the vision, but he was getting older, and he pointed out that  if he died childless,  Eliezer of Damascus (probably picked up as a slave on Abraham’s way south from Haran, 12:5) would become his legal heir. 

15:3-4   So he complained that the LORD had not been given him any offspring.  And the LORD promised that,   instead of his slave Eliezer,  the LORD had an heir in mind for him from his own seed.  And then taking him out of his tent, Abraham  was assured that his own descendants would be as numerous as the stars he could see in the night sky.

15:5-6    When he believed this astonishing promise, we have the second great step of faith in the life of Abraham (for other steps of faith that are recorded  see 12:4; 13:9; 14:14, 20; 17:20; 22:1-3, 12).  This shows that faith is a direction of  faith looking to the LORD again and again in a variety of life circumstances. 

Based on Paul’s statement “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3) preachers have often suggested there is just one saving moment of faith.  But faith is clearly a following in the faith footsteps of Abraham (Romans 4:12).  “Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out not knowing where he was going.  By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents.  For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  By faith he received the power of procreation, even though he was too old - and Sarah herself was barren - because he considered him faithful who had promised” (Hebrew 11:8-12).


GENESIS 15:7-21   (Abraham asks for Proof about the Promised Land)

15:7-8   The LORD then tried to assure Abraham about the land that his heirs were to occupy (12:1; 13:14-15).  But Abraham had the boldness to ask for proof.

15:9-10   The form of the proof that the LORD gave sounds incomprehensible to us, but Abraham was used to the idea of animal sacrifice.  Usually this meant the family gathering to eat meat that had been roasted after the fat and entrails had been burned on the altar (8:20; 12:7, 8; 13:4, 18).  In this case the animals were to be a solemn covenant sign (Jeremiah 34:18-19) between the LORD and Abraham alone.  The heifer, the goat, and the ram were to be cut in two, and the halves laid next to each other without being cooked.  The birds were perhaps a reminder of the dove that Noah had sent out of the ark (8:8-12).

15:11-12   We can imagine the awesome scene as vultures came down on the carcases, and Abraham again and again tried to drive them off.   By the evening Abraham was exhausted and fell into a deep terrifying sleep.

15:13-14  When he woke up from the nightmare the LORD outlined for him what was in store for his family before they could occupy the Promised Land.   They would be enslaved in Egypt (Exodus 1:11-13).   Here the 400 years is counted from the date of the prophecy (c.1847 BC ?) to the Exodus (c.1447 BC ?).  But in due course the LORD would judge the enslavers (see Exodus 12:29) , and Abraham’s descendants would come out with great possessions (Exodus 12:35-36).

15:15 Abraham was then assured that he need not think time was running out.  Hewould die aged 175  “in good old age” and be buried “in the cave of Macpelah” (Hebron, Genesis 25:7-9).

15:16  Abraham’s descendants did indeed come back to occupy the land of Canaan when the LORD decided that the cup of inquity of the Amorite inhabitants was full (see under BOOKS,  Advent Comings of the Lord).  The fourth generation would include the lives of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Amram the father of Moses (Exodus 6:20, Numbers 26:59).


GENESIS 15:17    (The Limits of the Promised Land)

15:17 Having heard this news, it seems Abraham dropped off to sleep again without having received an answer to his question about possessing the land (15:7-8.   When he woke up in the darkness of the night he looked across at the carcases of the animals he had sacrificed.   To his astonishment he could see a thannur (a tanduri clay oven for making bread) with smoke coming from the baking bread.    And there was also a flaming torch moving up and down between the divided carcases.  We might not understand such a vision, but Abraham knew it was the very presence of the LORD God.  In the New Testament Jesus used light and bread as metaphors for his own presence in the world  (John 1:4, 9; 6:35; 9:5).

15:18    Abraham was then reassured that his descendants would occupy the land between two great  rivers.  Some interpret this as the area from the Nile in Egypt to the Euphrates in Mesopotamia 400 miles to the north.  In that case this promise would refer to the area later occupied by the descendants of Ishmael to the south, east, and north of Canaan (see 25:12-18). 

But the term parat means an overflowing river, and the Jordan used to overflow its banks every year (Joshua 3:15).  From the Jewish point of view the Jordan is the only great river of the Promised Land.  The term parat is wrongly translated the Euphrates in several texts where it seems clearly to refer to the River Jordan (Deuteronomy 1:7; 11:24; Joshua 1:4; 2 Samuel 8:3; 1 Chronicles 5:9; 18:3; Jeremiah 13:4-7; 46:2.   A battle between Egypt and Assyria was on the plain of Megiddo which was near the Jordan River (2 Kings 23:29, 24:7), and so nowhere near the Euphrates).  

We therefore prefer to interpret this promise as referring to the very narrow strip of land bounded to the south by the Wadi of Besor, called the River of Egypt, and to the north by Laish (later called Dan) in the foothills of Lebanon (aa in Judges 20:1, 1 Samuel 3:20).   On the west it was bounded by the Mediterranean and on the east by the Jordan south of the Sea of Galilee.  What Abraham saw and walked in (13:14-15) and what Moses saw from Pisgah (Deuteronomy 3:27; 4:22, 26) certainly did not stretch to the Euphrates which was 400 miles to the north.   It is  totally misleading to translate parat as the Euphrates to describe the eastern boundary of the promised land.  And the Jews have never claimed that huge territory across Syria to the north.

15:19   This interpretation of parat as the River Jordan south of the Sea of Galilee, not the Euphrates, as the eastern border of the Promised Land is confirmed by the list of Amorite tribes that occupied Canaan at the time of Abraham.  None of these tribes are connected with Syria or Mesopotamia.

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