God now speaks to Abraham in a vision. He would protect Abraham and reward him. Abraham is concerned about having no blood heirs because Sarah has been unable to have a baby. God tells Abraham that he will still have heirs that will outnumber the stars. God makes a very unique single-sided covenant with Abraham. Using animal sacrifices, God performs a sacrificial act to help Abraham get stronger in belief of God's promises. God tells Abraham about a the exodus and other things
In the Bible, "after these things" this is a common term. It states that all the preceding actions, thoughts, and operations have occurred. This is a place in the Bible where God's communications is defined. Much of the time God just "speaks" to someone. This time the "word" comes from God to Abraham in a vision. What were the "word" and "vision"? The word used for "word" is dabar which means word or speech to God in Hebrew verses speaking of humans. So, he was speaking to Abraham. The word for vision is "machazeh" means to somehow be notified in a dream , trance, or otherwise notified. God communicates in the Bible in one of about five ways. They are:
This verse says that God came to Abraham and spoke to him in a dream or trance.
- A personal appearance of Him who incarnated for the salvation of mankind.
- An audible voice maybe followed by appearances.
- Visions which took place in ordinary sleep (usually a night action) or cast into a temporary trance (usually a day action).
- By angels appearing in human bodies and performing certain miracles to accredit their mission.
- By the powerful Spirit of God upon the mind giving a super-natural impetus to understanding.
God now says that Abraham should not be afraid. In OT times, it was believed that if you really saw God, you would die. So God is trying to ease Abraham. He says that he is a shield or a protector for Abraham. And for that, Abraham has bee "elected" to by someone great. His rewards will be without words.
Abraham is immediately defensive to God. He says that how could anything occur to me that will be passed on through the generations. He has not even had a child and it is too late for a child. The only heir is Eliezer, his servant. In those days, if a family did not have boy children, then inheritances could pass down even to the servants. In this case, Eliezer enters the life of Abraham in the Bible. He has been a servant to Abraham for many years. Eliezer is very close to Abraham, which we will see further on in Abraham's life.
God says straight out that Eliezer will NOT be the heir. The heir will be someone that will come from his seed. This was a reference that HE, Abraham, was going to be a father. In the vision, God takes him outside; it is night. God shows the night sky to Abraham and tells him to count the stars. Of course, he cannot. That is the point. That innumerable factor of the number of stars tells Abraham that the number of his descendants will be very large. Abraham and his developing faith took a leap at this point. He figured this was a point to tell him that all to come is right, moral, and justice.
God makes an assurance at this point that he brought Abraham out of his home land and brought him to the new land so that the new land would be Abraham's. Abraham does not know how this could happen. Will the people of the land just turn it over to Abraham? Not really. God now tells Abraham to make some preparations for God. God is going to make a covenant with Abraham. What could be better than that? He wants Abraham to bring to God 1) a three year old heifer (calf), 2) a three year old female goat, 3) a three year old ram, 4) a turtle dove and 5) young pigeon. Abraham cut these animals (except the birds) in half and lay them out on the ground. They were to be layed out opposite of each other. When this happens, immediately the birds of prey want to start feasting on the carcasses. Abraham chases them all away.
This is an ancient method of making covenants as well as the your word, (See also Genesis 6:18) The word covenant from con, "together", and venio, "I come". This makes an agreement or meeting of the minds between two or more parties. Often there was a third party to mediate the agreement, and to witness it when made. Rabbi Solomon Jarchi says, “It was a custom with those who entered into covenant with each other to take a heifer and cut it in two, and then the contracting parties passed between the pieces.” There are four things usually associated with a covenant:
They cut the quarters, and cover them with the fat; dividing them into two, they place the raw flesh upon them.
- The contracting parties may not know each other; but, they would get to know each other because of the covenant.
- The parties had been previously in a state of hostility or friction; they were brought by the covenant into a peaceful resolution.
- If they know each other, they now agree to unite in, strength, property, etc., to accomplish of a particular purpose, or
- It implies an agreement to help in a difficult situation and defend a third party in cases of oppression and distress.
However, this was a different covenant. It was not two parties making a covenant; it was a single party making a covenant essentially with Himself. It is evidence, however, for another party (Abraham) to see that a covenant has been made.
At this point, Abraham goes into a deep sleep. It seems that God is speaking to Abraham in a vision at the beginning of the chapter. NOW he goes into a sleep. So, it is obvious that the vision was not a sleep. It was something that God spoke into existence. It is apparent that Abraham was thrown into some kind of darkness that made him very frightened. Now God speaks to Abraham in his sleep.
God now describes that your descendants will be oppressed for four hundred years. These words could be referring to one of two conditions.
Abraham will die in peace at a good old age. For four generations, these people will not return to their land because of the iniquity of the Amorites.
- This could be a prophesying of the number of years the Israelites would be in Egypt before the Exodus. God is prophesying that He will eventually judge the nation (Egypt). The Israelites will eventually come out from that land, better off than they were before they went into the land. God says He will judge the Pharaoh and nation.
- It could also be referring to the timing of the Amorites controlling Babylonia for approximately 400 years under Hammurabi.
Depending on the people and culture, the generation could be a number of years amounting to 20, 25, 30, 33, 100, 108, or 110 refers to the tradition of the peoples in those days to count in generations.
There are various scholarly discussions on the meaning of "In the fourth generation". There are several probable possibilities of what this means.
). However, later the Amorites were a major obstacle to the Israelites’ conquest and settlement of Canaan. They lived in the hills and valleys on both sides of the Jordan River.
Some think it refers to the 400 years of Israel's captivity in Egypt. However, the immediate mention of the Amorites makes this questionable.
From these words we learn that there is a certain pitch of iniquity to which nations may arrive before they are destroyed, and beyond which Divine justice does not permit them to pass.
- Some think it refers to the time when Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the son of Amram, the son of Kohath, came out of Egypt, and divided the land of Canaan to Israel, (Joshua 14:1).
- Others think the fourth generation of the Amorites is intended, because it is immediately added, "The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full"; but in the fourth generation they should be expelled, and the descendants of Abram established in their place. The Amorites were people who occupied part of the Promised Land. They often fought Israel. Their history goes back before 2000 B.C. They took control of the administration of Babylonia for approximately 400 years (2000-1595), their most influential king was Hammurabi (1792-1750). Abraham assisted Mamre the Amorite in recovering his land from four powerful kings (Gen. 14
In verse 18 the Lord makes a covenant with Abraham that He will give the land to Abraham's descendants. He defines the land as"from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates". He then defines the peoples that will be overtaken to give the land to Abraham.
This is going to be a big job for Abraham to do. It will take a tremendous amount of faith to accomplish it.
- Kenite - This was the name of a tribe which means, “smith.” It is a Nomadic tribe, probably of blacksmiths. Their land, along with that of the Kadmonites and Kenizzites was promised by God to Abraham. Their homes were in the southeastern hills of Judah.
- Kenizzite - This group's name is of uncertain meaning. God promised Abraham the Israelites would dispossess the land. The Kenizzites lived in the Negev, the southern desert region of Judah, before the conquest of the land by Joshua.
- Kadmonite - The name of these peoples means “easterners.” This was a tribe God promised Israel would dispossess. They probably inhabited the Syro-Arabian desert between Palestine-Syria and the Euphrates - which is to say, areas to the east of Canaan.
- Hittite - They are non-Semitic minorities within the area of Canaan. They frequently became involved in the affairs of the Israelites.
- Perizzite - This was a group name meaning, “rustic.” This was one of the groups of people who opposed the Israelite occupation of Canaan (Josh. 9:1-2). They lived in the land as early as Abraham’s time. The name implies that the Perizzites probably dwelled in the open country.
- Rephaim - These were people considered residents of Sheol (The abode of the dead in Hebrew thought. Sheol was thought to be deep within the earth). It is often translated, “hades” or the “dead” (Job 26:5 NRSV; Ps. 88:10; Prov. 9:18; 21:16; Isa. 14:9; 26:14, 19). This was an ethnic designation of the pre-Israelite inhabitants of Palestine.
- Amorite - A people who occupied part of the Promised Land and often fought Israel. More information is given in the comments above.
- Canaanite - The people of the land of Canaan meant different things at different times. Numbers 13:29 limits Canaanites to those who “dwell by the sea and by the coast of Jordan.” Compare Joshua 11:3. Israel was aware of the larger “Promised Land” of Canaan (Gen. 15:18; Ex. 23:21; Num. 13:21; Deut. 1:7; 1 Kings 4:21) Israel’s basic land reached only from “Dan to Beersheba” (2 Sam. 24:2-8, 15; 2 Kings 4:25).
- Girgashite - This is a tribal name that possibly means, “sojourner with a deity.” This was one of the list of original tribal groups inhabiting Canaan.It can be traced back to Canaan, son of Ham and grandson of Noah.
- Jebusite - This was a clan who originally controlled Jerusalem before David. They are in the list of the descendants of Noah (Gen. 10). They are traced through the line of Ham and Canaan and are listed alongside other clans such as the Amorites and Girgashites.