Genesis Segment 12 (15:1-16:16)

Originally Published 7/31/2001

(Gen 15:1) After 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.

Here is a more accurate rendering of this verse: “After these things hath the word of Jehovah been unto Abram in a vision, saying, `Fear not, Abram, I am a shield to thee, thy reward is exceeding great.’” (Young’s Literal Translation). The original language does not say precisely that Yehovah is Abram’s exceeding great reward; it simply says that Yehovah is Abram’s shield and He will increase Abram’s reward for believing Him. However, if God is Abram’s great reward, then that is enough; such a reward is eternal. Yet, here we need to defer to the literal reading because it fits the Scripture’s picture of Abram, who received great temporal rewards as well as eternal ones.

(Gen 15:2-3) And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? {3} And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.

Abram is stating that no matter what the LORD will give him, it will do no good because he has no heir. His servant Eliezer will receive Abram’s inheritance, instead of his blood family. Some might say that Abram was blaming God for his lack of a son. But Abram knew from whom all blessings flow–the LORD. His statement was that God had not yet blessed him with a son. It was not an accusation, just a statement of fact. It was a supplication from Abram that God would soon provide him with an heir. This indicates a small lack of faith; after all, Abram and Sarai were not getting any younger.

(Gen 15:4-5) And, 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. {5} And 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 had already promised Abram he would make him into a great nation, so Abram already knew he must have children. He may have been getting impatient, but more likely he was wondering when he would have a son in whom to establish a nation.

The number of stars in the universe is unknowable. If you look into the sky on a clear moonless night, you can discern many thousands of actual dots of light, the stars. But you can also see a portion of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and what you see looks like a cloud, or a milky streak in the sky. That milky ribbon is made up of countless millions, perhaps billions of stars. With the use of a telescope, you can see that there are billions and billions of stars out there.

The stars are innumerable. That is exactly what God told Abram. Abram’s offspring will be innumerable. His descendants through Jacob or Israel are innumerable but his offspring are not just the Jews for not all of Abram’s or Isaac’s offspring are Israelites. Abram’s son Ishmael and Isaac’s son Esau and their progeny were Abraham’s offspring, but are not Israelites. Additionally, all who are believers in Christ are Abraham’s children as well (Rom 4:11; Gal 3:7 & 29). So Abram’s offspring are innumerable.

(Gen 15:6) And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

What does the Bible have to say about this? Because God counted it to him for righteousness, Abraham became the father of all who believe in the Christ. If you are a believer in Christ, then you are an heir of Abraham. (Rom 4:11; Gal 3:7 & 29) I suggest that you read the entire Chapter 4 of Romans; it is very appropriate to this study.

This righteousness was imputed to Abram. Even though he did not see Jesus crucified, his belief in God credited righteousness to him. In this way Abraham looked forward to the sacrifice of the Christ for his salvation. Paul tells us: “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,)” (Rom 4:16-17a). All the seed of Abram are able to claim that same promise because of Abram’s belief. Anyone who is saved by faith is a child of Abraham because of his belief.

(Gen 15:7) And 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.

In any covenant or contract, all parties to the agreement must be identified. The following few verses are an official recording of the covenant God made with Abram. Abram was only the recipient. He had no other part in the covenant. He was not required to give anything back to God in return for this promise. This verse is the part of the contract that establishes the identity of the parties involved. Since God and God alone made this covenant and required no consideration from Abram, He is the only one identified in the covenant. He is Yehovah, who brought Abram out of Ur. This is His ID and His affirmation. Because Yehovah made this covenant, it is a surety.

(Gen 15:8) And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?

Abram asked for a sign. We humans always want a sign. In the case of a covenant, a sign is necessary. Your signature on a contract is a sign that you intend to keep that contract. God will give the sign required of a contract at the time of Abram.

(Gen 15:9-11) And 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. {10} And 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. {11} And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.

This was the way covenants were sometimes confirmed during the period. Jer 34:18: “And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof.” Here Abram is cutting sacrificial animals in half for the same purpose as that in Jer 34:18. This where the term “to cut a covenant” comes from.

(Gen 15:12) And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.

Abram did not go to sleep here in the normal manner. To sleep for a good night’s rest is the Hebrew word shenah (Strong’s 8142). Here the Hebrew is tardemah (Strong’s 8639) and it means a trance. So Abram fell into a trance. The darkness was unnatural and a bit terrifying. Abram went into this trance so that he could watch but could not be a participant in this covenant. God and God only made this covenant.

(Gen 15:13-15) And 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; {14} And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. {15} And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.

“Know of a surety” is literally “knowing you shall know,” in the Hebrew. Abram may have been in a trance, but he was cognizant of God. This is the prophecy that Abram’s seed would sojourn in Egypt for four hundred years (actually Exodus 12:40 tells us it was 430 years; here it is rounded off). God tells that they would become the servants of the people, but that God would judge them and Abram’s seed would go out of the land with riches. For the story, read Genesis 41:41 – Exodus 12:37. Abraham’s death is recorded Genesis 25:8.

(Gen 15:16) But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

This is a direct reference to Moses. Moses was four generations from Levi, the son of Jacob. Levi went into Egypt when Jacob was old. He was the priest line and Moses was a Levite. We can look to 1 Chr 6:1-3 for the genealogy: “The sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. {2} And the sons of Kohath; Amram, Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel. {3} And the children of Amram; Aaron, and Moses, and Miriam. The sons also of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.” The four generations are (1) Levi begat Kohath; (2) Kohath begat Amram; (3) Amram begat (4) Moses. These were long generations; they averaged 107.5 years each (430/4=107.5).

The Amorites are associated with the Rephaims, Zuzims, Emims, Horites, Amalekites, in Gen 14:5-7. The Rephaim, Zuzim, Emim, and Horites or Horim are all Canaanites and are all giants (Rephaim comes from rapha meaning giant). The Zuzim, Emim, Horim, and Anakim are also giants. See the study entitled “Giants.

God was not yet ready to destroy the Amorites and their associates. He is longsuffering and not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:9) He would allow them ample time to repent. But when their iniquity was full, that is, when they had ample time, then God judged them via the Israelites.

(Gen 15:17-21) And 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. {18}In 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: {19} The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, {20} And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, {21} And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

This is know as the Royal Grant of land to Abraham. The smoking furnace (literally fire-pot) and the burning lamp are the Shekinah glory of God. In the wilderness they were the pillar of smoke and the pillar of fire. When the smoke and fire passed through the halved animals, it was God Himself who passed through, thereby sealing the covenant. The covenant was that Abram’s offspring would be like the stars in the heavens. The prophecy about Israel in Egypt was a part of that covenant. Again, God and God alone confirmed the covenant. Abram was only the recipient of and not a party to the covenant. Abram owed nothing for his part of the covenant.

According to 2 Chr 9:26, Solomon is the only king that came the closest to possessing the land God promised to Abram from the Euphrates to the River of Egypt, though he never possessed the entire Royal Grant. There are three schools of thought on the location of the River of Egypt. Some say it is the Nile. Others consider it to be the Pelusian arm of the Nile, which was east of the Nile and no longer exists. Still others claim it is the Wadi El-Arish, which borders Gaza on the south, near modern Arish, located in the Egyptian governorate of North Sinai. However, both the Hebrew and the Septuagint seem to indicate it was the Nile proper, which would be the most scripturally correct location. If we look at any of these on a map, Israel has never possessed the entire grant of land God promised Israel. Thus this full possession must still be in the future.

(Gen 16:1-3) Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. {2} And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. {3} And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.

Hammurabi’s Code # 146 says: “If a man take a wife and she give this man a maid-servant as wife and she bear him children, and then this maid assume equality with the wife: because she has borne him children her master shall not sell her for money, but he may keep her as a slave, reckoning her among the maid-servants.”

--The Code of Hammurabi Translated by L. W. King,
An Electronic Publication of the Avalon Project.
William C. Fray and Lisa A. Spar, Co-Directors.
Copyright 1996 The Avalon Project

This marriage was in accordance with Hammurabi’s code, which the residents of Canaan followed. This code of laws, dated approximately 2139 BC, predated Abram by over 800 years (according to Usher’s chronology) and these laws were applicable to Abram’s era. Therefore it was legal for Abram to take a handmaiden of his wife as a concubine. Any child of this union was legally Abram’s. By this law, he could not sell Hagar after Ishmael was born. Hagar was both wife and slave with the exception that she could not be sold as a slave.

(Gen 16:3-4) And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. {4} And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.

One is reminded of Hannah and Peninnah. Hannah was barren, but Elkanah her husband still loved her very much. Peninnah was not barren and she taunted Hannah severely about Hannah’s inability to conceive. Read the story in 1 Samuel 1:1-20. Hannah eventually conceived Samuel. Reading between the lines a bit, like Peninnah, Hagar probably taunted Sarai about the pregnancy.

(Gen 16:5) And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.

Sarai, like Hannah, had an adversary in Hagar. “And her [Hannah’s] adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb.” (1 Sam 1:6) “Provoked her sore” could be translated “vexed” and “fret” could be translated “irritated.” Hannah was vexed and became irritated, and Sarai most likely felt the same way. She took out her anger on Abram. What she was saying can be paraphrased thus: “It’s your fault that this servant girl of mine despises me, even though I myself gave her to be your wife. The LORD will judge which of us is right.

Perhaps it would make more sense that the LORD would judge between Sarai and Hagar rather that Sarai and Abram. There is some evidence that it said exactly that in earlier manuscripts and that this was an emendation made by a scribe. Some scholars have suggested that the last phrase of the verse should read “the LORD judge between me and her.” Ginsburg and Bullinger were advocates of that reading, however I do not advocate it. Without proof, I suggest that we take the manuscripts to be what they are as they are. I just offer this detail for your edification. Taking the phrase as we have it in our manuscripts today, Sarai would allow the LORD to judge whether she or Abram was right.

(Gen 16:6) But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.

Abram would not take the blame here. Hagar was Abram’s wife; she was Sarai’s handmaid. Abram had to put Hagar into Sarai’s hands. By law, he could not sell her according to Hammurabi’s Code. Since Abram could not sell Hagar, Sarai was harsh with her causing her to run away.

(Gen 16:7) And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.

We have discussed the Angel of the LORD at length in another study. Suffice it to say here that the Angel of the LORD is a direct appearance of God to men, which is a theophany. Some advocate the Angel of the Lord is a pre-incarnate appearance to men, or a Christophany. Others maintain that all theophanies in the Old Testament are Christophanies. See The Memra. The word for “found” is matsa’ (Strong’s 4672), meaning to appear or come forth. A better understanding of the verse is “…the Angel of the LORD appeared to her…” The desert of Shur is in the Sinai Peninsula. It is at least fifty miles from Mamre, where Abram dwelt. So Hagar had journeyed two or three days.

(Gen 16:8) And He said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.

God knew why she had fled and where she was headed but He asked her the reasons. His questioning of her was for our enlightenment. It also helped Hagar to verbalize her situation.

(Gen 16:9) And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.

The LORD knew she would be better off with her family; she would have all her needs met as well as her son’s needs. Note the repetition of “ands” in verses nine through thirteen. It binds these statements together into a cohesive unit. This discourse is all about Ishmael and the ands tie it together.

(Gen 16:10-11) And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. {11} And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.

Ishmael means God hears (will hear, has heard, etc.) He was to become an unnumbered multitude. The Muslims claim derivation from Ishmael. He is the progenitor of many in the Middle East. Muslims say that Muhammad was descended from Ishmael. Ishmaelites were a diverse group of peoples in the Middle East. Ishmael had twelve sons who became an exceedingly large group of people. Many Arabs may be direct descendants of Ishmael, but not necessarily all Arabs, who are also a diverse group of peoples.

(Gen 16:12) And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.

This prophecy is exact. The militants in the Middle East fit this prophecy exactly. They are against every man, and every man is against them, and they live in and around Palestine in the midst of their despised brethren, the children of Israel.

(Gen 16:13-14) And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? {14} Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

Beerlahairoi means “well of the Living One who sees me.” She called it that because God had seen her and she had seen God.

(Gen 16:15-16) And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. {16} And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.

At eighty-six, most people have had their great and great-great grandchildren. Abram just had his first child.

(Gen 17:1-5) And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. {2} And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. {3} And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, {4} As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. {5} Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

Abraham is composed of two words, ab, meaning father and hamown meaning multitudes. The Hebrew word am means people and is closely related. This passage is printed here to show Abram’s name change. We will look more closely at the full passage in the next segment.

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