After that act of generous charity which Abram had done, in
rescuing his neighbours, God made him this gracious visit.
After that victory which he had obtained over four kings; lest
Abram should be too much elevated with that, God comes to tell him he
had better things in store for him. The word of the Lord came unto
Abram - That is, God manifested himself to Abram, in a vision - Which
supposeth Abram awake, and some sensible token of the presence of the
divine glory, saying, Fear not Abram - Abram might fear lest the four
kings he had routed, should rally and fall upon him. No, saith God,
fear not: fear not their revenge, nor thy neighbour's envy; I will take
care of thee. I am thy shield - Or, emphatically, I am a shield to
thee, present with thee, actually defending thee. The consideration of
this, that God himself is, a shield to his people, to secure them from all
destructive evils, a shield ready to them, and a shield round about
them, should silence all perplexing fears. And thy exceeding great
reward - Not only thy rewarder, but thy reward. God himself is
the felicity of holy souls; He is the portion of their inheritance, and
3: Behold to me thou hast given no seed - Not only no son, but
no seed. If he had had a daughter, from her the promised Messias
might have come, who was to be the Seed of the Woman; but he had neither
son nor daughter.
5: And he brought him forth - It seems, early in the morning,
and said, look now toward heaven, and tell the stars: so shall thy
seed be -
So innumerable, for so the stars seem to a common eye. Abram
feared he should have no child at all, but God tells him his descendents
should be so many as not to be numbered.
So illustrious, as the stars of heaven for splendour; for to them
pertained the glory, (Ro 9:4).
Abram's seed according to the flesh were like the dust of the earth,(Ge 13:16), but his spiritual seed are like the stars of heaven.
6: And he believed in the Lord - That is, believed the truth of that
promise which God had now made him, resting upon the power, and faithfulness
of him that made it: see how the apostle magnifies this faith of Abram,
and makes it a standing example, (Ro 4:19-21).
He was not weak in faith; he staggered not at the promise: he was
strong in faith; he was fully persuaded. The Lord work such a faith in
every one of us. And he counted it to him for righteousness - That is,
upon the score of this he was accepted of God, and, by faith he obtained
witness that he was righteous, (Heb 11:4). This is urged in the New
Testament to prove, that we are justified by faith without the works of the
law, (Ro 4:3,Ga 3:6),
for Abram was so justified, while he was yet uncircumcised. If
Abram, that was so rich in good works, was not justified by them, but by
his faith, much less can we. This faith, which was imputed to Abram for
righteousness, had newly struggled with unbelief, (Ge 15:2), and coming
off, conqueror, it was thus crowned, thus honoured.
7: I am the lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees - Out of
the fire of the Chaldees, so some: that is, from their idolatries;
for the Chaldeans worshipped the fire. Or, from their persecutions.
The Jewish writers have a tradition, that Abram was cast into a
fiery furnace for refusing to worship idols, and was miraculously delivered.
It is rather a place of that name. Thence God brought him by an effectual
call, brought him by a gracious violence; snatched him as a brand out of the
burning. Observe how God speaks of it as that which he gloried in.
I am the Lord that brought thee out - He glories in it as an act both of
power and grace. To give thee this land to inherit it - Not only to
possess it, but to possess it as an inheritance, which is the surest title.
The providence of God hath secret, but gracious designs in all its various
dispensations: we cannot conceive the projects of providence, 'till the
event shews what it was driving at.
8: Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? - This did not
proceed from distrust of God's power or promise, but he desired this,
For the strengthening of his own faith. He believed, (Ge 15:6), but
here he prays, Lord help me against my unbelief, Now, he believed,
but he desired a sign, to be treasured up against an hour of temptation.
For the ratifying of the promise to his posterity, that they also might
9: Take me an heifer - Perhaps Abram expected some sign from
heaven, but God gives him a sign upon a sacrifice. Those that would receive
the assurances of God's favour, must attend instituted ordinances, and
expect to meet with God in them. Observe,
God appointed that each of the beasts used for his service should be
three years old, because then they were at their full growth and strength.
God must be served with the best we have.
We do not read that God gave Abram particular directions how to
manage these, knowing that he was well versed in the custom of sacrifices.
Abram took as God appointed him, though as yet he knew not how
these things should become a sign to him. He divided the beasts in the
midst, according to the ceremony used in continuing covenants,(Jer 34:18,19), where it is said, they
cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts.
Abram, having prepared according to God's appointment, set himself to
expect what sign God would give him by these.
12: And when the sun was going down - About the time of the
evening oblation. Early in the morning, while the stars were yet to be
seen, God had given him orders concerning the sacrifices, (Ge 15:5), and
we may suppose it was at least his morning's work to prepare them, and set
them in order; which when he had done, he abode by them praying and
waiting 'till towards evening. A deep sleep fell upon Abram - Not a
common sleep through weariness or carelessness, but a divine extasy, that
being wholly taken off from things sensible, he might be wholly
taken up with the contemplation of things spiritual. The doors of the
body were locked up, that the soul might be private and retired, and might
act the more freely. And lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him
- This was designed to strike an awe upon the spirit of Abram, and to
possess him with a holy reverence. Holy fear prepares the soul for holy
joy; God humbles first, and then lifts up.
13: Thy seed shall be strangers - So they were in Canaan first,(Ps 105:11,12), and afterwards in
Egypt: before they were lords of their own land, they were strangers in
a strange land. The inconveniences of an unsettled state make a happy
settlement the more welcome. Thus the heirs of heaven are first
strangers on earth. And them they shall serve - So they did the
Egyptians, (Ex 1:13). See how that which was the doom of the
Canaanites, (Ge 9:25), proves the distress of
Abram's seed: they are made to serve; but with this difference, the
Canaanites serve under a curse, the Hebrews under a blessing.
And they shall afflict them - See (Ex 1:11). Those that are blessed
and beloved of God are often afflicted by wicked men. This persecution
began with mocking, when Ishmael the son of an Egyptian,
persecuted Isaac, (Ge 21:9), and it came at last to
murder, the basest of murders, that of their new born children;
so that more or less it continued 400 years.
14: That nation whom they shall serve, even the Egyptians, will I
judge - This points at the plagues of Egypt, by which God not only
constrained the Egyptians to release Israel, but punished them
for all the hardships they had put upon them. The punishing of persecutors
is the judging of them; it is a righteous thing with God, and a
particular act of justice, to recompense tribulation to those that
trouble his people.
3. The deliverance of Abram's seed out of Egypt.
And afterwards shall they come out with great substance - Either after
they have been afflicted 400 years, or, after the Egyptians are judged
15: Thou shalt go to thy fathers - At death we go to our fathers,
to all our fathers that are gone before us to the state of the dead, to
our godly fathers that are gone before us to the state of the blessed.
The former helps to take off the terror of death, the latter puts comfort
into it. Thou shalt be buried in a good old age - Perhaps mention is made
of his burial here, where the land of Canaan is promised him, because a
burying - place was the first possession he had in it. Old age is a blessing,
if it be a good old age: theirs may be called a good old age,
That are old and healthful, not loaded with such distempers as make
them weary of life:
That are old and holy, whose hoary head is found in the way of
righteousness, old and useful, old and exemplary for godliness, that is
indeed a good old age.
16: They shall come hither again - Hither to the land of Canaan,
wherein thou now art. The reason why they must not have the land of promise
in possession till the fourth generation, is because the iniquity of
the Amorites was not yet full. The righteous God has determined, that
they shall not be cut off till they are arrived to such a pitch of
wickedness; and therefore till it come to that, the seed of Abram must
be kept out of possession.
17: When the sun was gone down the sign was given - The smoaking
furnace signified the affliction of his seed in Egypt: they were
there in the furnace of affliction, and labouring in the very fire.
They were there in the smoke, their eyes darkened that they could not
see to the end of their troubles.
2. The burning lamp speaks comfort in this affliction; and this God
shewed Abram at the same time with the smoaking furnace. The lamp
notes direction in the smoke; God's word was their lamp, a light
shining in a dark place. Perhaps too this burning lamp prefigured the
pillar of a cloud and fire which led them out of Egypt.
3. The passing of these between the pieces was the confirming of the
covenant God now made with him. It is probable this furnace and
lamp, which passed between the pieces, burned and consumed them,
and so compleated the sacrifice, and testified God's acceptance of it, as of
Gideon's, (Jdg 6:21),
Manoah's, (Jdg 13:19,20), and
Solomon's, (2Ch 7:1). So it intimates,
That God's covenants with man are made by sacrifice,(Ps 50:5), by Christ, the great sacrifice.
God's acceptance of our spiritual sacrifices is a token for good,
and an earnest of farther favours.
18: In that same day, the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying,
Unto thy seed have I given this land - He had said before, To thy seed
will I give this land, but here he saith, I have given it; that is,
I have given the promise, the charter is sealed and delivered, and
cannot be disanulled.
The possession is as sure in due time, as if it were now actually
delivered to them. In David's time and Solomon's their
jurisdiction extended to the utmost of these limits, (2Ch 9:26). And it
was their own fault that they were not sooner and longer in possession of
all these territories. They forfeited their right by their sins, and by
their own sloth and cowardice kept themselves out of possession. The
present occupants are named, because their number and strength and long
prescription, should be no hindrance to the accomplishment of this promise
in its season; and to magnify God's love to Abram and his seed, in
giving to that one nation the possession of many nations.