JEHOVAH’S COVENANT WITH ABRAM.
(1) After these things.—After the war with Chedorlaomer.
The word of the Lord came (Heb., was) unto Abram.—This phrase, used so constantly afterwards to signify revelation, occurs here for the first time. The revelation on this occasion is made by night (Genesis 15:5), not however in a dream, but in a trance, in which the senses of Abram were closed to all earthly impressions and he became passive in the hands of the Almighty. Up to this time Abram had received only general promises of offspring, and of the land being the possession of his seed; but years were passing by, and the fulfilment of his hopes remained distant as ever. By the war with the Elamite king he had also made for himself powerful enemies; and though the immediate result was fortunate, yet many Canaanite nations may have witnessed with displeasure so remarkable an exhibition of the power and energy of an “immigrant.” And thus the time had come when the patriarch needed and obtained more formal assurances, first, of the bestowal upon him of offspring (Genesis 15:1-6), and, secondly, of the future possession of Palestine (Genesis 15:18-21).
What wilt thou give me?—There is a slight tone of complaint in these words. Jehovah promised Abram a “reward great exceedingly.” He answers that no reward can really be great so long as he has no heir.
I go childless.—Either, I am going to my grave childless (Psalm 39:13), or better, I continue to be, pass my days, in childlessness.
The steward of my house.—Heb., the benmeshek of my house. Ben-meshek is generally explained as meaning “the son of possession,” that is, the possessor, owner of my. house when I die. Other authorities derive meshek from a verb signifying “to run about,” as if it was Eliezer’s business to go to and fro in execution of Abram’s orders. The term is rare, and has evidently been chosen for the play of words upon Dammesek= Damascus. Perhaps this may also explain the last words, which literally are, he is Damascus Eliezer. Grammatically it should have been, “he is the Damascene Eliezer,” but this would have spoiled the assonance between ben-meshek (probably pronounced bemmeshek) and Dammesek.
Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?—Jehovah had required Abram to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees on a general promise of future endowment with the land of Canaan. Abram now asks this question, not from want of faith, but from a desire for a more direct confirmation of the promise and fuller knowledge of the details. What Abram, therefore, receives is an exact and circumstantial prophecy, made in the form of a solemn covenant.
Laid each piece . . . —More exactly, and laid each half over against the other. The birds were not divided; but as there were two, Abram probably placed one on one side and one on the other.
Lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.—Heb., lo, a terror, even great darkness, falling upon him. The terror was not mental so much as bodily, caused by a deep gloom settling round him, such as would be the effect of an eclipse of the setting sun, and shutting all mortal things away from his view.
The iniquity of the Amorites.—As the chief and leading tribe, they are used here for all the Canaanite nations. We learn from this declaration that the Canaanites were not extirpated by any wilful decree to make room for Israel, but as an act of justice, like that which, because of their moral depravity, overwhelmed the Sethites with a flood. So, subsequently, Israel and Judah had each to bear a punishment in accordance with their sinfulness; and so, throughout the history of the world, whenever nations settle down in vice and corruption, the decay of their institutions follows upon that of their morals, and they either waste away or give place to some more manly race of conquerors. The conquest of Canaan by Israel was parallel to that of the enervated Roman empire of the West by the Germans; only we see the preparation for it. and God’s purpose explained; and we also see that if the Amorites had not made the scale of justice weigh down heavily, they would not have been deprived of their country.
The river of Egypt.—That is, the Nile. In the Hebrew the Wady-el-Arish, on the southern border of Simeon, is always distinguished from the Nile. though the distinction is neglected in our version. Thus in Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:4; Isaiah 27:12 (where alone an attempt is made at accuracy by translating stream), the Hebrew has, the torrent of Egypt, that is, a stream full after the rains, but dry during the rest of the year. For a description of these torrent-beds see Isaiah 57:5-6, where in Genesis 15:5 the word is translated valleys, and in Genesis 15:6 stream. The word used here signifies a river that flows constantly; and Abram’s posterity are to found a kingdom conterminous with the Nile and the Euphrates, that is, with Egypt and Babylonia. If these bounds are large and vague, we must also remember that they are limited by the names of the ten nations which follow. Between the Nile and the Euphrates, the territories of these ten tribes is alone definitely bestowed upon Abram.
The Kenizzites.—The chief fact of importance connected with this race is that Caleb was a Kenezite (Numbers 32:12). Apparently with his clan he joined the Israelites at the Exodus, and was numbered with the tribe of Judah. Kenizzite and Kenezite are two ways of spelling the same Hebrew word, the former being right.
The Kadmonites.—This may mean either an eastern or an ancient people, of whom we know nothing.
For the Perizzites see Genesis 13:7; for the Rephaims, Genesis 14:5; and for the rest, Genesis 10:15-18.
Genesis 15:20And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,
Genesis 15:21And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.