Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Genesis 15: God Promises Other People's Land to Abram's Descendants Again

Check out today's episode

God's Covenant with Abram (v. 1-21)

God comes to Abram in a vision and tells him not to fear, that God will be his shield, and that he will be greatly rewarded.
pic found here
I have a few comments already, the first is that God is talking to Abram in a vision. Previously God just talked to Abram (example, in chapter 12), what is the significance of it being in a vision this time? And what exactly does God coming to him in a vision mean? Is it in a dream, a hallucination, or what? What information is being conveyed by saying God talked to Abram through a vision?

Jamieson, Fausset & Brown suggests that describing this as a vision indicates that a prophetic message is on the way. That certainly happened this time, I'll try to keep my eyes out for this in the future and see if it holds true in future.

Second, it is interesting that god tells Abram not to fear. I'm guessing we have all heard the term "God fearing", of course the context of this statement is that Abram is not supposed to fear his enemies because God is on his side. This all makes sense, if God is on your side why would you fear any mere human? Still, I find the use of fear here interesting.

Guzik points out that the reason God is telling Abram not to fear is because Abram has a good reason to fear right now. He just came through a battle where he defeated a large army with a small force, he should expect retaliation. God is saying he will protect him. Makes sense to me.

Abram then complains to God that he has no offspring, he complains that his heir will be a member of his house. God responds that he will give him a son and his offspring will be as numerous as the stars and Abram believed God.

I'm not sure what "a member of my house" means. My best guess is that his heir would be a nephew instead of his own son, anyone know if that is correct?

Guzik's interpretation here is that Abram appreciates that he is going to help him, but what is the point of saving him if he has no offspring. This helps me actually, when I read the text itself, it felt like a non sequitur to me, but from this perspective it makes some sense. Good. As to whether Abram was doubting that God would give him offspring, Guzik has this to say
Did Abram’s question mean he doubted God? Yes. But there is a difference between a doubt that denies God’s promise and a doubt which desires God’s promise. Abram wants to believe and is looking to God to strengthen his faith.
This is an interesting statement to me. Denying God's promise sounds to me like not believing in God, or at least in what he says, desiring God's promise but doubting it sounds like it means that you believe in God and his promise, but you aren't sure if he will come through. The second sounds worse than the first to me.

God goes on to say that Abram's descendants would possess the land, and Abram asks how he can be sure. God then tell him to go get a bunch of animals to sacrifice to him, a three year old heifer, a three year old female goat, a three year old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon. Abram did that and cut them in half (except the birds) and put them on top of one another.

Wait what? This is a bizarre interaction, first God promises some land to Abram's descendants and Abram doesn't seem to trust that God will follow through, even though God just told him he would give him a miraculous son and there was no hesitation in believing that. In response to him asking how he would know about it, God tells him to gather a bunch of animals for sacrifice. I just have a hard time seeing what one thing has to do with the other.

Guzik justifies this by saying it is the kind of thing Abram would have expected, it is a serious contract signed in blood.

After the sun went down Abram fell asleep and a great darkness fell upon him. God tells him that his offspring will be slaves in a land they don't control for 400 years, but then he will bring great judgment upon nation that they serve and they will come out with great possessions. 

Such a strange action for an all-loving all-powerful God, setting things up this way requires generations of people to live in servitude, why? Also, this chapter started with God telling Abram not to fear because God was on his side, and yet his offspring will certainly fear for hundreds of years.

You, Abram, will die in old age and be buried, after 4 generations you offspring will come back and I will give them this land, the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.

Yet again, God is promising other people's land to Abram's descendants. This only makes God look good if you only consider one perspective, it's great for Abram's people, but what about the people who are getting screwed in this deal?

For the "Verses of Note" post:


Genesis 15:1 God tells Abram not to fear enemies since God is on his side

"After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: 'Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.'"


Genesis 15:18-21 God promises other people's land to Abram's descendants AGAIN

"On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites."


Genesis 15:13 God tells Abram his descendants will be slaves for hundreds of years (see other translations)

"Then the LORD said to Abram, 'Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.'"

Genesis 15:14 God punishes people for enslaving Abram's descendants.

"But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions."

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