Studies in Torah

Genesis 15: God cuts a covenant with Abram

Richard AgeeThe mysterious covenant God enters while Abram sleeps is prefigures a time when Israel was captive in Egypt yet not consumed by it.

After Abram’s victory against the kings that conquered Sodom and the cities of the plain, Abram most likely returned to his home base in Hebron and this is most likely where Abram was living when God came to speak to him.

We are told that God came to Abram in a vision. The Hebrew word that is translated as “vision” is מַחֲזֶה makhazeh (Strong’s lexicon No. H4236) and the vision was a “word from the Lord” (Gen. 15:1). The first thing God says to Abram is “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you…” (Gen. 15:2). God Himself is Abram’s shield, which is called a מָגֵן magen in Hebrew (Strong’s H4043). God’s word itself is Abram’s shield and when we are living in line with God’s word, we are protected. We are to be completely surrounded with the word of God.

Abram had just faced a huge enemy with a few allies, their enemies had the military advantage yet Abram and his allies won a decisive victory.

When God gave this vision to Abram, Abram had no doubt whatsoever as to its meaning and purpose. We also see that Abram, the prophets and even the Mother of Yeshua who met with God or one of his angelic representatives in visions were utterly terrified of the encounter and had to be comforted and commanded, “Do not fear….” The only person who ever met with God in the TaNaKh without any fear was Moses.

Ezekiel 12 records a terrifying vision from the Lord. The people of Israel assumed that his vision was for the distant future but God said, “None of My words will be delayed any longer. Whatever word I speak will be performed.”

In Gen. 15:2–3 Abram raises a legitimate complaint to the Lord. Abram has not yet received the promised heir and if Abram were to die that night, Eliezer of Damascus would inherit all Abram owned, including the tents, cattle, servants and even the covenant promises under Abram’s control.

Yet God says emphatically that Abram will have his heir that will inherit everything that Abram owned. God tells him to look to the stars and that will be the number of his offspring. We are told in Gen. 15:6 that Abram believed, yet we read a couple of verses later that Abram wanted a covenant, something more tangible than the stars as a witness to the promise.

God told him to bring the following animals (Gen. 15:9–10):

  • 3-year-old heifer (female cattle)
  • 3-year-old female goat
  • 3-year-old ram (male sheep)
  • a turtledove (juvenile pigeon)
  • a pigeon

The larger animals were cut in half, the birds were killed and one was laid on each side. These animals were not a sacrifice, they were not placed upon an altar. Sacrificial animals (for the most part) were males and only a year old. The age of the animals here is important. When we see that number three, which means either life or death.

When we read the book of Joel and we see that there will be a time when “young men will see visions” (Joel 2:26–30; Acts 2:15–19). We often assume that this is going to be a pleasant thing, but most visions are warnings of persecution, terror and death. Visions and dreams are not the same thing.

Abram cut them up and the vultures came down and tried to eat the dead animals, but Abram scared them away. Notice that God did not shoo the vulture away, but Abram. The vulture or falcon represents Egypt. The Egyptian army often wore headgear with a falcon on top of their heads to inspire fear in their enemies.

When night came and he fell asleep, a “great darkness” came upon Abram and he was very scared and terrified. God showed Abram the future of his children, how they were be in darkness in Egypt, but after 400 years God would judge the nation that oppressed them and bring them out with wealth.

Then Abram saw a “smoking oven” and a “flaming torch” (Gen. 15:17). An oven burns anything that is impure. A flaming torch lights the way. The torch went between the animal pieces; it did not consume the pieces. The descendants of Abram were separated and divided into two (northern and southern kingdoms), but as the bodies of the birds were kept whole. There will come a time when the descendants of Abram will also be reunited and return home.

This is not the action of Abram but an act of the Lord.

Speaker: Richard Agee. Reader: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.


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