1. Here in chapter 15, God continues to tell Abram that He will bless him. Let's review and summarize God's previous interactions with Abram prior to this point.
The Lord Speaks to Abram
The Lord first spoke to Abram in the first three verses of chapter 12. God told him then:
The Lord Appears to Abram
In verse seven of chapter twelve the Lord appeared to Abram and told him that He would give Abram’s offspring the land of Canaan.
The Lord Speaks to Abram Again
In verse fourteen of chapter 13, the Lord speaks to Abram again and tells him that He will give him and his offspring the land of Canaan. God also tells him that his offspring will be like the dust of the earth - so numerous that no one can count it.
Now the Lord appears to Abram again in a vision in Genesis chapter 15. From your review of chapters twelve through fourteen, up to this point, which of the Lord’s promises from the summary outlined above had come true so far? Cite the Scripture references in your answer.
You can make a case for the following things having come to pass so far:
Abram had been blessed
Abram’s name had become great
The Lord cursed those who cursed Abram
The Lord blessed those who blessed Abram
2. What's different in the encounter with the Lord here in chapter 15 compared to the three previous times that Abram interacts with the Lord as referenced in the above summary? Specifically, how does Abram act differently?
What’s different in this fourth encounter in Genesis Chapter 15 is that Abram didn’t just listen to what the Lord told him - he actually had a conversation with Him. He listened to what God told him but he also asked Him two questions. God replied to the two questions and addressed Abram’s concerns by answering his questions.
Also, Abram did not build an altar as he had in the second encounter This encounter is different from the previous three occurrences, specifically:
In chapter 15 we see Abram not just listening to God and worshiping Him by building altars, now we see Abram in conversation with the Creator of the universe.
3. What are the three things the Lord told Abram in Genesis Chapter 15 verse 1? Identify which of the three is a comforting command, a promise of protection, and a promise of the future.
4. Considering that Almighty God knows all things, and considering what had just occurred in the previous three chapters (after these events - Genesis 15:1), what might have been Abram’s concerns when the Lord addressed him in verse 1?
Abram was definitely afraid
First, considering that God knows everything, we know that Abram was afraid when God addressed him because God said “fear not.” He was afraid previously in Egypt (Genesis 12:10-13) but Abram’s fear led to a faulty remedy to protect Sarai. But God rescued Sarai anyway. Why Abram was afraid is not entirely clear.
It may have been that Abram was afraid of a vengeful return of the kings he had just defeated. Abram definitely didn’t seem afraid when he went to fight several kings to rescue Lot (Genesis 14:13-16).
Or, another possibility was that Abram was afraid because the Lord appeared to him in a vision - that is - while he was awake. This wouldn’t have been the first time someone was afraid of God.
Adam was afraid after he sinned and hid from God (Genesis 3:10). Then the Lord later appears to Abram’s son Isaac and his servant Hagar and tells them both not to be afraid (Genesis 21:17 ; 26:24).
In conclusion, there’s no indication in the text of the reason for Abram’s fear - only that God told him not to be afraid.
Abram was likely wondering how God was going to fulfill his promise
With God’s help, Abram had just foiled the Pharaoh who intended to steal his wife (Genesis 12:10-13). However, she had not yet given Abram any male heirs.
Also with God’s help, Abram had rescued Lot from the invading kings (Genesis 14:13-16).
But how was God going to help him produce an heir Abram must have been wondering. Although we see the word “shield” when God refers to Himself in verse 1, there’s another possible meaning to the Hebrew word from which it is translated.
In The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Victor Hamilton offers the following observation on the translation of the Hebrew word māḡēn to the English word “shield” in this passage.
“On the heels of Yahweh’s words to Abram that he “fear not,” the promise that he will be the patriarch’s shield would be appropriate. Thus we have a metaphorical term signifying divine protection.”
But Hamilton notes that another possible translation is the word “benefactor” instead of shield. He notes that:
“It is a benefactor, rather than a shield, who provides a reward. Abram has already had one benefactor from whom his “reward” was substantial (Pharaoh, ch. 12). He refused the donation of a second potential benefactor (king of Sodom, ch. 14). But this benefactor he will pursue.”
This position is strengthened by the response of Abram “what can you give me” in verse 2. He notes that Psalm 127:3 indicates: “‘the fruit of the womb’ as a ‘reward’ for a man. This might suggest that the reward Yahweh has prepared for Abram is a son.”
In his book Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, John Walton offers the following information on the importance of children to the ancient near eastern people:
“On a personal level, the hope for the future on this earth was tied to making a name, either through exploits of renown, building projects that would endure, or, most importantly, by siring the next generation.
‘The aim of every family was to perpetuate itself forever, it being necessary to the dead that their descendants not die out. Conversely, everyone had a paramount concern in leaving a son after him, in self-interest and as a duty towards ancestors.’”
5. Have you planned (or could you plan) to leave your descendants something after your death that will honor God and perhaps inspire them to do the same?
Your Answer Here
6. From your reading of chapters 12, 13, and 14 of Genesis, what had God done so far in the life of Abram to help him? How might those things help him see the power of his God?
In chapter 12 Abram was led to a foreign land far from his family and home. Also, he protected Sarai when she was taken by Pharaoh despite Abram’s fear and lack of faith.
In chapter 13 we see that Abram had become rich, likely as a result of Abram being treated well by Pharaoh.
In chapter 14 we see Abram being protected from death in battle and being blessed by God with victory. We also see Abram being blessed by God through the high priest Melchizedek.
These events let Abram see the power of God and his desire to protect him and his family (Sarai and Lot). God is the powerful provider often despite a lack of faith of his beneficiaries. God is also the power protector against seemingly greater forces (Pharaoh and the invading kings).
7. Verse 6 of chapter 15 says that “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness."
a. What was it that Abram believed?
b. How does the same principle apply to Christians today?
a. The context of the passage indicates that it was the promises of God that Abram believed. Specifically, Abram first believed that he would have an heir; and secondly, that the heir would be a son that he fathered - not someone who he adopted.
God told Abram that Eliezer would not be his heir as Abram had supposed. In the ancient near east, if a man and woman had no son and they were beyond the age of child bearing, it was a common practice to adopt a servant to be their heir. The servant would then take care of the couple in their old age and see to their needs in exchange for the inheritance. But this was not to be for Abram and Sarai. As the commentator Brueggemann notes:
“The same God who gives the promise is the one who makes it believable. Only the new awareness that God really is God provides ground for Abraham’s safe future.”
In short, Abram believed God was who He said he was and that He could do what He said He could do despite the circumstances. The question God did not answer was when He would do what He said He would do.
b. Today, we are credited with righteousness like Abram when we believe the promises of God and become Christians. Just as it was with Abram, God initiates the process of the covenant between Himself (I Timothy 1:9-10) and anyone who believes in Him (I Timothy 2:4).
When you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ God will allow you to covenant with Him for your salvation (John 14:6; Romans 10:9-10). This belief is required on our part but God did so much more first before (and after) we answer His call to join Him. Wayne Grudem sums it up like this in his book Bible Doctrine:
When God calls people in this powerful way, he calls them:
- out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9),
- into fellowship with his son (1 Corinthians 1:9; cf. Acts 2:39);
- into his own kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:12; cf. 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 1:3)
Gruden notes that those who answer God’s call:
Why would anybody not want to join God in His covenant? Only the power of sin can sway someone to reject God’s call. But when we answer God’s call, we’re set free from the bondage of sin (Colossians 1:13).
Abram's belief in the promise of God led to the establishment of Israel (his descendants) as God's chosen people. This in turn led to the blessing of all nations through Abram's belief in his God because the Savior of the world - Jesus Christ - came from Abram's descendants. The apostle Paul explains in his letter to the Galatians that if we belong to Christ, then we are of Abram's seed and heirs of God's promise to Abram (Galatians 4:29).
If you haven’t already done so, will you respond to the call of God to join Him in an eternal covenant for your life? If you have answered His call, will you invite others to do the same?
8. According to the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, a covenant is an “arrangement between two parties involving mutual obligations.” In the Old Testament a covenant between two people involved promises bound by solemn oaths to act in a certain way towards the other person.
There are many examples of covenants between human beings in the Bible, none more significant than marriage. But the more important covenants in the Bible are those between God and man. Prior to this covenant in Genesis chapter 15, we see God had made three prior covenants.
Type of Covenant
In this covenant with Abram, God appears in the form of a fire or torch. He does this again with Moses in the form of a burning bush and appears the people of Israel during their exodus from Egypt in the form of a fiery cloud.
In the slaying of the animals and passing through their divided halves in the form of a torch, the Lord was saying to Abram that He was responsible to fulfill His promise. We see the same sort of ceremonial promise in Jeremiah chapter 34.
This covenant ceremony was for the benefit of Abram and his descendants. Because of Abram’s faith, God made a solemn promise that He would bless him and reward him and his descendants.
God knows ahead of time what He will do with regard to His promises and covenants. We know this from 1 Timothy 1:9-10, where He tells us that before time began He had a plan to rescue man from sin. Ultimately, we see in the New Testament a new covenant to be fulfilled with the return of the risen Savior Jesus Christ.
Today, we have the example of Abram to simply believe God no matter the circumstances may be. From your reading of Genesis chapter 14, what was the covenant that God made with Abram and what were the physical circumstances that had to be overcome?
The covenant that God made with Abram is declared in verses 18 and 19 of Genesis chapter 15:
“I give this land to your offspring, from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates River”
The physical circumstances that had to be overcome were:
First, Abram had to have a son (an heir) in his old age. At this point in the story he’s more than 75 years old (Genesis 12:4) and Sarai was likely just as old and had yet have children. This was highly unusual and discouraging for Sarai as we shall see in the next chapter.
Secondly, before the land could be given to Abram’s descendants, it had to be taken away from the following people or tribes:
Finally, Abram’s descendants had to be rescued from their bondage and return to this land God promised to Abram’s descendants.
Only God could overcome these circumstances. This is because God is the author of life itself. God always keeps His promises and remembers His covenants.
When Abram’s descendants are in bondage in Egypt they cry out to God and He remembered His covenant with Abram. The Bible tells us God heard their groaning, remembered His covenant with Abram, saw the Israelites, and that He took notice.
God brought Abram’s descendants back to the promised land in remarkable fashion and with His direct involvement - God is faithful and always keeps His covenants.
9. God knows all things before they occur. List all references to future occurrences of truth that God declares in Chapter 15 from these verses:
We pray these Genesis Chapter 15 Questions and Answers have been a blessing to you.