Genesis (Part 61)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis 15:1-4

15 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.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”

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“word” = דָּבָר dâbâr, daw-baw’; from H1696; a word; by implication, a matter (as spoken of) or thing; adverbially, a cause:—act, advice, affair, answer, × any such (thing), because of, book, business, care, case, cause, certain rate, chronicles, commandment, × commune(-ication), concern(-ing), confer, counsel, dearth, decree, deed, × disease, due, duty, effect, eloquent, errand, (evil favoured-) ness, glory, harm, hurt, iniquity, judgment, language, lying, manner, matter, message, (no) thing, oracle, × ought, × parts, pertaining, please, portion, power, promise, provision, purpose, question, rate, reason, report, request, × (as hast) said, sake, saying, sentence, sign, so, some (uncleanness), somewhat to say, song, speech, × spoken, talk, task, that, × there done, thing (concerning), thought, thus, tidings, what(-soever), wherewith, which, word, work.

“Lord” = יְהֹוָה Yᵉhôvâh, yeh-ho-vaw’; from H1961; (the) self-Existent or Eternal; Jeho-vah, Jewish national name of God:—Jehovah, the Lord.

“vision” = מַחֲזֶה machăzeh, makh-az-eh’; from H2372; a vision:—vision.

In this instance, we have communication between God and Abram and it is clearly specified that the communication occurs in a manner that is not face to face. Previous communication with יְהֹוָה was done in an unclear way. We are told that Yahweh walked in the Garden of Eden. We are told that Yahweh spoke to Cain and Able, closed the door of Noah’s Ark, and that He told Abram to leave Ur. We are not told how these communications occurred, though, leaving us to wonder if they were from a corporeal Yahweh or in some other manner. This mystery has led Christian theologians to interject a corporeal Jesus into various events in Genesis and the rest of the Old Testament as an explanation. It is interesting that this clarification regarding the manner of communication occurs more clearly *after* the strange encounter with Melchizedek. If you read that section of verses in my review, you know that some Christians believe that Melchizedek was in fact Jesus Christ.

I bring this to your attention because it will become a *major* issue in Genesis 18 and 19.

Moving back to the text. From David Guzik’s Commentary:

a. After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram: How does the word of the LORD come to us? In the Bible, it happened in many different ways: by a personal appearance of God, by an audible voice, by visions or dreams, by the ministry of angels, by the working of the Spirit of God upon the mind, by the making alive of a passage of Scripture to our hearts, or by the ministry of a prophet or preacher.

b. Do not be afraid … I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward: There was a good reason why God said this. Because Abram had just defeated a much larger army, from a confederation of five kings, he had reason to be afraid for his security. An attack of retribution was to be expected.

c. Your shield … your reward: Abram needed a shield because he was expecting to be attacked. He needed reward because he had just forfeited great reward offered from the king of Sodom.

i. God is telling Abram that though he has sacrificed for His sake, he will not be the loser for it. God will more than make up what Abram has given up for the LORD.

ii. God knows how to become the answer to our need. When we need a shield or a reward, He becomes those things for us.

d. Do not be afraid: So God told Abram this because he was afraid, and afraid for good reason. But God will give him a reason to put away his fears. God never tells us do not be afraid without giving us a reason to put away our fears.

In note “b.” above, we see why God told Abram not to be afraid. He likely was and from a non-spiritual perspective he had good reason to be afraid. God here addresses Abram’s fear and reminds him why he need not be afraid. God also assures Abram that his reward will be great. This is likely said both because of what Abram just turned down from the King of Sodom but also because of what Abram still lacks.

From verse 2:

“Lord” = אֲדֹנָי ʼĂdônây, ad-o-noy’; an emphatic form of H113; the Lord (used as a proper name of God only):—(my) Lord.

“God” = יְהֹוִה Yᵉhôvih, yeh-ho-vee’; a variation of H3068 [used after H136, and pronounced by Jews as H430, in order to prevent the repetition of the same sound, since they elsewhere pronounce H3068 as H136]:—God.

“steward” = בֵּן bên, bane; from H1129; a son (as a builder of the family name), in the widest sense (of literal and figurative relationship, including grandson, subject, nation, quality or condition, etc., (like father or brother), etc.):—afflicted, age, (Ahoh-) (Ammon-) (Hachmon-) (Lev-) ite, (anoint-) ed one, appointed to, (+) arrow, (Assyr-) (Babylon-) (Egypt-) (Grec-) ian, one born, bough, branch, breed, + (young) bullock, + (young) calf, × came up in, child, colt, × common, × corn, daughter, × of first, firstborn, foal, + very fruitful, + postage, × in, + kid, + lamb, (+) man, meet, + mighty, + nephew, old, (+) people, rebel, + robber, × servant born, × soldier, son, + spark, steward, + stranger, × surely, them of, + tumultuous one, valiant(-est), whelp, worthy, young (one), youth. ; מֶשֶׁק mesheq, meh’-shek; from an unused root meaning to hold; possession:— steward.

I want to bring attention to something interesting with the translation. This is the Bible’s first use of אֲדֹנָי / “Adonai” as a title for God. It is translated as Lord. Typically, the English translation of the tetragrammaton (“Yahweh”) into English, is “Lord.” However, as you see above, when the tetragrammaton is preceded by Adonai, the English translation is rendered “God” instead of Lord.

Ellicott’s Bible Commentary has a short note on this:

(2) Lord God.—Not Jehovah Elohim, but Lord Jehovah, “Lord” being the ordinary title of respect. Usually Jehovah takes the vowels of ‘donai, “lord,” but as the two words occur here together, it takes the vowels of Elohim, whence the translation in our version, in obedience to a superstition of the Jews (Genesis 4:1).

Ellicott’s note goes on to address the rest of the verse. We detect a somewhat sulking tone from Abram here:

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 (Psalms 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.

Guzik’s Commentary puts it this way:

i. It is almost as if Abram meant, “LORD, You’ve given me lots of stuff, and now promise to give me more, and to protect me. But what good is it if I don’t have a descendant to give it to? I want the son You promised me!”

Of course, God knew that this was in Abram’s heart.

Guzik’s notes are as follows:

3. (Gen 15:4-5) God speaks to Abram’s doubts with a promise.

And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

a. This one shall not be your heir: God reminds Abram of the promise originally recorded in Genesis 12:2 and 13:15-16. God does this because He knows how much we need to be reminded.

b. One who will come from your own body shall be your heir: God often states a promise with such certainty, we believe it will be fulfilled right away, but the fulfillment of this promise was still 15 years away.

i. No wonder the writer to the Hebrews says: And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11-12)

c. From your own body: God explained exactly what He meant in His promise to Abram. He meant that it wasn’t a spiritual descendant who would inherit the promise (such as Eliezer), but an actual flesh-and-blood descendant. This was necessary, because we sometimes misunderstand God’s promises.

God has now promised Abram direct offspring three times. It seems to be the nature of God, sometimes, to wait until the cause seems to be hopeless before delivering on His promises. In the case of Abram, the older he gets, the more hopeless his situation seems to be. We see here, though, that God is faithful in reminding of what He has promised. As we will see, though not as soon as Abram will like, God will eventually give Abram all that He promised.

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