For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4


Genesis 15

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

15:1.  “After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram. I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”

After his great victory over the Babylonian confederation, after his meeting with Melchizedek, God’s priest-king, after his refusal to accept enrichment from the hand of Sodom’s wicked king, “the word of the Lord came unto Abram.”  Why should God have spoken to him at this particular time?  There may have been many reasons, but one obvious one is that God’s time is always the right time, and if ever Abram needed encouragement it was “after these things.”  He had risked his life and the lives of his servants to rescue Lot and the captured Sodomites, and recover their goods; but he himself apparently had not been made richer.  Not only so, in refusing Bera’s offer of enrichment, he may have had cause to fear that the offense thus given might bring retaliation from that evil king.  In addition, thanks to Abram’s victory, those rescued had returned with more than they had possessed before being captured, but he who had received many promises from God still had nothing more than before the victory was won.

Perhaps it may have seemed just then, “after these things,” that God had forgotten His promises.  It may have seemed that the wicked had been blessed, and the righteous, not only forgotten, but now also perhaps exposed to the wrath of Sodom’s offended king.  Just when it was most needed came God’s assurance, “Fear not Abram: I am thy shield....”  With God as his shield Abram could dismiss every fear.  And the suspicion that God might have forgotten was allayed by the added, “I am ... thy exceeding great reward.”  What was the temporal enrichment of Lot and the Sodomites compared, not with what God would give, but with what God was to Abram?  Someone has aptly said that, “The man who has everything except God has nothing, while the man who has nothing except God has everything.”

God similarly allays our fears with the assurance of His unfailing presence, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.... Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.... If God be for us who can be against us?”

And in regard to our enrichment, He bids us, “Fret not thyself ... delight thyself also in the Lord: and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.... Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.... Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.... The meek shall inherit the earth....” Ps.37.  “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Co 2:9).

15:2.  “And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?”

Abram’s question doesn’t imply disparagement of what God had given: it is the expression rather of the thought, “What does it matter how much You enrich me if I have no son to inherit it when I die?”  In chapter 12:7 God had promised, “Unto thy seed will I give this land,” and in 13:15-16 He had reiterated the promise, “All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.  And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth.”  But that promise seemed to have been forgotten.  All the wealth of the world couldn’t compensate for the lack of that promised son.

Abram’s words become invested with a deeper significance, however, when it is remembered that in God’s thought the promised seed was Christ.  “Now to Abram and his seed were the promises made.  He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed which is Christ” (Ga 3:16).  Certainly Isaac was the immediate fulfillment of the promise, but he was only a partial and symbolic fulfillment, for even he must inherit eternally through the true Seed, Christ.  Abram’s lament therefore, is but the symbolic cry of faith that Christ be produced in us.  Paul expressed this same desire in Ga 4:19, “My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.”  Every believer will one day be conformed to Christ’s image, Ro 8:29, and no believer will enter into the full enjoyment of his eternal inheritance until that day.  Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc., were but types of the true Seed, Christ.

Literally Abram’s physical life was perpetuated in the lives of his descendants, but he, in heaven, and they on earth, having physically survived the Tribulation, will enjoy the fulfillment of the promises, first in the Millennium, and then in the eternal state, for in giving the promises, God had eternity in view; and it is Christ Who makes eternal blessing possible.

Abram had yet to learn that the One Who had made the promises was the God of resurrection.  Until that truth was grasped everything must be seen merely from a natural standpoint, and from this low ground it seemed that the heir of all the wealth God had given must indeed be, “the steward of my house ... Eliezer of Damascus.”

15:3.  “And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.”

Human reasoning always falls far short of God’s thoughts.  Both of Abram’s statements were wrong.  The first, “To me thou hast given no seed,” presumed that God must work by natural means, and certainly the natural means afforded no hope - Sarah was barren. 

But a second mistake was his failure to discern that it is God’s sovereign right, not only to do what He pleases, but also to choose His own time.  Up to this point God had not given the promised seed, but that was only because it was not yet the right time.  Abram must learn that he was dealing with the God of resurrection, and that nature has no part in procuring blessings for men.  The seed would be given when, as far as begetting children was concerned, both Abram and Sarai were as good as dead.  God would bring the promised son out of two dead bodies, “Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable” (Heb 11:12). 

One of the great needs of faith is to learn the perfection of God’s time, and to possess the patient grace to wait for it.  “One born in my house is mine heir,” was the language of assumption, not knowledge.  Eliezer was not Abram’s heir.

15:4.  “And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.”

This pronouncement of God corrects Abram’s error regarding Eliezer: he is not the heir.  The heir is to be one who comes from Abram himself, one who was even then in Abram.  Believers will inherit through the One Who is in them, Christ.  And the day of inheritance will be that day when we stand in heaven perfectly conformed to His image.

15:5.  “And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”

Up to this point Abram had been looking at self and earthly circumstances instead of at God.  Peter had a similar experience when walking on the water.  When he took his eyes off Christ he began to sink.  The lesson God would teach us is that looking to ourselves can never produce anything except discouragement and despair.

God bade him lift his eyes heavenward, and He gives us the same command.  He bids us also to lift our eyes above earth and self, and look heavenward.  It is from there all our earthly blessings come, and it is there that all our eternal blessings are.  The secret of happiness is to claim all God’s promises, and to live in the confident knowledge that the One Who has “given unto us exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Pe 1:4), will fulfill them all.  But our eyes must be on Him, not on self or anything else of earth.

In chapter 13:16 God had promised, “I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth,” but here He promises a posterity as numerous as the stars.  The promise of chapter thirteen relates to an earthly posterity, that is, all who are physically descended from Abram.  And who can begin to number all those literal descendants who have lived upon the earth from that day until the present, and who will yet be born before earth’s history closes?

Chapter fifteen, however, relates to his spiritual posterity, that is, all those who have the same faith in God; and as with the earthly, so also with the heavenly: who can begin to number the multitudes of believing men and women who have walked the earth from that day till now, and who will yet walk before time gives place to the eternal state?  The impossibility of the task is indicated in Re 7:9, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number ... stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”

The order too, is perfect.  First there is the promise of the earthly posterity portrayed in the dust; then there is the spiritual, portrayed in the stars, “That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural: and afterward that which is spiritual” (1 Co 15:46).  “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Co 15:50).  “Ye must be born again” (Jn 3:7), for, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn .3:3).

15:6.  “And he believed in the Lord: and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

What applies to Abram applies to every man of faith: believers are made righteous, not by law-keeping, or by doing good works, but by believing God’s Word.  The principle of justification by faith apart from works is nowhere more clearly stated than in this verse.

15:7.  “And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.”

Here again is the annunciation of a principle that governs God’s dealings with believers.  He is not only the Lord Who has brought Abram out: He is also the Lord Who will now bring him in to enjoy the blessings which He delights to shower abundantly on the redeemed.  And as it was with Abram, so is it with all who are of the household of faith.  The God Who has led us out from Satan’s tyranny, from bondage to sin, from the kingdom of darkness and death, is the same One Who will lead us into the enjoyment of eternal blessings. 

Nor can the extent of our inheritance be grasped by the finite mind, for, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Co 2:9).

15:8.  “And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?”

This is not the incredulity of unbelief.  It is the confidence of faith asking to be shown something of how God will fulfill His promise.  Abram is not questioning that God will keep His word: he wishes to understand how.

15:9.  “And He said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle dove, and a young pigeon.”

God’s response was to provide a symbolic revelation of how He would fulfill His promises, not only to Abram, but to every believer.

A Chaldean custom for the confirmation of a covenant or contract was for the covenanting parties to slay an animal, split it, and then walk between the two halves.  The thought behind the custom seems to have been that the fate of the slain animal should be also the fate of the one who would break the covenant or contract.  Since Abram was from Chaldea, and therefore, familiar with the custom, God condescended to employ a contract ritual familiar to His servant, one that would assure him of the immutability of the divine promise.  (For another reference to this custom, see Jer 34:18-19).

But God was doing much more than employing a Chaldean custom.  He was demonstrating symbolically that His promises, not just to Abram, but to all who are of the family of faith, would be made good through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, for it is He Who is portrayed in the animals and birds.

The bullock and the heifer both speak of Christ as the willing Servant of God and man, the bullock portraying Him serving by the activity of His Own will; the heifer portraying Him serving in total submission to the Father’s will.

As the animal frequently used for the Sin offering, the goat represents Christ as the believer’s Sin offering; and its being a female emphasizes the submission of His Own will to that of the Father, which led Him to submit to being made sin so that we might be made righteous.

The ram was the animal used in connection with the consecration of the priests, (Exodus chapter 29), and it speaks of Christ as the One Who was completely consecrated to God.  Its being a male points to that activity of His will which was totally consecrated to doing the Father’s will, and which would permit nothing to hinder His pursuit of that objective.

The turtle dove and pigeon, being creatures of the air, portray Christ as the One Who was heavenly even while He walked the earth as man.

The requirement that the animals be three years old may have been designed to point to the approximate three decades  of His public ministry; but it is more likely that it was meant to foreshadow His resurrection, since three is the number of resurrection.

15:10.  “And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.” 

There are at least three spiritual lessons connected with the splitting of the animals.  First, the animals must die, reminding us that before men could receive eternal life, Christ must die.

Second, the exposure of the inward parts is the symbolic declaration that God’s eye beheld the inward life of Christ, and saw in His thoughts and motives the same sinless perfection that met the eye of man in His outward life.

And third, the placing of the halves in two rows portrays the fact that the sacrifice of Christ was for God as well as man.  His death glorified the Father, and met all the claims of His holiness.  For man, His death made full atonement for sin, so that the believer stands before God having imputed to him all the righteousness of Christ.

The death of the animals is implied in the words, “He divided them in the midst.”  The animals represent Christ as man, and it was only by becoming man that He could die.  The birds, however, represent Him as the heavenly One, God the Son; and though it is clear that they also died, their death is not directly stated, and as has been noted already, the silences of Scripture have as much to teach us as its direct statements.  In this case, the lesson of the undivided birds is that the One Who took man’s guilty place was none other than God the Son, Who as such, could not die.  The whole bird placed with each row of split animal carcasses, declares that it was God the Son Who acted for God as well as for man, laying down His life, not because death had a claim upon Him, but submitting voluntarily to death so that man might be delivered from death’s power.

The fact that the birds were not opened would remind us that in the life and death of Christ there was that which the eye of man didn’t see, for the simple reason that there is in His sacrifice that which is beyond man’s ability to comprehend.  Only God could fully understand all that is involved in Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection.

There being three of the animals, each one three years old, points to the truth that though the One they symbolized would die, He would also rise again.  Since the death of the birds isn’t directly stated, though they did die, it is unnecessary to indicate resurrection in their case. 

The idea of resurrection, however, goes beyond application to Christ: it declares that the inheritance for Abram and for every believer will be entered into only by resurrection.  It is only as we know ourselves crucified to the world by the cross of Christ that we become heirs and joint heirs with Him.  The lesson God would teach is that God’s heirs are those who stand on resurrection ground in association with a crucified and resurrected Christ.

15:11.  “And when the fowls came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away.”

The malignant activity of Satan is seen here, for in Scripture the fowls always represent his evil emissaries.  These birds would have pecked away at the carcasses until nothing was left, thus robbing Abram of the very foundation upon which God’s promises rested. 

The “fowls” would still “come down upon the carcasses.”  Have we ever been told to doubt that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God”?   To doubt that Christ is God?  To question the full and eternal efficacy of Christ’s finished work?  Such tempters are the “fowls” coming down to devour the very foundation of our hope.

Some of these “fowls” come dressed in gorgeous plumage, distracting the eye of the unwary from the nefarious work they do.  The world’s scholars and theologians are not infrequently found to be the “fowls” pecking away at the divine inspiration of Scripture, at the Divinity of Christ, and the efficacy of His work on Calvary’s cross.  Such scholars and theologians, no matter how brilliant and plausible they may appear, must be recognized for what they are, Satan’s agents.

The man of faith, however, would not permit himself to be robbed of that upon which all God’s promises rested: Abram drove the fowls away. 

15:12.  “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram: and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.”

If verses 9 and 10 teach us that all our blessings are in Christ crucified and risen again, verse 12 presents the method by which we may become the recipients of those blessings.  As they are made available to us through His death and resurrection, we make them ours through our death and resurrection.  Before we can become heirs, we too must die, becoming “... dead to the law by the body of Christ” (Ro 7:4); “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Ga 2:20).  Ge 15:12 is the OT annunciation of this truth.  It was to be through death and resurrection that Abram was to inherit the promises, that death being typically shown in the deep sleep that fell upon him, as his resurrection is foreshadowed in his being awakened out of that deep unnatural sleep.

The type, however, goes beyond Abram.  It reveals also that the nation of which he is the father, must also experience death and resurrection before entering into the enjoyment of the promised blessings.  This section is, in fact, the declaration of the principle that the inheritance is obtained only through death and resurrection.  Christ had to die before He, as man, was given the place of glory at the Father’s right hand.  Whether it be Abram, Israel, the individual believer, or Christ (become man), the order is the same: the inheritance can only be received by way of death and resurrection.

15:13.  “And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them: and they shall afflict them four hundred years.”

This confirms that the deep sleep of the previous verse relates also to Israel, for in these few words God foretells the four hundred years of Israel’s experience in Egypt.

15:14.  “And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterwards shall they come out with great substance.”

Israel’s affliction at the hand of the Egyptians came only by God’s permission, and we do well to remember the cause of that affliction.  Before Israel became a nation, when they were only a family, they had afflicted and sold to what they thought was death, their brother Joseph.  The four hundred years of affliction were God’s recompense of that treachery.

In their treatment of Joseph, however, we have the foreshadowing of their later treatment of the One whom Joseph represents, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Their present dispersion and affliction among the nations for the past two thousand years is God’s recompense of that treachery.  But it shouldn’t be forgotten that God has never ceased to regard Israel as a son.  In Ex 4:22 Moses was bidden, “Say unto Pharaoh, Israel is my son, even my firstborn.”  Their treachery both against Joseph and against Christ required God to administer chastisement, but it is the chastisement of a Father; and because of that, it is not for their destruction, but to lead them to repentance so that that Father might bless them.  Therefore He adds the threat of verse 14 against the nation that would take delight in being the instrument of chastisement.

The chastisement of God is prompted by love, “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth” (Heb 12:6).  “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten” (Re 3:19).  But woe to either man or nation that takes delight in afflicting God’s people.  “That nation will I judge,” says God.  Concerning Israel, God caused the prophet to write, “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple (pupil) of His eye” (Zec 2:8).  And the love with which He loves Israel is the same love with which He loves every believer.

Four hundred years later He fulfilled His promise, as recorded in Ex 12:29-36; 14:19-31.

That chastisement of bondage in Egypt, however, is also a type, as was also the later Babylonian captivity.  They both adumbrate Israel’s present chastisement of expulsion from her land, and her scattering among the nations, which will culminate in the Tribulation judgments that will bring her to repentance, and which will end with her deliverance at the Lord’s return.  The criterion He will use to determine His treatment of the nations in that day will be, apparently, their treatment of His own during the Tribulation, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Mt 25:40).  This, however, does not imply that they will be saved by good works.  It is the demonstration of the truth that saving faith produces good works.  Their kindness to Israel in that day will be the demonstration of the reality of their faith.  The care with which He avenges His earthly people Israel, is the believer’s assurance of His equally diligent care for His people of this present age.

Four hundred is simply the multiplication of four, the number of testing.  Israel’s testing in Egypt ended in her coming out with great substance to inherit the land of Canaan flowing with milk and honey.  Her present testing among the nations will end in her emerging from the Tribulation with great substance, to be chief among the nations, and to enjoy the blessings of the millennial earth.

Great and gracious as was God’s covenant with Abram, and literal as the fulfillment of it will be in a soon-coming day, it is but a shadow of that supremely great and gracious covenant which God has made with every believer of this present age.  That covenant has been sealed, not with the blood of animals and birds, but with the precious blood of Christ.  And we, like Abram, have no part in it except to receive and enjoy it by faith, for when it was made, we were in a deeper sleep than that which fell upon Abram, “... we were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1).

15:15.  “And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; and thou shalt be buried in a good old age.”

The fulfillment of this is recorded in Ge 25:8.  In this Abram was being told that death must come before the promise would be fulfilled, but if it assured him of death, it assured him also of resurrection; and that latter assurance invested death with a unique character: it was shown to be, not the end of every hope, but rather the step that would bring nearer the moment when every hope would be realized.  It is the same with every believer of this present age.  Death is not the end of his hopes: it is the necessary event that brings fulfillment nearer.

15:16.  “And in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”

While it was revealed to Abram that the promises were to have their fulfillment in a future day through resurrection, the reason was also given, “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”  Abram was dwelling “in the plain of Mamre the Amorite,” and, in fact, the Amorites “were confederate with Abram” when he received the covenant, Ge 14:13.  More than four hundred years were to pass before there would be the fulfillment of the promise.  The nation that would spring from Abram must first “pass through the furnace” of Egyptian bondage, for God was not only sealing an immutable covenant: He was foretelling the nation’s bondage in Egypt, as is clearly seen in the light of Dt 4:20, “But the Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto Him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.”

In Abram’s day the wickedness of the Canaanites was great, but not yet full.  “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pe 3:9.)  God in patient grace would wait long - more than four hundred years - giving time for repentance, that He might bless.  Judgment is His strange work.  He would rather bless than punish.  But God is just, as well as patient.  The day of grace is inevitably followed by judgment.  In bringing Abram’s descendants out of Egypt, He fulfilled not only the promise of blessing to Israel, but also the indicated judgment on the unrepentant Canaanites, His delivered people being made the instrument of His judgment against them.

God’s bringing Israel out of Egyptian bondage, under Moses, and into Canaan under Joshua, however, was only a partial fulfillment of the covenant.  Its complete fulfillment is yet future.  It will be when the iniquity, not of the Amorites, but of the world, is full.  Then He will bring a repentant and converted Israel out of the furnace of the great Tribulation into the enjoyment of the millennial earth, an earth from which He will have banished all those whose iniquity is full.

But in Israel’s history we have typologically the pre-written history of the Church, for as Israel was brought from Egypt’s bondage into Canaan’s blessings, so too, the Church has been delivered from the spiritual bondage of service to sin and Satan, into a new life in Christ.  He is the complete fulfillment of all God’s promises; but as His earthly people await fulfillment of the promises in the Millennium, so too, what we the Church enjoy now by faith, will be enjoyed fully in eternity.

15:17.  “And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.”

Transcending the actual experience of Abram is the spiritual truth being conveyed.  “When the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.”  It is when we are called upon to walk by faith and not by sight (when the sun has gone down), that fear fills us.  But in the darkness Abram’s God was confirming an eternal, unbreakable covenant of blessing greater in scope than Abram could ever have imagined.  In the darkness, when sight can discern nothing but the smoking furnace, God would have us remember that, “All things (the seeming bad as well as the good) work together for good to them that love God.”

Notice that it was a smoking furnace.  It may have been also a burning furnace, but Scripture says only that it was a smoking furnace.  In the smoke of circumstances in which God weaves our blessings, we are all too ready to see a flame that doesn’t exist.  It was a smoking furnace.  And even if the fire is real, do we forget His unbreakable promise, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isa 43:2)?  Do we forget that when Daniel’s three friends were cast into the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God?” (Da 4:25).

As well as the smoking furnace, there was also a burning lamp.  The light of that lamp shone not only on the smoking furnace, but also on the sacrifice that sealed the covenant.  “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105).  The lamp of God’s Word reveals not only the trials we must endure: it shines also on the sacrifice, Christ, by which, beyond this vale of tears, every blessing will be ours eternally.  When outward circumstances were filling Abram’s heart with fear, God was transmuting those same circumstances into eternal blessings.  He is not less gracious towards us.  The things which now cause us to doubt and fear, are the very things which will be revealed one day as the material from which a loving Father produced our eternal blessings.

Not till the loom is silent,

And the shuttles cease to fly,

Will God unroll the canvas,

And explain the reason why,

The dark threads were as needful,

In the heavenly Weaver’s hand,

As the threads of gold and silver,

In the pattern He had planned.

Another important point in connection with this covenant is that it was one of pure grace, in which God bound Himself alone to fulfill it.  Abram was unconscious, and took no part in the ceremony in which both covenanting parties normally participated.  It was all of God.  The burning lamp represented Him; and today it is the “burning lamp” of the written Word which represents Him to us.  Abram’s part was simply to rest in the enjoyment of the fact that he was the beneficiary of a covenant, to the fulfillment of which God had bound Himself alone.  “God gave it to Abram by promise” (Ga 3:18). 

15:18.  “In the self same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.”

The day when the covenant was sealed was the day of darkness and the smoking furnace, reminding us that when the better new covenant of grace was sealed, it was, for Christ, a day of darkness and a smoking furnace: not just the literal darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour, but the awful spiritual darkness that enveloped his soul like a shroud when the light of the Father’s face was hidden from Him.  The type of the smoking furnace (symbol of suffering) of Abram’s dream had its fulfillment also at Calvary.  There the Lord endured the outpouring of divine wrath against sin, and endured an agony portrayed in the words of the prophet, “... my bones are burned as an hearth” (Ps 102:3).

But the burning lamp had also its part at Calvary, for it is not only the symbol of God, but also of His Word; and every word must be fulfilled if sinners were to be saved.   Everything said and done by Christ was to fulfill what was written in the Scriptures, even down to the words spoken just before He dismissed His spirit, “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst” (Jn 19:28).

In the boundaries of the land, two countries are mentioned, Egypt, and Babylon (the Euphrates represents Babylon), the former being a type of the godless world of business and pleasure; and the latter, the equally godless world of false religion.  Israel had been the captive of both.  Every believer is a former captive of what Egypt and Babylon represent.  The deliverances from both are but adumbrations of that final future deliverance that will see Israel raised from her present state of spiritual death among the nations.  Even the casual reader must surely discern the beautiful order of this prophetic history.  Israel was first delivered from Egypt, and then from Babylon; and her third (number of resurrection) and final deliverance will be from the world as typified by both Egypt and Babylon, when the Lord returns to establish His millennial kingdom.

15:19.  The Kenites a smith: a fabricator, and the Kenizzites the nest sprinkled, and the Kadmonites ancients: orientals,”

15:20.  “And the Hittites terror, and the Perizzi­tes rustic: squatter, and the Rephaims the dead: giants: healers,”

15:21.  “And the Amorites a sayer, and the Canaanites a trafficker, and the Girgashites a stranger drawing near, and the Jebusites he will be trodden down.”

While the spiritual significance of some of these names is difficult to discern, the general picture is of different aspects of the evil that characterizes the unconverted - the natural man in his opposition to all that is of God.  Since, in a good context, the smith represents godly teachers, these enemy smiths represent false teachers. 

The Kenizzite the nest sprinkled may portray the natural man and the world as a whole, sprinkled with the blood of Christ, not in a good sense, but as guilty of having shed His blood, and remaining unrepentant. 

The Kadmonites ancient: oriental seem to represent the natural man’s spiritual position.  The orient is in the east, the direction that speaks of sin and departure from God; and the other meaning of the name ancient may be to remind us that man has been in this state since the days of Adam.

The Hittite terror may portray the natural man’s inherent instinct to persecute and terrorize those who belong to God; while the Perizzite rustic: squatter can scarcely represent anything except the natural man in his delusion that his religion brings him into a right relationship with God, even though he has never been spiritually enlightened, but is a spiritual rustic, i.e., his wisdom is earthly, so that he remains totally ignorant of spiritual things.  Like the literal squatter, he presumes to occupy a spiritual place to which he has no right. 

In the Rephaim, God would have us see the spiritual state of the natural man: he is spiritually dead.  But inasmuch as Rephaim also means giant: healer, it may be that God would have us see in symbol man’s imagined strength, his corrupt mind deluding him into believing that his religion is sufficient for the healing of every moral ill.

The Amorite sayer represents false profession, and again God is showing us another feature of the natural man.  He professes to be in a right relationship with God, even though God says that the carnal mind is enmity against Him, Ro 8:7.

The significance of the Canaanite trafficker is also easy to read.  He portrays the truth that the natural man, enemy of God though he is, is always ready to traffick in spiritual things for temporal rather than spiritual profit.

The Girgashite a stranger drawing near seems to point to the truth that the natural man has no hesitation about intruding boldly into a realm from which God has excluded him.  For example, many an unconverted man, clad in his clerical robes, and flaunting his theological qualifications, stands up as an interpreter of Scripture, and spiritual leader of others.  He is, however, a spiritual Girgashite, and there are many of them abroad today.

The Jebusites were the original inhabitants of Jerusalem, and were not expelled until the days of David.  They seem to represent the power of the flesh, and as they were “trodden down” by David, so will those they represent - the enemies of God in general - also be trodden down by David’s greater Son when He returns in power and glory to establish His millennial kingdom.

It is that overthrow of all that is opposed to God, which is portrayed in the promised subjugation of these enemies by Abram’s seed, that is, Christ.

This covenant will have its literal earthly fulfillment for Israel in the Millennium.  In resurrection, as a nation raised from spiritual death, she will rule over all other nations, that world-wide supremacy being foreshadowed in this promised subjection of the Canaanite tribes over which Israel exercised dominion, though for only a brief time, in the days of Solomon.  That reign provided a glimpse of the glory that will be Israel’s in the Millennium. 

That Israel’s millennial supremacy is being foretold here will be obvious when it is realized that God has been selective in preparing this list.  Though there were many tribes in Canaan, He has selected only ten, the number of divine government.

We should note that the Israel that will be ruling on the millennial earth will consist of those Jews, converted in the Tribulation, and still living when it is brought to an end by the Lord’s return to establish His millennial kingdom.  They will rule from the literal Jerusalem on the millennial earth.  Abram, together with the other OT saints, resurrected;  and all the Church-age saints, plus the resurrected Tribulation-age martyrs, will be ruling over the millennial earth, but from the heavenly Jerusalem poised in the heavens above the earth.  Thus the promise will be literally fulfilled to Abram, and all his seed.

It is generally recognized that Israel’s literal foes represent the flesh within us, and the spiritual foes who oppose us today, as it is written, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 6:12).  Thus the promised subjection of Israel’s literal foes is our assurance that the spiritual foes we fight against today will also be made subject to us when we reign with Christ.

The study of this chapter will not have been wasted if it enables us to see a little more clearly the glory of the eternal day that lies beyond this brief hour of trial amid the darkness of earth.

[Genesis 16]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough