Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 15

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Genesis 15:1. After these things — 1st, After that act of generous charity which Abram had done, in rescuing his neighbours, God made him this gracious visit. 2d, After that victory which he had obtained over four kings: lest Abram should be too much elevated with that, God comes to tell him he had better things in store for him. The word of the Lord came unto Abram — That is, God manifested himself to Abram; in a vision — Which supposes that Abram was awake, and had some sensible token of the presence of the divine glory saying, Fear not, Abram — Abram might fear lest the four kings he had routed should rally and fall upon him. No, saith God, fear not: fear not their revenge, nor thy neighbours’ envy; I will take care of thee. I am thy shield — Or, emphatically, I am a shield to thee, present with thee, actually defending thee. The consideration of this, that God himself is a shield to his people, to secure them from all destructive evils, a shield “ready to them,” and a shield “round about them,” should silence all perplexing fears. And thy exceeding great reward — Not only thy rewarder, but thy reward. God himself is the felicity of holy souls; he is the “portion of their inheritance, and their cup.”

Verse 3
Genesis 15:3. Behold, to me thou hast given no seed — Not only no son, but no seed. If he had had a daughter, from her the promised Messias might have come, who was to be the seed of the woman; but he had neither son nor daughter.

Verse 5
Genesis 15:5. And he brought him forth — It seems, early in the morning; and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars: so shall thy seed be — 1st, So innumerable, for so the stars seem to a common eye. Abram feared he should have no child at all, but God tells him his descendants should be so many as not to be numbered. 2d, So illustrious, as the stars of heaven for splendour; for to “them pertained the glory,” Romans 9:4. Abram’s seed according to the flesh were like the “dust of the earth,” Genesis 13:16, but his spiritual seed are like the stars of heaven.

Verse 6
Genesis 15:6. And he believed in the Lord — That is, believed the truth of that promise which God had now made him, resting upon the power and faithfulness of him that made it: see how the apostle magnifies this faith of Abram, and makes it a standing example; Romans 4:19-21, “He was not weak in faith; he staggered not at the promise:” he was “strong in faith; he was fully persuaded.” The Lord work such a faith in every one of us! And he counted it to him for righteousness — That is, upon the score of this faith he was accepted of God, and, by faith, he “obtained witness that he was righteous,” Hebrews 11:4. This is urged in the New Testament to prove that we are justified by faith without the works of the law, Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; for Abram was so justified, while he was yet uncircumcised. If Abram, that was so rich in good works, was not justified by them, but by his faith, much less can we be. This faith, which was imputed to Abram for righteousness, had newly struggled with unbelief, Genesis 15:2, and, coming off conqueror, it was thus crowned, thus honoured.

Verse 7
Genesis 15:7. I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees — Thence God brought him by an effectual call; brought him by a gracious violence; snatched him as a brand out of the burning. Observe how God speaks of it as that which he gloried in. I am the Lord that brought thee out — He glories in it as an act both of power and grace. To give thee this land to inherit it — Not only to possess it, but to possess it as an inheritance, which is the surest title. The providence of God hath secret, but gracious designs in all its various dispensations; we cannot conceive the projects of providence, until the event shows what it was taking measures to effect.

Verse 8
Genesis 15:8. Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? — This inquiry did not proceed from distrust of God’s power or promise, but he desired a token for the strengthening of his own faith, and for the ratifying of the promise to his posterity, that they also might believe it.

Verse 9
Genesis 15:9. Take me a heifer — Perhaps Abram expected some sign from heaven, but God gives him a sign upon a sacrifice. Those that would receive the assurances of God’s favour, must attend instituted ordinances, and expect to meet with God in them.

Verse 12
Genesis 15:12. And when the sun was going down — About the time of the evening oblation; for, he abode by them, praying and waiting till toward evening; a deep sleep fell upon Abram — Not a common sloop through weariness or carelessness, but a divine ecstasy, that, being wholly taken off from things sensible, he might be wholly taken up with the contemplation of things spiritual. And lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him — This was designed to strike an awe upon the spirit of Abram, and to possess him with a holy reverence. Holy fear prepares the soul for holy joy; God humbles first, and then lifts up.

Verse 13
Genesis 15:13. Thy seed shall be strangers — So they were in Canaan first, Psalms 105:12, and afterward in Egypt: before they were lords of their own land, they were strangers in a strange land. The inconveniences of an unsettled state make a happy settlement the more welcome. Thus the heirs of heaven are first strangers on earth. And they shall serve them — So they did the Egyptians, Exodus 1:13. See how that which was the doom of the Canaanites, Genesis 9:25, proves the distress of Abram’s seed: they are made to serve; but with this difference, the Canaanites serve under a curse, the Hebrews under a blessing. And they shall afflict them — See Exodus 1:11. Those that are blessed and beloved of God are often afflicted by wicked men. This persecution began with mocking, when Ishmael, the son of an Egyptian, persecuted Isaac, (Genesis 21:9,) and it came at last to murder, the basest of murders, that of their new-born children; so that, more or less, it continued four hundred years.

Verse 14
Genesis 15:14. That nation whom they shall serve, even the Egyptians, will I judge — This points at the plagues of Egypt, by which God not only constrained the Egyptians to release Israel, but punished them for all the hardships they had put upon them. The punishing of persecutors is the judging of them; it is a righteous thing with God, and a particular act of justice, to “recompense tribulation to those that trouble” his people.

Verse 15
Genesis 15:15. Thou shalt go to thy fathers — At death we go to our fathers, to all our fathers that are gone before us to the state of the dead, to our godly fathers that are gone before us to the state of the blessed. The former helps to take off the terror of death, the latter puts comfort into it. Thou shalt be buried in a good old age — Perhaps mention is made of his burial here, where the land of Canaan is promised him, because a burying-place was the first possession he had in it.

Verse 16
Genesis 15:16. They shall come hither again — Hither to the land of Canaan, wherein thou now art. The reason why they must not have the land of promise in possession till the fourth generation, is, because “the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full.” The righteous God has determined that they shall not be cut off till they are arrived to such a pitch of wickedness; and therefore, till it come to that, the seed of Abram must be kept out of possession.

Verse 17
Genesis 15:17. Behold a smoking furnace — This signified the affliction of his seed in Egypt: they were there in the furnace of affliction, and labouring in the very fire. They were there in the smoke, their eyes darkened that they could not see to the end of their troubles. And a burning lamp — This speaks comfort in this affliction: and this God showed Abram at the same time with the smoking furnace. The lamp notes direction in the smoke; God’s word was their lamp, a light shining in a dark place. Perhaps, too, this burning lamp prefigured the pillar of a cloud and fire which led them out of Egypt. The “passing of these between the pieces” was the confirming of the covenant God now made with him.

Verse 18
Genesis 15:18. Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt, &c. — In David’s time and Solomon’s, their jurisdiction extended to the utmost of those limits, 2 Chronicles 9:26. And it was their own fault that they were not sooner and longer in possession of all these territories. They forfeited their right by their sins, and by their own sloth and cowardice kept themselves out of possession.