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Genesis 15:1-21 - THE ULTIMATE COVENANT - Part 2
- [Read part one here]
Reassurance Concerning the Land Abram Would Possess (15:7-21)
Having dealt with Abram’s greatest need for reassurance—namely that of an heir, God went on to strengthen Abram’s faith concerning the land he would possess: Genesis 15:7 - “He also said to him, ‘I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
Abram’s question doesn’t seem to show disbelief, but rather, wonder at how this will be accomplished: Genesis 15:8 - “But Abram said, ‘Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” This tone of wonder is similar to that of Mary when she was told she will be the mother of the Messiah: “And Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’” (Luke 1:34). God didn’t rebuke Abram for his question, but confirmed His promise by a covenant.
Gen. 15:9-11 - “So the LORD said to him, ‘Bring Me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.’ Abram brought all these to Him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.”
In the ancient world of Abram, legal and binding agreements were not put on papers written by lawyers and signed by the parties involved. Instead, the two parties would arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement, and then they would formalize it in the form of a covenant. The covenant was sealed by the dividing of an animal (or animals). In fact, the technical term literally means ‘go cut a covenant.’
The animal(s) were cut in half and the two parties would pass between the halves. It seems that in this oath, the men acknowledged that the fate of the animal should be theirs if they broke the terms of their agreement.
So we see that these verses do not describe the process of animal sacrifice, but the legal act of making a binding agreement. Verses 9-11 set the stage for the final agreement of this covenant.
Some time seems to have passed between the preparation of the animals and the final agreement (verse 11). And toward the end of this delay, Abram fell into a deep, trance-like state: Genesis 15:12 - “As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.”
The “thick and dreadful darkness,” could have been more than just an awareness of God’s presence. Perhaps it could also have been a response to the horrors of the revelation of the treatment of Abram’s children in the next 400 years?
Abram’s descendants would possess the land of Canaan, but not until after considerable time and many difficulties! Let’s look at what the Lord said to Him:
And God said to Abram in Genesis 15:13-14 - “Know for certain that for 400 years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions.”
Notice here that Egypt remains unnamed as the land where this bondage would occur. Not only did Abram not need to know this, but such knowledge could have been detrimental before this bondage came to pass. But It was no problem for those who read these words of Moses to know the land of which he spoke. Indeed, they had just come out of Egypt.
What a trip this must have been to those Israelites who were brought out of Egypt to read this prophecy which described their experience to a tee!
And if you're like me, ya might wonder why there was a 400 year delay before the land of Canaan would be possessed. And there seems to be a couple reasons.
First, the children of Abraham would not yet be able (or numerous enough) to possess the land earlier.
And second, the people of the land were not yet wicked enough to thrust out: Genesis 15:16 - In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
Here is an important principle, and one that governs the possession of the land of Canaan. God owns the land of Canaan (Leviticus 25:23 - “”The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is Mine and your reside in My land as foreigners and strangers.”), and He lets it out to those who will live according to righteousness.
When Israel forgot their God and practiced the abominations of the Canaanites (II Chronicles 28:3, 33:2), God put them out of the land also.
In the light of the present debate over who has legitimate claim in the land of Israel, let’s remember this principle. It is God who owns the land, not the Jews, nor the Arabs. God will not allow the Jews to possess the land and live wickedly any more than He will the Gentiles.
Over the next 400 or more years from the time of this revelation, two programs were simultaneously at work. The Canaanites were growing more and more wicked, and their day of reckoning was steadily approaching.
At the same time, the nation of Israel was about to be born, growing rapidly in number, and in spiritual maturity, preparing for the day of possession.
When God had spoken of Abram’s peaceable death at a ripe old age and the fate of his offspring, He made clear the covenant concerning the land that would belong to Israel in Genesis 15:17-21 - “When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said: ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates - the land of the Kenites, (And all the rest of the “ITES”) Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Cannanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
The geographical boundaries have been clearly defined, and even the peoples who were to be dispossessed were named. God committed Himself to a very specific course of action. What more reassurance could be asked?
Join us next week for the conclusion to this text.