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Genesis Chapter Fifteen


I. Content of the Chapter


God Made a Covenant with Abram

A.  God promised the offspring to Abram (v.1-5);

B.  Abram was justified by faith (v.6);

C.  God revealed the sign of the inheritance to Abram (v.7-11);

D.  God prophesied that the offspring of Abram would suffer in the land of Egypt (v.12-16);

E.  God made a covenant with Abram (v.17-21);


II. Verse by Verse Commentary


Gen. 15:1 “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward."”

YLT: “After these things hath the word of Jehovah been unto Abram in a vision, saying, `Fear not, Abram, I a shield to thee, thy reward exceeding great.'”

Literal Meaning: after these things”, though it was a common opening remark in the narration of the Hebrew, it still referred to the returning of Abram after his victory and being received (see Gen. 14:13-24).

  “The LORD came to Abram in a vision”, God revealed to men by two ways: 1) By direct speaking; 2) By visions; sometimes, man could not understand man even though God had spoken once to twice. God will seal His instruction upon man in a vision of the night (Job 33:14-16).

  Do not be afraid”, Probably Abram was afraid that the four kings came back for revenge.

I am your shield, shield is used to resist the arrows and swords, so here it means that “I will protect you”.

“Your exceedingly great reward”, Abram was unwilling to receive the possessions of the wicked, the king of Sodom (Gen. 14:21-23). Therefore, God rewarded Abram with Himself.

God is the shield, who resists against the assault of the enemy. And God is the reward, who recompenses all that we have lost for His sake.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) There are more than fifty verses in the Bible that encourage us “not to be afraid”, for fear is a herald of failure. The deceit of the devil is to make believers fall into fear.

  2) If our faith in God diminishes, we will be increasingly afraid of something. However, the manifestation and word of God can most stimulate the faith of believers to save them from fear.

  3) When we are in fear, the most important thing is to have close fellowship with God though reading the Scriptures and prayers. We will have peace and joy when we receive the ongoing word of God in His countenance.

  4) God is the protector of believers (Ps. 121:1-8). Since we have God Himself to be our shield, what then shall we fear?

  5) The Lord Himself will be the protector and reward to those who exalt and magnify the Lord.

  6) My goodness is nothing apart from God (Ps. 16:2).

  7) If we can forsake the world absolutely, God will grant himself to us to be our enjoyment and portion. This reward is exceedingly great, for He excels in all the goodness of the world.


Gen. 15:2 “But Abram said, "Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"”

YLT: “And Abram saith, `Lord Jehovah, what dost Thou give to me, and I am going childless? and an acquired son in my house is Demmesek Eliezer.'”

Meaning of Words: Damascus”: burning; “Eliezer”: the help of God;

The Background: it had been ten years (Gen. 16:3) since God promised Abram innumerable offspring to Abram (Gen. 13:16). But he still had no son at this time.

  “And the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus”, according to the ancient records, one who has no son can appoint another male servant to be his heir or overseer of inheritance.

Literal Meaning: Lord GOD, it shows that God is the Lord and the governor.

“What will You give me, seeing I go childless, since I have no child, the possession You have given to me will be given to others, and what’s the profit to me?

Eliezer of Damascus”, he was a bondman brought by Abram from Damascus. Probably, Eliezer was just the elder servant of Abram’s house, who ruled over all that he had and went to Haran to choose the spouse for Isaac (Gen. 24:2).

Spiritual Meaning: Eliezer of Damascus” typifies “the possession of man”.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Man’s faith is easily influenced by environment. And if it is still fruitless after a long time, the faith is easily moved.

  2) Man’s faith cannot endure long. When the faith is weak, man may think of replacing the things God has promised with his own things.


Gen. 15:3 “Then Abram said, "Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!"”

YLT: “And Abram saith, `Lo, to me Thou hast not given seed, and lo, a domestic doth heir me.'”

Literal Meaning: indeed one born in my house”, it refers to the male servant in his house.

“Heir”, the son who is appointed to inherit the possessions of the house when he has grown up; here Abram intended to appoint Eliezer to be his heir since he had no son. 

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Men in the world often have no idea where to pour out their complaint. Believers, however, can pour out all their troubles and intents of heart to God.

  2) We often replace the divine life and disposition with our natural virtue and ability.


Gen. 15:4 “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."”

YLT: “And lo, the word of Jehovah unto him, saying, `This doth not heir thee; but he who cometh out from thy bowels, he doth heir thee;'”

Literal Meaning: “this one shall not be your heir, God denied Abram’s suggest that he would appoint Eliezer of Damascus to be his heir (see v.2-3).

“But one who will come from your own body shall be your heir”, God wanted Abram to believe that He can do things that are utterly impossible in human sight.

Spiritual Meaning: this verse symbolizes that only the work of God done by the life of God, not anything of believers, no matter how good it is, can have part in the portion of God.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) The greatest love and the highest portion of God to us is that He calls us His children (1John 3:1).

  2) Believers can enjoy all the spiritual possessions of God by living in the divine life rather than the natural life.


Gen. 15:5 “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."”

YLT: “and He bringeth him out without, and saith, `Look attentively, I pray thee, towards the heavens, and count the stars, if thou art able to count them;' and He saith to him, `Thus is thy seed.'”

Meaning of Words: descendants”: seed;

Literal Meaning: “so shall your descendants be”, it means that your descendants shall be as innumerable as the stars in the heaven.

Spiritual Meaning: “stars” refer to his descendants of his faith, namely, believers;

  “Descendants”, in the original language, it is “seed”, who refers to one person, namely, Christ (Gal. 3:16).

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Believers have to be brought by God out of the narrow situations and experiences and views to a wider sphere (“outside”) so as to see the heavenly vision.

  2) The devil makes us bend down to see the earth, but God asks us to lift up our head to look toward the heaven. Let us turn our eyes from the earth to the heaven (Col. 3:2).

  3) If believers often look unto and number and set their mind upon the heavenly things, it will be of a great help to their faith.

  4) The position and nature of believers are just like the stars ---- heavenly and superior and shining upon the dark world.

  5) The fruits of man’s faith will be as innumerable as stars in the heaven.

  6) Seriously speaking, only Christ Himself can inherit the possession of God and fulfill the purpose of God. We believers are merely vessels of God to manifest Christ.


Gen. 15:6 “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”

YLT: “And he hath believed in Jehovah, and He reckoneth it to him -- righteousness.”

Literal Meaning: he believed in the LORD”, the etymon of the word “believe” is “amen”. Abram “amen”ed the word of God, and said “yes” to God.

  He accounted it to him for righteousness”, God justified on account of his faith only, not his works. This is the first time in the Scriptures of indicating the way of salvation to men. Man has no righteousness at all (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 3:23). If one is justified before God, it must be that God has given his own righteousness to him. And man can only obtain such righteousness by “faith” in God.

Spiritual Meaning: Abram believed the seed in the word of God, namely, Jesus Christ who would come. Therefore, it was accounted to him for righteousness because of the faith of Christ. Abram was justified because of believing the Christ who would come, and we are justified because of believing the Christ who has come (Rom. 4:23-24).

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) If we believe the testimony borne by God concerning Jesus, it will also be reckoned to us as righteousness (Rom. 4:3, 9, 13, 18-25; Gal. 3:6; James 2:23).

  2) All those who are on the principle of faith are Abraham’s sons. And they will also be justified and blessed with Abraham (Gal. 3:7-9).

  3) It is the faith of believers, not their works, that most pleases God.

  4) All the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen (2Cor. 1:20).


Gen. 15:7 “Then He said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it."”

YLT: “And He saith unto him, `I Jehovah who brought thee out from Ur of the Chaldees, to give to thee this land to possess it;'”

Literal Meaning: God revealed His being and works and will to Abram:

  1) “I am the LORD”, it is the being of God. “LORD” means “I AM THAT I AM”. Whatever man needs, He is it. Only the LORD can deal with all the needs of man.

  2) “Who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, it is the works of God. The status and position of Abram at this time are due to the works of God.

3) “To give you this land to inherit it”, it reveals the will of God. God called him out of the land of idols for the purpose of giving him the land of Canaan to inherit it.

Spiritual Meaning: “this land” refers to the land of Canaan, which typifies Christ. God has called us for a particular purpose of giving us His son Jesus Christ as our inheritance.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) God will not lead us in the beginning and then give up halfway. Since He is the beginning, He will definitely fulfill His works to the end.

  2) It is by full reliance on God that we can be separated from the world and be delivered from the land of idols

  3) Since God has saved us, He will surely take the full responsibility of us, for He is the LORD ---- He can deal with all our situations.

  4) Christ is believers’ land of Canaan. Let us live and walk in this “land” and keep it to yield production to be the joy of both God and men.


Gen. 15:8 “And he said, "Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?"”

YLT: “and he saith, `Lord Jehovah, whereby do I know that I possess it?'”

Literal Meaning: Abram wanted to know how he would inherit the land of Canaan. This was not tempting God nor lacking in faith of God, but seeking a sign. God did not rebuke his question. Sometimes, God allowed men to seek the sign of His promises because of human weakness (Judge 6:17, 36-40). 

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) God pleases that those who are of Him ask Him (Ps. 27:4, 8).

  2) Our faith has its foundation, through which we can “know” the fruit of faith.


Gen. 15:9 “So He said to him, "Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon."”

YLT: “And He saith unto him, `Take for Me a heifer of three years, and a she-goat of three years, and a ram of three years, and a turtle-dove, and a young bird;'”

Literal Meaning: “three-year-old” shows it is young and strong. Later, the Israelites offered the sacrifices to God by these five animals ---- cattle, goat, sheep, turtledove and pigeon (see Lev. Chap.1-5).

  “Turtledove and pigeon” are offered by those who are weak (Lev. 5:7).

Spiritual Meaning: all these sacrifices typify Christ ---- He is full of the resurrected (“three”) life of God and is set as a propitiation (Rom. 3:25) to remove the sin of the world (John 1:29) and reconcile both God and men (Eph. 2:16). He died and has resurrected and then ascended into the heaven (“turtledove and pigeon”). Now He lives in believers and works to fulfill the will of God (Phil. 2:13).

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Whatever we have done in the light of the word of God, we do “for God” (“bring me”).

  2) Whatever we shall offer to God, it should be the best (“three-year-old”).

  3) Let us offer ourselves to God when we are young and strong rather than come to serve God when we get old and weak.

  4) Even though we are weak, we can offer turtledove and pigeon. If there is first a willing mind, it is accepted (2Cor. 8:12).


Gen. 15:10 “Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.”

YLT: “and he taketh to him all these, and separateth them in the midst, and putteth each piece over against its fellow, but the bird he hath not divided;”

The Background: in the ancient times, when both sides made a covenant, they cut the animals into two and placed each piece opposite the other, and then both sides passed between the animals to promise that they would fulfill the covenant (Jer. 34:18-19). Such rule suggested that if either side failed to keep the covenant, he would be cut into two pieces like the animals.

Literal Meaning: cut them in two, down the middle”, they were cut down the middle, which represented the both sides that made the covenant.

“He did not cut the birds in two”, probably, it was because the birds were two small (Lev. 1:17).

Spiritual Meaning: cut them in two, down the middle, it typifies the death of Christ’s crucifixion.

“And placed each piece opposite the other”, it is the display of the death of the cross (1Cor. 11:26), testifying that we shall also die with Christ (Gal. 2:20).

“But he did not cut the birds in two”, it typifies the risen life of Christ, which makes us fly unto the heavenly sphere and lead the heavenly life with Him.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Whatever we have presented to God, all should be dealt with by the cross (“cut them in two, down the middle”) and put to death and then live for God (Rom. 14:8).

  2) Cross is the dividing line of the flesh and the spiritual, and the earthly and the heavenly. Only through crucifixion with the Lord, can we obtain the assurance that we have obtained the spiritual inheritance in the heaven.


Gen. 15:11 “And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.”

YLT: “and the ravenous birds come down upon the carcases, and Abram causeth them to turn back.”

Literal Meaning: “vulture”: the fierce and savage birds ---- the bird of prey, such as eagle, falcon, etc.

Spiritual Meaning: vultures” typify the wicked one (see Matt. 13:4, 19), namely, the spiritual of wickedness in the heavenlies (Eph. 6:12).

  “Came down on the carcasses, it typifies that Satan schemes to destroy the works of the cross.

Abram drove them away”, it typifies that the devil will flee us as long as we believers resist against him (James. 4:7).

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Satan uses any trick to rob whatever we have offered to God.

  2) Let us take heed of what we have offered to God (e.g. though we have devoted our children to God, we shall still nourish them and look after them carefully), lest they should be robbed by the devil.

  3) The worst trick of the devil is to induce believers not to walk by faith, but by works so that believers cannot enjoy the effect of the cross of Christ.

  4) Let us imitate the example of the father of faith, Abraham, to resist the devil with steadfast faith (1Pet. 5:9), and he will be driven away.


Gen. 15:12 “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.”

YLT: “And the sun is about to go in, and deep sleep hath fallen upon Abram, and lo, a terror of great darkness is falling upon him;”

Literal Meaning: a deep sleep fell upon Abram”, it indicated that he did not passed between the sacrifices (see v.17). Therefore, it was a one-sided covenant by God, because man had only the willingness of faithfulness, but no ability of faithfulness.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) The night is far spent and the day is at hand. It is high time to awake out of sleep (Rom. 13:11-12).

  2) In the world we have tribulations, but in the Lord we have peace (John 16:33).

  3) Believers may go through the tribulations of the cross after receiving the salvation of the cross, which makes us feel like being in the spiritual night (“the sun was going down”) and make us deeply realize our weakness and powerlessness (“a deep sleep fell upon Abram”) so that we dare not to live by ourselves, but God who raises the dead (2Cor. 1:9).


Gen. 15:13 “Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.”

YLT: “and He saith to Abram, `knowing -- know that thy seed is a sojourner in a land not theirs, and they have served them, and they have afflicted them four hundred years,”

Literal Meaning: your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, the people of Egypt came down to Egypt.

“And will serve them”, build the store-cities by burning bricks for Pharaoh (Ex. 1:8-14).

“Four hundred years”, it is an approximate number. The people of Israel lived in Egypt for four hundred and thirty years (Ex. 12:40).

Spiritual Meaning: “four hundred years”: four times ten and ten, which symbolizes the earthly fullness ---- the fullness of the time in the sight of God (Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:10).

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) The heir of God shall obtain the inheritance through the way of sufferings.

  2) Before our faith is proved, we have to undergo the deprivation and trial of the cross (sojourning, serving and being evil treated). However, no matter how long it is, tribulations will pass one day.

  3) If we suffer with Christ together, we will be glorified with Christ together (Rom. 8:17).


Gen. 15:14 “And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”

YLT: “and the nation also whom they serve I judge, and after this they go out with great substance;”

Literal Meaning: just as it was prophesied, God then gave ten plagues to punish Egypt by Moses. And the Israelites took the gold and silver and possessions of Egyptians when the left there (Ex. 11:2-3; 12:35-36). And probably these gold and silver and materials were later used to make the tent of meeting (Ex. 25:3).

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) The way of the cross leads to the mighty deliverance of God.

  2) After the tribulations of the cross, believers will obtain a lot of precious spiritual possessions, which are profitable to the building of the church and to the fellow works with God.


Gen. 15:15 “Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.”

YLT: “and thou -- thou comest in unto thy fathers in peace; thou art buried in a good old age;”

Literal Meaning: “be at a good old age”, Abraham was one hundred and seventy-five when he died (Gen. 25:7).

  “Go to your fathers”, it does not mean his body would be buried in the sepulcher of his fathers, but that his spirit would be gathered to the hell (Gen. 25:8-9).


Gen. 15:16 “But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete."”

YLT: “and the fourth generation doth turn back hither, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.'”

The Background: the Amorites”, they worshipped many gods and idols and burned their children as offerings and used divination and used auguries, which were abominations to God (Deut. 18:9-12).

Literal Meaning: the fourth generation”, according to the background at that time, a man bore his first son when he was about one hundred years, so a generation equaled to one hundred years. And the fourth generation related to four hundred years (see v.13). Besides, from the generation of Levite who went down to Egypt with Jacob to the generation of the Israelites brought out of Egypt by Moses, it was exactly four generations according to genealogy (Ex. 6:16-20).

  “For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete”, the Amorites represented all the aboriginal people of the land of Canaan. Here it indicates that God is righteous, who will punish sins, and He is merciful, who waits for the repentance of the world patiently and carries out the judgment upon those who are unwilling to repent till the fullness of time.

Spiritual Meaning: the Amorites represent the people in the land of Canaan, typifying the flesh, the old man. When the iniquity of the Amorites was complete, the judgment of God would be upon our flesh.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) God is so patient toward sinners that He gives them chances to repent (2Pet. 3:9).

  2) Whenever our flesh is purified by the cross, our faith will be proved so that we are enabled to fully enjoy the spiritual inheritances in the heavens.


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

YLT: “And it cometh to pass -- the sun hath gone in, and thick darkness hath been -- and lo, a furnace of smoke, and a lamp of fire, which hath passed over between those pieces.”

Literal Meaning: “a smoking oven” and “a burning torch” were just like the “pillar of cloud” and “the pillar of fire” (Ex. 13:21), which presented the presence of God. Here it revealed that “God” along passed between the sacrifices and He alone would fulfill the covenant and take all the responsibilities.

Spiritual Meaning: the sun went down and it was dark”, it typifies that the present age is the night in darkness (Rom. 13:12).

“A smoking oven”, it typifies the trial of the tribulations of the cross and the manifestation of God’s righteousness.

“A burning torch”, it typifies the light of the Spirit and the salvation by the merciful hand of God.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) The experience of the cross is the foundation of believers’ whole spiritual life. Without cross, without true life.

  2) The experience of the cross is tribulations first and then glory (Rom. 8:17). It is the trial of the death first and then light of resurrection (2Cor. 4:10).

  3) The Father of spirits chastens us through tribulations for our profit that we may be partakers of His holiness (Heb. 12:10).

  4) Believers shall first bear the trial of oven and then enjoy the torch of salvation. The darker the smoke of the oven is, the lighter the fire of God’s salvation will be.

  5) When the cross works in us, the blemishes and spots of us will be removed. Then the Spirit will shine in us so that we will know the earnest of the inheritance (Eph. 1:14, 17-18). 


Gen. 15:18 “On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates--”

YLT: “In that day hath Jehovah made with Abram a covenant, saying, `To thy seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Phrat,”

Meaning of Words: “made a covenant”: cut the covenant;

Literal Meaning: I have given”, it showed that the covenant had been made. God had promised previously (see v.7), and here He passed through the sacrifices. And He would keep His promise, which was finally fulfilled till the age of Solomon (1King 4:21, 24; 2Chr. 9:26).

  This verse reveals us that Abram knew He would possess the land of Canaan for he knew God had passed through the sacrifices and guaranteed him according to His faithfulness.


Gen. 15:19 “the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites,”

YLT: “with the Kenite, and the Kenizzite, and the Kadmonite,”

Meaning of Words: Kenites”: ironsmith, of Cain; “Kenezzites”: descendant of Kenaz; “Kadmonites”: the eastern people, ancient;


Gen. 15:20 “the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim,”

YLT: “and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Rephaim,”

Meaning of Words: Hittites”: horror; “Perizzites”: inhabitant of the open country, uncivil; “Rephaim”: giant, strong, dead one;


Gen. 15:21 “the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites."”

YLT: “and the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Girgashite, and the Jebusite.'”

Meaning of Words: Amorites”: publicity, mountaineer, eloquence; “Canaanites”: the lower land; “Girgashites”: close to the nations; “Jebusites”: threshing-place, trodden;

Literal Meaning: from verse nineteen to twenty-one, ten nations were listed here. In fact, there were more than ten nations that lived in the land. The number of “ten” in the Bible represents “entireness”.


III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons


Promises of God to Abram

A.  God promised to be his shield (v.1) ---- for he had fear;

B.  God promised to be his reward (v.1) ---- for he refused the possessions of the king of Sodom;

C.  God promised to give him an heir (v.4) ---- for he desired to have his heir;

D.  God promised to give him the land of Canaan to inherit it (v.7) ---- for he obeyed the calling of God;

E.  Abram was justified by faith (v.6) ---- for he received the promise of God by faith alone;


Proofs that Abram Obtained the Promised Land

A.  He prepared the sacrifices (v.9) ---- believe Jesus Christ;

B.  He cut the sacrifices in two, down the middle (v.10) ---- receive the death of Jesus;

C.  He drove away the vultures (v.11) ---- resist against the devil;

D.  God alone passed through the sacrifices (v.17) ---- rely on the almighty God, not oneself;


Prophecies of God to Abram

A.  Your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs (v.13);

B.  They will serve them (v.13);

C.  The people of that land will afflict them four hundred years (v.13);

D.  God will punish the nation whom they serve (v.14);

E.  They shall come out with great possessions (v.14);

F.  Abram shall go to his fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age (v.15);

G.  in the fourth generation they shall return here (v.16);


The Beginning and Process and Perfection of Faith

A.  Faith begins from the word of God (v.1);

B.  Faith is on account of the revelation of the heavenly vision (v.5);

C.  Faith is to receive Christ whom God has revealed (v.5-6);

D.  Faith is to receive the death of the cross of Christ (v.9-10);

E.  Faith can resist the assault of the devil (v.11);

F.   Faith should undergo the trial of the cross (v.12-16);

G.  Faith shall be perfected by God (v.17);


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

Translated by Mary Zhou