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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Genesis

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15.1–21 : The first covenant with Abraham.

The LORD promises Abraham protection, reward, and an heir in the wake of his recent military encounter with the eastern kings.

1 :

The promise to be a shield (Heb “magen”) for Abraham echoes Melchizedek's praise of the god who “delivered” (“miggen”) Abraham ( 14.20 ), and the reward replaces the goods he had refused from the king of Sodom ( 14.21–24 ).

2–5 :

Some scholars view the parallel objections from Abraham (vv. 2 and 3 ) and divine responses (vv. 4 and 5 ) as the first indicators of the existence of parallel non‐Priestly sources (J and E) that were interwoven here and in the rest of the Pentateuch (see the Introduction).

6 :

This verse indicates that Abraham considered his objections answered. Though later tradition has generally understood God to be the one who reckoned righteousness to Abraham (e.g., Rom 4.9; Gal 3.6 ), the subject is not specified in Hebrew. Righteousness is being true to one's social obligations and commitments. It is possible that it is Abraham here who reckons righteousness to the LORD, certifying that he now believes that the LORD will be true to his commitments in 15.1 (cf. 15.2–3).

7–21 :

This section parallels the promise‐objection‐reassurance pattern of 15.1–6 , but with the added component of a covenant ceremony sealing God's promise to give Abraham the land.

9–17 :

The ceremony ( 9–11, 17 ) reflects an ancient practice in which the participants in a covenant oath passed through the dismembered parts of an animal and proclaimed a similar fate on themselves if they disobeyed the terms of the agreement (cf. Jer 34.18 ). Perhaps because of this, the Heb word for “making” a covenant is literally to “cut” a covenant (found in 15.18 ). In this case, God passes between the pieces in the form of fire (see Ex 3.2; 13.21 ). A speech ( 15.12–16 ) has been inserted into this ceremony that echoes Abraham's earlier triumph over the eastern kings at “Dan” and return from there with “goods” (Heb “rekush”; 14.14–16 ). Here in v. 14 God promises a future judgment (Heb “dan”) on Egypt and escape of Abraham's descendants from there with yet more goods (again “rekush” in 15.14; see Ex 3.21–22; 12.33–36 ). Though this is promised in four generations at the end of the speech ( 15.16 ), a Priestly editor may have modified this in v. 13 to four hundred years in order to better match Priestly material in Exodus (Ex 12.40 ).

16 :

The iniquity of the Amorites, see Lev 20.23; Deut 9.4 .

18–21 :

The ceremony is concluded with God's promise to give the land of the Canaanite peoples (cf. 10.16–18 ) to Abraham.

18 :

The boundaries given here are the broadest definition of the promised land in the Hebrew Bible. They correspond to similarly broad, ideal descriptions of the land in the Deuteronomistic History (e.g., 2 Sam 8.3; 1 Kings 4.21; cf. Deut 1.7; 11.24; Josh 1.4 ). The phrase river of Egypt occurs only here, and may refer to the Nile. But elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Num 34.5; 2 Kings 24.7; Isa 27.12 ) and in other sources, the “Wadi of Egypt” is apparently either the Wadi Besor or the Wadi el‐Arish, both south of Gaza.

19–21 :

The list of ten nations here resembles similar such lists of Canaanite peoples in the Tetrateuch (e.g., Ex 3.8,17; 13.5 ) and Deuteronomistic history (e.g., Deut 7.1; 20.17; Josh 3.10 ). This list, however, is significantly longer than others. Though it is missing the “Hivites” (see 10.16–18a n. ), who occur on most other lists, this list is unique in including the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, and Rephaim.

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