Commentary on Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
This text reminds us all that being shaped into a faithful life is not about immediate gratification or even for our own benefit, but instead, living a faithful life is about leaning forward into the vision of God for the world even when the horizon extends far beyond our own lives. Such a life is comprised of a deep sense of expectation coupled with a patient belief in the faithfulness of the God we serve.
What is the basis for Paul’s exhortations? The answer is found in verses 20 and 21. Paul is telling the Philippians they do not, ultimately, belong to the environment in which they live. They live ‘elsewhere,’ which is to say “our citizenship is in heaven.” What Paul is underscoring here is that the Philippians need to know which citizens of which realm they are – this answer will determine their choice of behaviors. Susan Hendahl
Genesis 15:1-12,17-18 From Revised Common Lectionary Commentary
God has called on Abram to leave Ur (now in Iraq) and to “Go … to the land I will show you” (12:1). God has blessed him, and he, his wife Sarah and his brother Lot have migrated to Canaan. Famine has struck the land, causing Abram and his family to seek food in Egypt. Pharaoh has been attracted to Sarah, thinking that she is Abram’s sister, taking her into the royal household. When he has discovered that she is Abram’s wife, he has ordered them to leave the country.
Our reading is two stories of gifts from God: in vv. 1-6, a son and many descendants; in vv. 7ff, the Land. The formula “the word of the LORD came to …” (vv. 1, 4) is later used of prophets; Abram is called a prophet in 20:7. God makes Abram his favourite; he will protect (“shield”, v. 1) him. Abram’s “reward” is really a free gift. Custom was that if a man’s wife did not bear him a son, his chief servant (“slave”, v. 3), here “Eliezer” (v. 2), might inherit. God promises Abram a son (“your very own issue”, v. 4) and he will have countless descendants (“stars”, v. 5). Abram puts his trust in God’s promise; in this way, he establishes a right relationship (“righteousness”, v. 6) with God.
God’s words in v. 7 are like those he speaks later at Mount Sinai. But this time, Abram is not so trusting: he asks for a sign or sworn oath (v. 8). From Jeremiah we know that the ceremony in vv. 9-10 and 17 is of ancient origin. Going between the two halves (“pieces”, v. 17) of sacrificial victims signified that if a party broke the agreement, he could expect to be dismembered. As in v. 1, Abram has a vision (v. 12): the descent of the sun, “deep sleep”, terror and great “darkness” express the awesomeness of supernatural intervention. God’s presence is symbolized by fire (v. 17). Only he has obligations under the pact, so only he passes between the “pieces”. The deal is cut (thus the Hebrew), as are the victims: David’s empire later stretched almost from the Nile to near the upper reaches of the “Euphrates” (v. 18). (In the other version of this story, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham to signify his new relationship to God.)