PASSAGE ONE – Genesis 15:7-20
This follows the verses where God promises to bless Abraham and he points out that he has no heir.
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.”
8 But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”
9 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.”
10 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. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 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—19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
The New International Version. (2011). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Questions to consider:
- Are there any differences between this promise and the one given in Genesis 12 v.1-3?
- How does the narrator make the conversation with God more tense? What does this make us aware of as readers?
- Why doesn’t Abraham take part in the ritual? What does this show about God’s intention towards Abraham?
- What might have been the effect on Abraham of knowing that his descendants would be slaves in a strange land?
- Write down ONE MORE thought / question that occurs to you as you look at this passage (you may find the Did You Know? box helpful here)
Did you know?
This was the third reference in Genesis to Abraham inheriting land.
This act of cutting animals in half has no other event like it in the Bible
Abraham fighting the vultures off symbolizes his role as protector of the covenant, and the vultures could represent the enslavement that Israel is to experience in Egypt
This is the first time that God appears as fire, but not the last. The smoke may represent ‘divine inscrutability (that God is unknowable).
The land God promised to Abraham in this passage:
PASSAGE TWO: Genesis 18: 16 – 33.
This is just after the men visiting Abraham have promised his son will be born next year, and Sarah laughed.
Abraham Pleads for Sodom
16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
26 The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”
“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”
29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”
He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”
30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”
He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”
He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”
32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”
He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”
33 When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.
The New International Version. (2011). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Questions to Consider:
- Abraham is a patriarch (the father of the Jewish nation) yet what is the main role he plays here?
- What does he believe about God and how does this get expressed?
- What do we learn from this passage about bringing requests before God?
- What does v.22 suggest about how God appears to Abraham here? Does this raise further questions, and if so, what are they?
- Write down one more thought / question that occurs to you as you look at this passage.
ALTERNATIVE STUDY: Hagar, Sarah and Rebekah – look at how they are referred to in the NT. Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose name was changed by God. Could you argue that Sarah had a greater faith than Abraham? She had to conceive, carry and deliver Isaac in her 90s! Both Hagar and Rebekah hear from God and receive blessing from Him. Hagar is referred to in Galatians 4:21-31. Sarah is referred to in 1 Peter 3:1-6. There are some excellent articles on Women of Faith here.
LOOK AT THE NEW TESTAMENT:
Abraham is used in several key New Testament passages, there are 73 occurrences of his name.
The gospel of Luke makes many parallels with the Abraham story including Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother, and many references to Abraham, e.g. Luke 6:19-31, the story of the rich man and Lazarus, which refers to Abraham’s bosom.
He is referred to in John 8:31-59 several times as Jesus argues with the Jews. Here the important point is to be the spiritual children of Abraham rather than simply his physical children.
He appears in Acts 7:1-8 (among others) in Stephen’s sermon before he is stoned.
He also appears in Paul:
Romans 4:1-25. This tells us how Abraham was justified by faith, not through the law. Compare James 2:21 which appears to contradict this! What was the role of the law according to Paul in Romans? Look at Galatians for more on this.
Galatians 3:6-29 – John Stott on this argues that the ‘blessing’ of v.8 is a double blessing of salvation through Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is a very complex passage, and it could be argued that Hagar and Ishmael come off very badly. This may help: “But In his analogical application, Paul was not addressing the question of whether or not Hagar and Ishmael had faith in the Lord; rather, he was only using them and the incident to support his point about removing things that threaten the fulfillment of the promise in Christ Jesus. Those adopted into the covenant through the Seed, Christ, are like Isaac; they are to live in freedom from the bondage of the law (Gal 5:1).” Ross, A., & Oswalt, J. N. (2008). Cornerstone biblical commentary: Genesis, Exodus (Vol. 1, p. 137). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Possibly the BEST use of Abraham in the NT is in Hebrews 11:1-40. This is a tremendous chapter to read through and be encouraged. You could do a whole series of studies on this chapter looking at the characters who are referred to.
Related YouVersion Bible Reading Plans on https://www.youversion.com , search for:
Climbing with Abraham: Seven Days of Faith
Her Children Arise
The Covenant Alternative
Online sermons (among many others)
John MacArthur – Abraham: An Exemplary Faith
Martyn Lloyd Jones: By Faith Abraham
Timothy Keller: Abraham and the Torch
Roger Price: The Abrahamic Covenant, BBS44