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2 posted on 02/23/2013 8:52:32 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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From: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18

God’s Covenant with Abram

[5] And [the Lord God] brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and
number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So
shall your descendants be.” [6] And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to
him as righteousness.

[7] And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans,
to give you this land to possess.” [8] But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know
that I shall possess it?” [9] He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a
she-goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
[10] And he brought him all these, cut them in two, and laid each half over against
the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. [11] And when birds of prey came
down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

[12] As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram; and lo, a dread and
great darkness fell upon him.

[17] When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking firepot and
a flaming torch passed between these pieces. [18] On that day the Lord made a
covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river
of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.”


15:1-21. God rewards Abraham for his generosity towards Mechizedek and for
his renouncing of the riches offered him by the king of Sodom. He appears to
him in a vision and promises his help, many descendants and the land of Canaan.
Here all that is required of Abraham is that he believe in the promise that God him-
self, through a rite of covenant, undertakes to fulfill. This passage emphasizes the
gravity of God’s promise and speaks of the faithfulness of God, who will keep his

15:4-6. Once more Abraham is asked to make an act of faith in the word of God,
and he does so. This pleases God and is reckoned righteous. This makes Abra-
ham the father of all those who believe in God and his saving word.

In the light of this passage St Paul sees Abraham as the model of how a person
becomes righteous in God’s eyes—through faith in his word, the definitive word
being the announcement that God saves us through the death and resurrection
of Jesus. In this way, Abraham not only becomes the father of the Jewish people
according to the flesh, but also the father of those who without being Jews have
become members of the new people of God through faith in Jesus: “We say that
faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it reckoned to
him? Was it before or after he was circumcised? It was not after, but before he
was circumcised. He received circumcision as a sign or seal of the righteousness
which he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make
him the father of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have
righteousness reckoned to them, and likewise the father of the circumcised who
are not merely circumcised but also follow the example of the faith which our fa-
ther Abraham had before he was circumcised” (Rom 4:9-12).

Abraham’s faith revealed itself in his obedience to God when he left his homeland
(cf. 12:4), and later on when he was ready to sacrifice his son (cf 22:1-4). This is
the aspect of Abraham’s obedience which is given special emphasis in the Letter
of St James, inviting Christians to prove the genuineness of their faith with obedi-
ence to God and good works: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works,
when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along
with his works, and faith was completed by works, and scripture was fulfilled
which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteous-
ness’; and he was called the friend of God” (Jas 2:21-23).

15:7-21. The strength of God’s resolve to give the land of Canaan is vividly demon-
strated by his ordaining a rite of covenant to externalize the commitment under-
taken by both parties. According to this ancient rite (cf. Jer 34:18), the action of
the two parties—”passing between” the pieces of the victims-indicated a readi-
ness to be similarly cut in pieces if one were guilty of breaking the pact. The text
makes the point that God (represented by the flaming torch: cf Ex 3:2; 13:21; 19:
18) “passes between” the bloody limbs of the victims, to ratify his promise.

This is how the book of Genesis portrays the people of Israel’s right to the land of
Canaan and explains how the land came to belong to it only in recent times, after
the Exodus. During the ceremony Abraham is given advance information about
the afflictions the people will suffer before the promise is fulfilled. An explanation
is also given as to why God will take the land away from the Canaanites (here
described as Amorites): their evil-doing will have gone too far. God emerges here
as the Lord of the earth and of nations. On the sojourn of the people of Israel in
Egypt, cf. the note on 37:2-50:25.

Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.

3 posted on 02/23/2013 8:57:53 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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