King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Genesis 15

God encourages Abram. (1) The Divine promise, Abraham is justified by faith. (2-6) God promises Canaan to Abraham for an inheritance. (7-11) The promise confirmed in a vision. (12-16) The promise confirmed by a sign. (17-21)

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God encourages Abram

1 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

The Divine promise, Abraham is justified by faith

2 And Abram said, LORD God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?

3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.

4 And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.

5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

God promises Canaan to Abraham for an inheritance

7 And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.

8 And he said, LORD God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?

9 And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.

10 And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.

11 And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.

The promise confirmed in a vision

12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.

13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;

14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.

15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.

16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

The promise confirmed by a sign

17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.

18 In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:

19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,

20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,

21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Fear not. He might naturally be under some apprehensions, lest the four kings should attempt to be revenged upon him. — Reward, since thou hast so generously despised earthly riches. H. — Abram was not asleep, but saw a vision of exterior objects. v. 5.

Ver. 2. I shall go. To what purpose should I heap up riches, since I have no son to inherit them? Abram knew that God had promised him a numerous posterity; but he was not apprized how this was to be verified, and whether he was to adopt some other for his son and heir. Therefore, he asks modestly, how he out to understand the promise. — And the son, &c. Heb. is differently rendered, “and the steward of my house, this Eliezer of Damascus.” We know not whether Eliezer or Damascus be the proper name. The Sept. have “the son of Mesech, my handmaid, this Eliezer of Damascus.” Most people suppose, that Damascus was the son of Eliezer, the steward. The sentence is left unfinished, and must be supplied from the following verse, shall be my heir. The son of the steward, filius procurationis, may mean the steward himself, as the son of perdition denotes the person lost. C.

Ver. 6. Reputed by God, who cannot judge wrong; so that Abram increased in justice by this act of faith, believing that his wife, now advanced in years, would have a child; from whom others should spring, more numerous than the stars of heaven. H. — This faith was accompanied and followed by many other acts of virtue. S. Jam. ii. 22. W.

Ver. 8. Whereby, &c. Thus the blessed Virgin asked, how shall this be done? Lu. i. 34. without the smallest degree of unbelief. Abram wished to know, by what signs he should be declared the lawful owner of the land. H.

Ver. 9. Three years, when these animals have obtained a perfect age.

Ver. 12. A deep sleep, or ecstasy, like that of Adam. G. ii. 21, wherein God revealed to him the oppression of his posterity in Egypt, which filled him with such horror (M.) as we experience when something frightful comes upon us suddenly in the dark. This darkness represents the dismal situation of Joseph, confined in a dungeon; and of the Hebrews condemned to hard labour, in making bricks, and obliged to hide their male children, for fear of their being discovered, and slain. Before these unhappy days commenced, the posterity of Abram were exposed to great oppression among the Chanaanites, nor could they in any sense be said to possess the land of promise, for above 400 years after this prophetic sleep. H.

Ver. 13. Strangers, and under bondage, &c. This prediction may be dated from the persecution of Isaac by Ismael, A. 2112, till the Jews left Egypt, 2513. In Exodus xii. and S. Paul, 430 years are mentioned; but they probably began when Abram went first into Egypt, 2084. Nicholas Abram and Tournemine say, the Hebrews remained in Egypt full 430 years. from the captivity of Joseph; and reject the addition of the Sept. which adds, “they and their fathers dwelt in Egypt, and in Chanaan.” On these points, we may expect to find chronologists at variance.

Ver. 14. Judge and punish the Egyptians, overwhelming them in the Red sea, &c. H.

Ver. 16. Fourth, &c. after the 400 years are finished; during which period of time, God was pleased to bear with those wicked nations; whose iniquity chiefly consisted in idolatry, oppression of the poor and strangers, forbidden marriages of kindred, and abominable lusts. Levit. xviii. Deut. vi. and xii. M.

Ver. 17. A lamp, or symbol of the Divinity, passing, as Abram also did, between the divided beasts, to ratify the covenant. See Jer. xxxiv. 18.

Ver. 18. Of Egypt, a branch of the Nile, not far from Pelusium. This was to be the southern limit, and the Euphrates the northern; the two other boundaries are given, Num. xxxiv. — Perhaps Solomon’s empire extended so far. At least, the Jews would have enjoyed these territories, if they had been faithful. M.

Ver. 19. Cineans, in Arabia, of which nation was Jethro. They were permitted to dwell in the tribe of Juda, and served the Hebrews. — Cenezites, who probably inhabited the mountains of Juda. — Cedmonites, or eastern people, as their name shews. Cadmus was of this nation, of the race of the Heveans, dwelling in the environs of mount Hermon, whence his wife was called Hermione. He was, perhaps, one of those who fled at the approach of Josue; and was said to have sowed dragons’ teeth, to people his city of Thebes in Beotia, from an allusion to the name of the Hevites, which signifies serpents. C. — The eleven nations here mentioned were not all subdued; on account of the sins of the Hebrews. M.