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Genesis Chapter 15
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The Pact Between Halves
15:1 After these events, God's word came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Fear not Abram, I am your shield. Your reward is very great.'
15:2 Abram said, 'O Lord, God, what will you give me if I remain childless? The heir to my household will be Damascus Eliezer.'
15:3 Abram continued, 'You have given me no children. A member of my household will inherit what is mine.'
15:4 Suddenly God's word came to him: 'That one will not be your heir! One born from your own body will inherit what is yours.'
15:5 He then took [Abram] outside and said, 'Look at the sky and count the stars. See if you can count them.' [God] then said to him, 'That is how [numerous] your descendants will be.'
15:6 [Abram] believed in God, and He counted it as righteousness.
15:7 [God] said to him, 'I am God who took you out of Ur Casdim to give you this land as a possession.'
15:8 'O Lord, God,' replied [Abram], 'How can I really know that it will be mine?'
15:9 [God] said to him, 'Bring for Me a prime heifer, a prime goat, a prime ram, a dove and a young pigeon.'
15:10 [Abram] brought all these for Him. He split them in half, and placed one half opposite the other. The birds, however, he did not split.
15:11 Vultures descended on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
15:12 When the sun was setting, Abram fell into a trance, and he was stricken by a deep dark dread.
15:13 [God] said to Abram, 'Know for sure that your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs for 400 years. They will be enslaved and oppressed.
15:14 But I will finally bring judgment against the nation who enslaves them, and they will then leave with great wealth.
15:15 You shall join your fathers in peace, and you will be buried at a good old age.
15:16 The fourth generation will return here, since the Amorite's sin will not have run its course until then.'
15:17 The sun set, and it became very dark. A smoking furnace and a flaming torch passed between the halves of the animals.
15:18 On that day, God made a covenant with Abram, saying, 'To your descendants I have given this land, from the Egyptian River as far as the great river, the Euphrates;
15:19 [the lands of] the Kenites, the Kenizites, the Kadmonites,
15:20 the Hittites, the Perizites, the Rephaim,
15:21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Yebusites.



Commentary:

heir
  Ben Meshek in Hebrew. It can also denote a steward or caretaker. (See Radak, Sherashim, s.v. Meshek, Shakak).

Damascus Eliezer
  He may have been called this because he was from Damascus, or because he led the chase to Damascus (Bereshith Rabbah 44). In Hebrew it is Dameshek, and some say it is a title given to the one in charge of a household or a teacher (Yoma 28b; cf. Amos 3:12).

Suddenly
  The word hiney used here is untranslatable. It is often rendered as 'here' or 'behold,' but this is an approximation of an expression that has no equivalent in the Indo-European languages. For this reason, it is often left untranslated. In general, it serves to intensify a statement and to provide emphasis. Here, the intensity denotes that it was a sudden or intense experience.

righteousness
  Tzedakah in Hebrew, also meaning charity. Others interpret it, 'and he (Abraham) counted it as charity' (Ramban).

possession
  Literally, 'to inherit it.'

prime
  Meshulesheth in Hebrew, literally 'threefold,' 'triplet,' or 'third grade.' This denotes the best quality (Tosafoth, Gittin 56a, s.v. Egla; Chizzkuni). Others interpret it to mean 'third-born' (Rashi, Pesachim 68a, Shabbath 11a). Another interpretation is that the animals were to be three years old (Targum Yonathan; Ibn Ezra). Others say that they were to be part of a triplet (Ramban). Finally, there are some who maintain that three of each animal were to be brought (Onkelos; Rashi).

dove and...
  All these species, and none other, would be used later for sacrifice. The four types here may represent the 400 years (Genesis 15:13) and the four generations (Genesis 15:16) mentioned later (cf. Hirsch).

split them...
  This was the way of making a covenant (Rashi). Indeed, the words b'rith (covenant) and bathar (split) appear to be closely related (cf. Radak, Sherashim, s.v. Barath). It symbolized that just as the two halves of the animal were really one, so were the two people making the covenant. Moreover, just as one side cannot live without the other, so the two cannot live without each other (Ralbag; Ikkarim 4:45). It was also seen as a malediction; anyone violating the oath would be torn asunder like the animals (Bachya).

did not split
  Cf. Leviticus 1:17. (Bereshith Rabbah 44).

400 years
  This occurs at the end of the verse, but from context, it belongs here. The 400 years were counted from Isaac's birth, since he never lived in his own land. It lasted until the Exodus (Seder Olam Rabbah; Rashi).

They will be...
  Literally, 'they (the others) will enslave and oppress them.'

fourth generation
  Levi came to Egypt. The four generations were then Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses (cf. Rashi).

Egyptian River
  Some say that it is the Nile (Targum Yonathan), but this is a minority opinion. Ibn Ezra says that it is the Shichur River (cf. Joshua 13:3, Jeremiah 2:18), which is identified with Wadi el Arish, on the border of the Holy Land, some 90 miles east of the present Suez Canal (see note on Exodus 23:31). See Numbers 34:5.

Euphrates
  This is the limit reached in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 5:1).

Kenites
  It seems that they lived near Moab, to the west of the Dead Sea (cf. Numbers 24:21; Bava Bathra 56a). They lived in Ir HaTamarim (Palm City) (Judges 1:16), which may be identified with Chatzatzon Tamar (Genesis 14:7), to the west of the Dead Sea. The Targum translates Keni as Shaalmite, an Arabic tribe (cf. Bava Bathra 56a; Yerushalmi, Shevi'ith 6:1; Yerushalmi, Kiddushin 1:8; Bereshith Rabbah 44).

Kenizites
  They are identified as the Nebatians, a tribe that lived to the southeast of the Holy Land, near Edom (see sources mentioned in note on Genesis 15:19 'Kenites'; cf. Targum Yonathan on Numbers 11:22; Targum on Isaiah 60:7, Ezekiel 27:21).

Kadmonites
  Identified simply as Arabs, living in the area of Ammon, to the northeast of the Dead Sea (see sources mentioned in note on Genesis 15:19 'Kenites'). Literally, 'the Easterner' cf. 1 Samuel 24:14. The Dead Sea was also known as the 'Eastern Sea' or 'Kadmoni Sea' (Ezekiel 47:18, Joel 2:20, Zechariah 38:17).

Hittites
  Living around Hebron. See note on Genesis 10:15.

Perizites
  See note on Genesis 13:7.

Rephaim
  See note on Genesis 14:5.

Amorites
  See Genesis 10:16.

Canaanites
  A generic name, since by this time, many of the tribes had intermingled. Possibly associated with Sidon (Genesis 10:15).

Girgashites and the Yebusites
  See Genesis 10:16.





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