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Genesis 15:13-21

Context
15:13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain 1  that your descendants will be strangers 2  in a foreign country. 3  They will be enslaved and oppressed 4  for four hundred years. 15:14 But I will execute judgment on the nation that they will serve. 5  Afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15:15 But as for you, 6  you will go to your ancestors 7  in peace and be buried at a good old age. 8  15:16 In the fourth generation 9  your descendants 10  will return here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its limit.” 11 

15:17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking firepot with a flaming torch 12  passed between the animal parts. 13  15:18 That day the Lord made a covenant 14  with Abram: “To your descendants I give 15  this land, from the river of Egypt 16  to the great river, the Euphrates River – 15:19 the land 17  of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 15:20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 15:21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.” 18 

1 tn The Hebrew construction is emphatic, with the Qal infinitive absolute followed by the imperfect from יָדַע (yada’, “know”). The imperfect here has an obligatory or imperatival force.

2 tn The Hebrew word גֵּר (ger, “sojourner, stranger”) is related to the verb גּוּר (gur, “to sojourn, to stay for awhile”). Abram’s descendants will stay in a land as resident aliens without rights of citizenship.

3 tn Heb “in a land not theirs.”

4 tn Heb “and they will serve them and they will oppress them.” The verb עִנּוּ, (’innu, a Piel form from עָנָה, ’anah, “to afflict, to oppress, to treat harshly”), is used in Exod 1:11 to describe the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt.

5 tn The participle דָּן (dan, from דִּין, din) is used here for the future: “I am judging” = “I will surely judge.” The judgment in this case will be condemnation and punishment. The translation “execute judgment on” implies that the judgment will certainly be carried out.

6 tn The vav with the pronoun before the verb calls special attention to the subject in contrast to the preceding subject.

7 sn You will go to your ancestors. This is a euphemistic expression for death.

8 tn Heb “in a good old age.”

9 sn The term generation is being used here in its widest sense to refer to a full life span. When the chronological factors are considered and the genealogies tabulated, there are four hundred years of bondage. This suggests that in this context a generation is equivalent to one hundred years.

10 tn Heb “they”; the referent (“your descendants”) has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

11 tn Heb “is not yet complete.”

sn The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its limit. The justice of God is apparent. He will wait until the Amorites are fully deserving of judgment before he annihilates them and gives the land to Israel.

12 sn A smoking pot with a flaming torch. These same implements were used in Mesopotamian rituals designed to ward off evil (see E. A. Speiser, Genesis [AB], 113-14).

13 tn Heb “these pieces.”

14 tn Heb “cut a covenant.”

15 tn The perfect verbal form is understood as instantaneous (“I here and now give”). Another option is to understand it as rhetorical, indicating certitude (“I have given” meaning it is as good as done, i.e., “I will surely give”).

sn To your descendants I give this land. The Lord here unconditionally promises that Abram’s descendants will possess the land, but he does not yet ratify his earlier promises to give Abram a multitude of descendants and eternal possession of the land. The fulfillment of those aspects of the promise remain conditional (see Gen 17:1-8) and are ratified after Abraham offers up his son Isaac (see Gen 22:1-19). For a fuller discussion see R. B. Chisholm, “Evidence from Genesis,” A Case for Premillennialism, 35-54.

16 sn The river of Egypt is a wadi (a seasonal stream) on the northeastern border of Egypt, not to the River Nile.

17 tn The words “the land” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

18 tn Each of the names in the list has the Hebrew definite article, which is used here generically for the class of people identified.



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