15:2 But Abram said, “O sovereign Lord, 1 what will you give me since 2 I continue to be 3 childless, and my heir 4 is 5 Eliezer of Damascus?” 6 15:3 Abram added, 7 “Since 8 you have not given me a descendant, then look, one born in my house will be my heir!” 9
15:4 But look, 10 the word of the Lord came to him: “This man 11 will not be your heir, 12 but instead 13 a son 14 who comes from your own body will be 15 your heir.” 16 15:5 The Lord 17 took him outside and said, “Gaze into the sky and count the stars – if you are able to count them!” Then he said to him, “So will your descendants be.”
1 tn The Hebrew text has אֲדֹנָי יֱהוִה (’adonay yehvih, “Master,
2 tn The vav (ו) disjunctive at the beginning of the clause is circumstantial, expressing the cause or reason.
3 tn Heb “I am going.”
4 tn Heb “the son of the acquisition of my house.”
sn For the custom of designating a member of the household as heir, see C. H. Gordon, “Biblical Customs and the Nuzu Tablets,” Biblical Archaeologist Reader, 2:21-33.
5 tn The pronoun is anaphoric here, equivalent to the verb “to be” (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 23, §115).
6 sn The sentence in the Hebrew text employs a very effective wordplay on the name Damascus: “The son of the acquisition (בֶּן־מֶשֶׁק, ben-mesheq) of my house is Eliezer of Damascus (דַּמֶּשֶׁק, dammesheq).” The words are not the same; they have different sibilants. But the sound play gives the impression that “in the nomen is the omen.” Eliezer the Damascene will be Abram’s heir if Abram dies childless because “Damascus” seems to mean that. See M. F. Unger, “Some Comments on the Text of Genesis 15:2-3,” JBL 72 (1953): 49-50; H. L. Ginsberg, “Abram’s ‘Damascene’ Steward,” BASOR 200 (1970): 31-32.
7 tn Heb “And Abram said.”
8 tn The construction uses הֵן (hen) to introduce the foundational clause (“since…”), and וְהִנֵּה (vÿhinneh) to introduce the main clause (“then look…”).
9 tn Heb “is inheriting me.”
11 tn The subject of the verb is the demonstrative pronoun, which can be translated “this one” or “this man.” That the
12 tn Heb “inherit you.”
13 tn The Hebrew כִּי־אִם (ki-’im) forms a very strong adversative.
14 tn Heb “he who”; the implied referent (Abram’s unborn son who will be his heir) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
15 tn The pronoun could also be an emphatic subject: “whoever comes out of your body, he will inherit you.”
16 tn Heb “will inherit you.”
17 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the
18 tn The nonconsecutive vav (ו) is on a perfect verbal form. If the composer of the narrative had wanted to show simple sequence, he would have used the vav consecutive with the preterite. The perfect with vav conjunctive (where one expects the preterite with vav consecutive) in narrative contexts can have a variety of discourse functions, but here it probably serves to highlight Abram’s response to God’s promise. For a detailed discussion of the vav + perfect construction in Hebrew narrative, see R. Longacre, “Weqatal Forms in Biblical Hebrew Prose: A Discourse-modular Approach,” Biblical Hebrew and Discourse Linguistics, 50-98. The Hebrew verb אָמַן (’aman) means “to confirm, to support” in the Qal verbal stem. Its derivative nouns refer to something or someone that/who provides support, such as a “pillar,” “nurse,” or “guardian, trustee.” In the Niphal stem it comes to mean “to be faithful, to be reliable, to be dependable,” or “to be firm, to be sure.” In the Hiphil, the form used here, it takes on a declarative sense: “to consider something reliable [or “dependable”].” Abram regarded the God who made this promise as reliable and fully capable of making it a reality.
19 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (the
20 tn Heb “and he reckoned it to him.” The third feminine singular pronominal suffix refers back to Abram’s act of faith, mentioned in the preceding clause. On third feminine singular pronouns referring back to verbal ideas see GKC 440-41 §135.p. Some propose taking the suffix as proleptic, anticipating the following feminine noun (“righteousness”). In this case one might translate: “and he reckoned it to him – [namely] righteousness.” See O. P. Robertson, “Genesis 15:6: A New Covenant Exposition of an Old Covenant Text,” WTJ 42 (1980): 259-89.
21 tn Or “righteousness”; or “evidence of steadfast commitment.” The noun is an adverbial accusative. The verb translated “considered” (Heb “reckoned”) also appears with צְדָקָה (tsÿdaqah, “righteousness”) in Ps 106:31. Alluding to the events recorded in Numbers 25, the psalmist notes that Phinehas’ actions were “credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come.” Reference is made to the unconditional, eternal covenant with which God rewarded Phinehas’ loyalty (Num 25:12-13). So צְדָקָה seems to carry by metonymy the meaning “loyal, rewardable behavior” here, a nuance that fits nicely in Genesis 15, where God responds to Abram’s faith by formally ratifying his promise to give Abram and his descendants the land. (See R. B. Chisholm, “Evidence from Genesis,” A Case for Premillennialism, 40.) In Phoenician and Old Aramaic inscriptions cognate nouns glossed as “correct, justifiable conduct” sometimes carry this same semantic nuance (DNWSI 2:962).
sn This episode is basic to the NT teaching of Paul on justification (Romans 4). Paul weaves this passage and Psalm 32 together, for both use this word. Paul explains that for the one who believes in the