*The previous posting* ended with Abraham on the way home with his nephew, Lot, who he had forcibly freed from four kings who had abducted him. Among those who Abraham spoke with while journeying home was King Bera of Sodom, in a conversation which wasn’t entirely friendly.
Shortly after this conversation, when Abraham had continued on his homeward journey, God appeared to him in a vision, saying, “Fear not. It’s Me, God. I’ve decided that I’m going to give you a great reward”.
“Me?” said Abraham, “Me? What can You give me that I don’t already have? I mean, I have all the land and animals and stuff that I need, which will all go to my chief slave, Eliezer of Damascus, when I die because I have no children to leave them to.”
Abraham, feeling he should enlarge upon this, explained, “It’s not for lack of trying, though, that I have no children. I’ve lain with Sarai often enough, but nothing seems ever to happen. I’m sure the fault’s not mine but Sarai’s. I ask You……..what’s a man to do?”
God looked at Abraham with just the hint of a smile, and said, “Abraham, I’m going to tell you something. Eliezer of Damascus is not going to be your heir. No, your heir is going to be a child of your own body”.
“You mean…….You mean…….?” blurted Abraham, scarcely believing what God seemed to be saying.
“Look up into the sky”, said God, “and count the stars if you can.”
This being the time before the megalopolises of today with their neon lights, any man of that time who looked up at an evening sky, could clearly see thousands upon thousands of twinkling stars. Abraham, casting his eyes upwards as God had asked, said, “Are you joking? I would never be able to count all those stars up there, even if I lived for ever and ever.”
“I didn’t expect you’d be able to count them”, said God, “but, however many stars there are, this will be how many descendants you will have.”
God, seeing the puzzlement in Abraham’s eyes, said, “this will of course be over many, many generations.”
“Never forget,” said God, “that I am God, and that it was I who brought you out from Ur of Chaldees, and gave you all this land to occupy.”
“But…….but……” mumbled the overwhelmed and confused Abraham, “how can I be sure that I will occupy it?”
God said, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon.”
“What ages should the turtledove and pigeon be”, said Abraham, “three years like for the heifer, she-goat, and the ram?”
“Any age”, said God, “just get them, and hurry”.
After Abraham found these animals and brought them back, he said, “Now what?”
“Chop them in half down the middle” said God, “and place each half opposite its corresponding half. But don’t chop in half the turtledove and the pigeon. Leave them as is.”
Abraham did as God ordered. However, fowls flying overhead saw the chopped-up animals far below. They flew down for a meal, but Abraham scared them away by waving his arms and saying “Shoo, shoo.”
Then Abraham felt himself going into trance, and an all-pervasive fear came over him. Not surprising, for Abraham had experienced so much in so short a time, just a few hours, and God’s orders had been strange and capricious. It was too much for Abraham’s psychological defences, which simply collapsed. A trance and an all-pervasive fear was the natural result.
God, in giving Abraham all these strange and capricious orders, knew that their very strangeness and capriciousness would unbalance Abraham sufficiently to make him to go into a trance and become very afraid. God was intentionally softening Abraham up for what He said next, which was, “It’s my unpleasant duty to tell you, Abraham, that your descendants will be strangers living in a land which isn’t theirs. They will be slaves, and will be oppressed for four hundred years.”
“Mmmm. Mmmm. Zzzzz. Zzzzz” were the only sounds which came out of the slack mouth of the unconscious Abraham.
“However” continued God, “you should also know that I will punish that nation that enslaves your descendants. And I will ensure that your descendants come out with great possessions when this four hundred years is up. And you, Abraham, will join your fathers in peace and be buried in a good old age.”
“Mmmm. Mmmm. Zzzzz. Zzzzz…….”.
“Here’s how it’ll be. To your descendants I’ll give this land from the River of Egypt to the Great Euphrates river, the territories of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, Hivites, and Jesubites”.
“Mmmm. Mmmm. Zzzzz. Zzzzz……”
Source: Genesis 15