The Gravity of Genesis 15

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Genesis 15:17
“When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.”

This cryptic reference is one of the most profound revelations in all of scripture. It gives us insight as to how God actualized His covenant promise, in both time and space, regarding His redemptive plan.

In the preceding verses, Abram (who will later become Abraham, symbolizing his justification) expresses concern to God about knowing for certain that God’s covenantal promise to him will come to pass. God then commands Abram to make preparations for the proper ceremonial practice regarding covenant agreements. At the time, whenever parties were to enter into a covenant, animals were killed, then divided in half, and then laid out on the ground with each half of the animal mirroring the other half. The parties who were entering into the covenant would then walk between the pieces. Such symbolized that if either party broke the covenant made, the same that happened to the animals, being killed and divided, would then happen to the party who broke the covenant. What’s interesting about this account is that Abram never passes between the pieces. After Abram prepared the animals for the ceremony, divided them, and laid them out, God then caused a deep sleep to fall upon Abram:

Genesis 15:12-16
“As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.””

So, if Abram was asleep, how could the covenant then be actualized?

Genesis 15:17
“When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.”

God went through the pieces for Abram.

It’s interesting to see the parallel as to how God Himself physically later led the Israelites during the wilderness wanderings:

Exodus 13:17-22
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.”

God was the “smoking fire pot” and the “flaming torch” which “passed between these pieces.” The covenant was promised, kept, and counted as valid by God, even though only God went between them. 

Do you comprehend the gravity of this revelation?

By only God going through the pieces, it means that only God is responsible for the covenant if it is broken due to the second party’s failure to keep their end of the covenant. No man could keep such a covenant, that’s why God went through the pieces in Abram’s place. It is also why God (Jesus Christ), went to the cross, approximately 2,000 years later, and was torn apart on the cross:

Isaiah 53
“Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

Psalms 22:14-18
“I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet I can count all my bones
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”

God (Jesus Christ) not only went through the pieces for the second party of the covenant, as described in Genesis 15, but He also suffered the consequence of the second party’s failure to keep their end of the covenant due to their sin. God was later torn apart on the cross in place of the covenant breaking, second party.

That covenant breaking, second party is us (Christians).

May we always remember who God is, and what He has done.

Godspeed, to the brethren!

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