And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)A smoking furnace.—The word really means the circular firepot which Orientals use in their houses to sit round for purposes of warmth. This one was wreathed in smoke, out of which shot “a burning lamp” (Heb., a torch of flame). For not two symbols, but only one, passed between the divided carcases. Abram had probably passed between them immediately after arranging them, and now Jehovah does the same. Fire is the recognised symbol of the Deity, as in the burning bush, the pillar of fire, the lightnings on Mount Sinai, &c.Genesis 15:17. Behold a smoking furnace — This signified the affliction of his seed in Egypt: they were there in the furnace of affliction, and labouring in the very fire. They were there in the smoke, their eyes darkened that they could not see to the end of their troubles. And a burning lamp — This speaks comfort in this affliction: and this God showed Abram at the same time with the smoking furnace. The lamp notes direction in the smoke; God’s word was their lamp, a light shining in a dark place. Perhaps, too, this burning lamp prefigured the pillar of a cloud and fire which led them out of Egypt. The “passing of these between the pieces” was the confirming of the covenant God now made with him.
The oven of smoke and lamp of flame symbolize the smoke of destruction and the light of salvation. Their passing through the pieces of the victims and probably consuming them as an accepted sacrifice are the ratification of the covenant on the part of God, as the dividing and presenting of them were on the part of Abram. The propitiatory foundation of the covenant here comes into view, and connects Abram with Habel and Noah, the primeval confessors of the necessity of an atonement.
1. The future state of Abram’s seed; the
smoking furnace signifying Israel’s misery in the iron furnace of Egypt, as it is called, Jeremiah 11:4; and the
burning lamp noting their deliverance, or light shining out of darkness. Or,
2. His own presence; for God is called a consuming fire, Hebrews 12:29; and both smoke and fire are elsewhere mentioned as the signs and means of God’s appearance. See Exodus 3:2 19:9,16,18 20:18. And this sense seems to be favoured by the following words, it being the custom of persons entering into covenant to pass between such pieces as hath been said; and because God hath no body which could visibly do so, therefore he doth it in this type or shadow.
and it was dark; which is not always the case as soon as the sun is set, there is a twilight for a while, and if a clear night the stars appear; but, as Aben Ezra observes, this was a dark and cloudy night; so it was a dark night, a time of great affliction and distress to the posterity of Abram, when their sun was set, or after the death of Joseph:
behold a smoking furnace; or the likeness of one, as Aben Ezra notes; for all this was represented in a visionary way to Abram, and was an emblem of the great troubles and afflictions of the children of Israel in Egypt, called the iron furnace, Deuteronomy 4:20, and may have respect to the furnaces in which they burnt the bricks they made, see Exodus 9:8; the Jewish paraphrases make this to be a representation of hell, which is prepared for the wicked in the world to come, as a furnace surrounded with sparks and flames of fire; and Jarchi says, it intimated to Abram, that the kingdoms would fall into hell:
and a burning lamp, that passed between those pieces; or a lamp of fire (o); an emblem of the Shechinah, or majesty of God, who afterwards appeared in a pillar of fire before the Israelites in the wilderness, after their deliverance out of Egypt, and when their salvation went forth as a lamp that burneth, of which this was a token: this burning lamp passed between the pieces of the heifer, goat, and ram, that Abram had divided in the midst, as was usually done when covenants were made, see Jeremiah 34:18; and here God made a covenant with Abram, as appears from Genesis 15:18; and, as a confirmation of it, passed between the pieces in a lamp of fire, showing that he was and would be the light and salvation of his people, Abram's seed, and an avenger of their enemies; only God passed between the pieces, not Abram, this covenant being as others God makes with men, only on one side; God, in covenanting with men, promises and gives something unto them, but men give nothing to him, but receive from him, as was the case between God and Abram: however, it is very probable, that this lamp of fire consumed the pieces, in like manner as fire from heaven used to fall upon and consume the sacrifices, in token of God's acceptance of them.And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)17. a smoking furnace] The sign of the covenant is given in the appearance of a kiln, from which issued smoke and a blazing torch; and this passed through the two rows of the divided carcases. The figure described as a “smoking furnace” (tannur) was that of a clay constructed kiln, or furnace, such as is used for baking purposes by the Fellaheen. It is the κλίβανος = “oven,” of Matthew 6:30. For the fire and smoke as a symbol of the Theophany, see Exodus 13:21; Exodus 19:18; Exodus 24:17.Verse 17. - And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, - literally, and it was (i.e. this took place), the sun went down; less accurately, ἐπεὶ δὲ ὁ ἤλιιος ἐγένετο πρὸς δυσμὰς (LXX.), which was the state of matters in Ver. 12. Here the sun, which was then setting, is described as having set - and it was dark, - literally, and darkness was, i.e. a darkness that might be felt, as in Ver. 12; certainly not φλὸξ ἐγένετο (LXX.), as if there were another flame besides the one specified in the description - behold a smoking furnace, - the תַּנּוּר, or Oriental furnace, had the form of a cylindrical fire-pot (cf. Gesenius, p. 869; Keil in loco) - and a burning lamp - a lamp of fire, or fiery torch, emerging from the smoking stove: an emblem of the Divine presence (cf. Exodus 19:18) - that passed between those pieces - in ratification of the covenant. Genesis 14:13) came down upon the carcases, and Abram frightened them away." The birds of prey represented the foes of Israel, who would seek to eat up, i.e., exterminate it. And the fact that Abram frightened them away was a sign, that Abram's faith and his relation to the Lord would preserve the whole of his posterity from destruction, that Israel would be saved for Abram's sake (Psalm 105:42).
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