Genesis 15:18
In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, To your seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates:
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(18) The Lord made a covenant.—Heb., Jehovah cut a covenant. Abram had divided the slaughtered animals, and Jehovah, by passing between them, made the whole act His own.

The river of Egypt.—That is, the Nile. In the Hebrew the Wady-el-Arish, on the southern border of Simeon, is always distinguished from the Nile. though the distinction is neglected in our version. Thus in Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:4; Isaiah 27:12 (where alone an attempt is made at accuracy by translating stream), the Hebrew has, the torrent of Egypt, that is, a stream full after the rains, but dry during the rest of the year. For a description of these torrent-beds see Isaiah 57:5-6, where in Genesis 15:5 the word is translated valleys, and in Genesis 15:6 stream. The word used here signifies a river that flows constantly; and Abram’s posterity are to found a kingdom conterminous with the Nile and the Euphrates, that is, with Egypt and Babylonia. If these bounds are large and vague, we must also remember that they are limited by the names of the ten nations which follow. Between the Nile and the Euphrates, the territories of these ten tribes is alone definitely bestowed upon Abram.

Genesis 15:18. Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt, &c. — In David’s time and Solomon’s, their jurisdiction extended to the utmost of those limits, 2 Chronicles 9:26. And it was their own fault that they were not sooner and longer in possession of all these territories. They forfeited their right by their sins, and by their own sloth and cowardice kept themselves out of possession.15:17-21 The smoking furnace and the burning lamp, probably represented the Israelites' severe trials and joyful deliverance, with their gracious supports in the mean time. It is probable that this furnace and lamp, which passed between the pieces, burned and consumed them, and so completed the sacrifice, and testified God's acceptance of it. So it intimates that God's covenants with man are made by sacrifice, Ps 50:5. And we may know that he accepts our sacrifices, if he kindles in our souls pious and devout affections. The bounds of the land granted are stated. Several nations, or tribes, are spoken of, that must be cast out to make room for the seed of Abram. In this chapter we perceive in Abram faith struggling against, and triumphing over, unbelief. Wonder not, believers, if you meet with seasons of darkness and distress. But it is not the will of God that you should be cast down: fear not; for all that he was to Abram he will be to you.In that instant the covenant was solemnly completed. Its primary form of benefit is the grant of the promised land with the extensive boundaries of the river of Egypt and the Euphrates. The former seems to be the Nile with its banks which constitute Egypt, as the Phrat with its banks describes the land of the East, with which countries the promised land was conterminous.9-21. Take me an heifer, &c.—On occasions of great importance, when two or more parties join in a compact, they either observe precisely the same rites as Abram did, or, where they do not, they invoke the lamp as their witness. According to these ideas, which have been from time immemorial engraven on the minds of Eastern people, the Lord Himself condescended to enter into covenant with Abram. The patriarch did not pass between the sacrifice and the reason was that in this transaction he was bound to nothing. He asked a sign, and God was pleased to give him a sign, by which, according to Eastern ideas, He bound Himself. In like manner God has entered into covenant with us; and in the glory of the only-begotten Son, who passed through between God and us, all who believe have, like Abram, a sign or pledge in the gift of the Spirit, whereby they may know that they shall inherit the heavenly Canaan. Unto thy seed have I given this land, i.e. decreed and promised in due time to give, which makes it as sure as if it were actually given to them. Or,

I will give; words of the past time being oft put for the future, especially in prophecies.

The river of Egypt; not Nilus, which elsewhere is so called, but a less river, as is sufficiently implied, because this is opposed to the

great river here following; but a river called Sihor, which divides Egypt from Canaan. See Numbers 34:5 Joshua 13:3 1 Chronicles 13:5. The accomplishment hereof, see 2 Samuel 8:3 1 Kings 4:21 9:21. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram,.... Which he confirmed by passing between the pieces and accepting his sacrifice:

saying, unto thy seed have I given this land; he had given it in his purpose, and he had given the promise of it, and here he renews the grant, and ratifies and confirms it, even the land of Canaan, where Abram now was, though only a sojourner in it; and which is described by its boundaries and present occupants, in this and the following verses, as is usually done in grants of lands and deeds of conveyance:

from the river of Egypt, unto the great river, the river of Euphrates; the river of Egypt is the Nile, which overflowed it annually and made it fruitful; so the Targum of Jonathan calls it the river of Egypt; it may be rendered, "from the river Mizraim or Egypt", for the name of Egypt was given to the river Nile as well as to the country, and so it is called by Homer (p); and Diodorus Siculus (q) says, the Nile was first called Egypt; some (r) think the Nile is not here meant, but a little river of Egypt that ran through the desert that lay between Palestine and Egypt; but it seems to be a branch of the river Nile, which was lesser about Palestine or Damiata, at the entrance of Egypt, than at other places. Brocardus (s) says,"from Delta to Heliopolis were three miles, where another river was separated from the Nile, and carried to the city of Pelusium; and, adds he, this river is properly called in Scripture the river of Egypt, and at it is bounded the lot of the tribe of Judah.''This river of Egypt, or the Nile, was the southern boundary of the land of Canaan, and from hence to the river Euphrates, the eastern boundary, was the utmost extent of it in which it was ever possessed, as it was in the times of David and Solomon, 2 Samuel 8:3.

(p) Odyss. 14. vid. Pausan. Boeotica, sive l. 9. p. 859. (q) Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 56. (r) See Rollin's Ancient History, vol. 1. p. 92. (s) Apud Drusium in loc.

In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
18. the Lord made a covenant] A covenant, or compact, as between man and man, is necessarily impossible between God and man. God in His mercy gives the promise; man in his weakness acknowledges his willingness to obey. For the other covenants in the Pentateuch cf. 9, 17; Exodus 24. The origin of b’rîth = “covenant,” is uncertain. Some suggest barah = “eat,” in the sense of a “solemn meal.” See note on Genesis 15:9.

The fate of the victims was supposed to be invoked upon the head of the party who broke the covenant. Cf. Livy, i. 24, tum illo die, Juppiter, populum Romanum sic ferito, ut ego hunc porcum hic hodie feriam, tantoque magis ferito quanto magis potes pollesque. The idea of Robertson Smith that the two parties to the covenant, standing between the pieces, partook of the mystical life of the victim (Relig. of Semites, p. 480) remains doubtful.

from the river of Egypt] The n’har Mizraim is clearly the Nile. The ideal boundaries of the future territory of Israel are here stated in hyperbolical fashion, as extending from the Nile to the Euphrates: so Joshua 13:3, 1 Chronicles 13:5. The Eastern, i.e. the Pelusiac, arm of the Nile is meant.

“The River of Egypt” is to be distinguished from “the Brook of Egypt,” naḥal Mizraim, Numbers 34:5, Joshua 15:4; Joshua 15:47, the Rhino-colura, the modern Wady-el-Arish, a watercourse on the extreme S.W. of Palestine, on the confines of Egyptian territory.

unto the great river, the river Euphrates] Cf. Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 11:24. It was probably only in the days of Solomon that this picture of Israelite greatness was ever approximately realized; see 1 Kings 4:21, Psalm 80:11.Verses 18-21. - In that day the Lord made a covenant - literally, cut a covenant (cf. ὅρκια τέμνειν, foedus icere). On the import of בְּרִית vide Genesis 9:9) - with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt - the Nile (Keil, Kurtz, Hengstenberg, Kalisch) rather than the Wady el Arch, or Brook of Egypt (Knobel, Lange, Clarke), at the southern limits of the country (Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:4; Isaiah 27:12) - unto the great river, the river Euphrates. The ideal limits of the Holy Land, which were practically reached under David and Solomon (vide 1 Kings 4:21; 2 Chronicles 9:26), and which embraced the following subject populations, ten in number, "to convey the impression of universality without exception, of unqualified completeness" (Delitzsch). The Kenites, - inhabiting the mountainous tracts in the south-west of Palestine, near the Amalekites (Numbers 24:21; 1 Samuel 15:6; 1 Samuel 27:10); a people of uncertain origin, though (Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11) Hobab, the brother-in-law of Moses, was a Kenite - and the Kenizzites, - mentioned only in this passage; a people dwelling apparently in the same region with the Kenites (Murphy), who probably became extinct between the times of Abraham and Moses (Bochart), and cannot now be identified (Keil, Kalisch), though they have been connected with Kenaz the Edomite, Genesis 36:15, 42 (Knobel) - and the Kadmonites, - never again referred to, but, as their name implies, an Eastern people, whose settlements extended towards the Euphrates (Kalisch) - and the Hittites, - the descendants of Heth (vide Genesis 10:15); identified with the Kheta and Katti of the Egyptian and Assyrian monuments, and supposed by Mr. Gladstone to be the Kheteians of the 'Odyssey;' a powerful Asiatic tribe who must have early established themselves on the Euphrates, and spread from thence southward to Canaan and Egypt, and westward to Lydia and Greece, carrying with them, towards the shores of the AEgean Sea, the art and culture of Assyria and Babylon, already modified by the forms and conceptions of Egypt. The northern capital of their empire was Carchemish, about sixteen miles south of the modern Birejik; and the southern Kadesh, on an island of the Orontes (Prof. Sayce in 'Frazer's Magazine,' August, 1880, art. 'A forgotten Empire in Asia Minor') - and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims (vide Genesis 13:7; Genesis 14:5), and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Oirgashites, and the Jebusites (vide Genesis 10:15-19). The boundaries of the Holy Land as here defined are regarded by some (Bohlen) as contradictory of those designated in Numbers 34:1-12. But

(1) the former may be viewed as the ideal (or poetical), and the latter as the actual (and prosaic), limits of the country assigned to Israel (Hengstenbreg, Keil); or

(2) the former may represent the maxima, and the latter the minima, of the promise, which admitted of a larger or a smaller fulfillment, according as Israel should in the sequel prove fit for its occupation (Augustine, Pererius, Willet, Poole, Gerlach, Kalisch, and others); or,

(3) according to a certain school of interpreters, the former may point to the wide extent of country to be occupied by the Jews on occasion of their restoration to their own land, as distinguished from their first occupation on coming up out of Egypt, or their second on returning from Babylon; or

(4) the rivers may be put for the countries with which the promised land was coterminous (Kurtz, Murphy); or

(5) strict geographical accuracy may not have been intended in defining the limits of the land of promise ('Speaker s Commentary,' Inglis).

"And when the sun was just about to go down (on the construction, see Ges. 132), and deep sleep (תּרדּמה, as in Genesis 2:21, a deep sleep produced by God) had fallen upon Abram, behold there fell upon him terror, great darkness." The vision here passes into a prophetic sleep produced by God. In this sleep there fell upon Abram dread and darkness; this is shown by the interchange of the perfect נפלה and the participle נפלת. The reference to the time is intended to show "the supernatural character of the darkness and sleep, and the distinction between the vision and a dream" (O. v. Gerlach). It also possesses a symbolical meaning. The setting of the sun prefigured to Abram the departure of the sun of grace, which shone upon Israel, and the commencement of a dark and dreadful period of suffering for his posterity, the very anticipation of which involved Abram in darkness. For the words which he heard in the darkness were these (Genesis 15:13.): "Know of a surety, that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them (the lords of the strange land), and they (the foreigners) shall oppress them 400 years." That these words had reference to the sojourn of the children of Israel in Egypt, is placed beyond all doubt by the fulfilment. The 400 years were, according to prophetic language, a round number for the 430 years that Israel spent in Egypt (Exodus 12:40). "Also that nation whom they shall serve will I judge (see the fulfilment, Exodus 6:11); and afterward shall they come out with great substance (the actual fact according to Exodus 12:31-36). And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace, and be buried in a good old age (cf. Genesis 25:7-8); and in the fourth generation they shall come hither again." The calculations are made here on the basis of a hundred years to a generation: not too much for those times, when the average duration of life was above 150 years, and Isaac was born in the hundredth year of Abraham's life. "For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." Amorite, the name of the most powerful tribe of the Canaanites, is used here as the common name of all the inhabitants of Canaan, just as in Joshua 24:15 (cf. Genesis 10:5), Judges 6:10, etc.).

By this revelation Abram had the future history of his seed pointed out to him in general outlines, and was informed at the same time why neither he nor his descendants could obtain immediate possession of the promised land, viz., because the Canaanites were not yet ripe for the sentence of extermination.

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