Quick note, the official verses are Genesis 15: 1-12 and 17-18 but verses 13-16 gave me a LOT to wonder about and it’s my blog so I included them 🙂
“After these events, the Lord’s word came to Abram in a vision, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your protector. Your reward will be very great.”
2 But Abram said, “Lord God, what can you possibly give me, since I still have no children? The head of my household is Eliezer, a man from Damascus.” 3 He continued, “Since you haven’t given me any children, the head of my household will be my heir.”
4 The Lord’s word came immediately to him, “This man will not be your heir. Your heir will definitely be your very own biological child.” 5 Then he brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them.” He continued, “This is how many children you will have.” 6 Abram trusted the Lord, and the Lord recognized Abram’s high moral character.
7 He said to Abram, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession.”
8 But Abram said, “Lord God, how do I know that I will actually possess it?”
9 He said, “Bring me a three-year-old female calf, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a dove, and a young pigeon.” 10 He took all of these animals, split them in half, and laid the halves facing each other, but he didn’t split the birds. 11 When vultures swooped down on the carcasses, Abram waved them off. 12 After the sun set, Abram slept deeply. A terrifying and deep darkness settled over him.
13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Have no doubt that your descendants will live as immigrants in a land that isn’t their own, where they will be oppressed slaves for four hundred years. 14 But after I punish the nation they serve, they will leave it with great wealth. 15 As for you, you will join your ancestors in peace and be buried after a good long life. 16 The fourth generation will return here since the Amorites’ wrongdoing won’t have reached its peak until then.”
17 After the sun had set and darkness had deepened, a smoking vessel with a fiery flame passed between the split-open animals. 18 That day the Lord cut a covenant with Abram: “To your descendants I give this land, from Egypt’s river to the great Euphrates, 19 together with the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
Umm what in the world is going on here? I’m obviously missing some historical context because, in my mind, shooing away the vultures does not prove that I’m getting land. And what is this terrifying and deep darkness situation? Like was that supposed to be part of the reassurance? I wonder if Abram got it. I’m imagining he was like me and at least a little confused. I also have just a general wondering about the whole splitting open of animals and laying them next to each other. What’s the deal with that?
Ok so now that I’ve worked through the more bizarre parts of this passage time for some more typical wonderings. I wonder how Abram felt about leaving all of his possessions to the head of his household (who was probably a slave). How would that have changed Eliezer’s life? I wonder if Eliezer was just the tiniest bit disappointed when Abram had a biological heir. Could you blame him if he was?
I wonder how Abram reacted to the whole, “your descendants will definitely be slaves for like hundreds of years” thing. I imagine he was just nodding along thinking, “Ok, good. I trust you God” then, “umm wait, what was that last part?” Like “Ok God, don’t love that part…Is that a for sure thing or is that changeable…” I wonder if Abram was relieved to learn he would have a good long life. I wonder if that knowledge was a comfort or a hindrance as he aged.
I wonder where Abram’s wife was during this conversation (and for that matter where was Eliezer-was he listening in?). Perhaps she was out visiting a friend and missed the whole thing. Or could it be that she was listening in from the background? I would imagine that the God of the universe could be pretty easy to overhear. But maybe not, God is partial to that still small voice. I wonder if Abram told his wife Sarah (great name) about this encounter. Even if he did she obviously interpreted it a little differently…you know suggesting the whole, sleep with my maidservant so you can have kids thing.
Most pressingly, I wonder if Abram had any idea that the song about him and his many sons would be the number one hit of VBS and Christian Summer Camps everywhere. I can’t believe they left the vultures, animal carcasses and centuries of slavery out of that particular ditty. Instead of “so let’s all praise the Lord: right arm, left arm, etc” generations of children could have sung “so let’s all praise the Lord: split a calf, and a goat, and a ram, next a dove, and the pigeon, shoo a vulture, turn around, sit down! ” Maybe I’ll try that at summer camp this year…it just needs some hand motions.
Passages like this make me think of the description of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, “He’s not a tame lion.” The Bible is not a tame book. Parts, like this passage, sound wild to our modern ears. It’s such a rich opportunity for wondering. And with wondering comes learning and growing and transforming and all the good -ings. So that just leaves one question…
What do you wonder?
One thought on “I Wonder, Genesis 15: 1-18”
In any 24 hour day, about 85% of our brain activity happens when we are asleep. Meaning we are actually working harder from a brain, neurological, perception perspective while we are unconscious than awake. This is no accident. Even a quick reading of the Bible shows that God speaks to us more in dreams and visions, than in our waking lives. In my counseling world when folks come to me I am not so much interested in what they had for breakfast or their drive from work, as I am in what they are dreaming. In fact I have them keep a “dream log” to write down their perceptions of their dreams. In those are the real and most true story of their lives. That’s where the true revelations happen.
God spoke and revealed his will and purpose to Abram in a vision, or a dream. As he did to Moses, David, Isaiah. In the days in the wilderness, dreams and visions informed our Lord. The Natives would call these type experiences “vision quests”. i wonder what God is trying to reveal to you ,what he wishes to speak to you. We wait around in our conscious world, But maybe God is speaking to you, God is shouting to you, about what his plan and purpose for your life. But we simply do not pay attention. Or forget our dreams as soon as we put two feet on the ground. So for this 40 some days a Lent, forget about what you need to do without, keep a dream log by your bed. God just may be speaking to you. In whispers, sometimes shouting, sometimes between the lines. I think CS Lewis would agree.