“After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” Gen. 15:1
We do not know how much time passes between Abram’s meeting with Melchizedek in Genesis 14 and this vision God gives him here in Chapter 15, and as such we do not know exactly what is on Abram’s mind that he may be fearful of to the extent that God consoles him. If we take the position that not much time has passed, one would think the obvious concern of Abram stem from the fact that he and his men just attacked four armies in their sleep and made off with the prisoners of war and the spoils, thus he may be concerned about revenge being plotted against him. However valid a concern this would be to someone in Abram’s position, based on what follows in the narrative such revenge by the kings does not seem to be his primary worry.
God fully knows our hearts and Abram is no different. And so God, in this conversation with Abram addresses what is most pressing on Abram’s mind: he has no heir. This is compounded by the fact that he is getting old, and his wife appears to be barren. So on one hand, Abram has the promises of God that he will be made into a great nation (Gen. 12:2) and that he will inherit the Promised Land (Gen. 12:7), but as anyone in Abram’s circumstances would, he is having difficulty believing that these things will come to pass because he cannot conceive of how God can make this happen. We are guilty of this quite often ourselves – God may give us a promise but with our simple human perception and understanding, we fail to see how things will manifest . Further, Abram does not see fit that his heir would not be a natural child as opposed to a servant such as Eliezer of Damascus.
God then allays Abram’s fear by showing him the stars and likening that to the amount of descendants Abram will have, however Abram already has a second concern: “O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it?” (speaking of the Promised Land). And so Abram is not so different from us; we have concern on top of concern, and even with God Himself reassuring us in one area, that causes questions about another area we are worried about – but God again gives Abram assurance through a vision. This vision is not a pleasant one, as terror and great darkness fell upon Abram, (Gen. 15:12) however God is God, and as such knows the future, and reassures Abram that though his descendants will suffer enslavement they will ultimately possess the land. This is done in true prophetic fashion, as the opening verse to the chapter could be translated as “The word of the Eternal came to Abram” which is a phrase that is not used again until we get to the books of the prophets such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah.
The chapter ends with God accepting Abram’s sacrifice, declaring a covenant with Abram of what has been promised concerning the land, and listing the ten peoples who will ultimately be defeated or displaced as the Israelites possess the Promised Land.