Historical Context: This portion of our history, takes place at approximately 3'000 B.C.
Authorship: The Torah books are all attributed to the authorship of Moses, which he most probably wrote during Israel's forty-year period of wandering in the desert. Some editorial remarks were later added to these books by priests and other divinely inspired writers, such as Joshua and Samuel.
What are some reasons that people doubt God? What do you think God does or thinks when people doubt Him?
After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward."
God appeared to Abram in a dream and told him not to be afraid. What do you think Abram was afraid of that God told him not to be afraid? Abram could have been afraid of God appearing to him. But it seems that God is appearing to Abram and reassuring him – telling him not to be afraid – because Abram was apparently doubting God's promise to give the land of Canaan to Abram's descendants (see Genesis 12:7). God had promised Abram that he would have many descendants and that God would give Abram's descendants the land of Canaan. But Abram had not yet had any children and he thought that because he didn't have any children, he would have to leave all of his stuff to one of his servants. Abram is afraid that God will not fulfill His promises.
4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." 5 He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."
Abram was doubting God's promise to give him descendants and to give his descendants the land of Canaan so what does God do for Abram in these verses? God reassures Abram. God makes His promise again.
Does God get mad at Abram for doubting? No. God understands that people will sometimes have doubts about God. Doubt is natural. It's okay to doubt and have questions.
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
What was Abram's response after God again made the promise to give Abram descendants? Abram believed. See it's okay to doubt and have questions, but at some point, you have to get past that doubt and have faith.
And how did God react to Abram believing Him? God credited it to him as righteousness. That means that because Abram believed, God said that Abram was righteous. What is righteousness? Righteousness or being righteous means being in a right relationship with God. So God is saying that because Abram believed God, Abram was in a right relationship with God, or a good relationship with God. Because that is the core of what God wants from us, isn't it? Faith is the key thing for us to be in a relationship with God. We have to faith before we can have anything else.
7 He also said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it."
8 But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?"
Abram, even though he believes the promise that God made to him again, still wants some sort of sign, to further help him believe what God had said.
9 So the LORD said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon."
10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure."
What is God predicting in these verses? The fact that the Israelites went down to Egypt, but were then made slaves of Pharaoh. Then God sent the plagues on Egypt and led Israel back to Canaan to take it over.
17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.
We read in verse 9 and 10 that God told Abram to bring a few different animals, cut them in half, and place them on opposite sides of each other. Now we hear that God appeared and passed through the middle of these pieces. In doing this, God is saying, "Abram, may I, God, be like these animals – killed and cut up – if I don't fulfill my promise to you.
18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates- 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites."
Go back to verse 16. Why is God going to allow the Israelites to have this land that all these other people live in? Verse 16 says that God is going to give the land of Canaan to the Israelites when the sins of the people living there now have gotten to be too much. Basically, God is using the Israelites to kill the Canaanites when Israel takes over Canaan as a punishment to the Canaanites for being sinful. And think of when Assyrian and Babylon took over Israel and Judah. God was using those countries to punish the Israelites for their sins.