Cloud By Day, Fire By Night in Genesis 15?


In Genesis 15 Yahweh makes a covenant with Abram. Familiar narrative to many of you. Abram is instructed to bring 5 animals before the LORD and to cut them in half {the birds were probably not cut in half down the middle of their body, but rather, severed between the head and body. Such a small animal would have been cut in this way in sacrificial ceremonies in the ancient Near East}. So, a deep sleep overcomes Abram and the LORD speaks to him. He tells Abram that his offspring would one day be taken into slavery for 400 years and then they would return to the land that the LORD promised to Abram and his descendents. That is the context.

Next we see a covenant ritual take place where a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed through the pieces of the animals that had been ripped in half.. What I noticed several months ago in verse 17 was somewhat striking: what two elements are here and who or what do they represent? There are many opinions as to the identity of each. Some see both elements representing God, some see it as one element for Abram, one for the LORD. I have been mulling over this and perhaps both elements represent the LORD. What we have here is possibly a picture of how the LORD would go before Abram’s descendents as they entered the promised land. We have the smoke or the “cloud by day” and the fire, “the fire by night” in this narrative. {SEE EXODUS 13:21-22, also the LORD is represented repeatedly throughout Scripture in fire and smoke/cloud: Exodus 24:18, Mark 9:7, Luke 21:27, Acts 1:9, Exodus 3:2, Deuteronomy 4:24, Hebrews 12:29 to name a few}.

Remember the context here in Genesis: Abram has just engaged in battle against several kings and he rescued his nephew Lot. Surely he was wondering how he would survive in this hostile region. So the LORD appears to Abram and reassures him that He would be with Abram and his offspring to help them possess the land.

If this is true, then it makes sense to have the LORD walking between the 5 animals, who are now actually 10 pieces of animals. Perhaps the LORD is showing Abraham {his name changes here} that He, the covenant LORD, will walk ahead of Abraham and his descendents to help them enter the promised land. What is even more striking was pointed out to me by
Dr. Gordon Johnston: there are 10 animal pieces on the ground in the narrative, just as there are 10 nations listed in verse 19 that will be conquered! Maybe the LORD is demonstrating to Abraham that He will walk through the nations in triumph for Abraham and his descendents!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s