Genesis 15:6
And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
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(6) He believed in the Lord (in Jehovah) . . . —We have here the germ of the doctrine of free justification. Abram was both a holy man and one who proved his faith by his works; but nevertheless the inspired narrator inserts this reflection, not after the history of the offering of Isaac, but in the account of this vision, where all that Abram did was to believe, and for that belief’s sake was accounted righteous before God. For the definite conclusions deduced from this verse by St. Paul see Romans 4. The quotation there is from the LXX., and gives the general sense, but the correct rendering of the Hebrew is that given in our version.




Genesis 15:6

It is remarkable to find this anticipation of New Testament teaching so far back. It is like finding one full-blown flower in a garden where all else is but swelling into bud. No wonder that Paul fastened on it to prove that justification by faith was older than Moses, than law or circumcision, that his teaching was the real original, and that faith lay at the foundation of the Old Testament religion.

1. The Nature of Faith.-The metaphor in the Hebrew word is that of a man leaning all his weight on some strong stay. Surely that metaphor says more than many definitions. It teaches that the essence of faith is absolute reliance, and that unites us with Him on whom we rely. Its result will be steadfastness. We are weak, mobile, apt to be driven hither and thither, but light things lashed to fixed things become fixed. So ‘reeds shaken with wind’ are changed into iron pillars.

2. The Object of Faith.-’Lord.’ It is a Person, not the promise but the Promiser. Of course, reliance on the Person results in acceptance of His word, and here it is God’s word as to the future. Our faith has to do with the future, but also with the past. Its object is Christ, the historic Christ, the living Christ, the Christ who will come again. How clear the nature of faith becomes when its object is clear! It cannot be mere assent, but trust. How clear becomes its identity in all ages! The creeds may be different in completeness, but the object of faith is the same, and the emotion is the same.

3. The effect of Faith.-Righteous is conformity to the will of God. Abram was not righteous, but he yielded himself to God and trusted Him, and God accepted that as the equivalent of righteousness. The acceptance was shown by the Covenant, and by the fulfilment of the promises.

So here is the great truth that faith is accepted for righteous. It is rightly regarded and treated as righteous, by the estimate of God, who estimates things as they really are. It is righteousness, for-

{a} Faith is itself a supreme act of righteousness, as being accordant with God’s supreme desire for man.

{b} Faith unites with Christ the righteous.

{c} Faith will blossom out into all righteousness.

Genesis 15:6. And he believed in the Lord — That is, believed the truth of that promise which God had now made him, resting upon the power and faithfulness of him that made it: see how the apostle magnifies this faith of Abram, and makes it a standing example; Romans 4:19-21, “He was not weak in faith; he staggered not at the promise:” he was “strong in faith; he was fully persuaded.” The Lord work such a faith in every one of us! And he counted it to him for righteousness — That is, upon the score of this faith he was accepted of God, and, by faith, he “obtained witness that he was righteous,” Hebrews 11:4. This is urged in the New Testament to prove that we are justified by faith without the works of the law, Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; for Abram was so justified, while he was yet uncircumcised. If Abram, that was so rich in good works, was not justified by them, but by his faith, much less can we be. This faith, which was imputed to Abram for righteousness, had newly struggled with unbelief, Genesis 15:2, and, coming off conqueror, it was thus crowned, thus honoured.

15:2-6 Though we must never complain of God, yet we have leave to complain to him; and to state all our grievances. It is ease to a burdened spirit, to open its case to a faithful and compassionate friend. Abram's complaint is, that he had no child; that he was never likely to have any; that the want of a son was so great a trouble to him, that it took away all his comfort. If we suppose that Abram looked no further than outward comfort, this complaint was to be blamed. But if we suppose that Abram herein had reference to the promised Seed, his desire was very commendable. Till we have evidence of our interest in Christ, we should not rest satisfied; what will all avail me, if I go Christless? If we continue instant in prayer, yet pray with humble submission to the Divine will, we shall not seek in vain. God gave Abram an express promise of a son. Christians may believe in God with respect to the common concerns of this life; but the faith by which they are justified, always has respect to the person and work of Christ. Abram believed in God as promising Christ; they believe in him as having raised him from the dead, Ro 4:24. Through faith in his blood they obtain forgiveness of sins.And Abram believed in the Lord. - Thus, at length, after many throes of labor, has come to the birth in the breast of Abram "faith in Yahweh," on his simple promise in the absence of all present performance, and in the face of all sensible hinderance. The command to go to the land which the Lord would show him, accompanied with the promise to make of him a great nation, had awakened in him a certain expectation; which, however, waited for some performance to ripen it into faith. But waiting in a state of suspense is not faith, but doubt; and faith after performance is not faith, but sight. The second and third renewal of the promise, while performance was still unseen in the distance, was calculated to slay the expectancy that still paused for realization, to give it the vitality of a settled consent and acquiescence in the faithfulness of God, and mature it into conviction and confession.

What was there now, then, to call forth Abram's faith more than at the first promise? There was the reiteration of the promise. There was the withholding of the performance, leaving room for the exercise of pure faith. There was time to train the mind to this unaccustomed idea and determination. And, lastly, there was the sublime assurance conveyed in the sentence, "I am thy shield, thy exceeding great reward," transcending all the limits of time and place, comprehending alike the present and the eternal, the earthly and the heavenly. This, coupled with all the recorded and unrecorded dealings of the Lord, leads him to conceive the nobler feeling of faith in the Promiser, antecedent to any part of the execution, any unfolding of the plan, or any removal of the obvious difficulty. The moment of deliverance draws nigh, when Abram at length ventures to open his mouth and lay bare, in articulate utterance, the utmost questionings of his soul before the Lord. And then, in due time is effected the birth of faith; not by commencing the accomplishment of the promise, but by the explicit reassertion of its several parts, in the light of that grand assurance which covers it in its narrowest and in its most expanded forms. Thus, faith springs solely from the seed of promise. And from that moment there stands up and grows within the breast of man the right frame of mind toward the God of mercy - the germ of a mutual good understanding between God and man which will spread its roots and branches through the whole soul, to the exclusion of every noxious plant, and blossom forth unto the blessed fruit of all holy feelings and doings.

And he counted it to him for righteousness. - First. From this confessedly weighty sentence we learn, implicitly, that Abram had no righteousness. And if he had not, no man had. We have seen enough of Abram to know this on other grounds. And here the universal fact of man's depravity comes out into incidental notice, as a thing usually taken for granted, in the words of God. Second. Righteousness is here imputed to Abram. Hence, mercy and grace are extended to him; mercy taking effect in the pardon of his sin, and grace in bestowing the rewards of righteousness. Third. That in him which is counted for righteousness is faith in Yahweh promising mercy. In the absence of righteousness, this is the only thing in the sinner that can be counted for righteousness. First, it is not of the nature of righteousness. If it were actual righteousness, it could not be counted as such. But believing God, who promises blessing to the undeserving, is essentially different from obeying God, who guarantees blessing to the deserving. Hence, it has a negative fitness to be counted for what it is not. Secondly, it is trust in him who engages to bless in a holy and lawful way. Hence, it is that in the sinner which brings him into conformity with the law through another who undertakes to satisfy its demands and secure its rewards for him. Thus, it is the only thing in the sinner which, while it is not righteousness, has yet a claim to be counted for such, because it brings him into union with one who is just and having salvation.

It is not material what the Almighty and All-gracious promises in the first instance to him that believes in him, whether it be a land, or a seed, or any other blessing. All other blessing, temporal or eternal, will flow out of that express one, in a perpetual course of development, as the believer advances in experience, in compass of intellect, and capacity of enjoyment. Hence, it is that a land involves a better land, a seed a nobler seed, a temporal an eternal good. The patriarchs were children to us in the comprehension of the love of God: we are children to those who will hereafter experience still grander manifestations of what God has prepared for them that love him. The shield and exceeding great reward await a yet inconceivable enlargement of meaning.

4. This shall not be thine heir—To the first part of his address no reply was given; but having renewed it in a spirit of more becoming submission, "whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it" [Ge 15:8], he was delighted by a most explicit promise of Canaan, which was immediately confirmed by a remarkable ceremony. He believed in the Lord, i.e. he was fully persuaded that God was able to fulfil, and would certainly fulfil, the promise made to him concerning a child, and especially concerning the Messias, who should come out of his loins by that child, and that both himself and all people should be justified and blessed in and through him.

He counted it to him, or reckoned, or imputed, as this word is translated, Romans 4:10,22,

for righteousness, i.e. for a righteous and worthy action, as Psalm 106:31; and further, in respect of this action and grace of faith, whereby he relied upon God for the promised Seed, and upon the promised Seed too, he pronounced him a just and righteous person notwithstanding his failings, which even this history acquaints us with, and graciously accepted him as such; which sense is easily gathered from St. Paul’s explication and accommodation of this passage, Romans 4:9,18,22.

And he believed in the Lord,.... The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan are,"in the Word of the Lord;''in the essential Word of the Lord, in Christ the Lord his righteousness; he believed in the promise of God, that he should have a seed, and a very numerous one; he believed that the Messiah would spring from his seed; he believed in him as his Saviour and Redeemer; he believed in him for righteousness, and he believed in his righteousness as justifying him before God:

and he counted it to him for righteousness; not the act of his faith, but the object of it; and not the promise he believed, but what was promised, and his faith received, even Christ and his righteousness this was imputed to him without works, and while he was an uncircumcised person, for the proof of which the apostle produces this passage, Romans 4:3; wherefore this is not to be understood of any action of his being esteemed and accounted a righteous one, and he pronounced and acknowledged a righteous person on account of it; for Abram was not justified before God by his own works, but by the righteousness of faith, as all that believe are, that is, by the righteousness of Christ revealed to faith, and received by it: what is imputed is without a man, and the imputation of it depends upon the will of another; such the righteousness of Christ without works imputed by God the Father. This is the first time we read of believing, and as early do we hear of imputed righteousness.

And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
6. he believed in the Lord] Abram believed (1) in God’s protection (Genesis 15:1), (2) in the fulfilment of the promise of a son (Genesis 15:4), and (3) of innumerable descendants (Genesis 15:5). It is this trust to which St Paul refers (Romans 4:18), “who in hope believed against hope, to the end that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, So shall thy seed be.”

“Believed in,” i.e. “believed,” “trusted,” as with the same Hebrew construction, Exodus 14:31, Jonah 3:5.

In the Ep. to the Hebrews (Genesis 11:8; Genesis 11:17) Abram’s faith is not illustrated from this, passage, but from his leaving his country (chap. 12) and from his sacrifice of his son (22).

and he counted it to him for righteousness] A short pregnant sentence of abstract religious thought. The word “righteousness” (ṣedâqâh) occurs here for the first time in Scripture. It denotes the qualities of the man who is “righteous,” or “right with God” (see note on ṣaddîq, Genesis 7:1). To the Israelite, “righteousness” implied the perfect obedience of the law. The writer records that, at a time when there was no law, Jehovah reckoned the faith of Abram, shewn in simple trust and obedience, as equivalent to the subsequent technical fulfilment of legal righteousness. The trustful surrender to the loving will of God is represented, in this typical instance of the father of the Israelite people, as, in Divine estimation, the foundation of true religion.

For the phrase, cf. the reference to Phinehas, Psalm 106:31, “and that was counted unto him for righteousness.”

For the argument based by St Paul on this verse in connexion with the doctrine of the justification by faith, see Romans 4:1-25; Galatians 3:6 : cf. James 2:23.

Verse 6. - And he believed in the Lord. The hiphil of the verb aman, to prop or stay, signifies to build upon, hence to rest one's faith upon; and this describes exactly the mental act of the patriarch, who reposed his confidence in the Divine character, and based his hope of a future seed on the Divine word. And he counted it to him. Ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ (LXX.), which is followed by nearly all the ancient versions, and by Paul in Romans 4:3; but the suffix ך (a feminine for a neuter, as in Job 5:9; Psalm 12:4; Psalm 27:4; vide Glass, ' Phil,' lib. 3. cp. 1:19), clearly indicates the object of the action expressed by the verb הָשַׁב, to think, to meditate, and then to impute (λογίζομαι), followed by לְ of pers. and acc. of the thing (cf. 2 Samuel 19:20; Psalm 32:2). The thing in this case was his faith in the Divine promise. For righteousness. צְדְקְהְ - εἰς δίκαιοσύνην (LXX.); neither for merit and justice (Rabbi Solomon, Jarchi, Ealiseh), nor as a proof of his probity (Gesenius, Rosenmüller); but unto and with a view to justification (Romans 4:3), so that God treated him as a righteous person (A Lapide), not, however, in the sense that he was now "correspondent to the will of God both in character and conduct" (Keil), but in the sense that he was now before God accepted and forgiven' (Luther, Calvin, Murphy, Candlish), which "passive righteousness, however, ultimately wrought in him an "active righteousness of complete conformity to the Divine will" ('Speaker's Commentary').

CHAPTER 15:7-21 Genesis 15:6The words of Jehovah run thus: "Fear not, Abram: I am a shield to thee, thy reward very much." הרבּה an inf. absol., generally used adverbially, but here as an adjective, equivalent to "thy very great reward." The divine promise to be a shield to him, that is to say, a protection against all enemies, and a reward, i.e., richly to reward his confidence, his ready obedience, stands here, as the opening words "after these things" indicate, in close connection with the previous guidance of Abram. Whilst the protection of his wife in Egypt was a practical pledge of the possibility of his having a posterity, and the separation of Lot, followed by the conquest of the kings of the East, was also a pledge of the possibility of his one day possessing the promised land, there was as yet no prospect whatever of the promise being realized, that he should become a great nation, and possess an innumerable posterity. In these circumstances, anxiety about the future might naturally arise in his mind. To meet this, the word of the Lord came to him with the comforting assurance, "Fear not, I am thy shield." But when the Lord added, "and thy very great reward," Abram could only reply, as he thought of his childless condition: "Lord Jehovah, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless?" Of what avail are all my possessions, wealth, and power, since I have no child, and the heir of my house is Eliezer the Damascene? משׁק, synonymous with ממשׁק (Zephaniah 2:9), possession, or the seizure of possession, is chosen on account of its assonance with דּמּשׂק. בּן־משׁק, son of the seizing of possession equals seizer of possession, or heir. Eliezer of Damascus (lit., Damascus viz., Eliezer): Eliezer is an explanatory apposition to Damascus, in the sense of the Damascene Eliezer; though דּמּשׂק, on account of its position before אליעזר, cannot be taken grammatically as equivalent to דּמּשׂקי.

(Note: The legend of Abram having been king in Damascus appears to have originated in this, though the passage before us does not so much as show that Abram obtained possession of Eliezer on his way through Damascus.)

To give still more distinct utterance to his grief, Abram adds (Genesis 15:3): "Behold, to me Thou hast given no seed; and lo, an inmate of my house (בּן־בּיתי in distinction from יליד־בּית, home-born, Genesis 14:14) will be my heir." The word of the Lord then came to him: "Not he, but one who shall come forth from thy body, he will be thine heir." God then took him into the open air, told him to look up to heaven, and promised him a posterity as numerous as the innumerable host of stars (cf. Genesis 22:17; Genesis 24:4; Exodus 32:13, etc.). Whether Abram at this time was "in the body or out of the body," is a matter of no moment. The reality of the occurrence is the same in either case. This is evident from the remark made by Moses (the historian) as to the conduct of Abram in relation to the promise of God: "And he believed in Jehovah, and He counted it to him for righteousness." In the strictly objective character of the account in Genesis, in accordance with which the simple facts are related throughout without any introduction of subjective opinions, this remark appears so striking, that the question naturally arises, What led Moses to introduce it? In what way did Abram make known his faith in Jehovah? And in what way did Jehovah count it to him as righteousness? The reply to both questions must not be sought in the New Testament, but must be given or indicated in the context. What reply did Abram make on receiving the promise, or what did he do in consequence? When God, to confirm the promise, declared Himself to be Jehovah, who brought him out of Ur of the Chaldees to give him that land as a possession, Abram replied, "Lord, whereby shall I know that I shall possess it?" God then directed him to "fetch a heifer of three years old," etc.; and Abram fetched the animals required, and arranged them (as we may certainly suppose, thought it is not expressly stated) as God had commanded him. By this readiness to perform what God commanded him, Abram gave a practical proof that he believed Jehovah; and what God did with the animals so arranged was a practical declaration on the part of Jehovah, that He reckoned this faith to Abram as righteousness.

The significance of the divine act is, finally, summed up in Genesis 15:18, in the words, "On that day Jehovah made a covenant with Abram." Consequently Jehovah reckoned Abram's faith to him as righteousness, by making a covenant with him, by taking Abram into covenant fellowship with Himself. האמין, from אמן to continue and the preserve, to be firm and to confirm, in Hiphil to trust, believe (πιστεύσιν), expresses "that state of mind which is sure of its object, and relies firmly upon it;" and as denoting conduct towards God, as "a firm, inward, personal, self-surrendering reliance upon a personal being, especially upon the source of all being," it is construed sometimes with ל (e.g., Deuteronomy 9:23), but more frequently with בּ (Numbers 14:11; Numbers 20:12; Deuteronomy 1:32), "to believe the Lord," and "to believe on the Lord," to trust in Him, - πιστεύειν ἐπὶ τὸν Θεόν, as the apostle has more correctly rendered the ἐπίστευσεν τῷ Θεῷ of the lxx (vid., Romans 4:5). Faith therefore is not merely assensus, but fiducia also, unconditional trust in the Lord and His word, even where the natural course of events furnishes no ground for hope or expectation. This faith Abram manifested, as the apostle has shown in Romans 4; and this faith God reckoned to him as righteousness by the actual conclusion of a covenant with him. צדקה, righteousness, as a human characteristic, is correspondence to the will of God both in character and conduct, or a state answering to the divine purpose of a man's being. This was the state in which man was first created in the image of God; but it was lost by sin, through which he placed himself in opposition to the will of God and to his own divinely appointed destiny, and could only be restored by God. When the human race had universally corrupted its way, Noah alone was found righteous before God (Genesis 7:1), because he was blameless and walked with God (Genesis 6:9). This righteousness Abram acquired through his unconditional trust in the Lord, his undoubting faith in His promise, and his ready obedience to His word. This state of mind, which is expressed in the words בּיהוה האמין, was reckoned to him as righteousness, so that God treated him as a righteous man, and formed such a relationship with him, that he was placed in living fellowship with God. The foundation of this relationship was laid in the manner described in Genesis 15:7-11.

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