After the war, God reinforces his promises to Abram. He assures him that even though he is childless now, his descendants will one day be as numerous as the stars in heaven. Before that happens, though, God tells Abram, his children will be strangers in a strange land.
God tells Abram to take three heifers, three goats, three rams, a turtledove and a pigeon, cut the larger animals in half, and lay out the animals on two sides to create an aisle between them. A deep sleep falls over Abram, and God tells him that his children will suffer in exile for 400 years before God brings them back to Israel with great wealth, punishing the nation that oppresses them. A torch of fire passes between the animal parts to seal the covenant, and God vows that the entirety of the land, from river to sea, will be for Abram’s children.
The Israel Bible notes that the verb used in God’s promise, natati, is in the past tense, even though Abram’s descendants have not yet been born and others are still living in the land. Rashi explains that this is not a contradiction, as God is eternal, and His promise is truth.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Why do you think God chooses to tell Abram about his children’s future suffering?