And he [God] brought him [Abram] forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness (Gen. 1 5:5-6).
The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying: “Fear not, Abram: l am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15:1). Abram’s response is illuminating. After learning of his covenantal protection (shield) by God and his reward from God, Abram immediately asked for more. What is significant is that he asked about his lack of children. “And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said. Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir” (15:2-3).
Abram’s candid response reveals that he knew a great deal about biblical covenants. He knew that the protection and favor of God accompany a calling before God. This meant that Abram’s capital assets would now be administered within an explicit covenantal framework. Who, then, would be the heir of these assets? Who would carry on the faithful administration of Abram’s capital? Abram clearly understood the long-term nature of property under a covenant. Capital is to be used faithfully, expanded, and directed into the hands of one who will continue the faithful administration of the assets. Capital is therefore family capital. This trans-generational responsibility required that someone else in Abram’s house would have to be “trained” for long-term capital management–management in terms of a theocratic covenant. Who should it be? Eliezer, the Damascan? Was this the person God had chosen to continue the faithful administration of Abram’s capital?
Abram was already a man of great wealth (Gen. 13:2) and leadership abilities (14:13-24). Nevertheless, he was not yet a Patriarch, in a culture which placed high esteem on family authority. For any future-oriented Old Testament saint, the office of father was a cherished one indeed. As far as Abram was concerned, his lack of an heir was cause for great concern. What was the meaning of God’s covenant with his household if he had no son or daughter?
God answered his question with a promise: his seed would be as numerous as the stars visible in the heavens (15:5). Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness (15:16). The promise also involved the future acquisition of land to serve as a home for his heirs (15:16). Both promises were fulfilled in Joshua’s day. Seventy of his direct descendants went into Egypt, and 600,000 men, plus their families, emerged at the exodus (Ex. 12:37). Moses was specifically told that this was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abram concerning the expansion of his seed, for the Israelites were “this day as the stars of heaven for multitude” (Deut. 1:10; cf. 10:22).
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