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Notes on Genesis (xxxiv) Abram in dialogue with God

‘The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision.’ (Gen 15:1) The Orthodox Study Bible suggests a Christological interpretation of this phrase by the use of a capital letter (Word), but this may be a case of over-interpretation, for the Septuagint uses the Greek word rhema, not logos; note that the Vulgate goes for ‘sermo’, not ‘verbum’. Interestingly, the ‘word of the Lord’ is often described as coming to the prophets (e.g. Jon 1:1, Jer 1:4, 11; Ez 1:3), and unless I am mistaken in every case the word  logos is used, but it is not not here.

A dialogue follows in which Abraham is promised a multitude of seed. ‘And Abram believed God, and he accounted it to him for righteousness’ (15:6), a text quoted several times in the New Testament (Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6; James 2:23) that will play an important part in the Protestant understanding of justification. God reminds Abram that he has brought him out of Ur (15:7); the same expression will be later used for God’s bringing his people out of the land of Egypt (Ex 20:2).

Despite his belief, Abram proves an awkward partner in dialogue, having once indicated dissatisfaction with God’s gifts (15:2) and subsequently demanding proof (15:8). This anticipates his extraordinary exchange with God over the number of righteous for whose sake he would be prepared to save the city of Sodom, in which God steadily gives ground, a story it is hard to know how to take (18:23-32).