After Abram’s conquest and victory over the king of Elam, he often stirred sleeplessly in the night, fearing retaliation.
“Don’t be frightened, Abram,” God appeared in a vision one night. “I’m your protection, and great will be your reward.”
Abram remembered the promise God had made when he called him out of Haran, so he answered, “But what will you give me? I’m childless, and my heir is my adopted son and servant Eliezer.”
God’s voice was clear. “Eliezer won’t be your heir. Your own flesh and blood will pave the way of my promise.”
God led Abram outside of his tent and said, “Count the stars if you can. Your sons and daughters will be as many.”
Abram put his faith in God’s promise, so God declared him righteous.
“I’m God. I took your father from Ur and took you from Haran to give you everything as far as the eye can see.”
Abram faltered. “Help me believe.”
God answered, “We’ll make a pact. Bring me a heifer, a female goat, and a ram, all of them three years old. Also bring a turtledove and a pigeon.”
Abram did as he was told, cut them in half, and stacked each piece onto the other. The birds he left whole. Abram guarded the sign of God’s promise against the birds of prey circling overhead, shooing them from the pyre until, around sunset, he dozed off.
Abram descended into a terrifying nightmare. The circling vultures turned into the captors of his future offspring, and he saw them carried off to a strange land for four hundred years.
“Your descendants will be slaves, poorly treated and beaten down,” God said in the dream, “but I will punish the nation responsible. In the end they will know my might, and they will be adorned with great riches.” Then he said, “As for you, you’ll die at a ripe old age and will be buried in peace.”
Abram’s night terrors subsided, and he began to breathe easier. God appeared once more and said, “Your offspring will come back here and take the land in the fourth generation, for at that time the Amorites will have come to ruin because of their evil practices.”
The sky was pitch black when a vision of a smoking firepot and a lighted torch passed between the carcasses. He said, “I give this land to your blood relations, from the Nile all the way to the Euphrates.” The sign of promise ignited, and the animal flesh was consumed in the holy fire.
As dawn approached, the presence of God lingered, and the fire’s embers smoldered into fine dust.
Inspiration: Genesis 15