Genesis 15:4-5 - "This man will not be your heir, but a son ..."

"This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir. Look up at the heavens and count the stars - if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be." (Genesis 15:4-5)

Does this fulfill a narrative?

As discovered among previous statements between God and Abraham, this translation and resulting interpretation fulfill a specific interpretive narrative.

The intent is to put forth a concept that Abraham was the father of a huge country and race of people and that God gave Abraham and his descendants the lands of Judea. This allowed later rulers the ability to claim rightful ownership of those lands. After all, if God grants someone ownership how could it possibly be otherwise?

Yet we have clearly proven that this could not be the case, despite this claim. There is clear evidence that Abraham's descendants never retained true ownership of those lands. Such evidence is portrayed among archeological evidence that over the centuries after the time of Abraham, Judea was occupied by the Romans, the Persians, the Hellenists, the Byzantines, the Macedonians, the Ptolemaics, the Seleucids, and even Pompey conquered Jerusalem for a time.

Now if the land of Judea truly was given to Abraham's heirs by God, then why was it continually taken away from them over the centuries?

We would either have to accept that the Supreme Being takes away what He previous gives, or that God deceived Abraham. Either we have to believe that the Supreme Being would deceive Abraham into thinking that these lands were his, or that He lost control over the land or something. Either conclusion is unacceptable.

Are we to believe in a God who deceives people? Someone who lies to His servant - promising Him things that in the end He doesn't deliver? Or are we to believe in a God who has lost control over the lands He supposedly gave to Abraham?

The fact is, God never gave Abraham any land. God is not a land-grant department. He does not give away land. God always owns everything. We are never owners. We are His subjects (currently rebellious). God never grants any society ownership over any land.

Can humans truly own any land?

The reality is that the human body is temporary. The body only lasts a few decades. Then it dies and decomposes. And even during that lifetime of the body, the body is undergoing continual renewal - the cells and atoms are constantly being recycled and exchanged for new ones. This means that the body is not just temporary - it is also fluid - plastic - continually changing.

Thus the human body has no ability to own anything. Everything physical passes through and around the human body like grains of sand through our fingers. The body dies within a few decades and decomposes.

Without permanency, there is no capability for true ownership.

And even if we still think that God gave Abraham's descendants land, we know this is not true because Abraham's genes are now spread among millions if not billions of people among many countries by now - including even those of many Arab families. No one can claim the exclusive genetic ancestry of Abraham today, thousands of years later. (Note: the author takes no sides in the Arab-Israeli conflicts over rights to lands).

The bottom line is that this text has been misinterpreted by those emperors and their subservient scribes who sought to utilize scripture to claim control over those lands in the centuries after Abraham.

So what did God really say here?

Let's translate this correctly:

Here is the text translated into English before this statement:

But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir." (Genesis 15:2-3)
Is Abraham really complaining about not being given children, and complaining that he will have to give his estate to a servant? Is Abraham so selfish that he is worried about who he can give his stuff to?

Just consider what Abraham said to the kings of Sodom after he got Lot back, and they offered him riches:

But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich.' I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me--to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share." (Genesis 14:22-24)

Does this sound like a man who was concerned about were all his supposed wealth was going after his body died? Does it sound like someone who valued his possessions? He is talking about sharing everything he gets with the men around him. How could he then suddenly get all worked up about where those possessions would end up after his body died?

And Abraham does not say "estate" as has been translated. The word בית (bayith) relates not to a physical estate of wealth in this context. It relates to a message being passed on - a message which can be taken shelter of. In fact, the word בית (bayith) itself relates to an abode or shelter, as well as a place, body or even, an "abode of light and darkness" according to the lexicon.

Abraham was not concerned about how many heir relatives he would have, nor who would inherit his house and belongings.

Abraham was not concerned about his supposed possessions at all. The use of the word בן (ben) here has nothing to do with sons or heirs or passing on wealth. The conversation is speaking of who Abraham will be passing on the truth to, and who will inherit Abraham's position of God's representative.

The crux of this exchange between God and Abraham comes down to one word and one activity. The one word is the word בן (ben). This word, in the surrounding texts alone, is being translated into three different words: Son, heir and slave.

Yet the word בן (ben), in this context, refers specifically to a disciple or student.

The concern is not Abraham's supposed wealth. Since when is the Holy Scripture about land and passing on a person's wealth? The Scriptures are about passing on the Truth - the teachings of the Supreme Being. God does not appear before people in the physical world to give them land or talk about who their heirs will be to their fortunes. The Supreme Being appears to His beloved servants to instruct them on continuing to pass on His message - their teachings - so that others will be given the Truth. The question is, who will carry on His message, which provides shelter to those who become attached to it?

Furthermore, God was not speaking of some son that would come from Abraham's body. The word מעה (me`ah), which is being translated to "from your own body" actual means, according to the lexicon, "internal organs, inward parts, bowels, intestines, belly" when used literally, but also "place of emotions or distress or love" when used figuratively.

We use this same figurative expression when we speak of the heart today. We will say something to the effect of, "he is a man of my own heart" or "he comes from a place in my heart." Does this mean the person literally comes from our heart? No. It means that they are of the same mind or philosophy. They care about the same things we do. They are passionate about the same things we are passionate about.

This is what the Supreme Being is talking about. Abraham is concerned that this particular servant will become the next teacher after Abraham. But the Supreme Being comforts Abraham, indicating that the next teacher will be someone who has the same passion and love for the Supreme Being that Abraham has.

This was Abraham's concern, and the Supreme Being appeared before Abraham to answer that concern. We must understand that God is not petty. His concern is that He wants us to be happy. The only way we will be happy is if we return to our loving relationship with Him.

With this in mind, let us translate these verses correctly, beginning with Abraham's request from the Supreme Being:

But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, who will take shelter in and pass on Your message to others, as I have no students outside of my servant Eliezer of Damascus?"

And Abram said, "You have given me no disciples; so this servant in my household will be my successor (to pass on these teachings to others)."

Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your successor (to pass on your teachings), but someone of your own heart will be your successor."

He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars - if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall the number of your followers be."

It is now quite clear that Abraham's concern was not in having children and where his possessions would end up. Why would Abraham, who built altars to God and "called on the name of the LORD" be so materialistic? He wasn't. He might have had many possessions, but he was always willing to share those with others. He was not concerned about how many children he would have and who would inherit his estate.

He was concerned about who would carry on his mission of teaching the Truth, however. Abraham cared about others, and he wanted the message of the Supreme Being to be passed on far and wide, to many. Abraham was an elevated person. He walked with God. He exchanged a loving relationship with God. His concern was God's concern because he wanted to please God.

Do these texts teach racism?

The Books of the Old Testament and the teachings of the ancient masters they portray were not about promoting a particular race of people as the "chosen people." Such an interpretation would wrongly mean that these ancient teachers, and God Himself, are racists.

This is simply not true. The Supreme Being loves us all equally. He renders no favorites, especially regarding the temporary physical body.

When a person becomes devoted to Him, He exchanges that love. He will naturally give special attention and focus to a person that becomes devoted to Him because of the special focus that person has on the Supreme Being.

This is called a relationship: God and His loving servant are exchanging a relationship of love. This does not mean God doesn't give equal opportunity to others. He wants all of us to come home to Him. He loves all of us equally.

We are the ones who are trying to hide from Him. We are the ones who are running away from Him. We are the ones who are trying to ignore Him as we chase our self-centered desires.

Consider another translation of this verse in Chapter 15 of the New Book of Genesis.