So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:9-21)

In this passage God makes a covenant with Abram, a covenant that was more than just a promise or an oath, but included the ancient ritual of walking between the two halves of sacrificed animals.

Why did God appear as a firepot and torch to Abram here?

4 Answers 4


In Hebrew the text reads:

וְהִנֵּ֨ה תַנּ֤וּר עָשָׁן֙ וְלַפִּ֣יד אֵ֔שׁ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָבַ֔ר בֵּ֖ין הַגְּזָרִ֥ים הָאֵֽלֶּה

Lapid Esh (לַפִּ֣יד אֵ֔שׁ) literally means "a torch of fire." This would seem to be redundant, what other kind of torch is there? I submit that the verse should be read as if there was a kof before the lamed of לַפִּ֣יד (i.e. כְּלַפִּ֣יד) meaning like torch fire.

Tanur Ashan (תַנּ֤וּר עָשָׁן֙) literally means a "smoking oven." If I am correct above, the same kof would go before תַנּ֤וּר as well (i.e. כְּתַנּ֤וּר) meaning like oven smoke. Therefore Abraham's vision was of:

smoke like that of an oven mixed with fire like that of a torch that passed through these pieces.

There was dark smoke mixed with a large flame passing through the pieces of the animals.

This would make Abraham's vision consistent, theme-wise, with the Children of Israel's vision of God at Mt. Sinai in Deuteronomy 4:11:

וְהָהָ֞ר בֹּעֵ֤ר בָּאֵשׁ֙ עַד־לֵ֣ב הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם חֹ֖שֶׁךְ עָנָ֥ן וַעֲרָפֶֽל: And the mountain burned with fire until the heart of the heavens, darkness, cloud, and thick darkness.

See Nachmanides on Genesis 15:17.

  • 3
    Not just at Mount Sinai, but throughout the wilderness God led them as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Very interesting parallels
    – Joshua
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 22:36

From the NET: The smoking pot and flaming torch were used in Mesopotamian rituals to ward off evil. Citing E.A. Speiser, Genesis, [AB], (113-14),

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    – user22655
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 4:44

Good answer conceptualinertia! Looking at the Hebrew of "smoking pot" and "flaming torch to be better translated as "smoke like that of a brazier" and "fire like that of a torch", may work ... I like it ... I'll check the Hebrew to see if that translation would work. Extrapolating to the idea of: "smoke 'MIXED' with fire", is problematic. Surely, not even Abraham would have thought that smoke emitted by a fire, which happened everyday in Abraham's life, was worthy enough to include it in his account, unless it was highly unusual and strange smoke. And the smoke "mixed" with the fire would be less strange, than if it were separate from the fire.

The answer is easy, once you know it. The "Spirit of God" also known as "The Holy Spirit", "Holy Breath", Holy Wind" and Third person of the Holy Trinity is active in creation from the beginning and seen throughout the Old and New Testaments, but doesn't have a voice to cause us to recognize Him. The New Testament tells us that only Jesus, the Word that became Flesh, through who God the Father created the Universe, is the "only one who ever revealed God" the Father to mankind. Thus, the only God who ever spoke in the Old Testament is God the Word, the pre-incarnate Son, Jesus, the Messiah. Thus, also, only He is the seen God in the Old Testament, Jehovah, since "no one can see God (the Father) and live".

The flame is The Lamp unto our feet and The Light unto our path" ... one of the titles for Jesus. The Smoke is the Holy Spirit, who is also revealed in the Old and New Testaments, and with whom The Word-Son often works in concert. Notice all the times when divine smoke filled the Tabernacle/Temple, and those passages where God came down "IN" the cloud, not "AS" a cloud, and went up "IN" the cloud, and where the divine cloud covered Jesus. Jehovah didn't need the "theatrical drama" of lightning and thunder on Mt Sinai ... that was the Holy Spirit. So when you see the divine cloud in the Old Testament, think Cloud = Holy Spirit AND Fire = Pre-incarnate Jesus. If you do the easy-enough web Bible keyword searches, it will come out clearly. Especially keyword: cloud & smoke. Or just like my FB page Messianic World and YT Guru Guide Guy Gifford, or get my book which will give you a lot of the verses, plus move your theology light-years into the future.

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    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 1, 2020 at 7:23

Could this Theophany represent both Jesus and Father God? If so, Father God and Jesus made Covenant for the sake of Abraham, and, Abraham was reconciled to God through Christ like we are in the NT.

  • Welcome to BiblicalHermaneutics.SE. Unlike other sites (e.g. Quora), StackExchange answers are meant to be factual and authoritative, something one might hope to find in a secular encyclopedia. Your answer contains mostly conjecture and opinion, not researched facts or references, and so isn't appropriate here. It also fails to directly address the original question. Please take the time to take the tour and read about how this site is different from others. Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 13:37

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