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"..the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: "Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great." But Abram said, O Lord God , what will you give me for I continue childless..?"

There is on this site a question concerning magen/benefactor/shield, here I would like to focus on "reward".

After "your reward shall be very great" Abram replies ["But Abram said"] in terms of having an heir. God then replies to Abram with "...your very own son shall be your heir".

"reward" here is linked to Abram's offspring. In Gen 15:18 "offspring" is associated with "land".

Thus in the ESV "reward" maybe seen as related to "heirs" and "land".

However, in Bible Hub about half of the versions quoted agree with the ESV and the others agree with the NKJV "I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward".

Here [NKJV] it is as if God were saying that, yes, Abram we will talk about heirs and land but first remember-I am your exceedingly great reward.

God is no doubt the reward of a devout life but what does the Hebrew say is Abram's reward in this verse?

1

Psa. 127:3 states,

Behold, children are an inheritance of Yahveh; the fruit of the womb is a reward.
הִנֵּה נַחֲלַת יַהְוֶה בָּנִים שָׂכָר פְּרִי הַבָּטֶן

Yahveh declares to Abraham, “I am...your exceedingly great reward.” In response, Abraham asks Yahveh:

2 And Abram said, “Yahveh God, what will You give me, seeing that I go childless?... 3 ...You have given me no seed, and behold, a son of my house is my heir.”

Perhaps when Yahveh tells Abraham that He is Abraham’s exceedingly great reward, He is telling Abraham (although Abraham does not realize it) that He Himself will be Abraham’s seed and heir.1

Matt. 2:9–11:

9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, behold, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they came into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

These men worshipped (made obeisance) to a child who was not yet king. Why? That child was Yahveh, the exceedingly great reward, “the son of David, the son of Abraham.”2


Footnotes

1 That is, the Messiah, God Himself, will be descended from Abraham.
2 Matt. 1:1

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To me there is no doubt that the KJV is wrong and the ESV right. In fact, there is no other instance in the entire OT where God becomes the object of someone's reward. The idea, to be honest, is quite silly and foreign to me (the OP himself seems to take issue with it), and it seems to have originated with the christian translations, but there is virtually no evidence within the text to support this interpretation. God's actions can be man's reward, but that God himself should be given to someone as a reward, as if he's an idol or trophy that can be acquired and used for one's pleasure, that would have been considered by Moses and his Israelite audience 3,000 years ago as blasphemous. God can be man's shield in the sense that he is his protector (which also denotes power and sovereignty), but to become man's reward that is repugnant. The simplest way to read this verse is thus: "your reward is exceedingly great", which means that Abram's merits are high and that he will be properly rewarded for it, as is stated in the following verses.

From a grammatical point of view though they're equally plausible. In both translations, the phrase "exceedingly great" is modifying the previous "reward", something which is totally acceptable in biblical Hebrew. For more instances to compare see here. However, I favor the ESV for the reason stated above.

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  • In Deuteronomy 10:9 "the Lord is his inheritance", not, I think, as "an idol or trophy" but as a gracious gift. If "A" gives "B" a job and the wages that go with that job, then possibly "reward" can be both gift and wages. – C. Stroud May 12 at 11:17
  • @C.Stroud with all due respect, Deut. is legitimizing the contrast that exists between the Levites who don't receive land vs. the common folk who receives land as inheritance. It justifies this by pointing out that God is their inheritance, it obviously doesn't mean that God is to be inherited by someone's heirs! It's a metaphor. – Bach May 12 at 13:00

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