• It is said Abraham fell into a deep sleep then God began to speak to him which subsequently led to the making of a covenant

Genesis 15"12 NASB - Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, [q]terror and great darkness fell upon him.

  • In the earlier narrative God had caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and during that time had formed Eve whilst he was asleep.

Genesis 15:13-14 NASB 13 Then God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your [r]descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, [s]where they will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. 14 But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with [t]many possessions.

Genesis 15:17 NASB Now it came about, when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, a smoking oven and a flaming torch appeared which passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram,

Genesis 2:21 NASB So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.

  • There is no record of Adam waking up from his sleep whilst this operation was taking place, neither is there of Abraham also awakening whilst God was speaking to him

Question: So how did God make covenant with Abraham when he was in a deep sleep?

3 Answers 3


The Enduring Word Commentary says:

i. In those days, contracts were made by the sacrificial cutting of animals, with the split carcasses of the animals lying on the ground. The covenant was made when parties to the agreement walked through the animal parts together, repeating the terms of the covenant. The LORD made a covenant in Genesis 15:18 is literally, “the LORD cut a covenant.”

Scripture says in the New King James Version:

Genesis 15:17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.

The Lutheran Study Bible says:

15:9-10 A covenant was literally "cut." The participants cut animals in half, then walked between them as a pledge that such a fate would befall the maker of the covenant should he breach it (cf Jer 34:18). However, here the Lord alone walks between the halves! Abram is a passive sleeping beneficiary of God's promise (cf vv 12-21).

15:17 smoking fire pot and flaming torch. By these emblems of God's presence, He passed through the severed pieces of the animals. It is God, not Abram, who assumes the burden if the covenant is broken. Ultimately, it is God's own Son who will assume the burden of our breaking God's Law, being sacrificed on the cross to atone for our offenses.

God did make a covenant with Abram, but God walked through alone. God put his dignity on the line and signed the contract for both Him and Abram as if to say, "if I or you break this covenant let me be like these animals, killed and split apart on the ground." And God's own Son was indeed killed. We broke covenant with God, but God paid the price for us, that's why he walked through the animals alone.


Brenton Septuagint Translation Genesis 15:12

And about sunset a trance fell upon Abram, and lo! a great gloomy terror falls upon him.

The LXX Greek word is ekstasis.

Thayer's Greek Lexicon

STRONGS NT 1611: ἔκστασις

  1. universally, in Greek writing, any casting down of a thing from its proper place or state; displacement (Aristotle, Plutarch).

  2. a throwing of the mind out of its normal state, alienation of mind

There is no mention of Abram waking up. The context shows that it was a deep profound sleep of a supernatural nature. It wasn't a dream. It was a vision. Abram saw realties. The prophecy was confirmed in verse 17:

When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.

Did God make a covenant with Abraham whilst he was in a deep sleep in Genesis 15:21?

Yes, when he was in a deep prophetic sleep.


It is entirely possible that God gave Abraham a vision or dream while he slept. There are many examples of people receiving divine messages while in a dream-like state. Note what we have in Joel 2:28, 29 -

And afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on My menservants and maidservants, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

This passage is quoted by Peter and Paul in in Acts 2:17–21 and Romans 10:13. Nebuchadnezzar also received a divine message while in a dream as recorded in Dan 2. Daniel also was given important dreams as recorded in Dan 7. Pharaoh received a divine message while in a double dream in Gen 41. Joseph had a double dream in Gen 37.

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