Genesis, like much of the Torah, is an amalgam of written religious traditions, some of which are dated to about 950 BCE and some of which were developed as late as 450 BCE. Today’s reading is part of an early tradition. In it, Yahweh speaks with Abraham in a vision and makes a covenant with him to protect him, reward him with material wealth, and to give him an heir. The last verse states that Abram believed YHWH, and the translation continues that “the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.” In Hebrew, however, the word is “he” not “YHWH.” This ambiguity could mean that Abram sees YHWH as righteous (being in right relation and being true to one’s commitments) or that YHWH sees Abram as righteous, or that they both see each other as righteous. After this passage, there is a “sealing” of the covenant by cutting animals in two. In the Hebrew, the word for “making” a covenant is “cutting” a covenant. We use a similar expression in English when we say we “cut a deal.”
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
The Letter to the Hebrews is characterized as an anonymous sermon to the early Jesus Follower Community urging them to maintain their Faith and Hope in the face of hardship. It develops a number of important images such as Jesus the Christ as the High Priest. Today’s reading presents faith as insight into a heavenly world of reality, and speaks of faith concretely as “assurance” and “conviction.” It cites as examples of faith Abraham’s obedience to leave his homeland and travel to Canaan (Genesis 12), and his reward as the father of numerous descendants.