What does Genesis 15:5 mean?
ESV: And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
NIV: He took him outside and said, 'Look up at the sky and count the stars--if indeed you can count them.' Then he said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.'
NASB: And He took him outside and said, 'Now look toward the heavens and count the stars, if you are able to count them.' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be.'
CSB: He took him outside and said, "Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them." Then he said to him, "Your offspring will be that numerous."
NLT: Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, 'Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!'
KJV: And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
Verse Commentary:
The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, reassuring Abram of God's protection and reward. Abram responded with heartfelt concerns, pointing out that the Promise-maker still had not given to him any children. God assured Abram once more that his heir would be his own flesh and blood, not a servant. The Hebrew phrasing used in the prior verse explicitly referred to a biological child—a literal, natural "son" for Abram.

Now God somehow shows Abram the stars. Given that this encounter is described as a vision, it's hard to know if this look at the stars was an illusion, or an actual trip outside. Later verses suggest that this part of the story happens prior to sunset (Genesis 15:12). In any case, God directs Abram to look up and count the stars above, if he was able. Of course, Abram could not count the stars. Neither could he count the dust on the earth, which God had pointed to in making a similar promise in Genesis 13:16.

God assures Abram once more that his offspring would be so numerous as to be uncountable.
Verse Context:
Genesis 15:1–21 falls between Abram's heroic rescue of Lot in Genesis 14 and his less-than-heroic choice to have a child with his wife's servant in chapter 16. Chapter 15 features Abram's hard questions to the Lord about how the lofty promises of uncountable descendants and possession of the land will be kept. God responds, in part, by formalizing His covenant promises to Abram with an elaborate ritual. He also reveals to Abram details about the difficult circumstances his descendants will face before they come back to take possession of the land ''in the fourth generation.''
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 15 consists entirely of a long encounter between the Lord and Abram. When the ''word of the Lord'' comes to Abram in a vision to bring reassurance of God's support for him, Abram takes the opportunity to press God with questions. Abram asks both about his childlessness and how he can know he will one day possess the land of Canaan. God responds, and Abram believes. God's response includes leading Abram through a covenant ritual involving slaughtered animals, as well as a prophecy about the future of Abram's descendants before the time will come to occupy the Promised Land.
Chapter Context:
Where Genesis 14 was an action-packed story of war and rescue, Genesis 15 consists of a single conversational encounter between the Lord and Abram. This concludes with the formalizing of God's covenant promises to Abram in a dramatic covenant ritual. Abram respectfully asks the Lord some hard questions about how the seemingly impossible promises might be kept. God responds and Abram believes. In addition, God reveals to Abram a prophecy about the difficult future his descendants will face as servants in another country before returning to take possession of the land of Canaan.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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