6 Abram believed[a] the Lord, and the Lord[b] credited[c] it[d] as righteousness[e] to him.
Genesis 15:6tn The sentence begins with vav (ו) plus a perfect verb. It does not show simple sequence, which would have been indicated with a vav plus preterite as in the surrounding clauses. The nuance may be that Abram had already come to believe or did so while God was speaking. For a detailed discussion of the vav plus perfect construction in Hebrew narrative, see R. Longacre, “Weqatal Forms in Biblical Hebrew Prose: A Discourse-modular Approach,” Biblical Hebrew and Discourse Linguistics, 50-98. The verb אָמַן (ʾaman) occurs with a Niphal and Hiphil opposition. In the Niphal it means “to be faithful, reliable, firm, enduring.” While in the Hiphil, the form used here, it means “to consider or treat something as reliable, or dependable.” Abram regarded God as reliable for this promise; he believed.
Genesis 15:6tnHeb “and he”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity. The Lord is the subject of a series of third masculine singular preterite verbs in 15:5-7, while Abram is the subject of the perfect verb at the beginning of this verse.
Genesis 15:6tn The verb חָשַׁב (khashav) is a verb of recognition, which can be rendered with words like “think, plan, reckon, impute, consider, assign.” Uniquely in this verse, the verb has two objects (a double accusative) and a prepositional phrase with ל (lamed). Without the double accusative, the syntax of the verb would be straightforward. When the object of the verb is an attribute and the object of the preposition is a person, it means “consider X (the verb’s object) to apply to (ל) Y (person).” This also occurs when imputing guilt to someone (2 Sam 19:20; Ps 32:2); the attribute is functionally applied to someone. When the object of the verb and the object of the preposition are impersonal, it means “consider X to be Z.” Gen 15:6 has two direct objects and both are impersonal. The closest parallels use an additional preposition. For example, Job 19:11, “He considers me (object suffix) like (כ; kaf) his enemies toward (ל) him,” and Job 33:10 He considers me (object suffix) to be (ל) an enemy toward (ל) him.” So the normal uses of the verb include considering a trait or evaluation to apply to a person, and also considering one thing to be [like] another. The translation takes the two impersonal objects of the verb (the double accusative) as being equated, while the preposition (ל) indicates that the attribute is imputed to the personal object of the preposition. That is, the Lord considered it (Abram’s belief) to be צְדָקָה (tsedaqah; “righteousness”), and he imputed this righteousness to Abram. We might suppose different nuances to be possible for how the two accusatives relate. Is one the evidence of the other, the basis for the other, an expression of the other? Or are these questions imposed on the text? We should note that when imputing (חָשַׁב; khashav) guilt, or not imputing (i.e., forgiving) guilt (Ps 32:1-3) the emphasis is on the legal or relational standing. The concept of considering righteousness to apply to someone’s account also occurs without this verb, as in Deut 6:25 and 24:13 “it will be righteousness for you before the Lord your God.” While the act of obedience and motivation for it can be characterized as righteous, the emphasis is on the righteous standing that the obedient person has. Likewise, Abram’s righteous standing before God is of the greatest significance in this passage.
Genesis 15:6tnHeb “and he imputed it.” The third feminine singular pronominal suffix refers back to Abram’s act of faith, mentioned in the preceding clause. On third feminine singular pronouns referring back to verbal ideas see GKC 440-41 §135.p. Some propose taking the suffix as proleptic, anticipating the following feminine noun (“righteousness”). In this case one might translate: “and he reckoned it to him—[namely] righteousness.” See O. P. Robertson, “Genesis 15:6: A New Covenant Exposition of an Old Covenant Text,” WTJ 42 (1980): 259-89.
Genesis 15:6tn The noun צְדָקָה (tsedaqah, “righteousness”) occurs with the Niphal of the same verb in Ps 106:31. Alluding to the events recorded in Numbers 25, the psalmist notes that Phinehas’ actions were “credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come.” Phinehas acted in opposition to idolatry. So he was righteous in motive, his actions were righteous in character, and after he acted he was accorded righteous standing before God. Further the Lord rewarded Phinehas with an unconditional, eternal covenant (Num 25:12-13) as he rewards Abram with a covenant. From that contextual fact, the צְדָקָה (tsedaqah) “righteousness”) may be viewed by some as focusing on the rewardability of the behavior more than the righteous standing before God, though the two notions are related. (See R. B. Chisholm, “Evidence from Genesis,” A Case for Premillennialism, 40.) In Phoenician and Old Aramaic inscriptions cognate nouns may be glossed as “correct, justifiable conduct” and may carry this same semantic nuance (DNWSI 2:962). HALOT seems to focus on the motive and character of righteous actions when it lists “loyalty to the community” among its glosses for צְדָקָה (HALOT, 1006). The translation takes the righteous standing to be central, though it coincides with righteous or loyal motives, righteous conduct, and being viewed as worthy of reward. sn This episode is basic to the NT teaching of Paul on justification (Romans 4). Paul weaves this passage and Ps 32 together, as both refer to imputing an attribute, righteousness or guilt. Paul explains that for the one who believes in the Lord, like Abram, God credits him with righteousness but does not credit his sins against him because he is forgiven. Justification does not mean that the believer is thoroughly righteous in motive and conduct; it means that God credits him with righteous standing, so that in the records of heaven (as it were) he is declared righteous. See M. G. Kline, “Abram’s Amen,” WTJ 31 (1968): 1-11.
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