Bible Question:

Genesis 15:12 — Why did the Lord make Abram sleep? Is the answer related to the Abrahamic Covenant?

Bible Answer:

Sleep is wonderful when it is at the end of the day and you are exhausted. Sometimes we are put to sleep when a medical surgical procedure is required. The anesthesiologists releases some chemical into your vein and within minutes you are sleep. But we are told in Genesis 15:12 that Abram went to sleep in an unusual way. The passage tells us that God or the Lord made Abram sleep. But why did God put Abram to sleep? He put Adam to sleep in order to make Eve. But why was Abram put to sleep?

God Made Abram Sleep - Wenceslas Hollar

Abrahamic Covenant — Nation, Land & Blessing

Genesis 12:1-3 tells us that God made a promise to Abram that is called the Abrahamic Covenant. The first part of the promise states that Abram would inherit a land that God would show him. The second part of the promise states that Abram would become the father of a great nation. The third and last part of the promise is Abram would be granted favor or blessing.

Now the LORD said to Abram,

“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And  I will make you a great nation,
And  I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

But there was a condition to the promise. Abram would have to move from the land of Haran to the land of Canaan. Consequently, Abram moved to Canaan. Later Abram would be called Abraham (Genesis 17:5). Consequently, God’s promise to Abraham is called God’s covenant with Abraham.

God Made Abram Sleep

No part of the Abrahamic Covenant had been fulfilled between Genesis 12 and Genesis 15. But in Genesis 15:1-11 God renews the promise of a son for Abram and his wife Sari. Genesis 15:6 tells us that Abram believed in God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6 (NASB)

Then in the last half of Genesis 15:12-21 God renews His  promise of the land to Abram.

Genesis 15:12 tells us that God put Abram into a deep sleep as the sun was setting. Then Abram had a dream.

Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. Genesis 15:12 (NASB)

Why did God do this? It was the method that God used to communicate the specifics of the covenant about the land promised to Abram in Genesis 12. The specifics of the land are explained in Genesis 15:17-21.

It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces.

On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying,
“To your descendants I have given this land,
From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:

the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.” Genesis 15:17-21

The Promised Land begins at the Nile River and extends to the Euphrates River.


In Genesis 15 God expanded on the covenant that He made to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3. The method that God used was not unusual. But the dream was dramatic with terror, darkness, a smoking oven and flaming torch.

Suggested Links:

What do the smoking oven and flaming torch represent in Genesis 15:17?
What is the Abrahamic Covenant? — Genesis 12:1-3