Verse 8: Abram asks God for a sign to show that He will keep his promise. Sometimes this can be read that Abram lacked faith but nowhere does it suggest that he did, in fact this was a fairly common response and Scripture doesn’t seem to condemn individuals for wanting to be reassured by God. Gideon asked for a fleece, Moses asked for a sign and Thomas demanded to see the nail prints in Jesus’ hands and feet.
Verse 9 - 11: God commands Abram to bring a three year old heifer, a female goat, a ram, a turtle dove and a pigeon. These were all acceptable offerings to God. Abram cuts the heifer, goat and ram in half but does not cut the birds. He separated the halves and set them opposite each other.
Verse 12 – 16: “A deep sleep fell on Abram” and the NET Bible states, “A great terror overwhelmed him.” He was in the presence of God Almighty and this was an awe inspiring and frightening thing.
The Lord now speaks a prophecy of Abram’s ancestor’s exile to Egypt. They will be there (although God doesn’t mention Egypt as being the place) for 400 years and they will be slaves and sojourners. God will continue to protect them during this time and he will also judge the nation of Egypt. His ancestors will leave the country with many possessions. As for Abraham he will have passed from life to death when this happens. It will be a future event but for now Abram will live a good long life.
Verse 17 - 18: In the evening the Lord makes a covenant with Abram. “A smoking fire pot and flame torch” signifies the presence of the Lord passing through the halves of the animals. It is interesting to note that this was a one sided covenant. It was typical for both people involved in a covenant to pass between the offerings signifying they will keep their end of the deal. Gordon Wenham writes, “This act is then interpreted as an enacted curse. 'May God make me like this animal, if I do not fulfill the demands of the covenant.' In Genesis, of course, it is God himself who walks between the pieces, and it is suggested that here God is invoking the curse on himself, if he fails to fulfill the promise.” The cutting into pieces of the animals could symbolize the nation of Israel and God passing through them could show that He would be with their people.
The covenant is a promise made by God alone. It is one sided which means He will do what He has promised. He tells Abram that his offspring will possess the land the from the river of Egypt (many believe this to be the eastern branch of the Nile) to the river Euphrates.
God has made another covenant with his people through Jesus Christ. When Jesus took the last supper with his disciples he proclaimed that a new covenant has been established by his blood i.e. Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25. We are told in Hebrews 8 that if the first covenant was perfect or faultless then there would have been no need for a second one. Jesus Christ came to establish a new covenant thus making the old obsolete. This is a promise you and I can firmly hold on to. Through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary the work of God is now finished. Jesus has become the perfect sacrifice thus becoming our righteousness. We are not declared righteous by any act we perform but we are declared righteous based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ.
 Wenham, G. J. (1998). Vol. 1: Genesis 1–15. Word Biblical Commentary (332). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.