Genesis 15:1 King James Bible - "I am thy shield, AND THY EXCEEDING GREAT REWARD"
ESV (NASB, NET, Youngs, Holman, St. Joseph NAB, Jehovah Witness NWT) - "I am your shield; YOUR REWARD SHALL BE VERY GREAT."
A verse that holds forth a precious promise is found in Genesis 15:1, but it has been changed in such versions as the NASB, ESV, NET, Holman Standard, Jehovah Witness NWT, the liberal RSV, NRSV and some of the more modern Catholic versions.
In the King James Bible we read: "the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram; I am thy shield, AND THY EXCEEDING GREAT REWARD."
Just think of this a moment. God Himself is our shield and our exceeding great reward. In my better moments it is so good to just think about the Person of God Himself. Who He is, what He is like, how great, wise, all powerful, merciful, loving, gracious, faithful and true.
He spoke and the worlds were created. He suffered on Calvary's cross, bore my sins, paid for them in full and rose from the dead victorious over all His enemies and He is the Lover of my soul. Isn't He beautiful, that He would receive a wretch like me and make me His own for all eternity? God is our exceeding great reward.
That God Himself is our exceeding great reward is the reading of the Coverdale 1535, Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, the Revised Version of 1885, the ASV of 1901, the predecessor of the NASB, which according to the preface of the NASB was such a good translation.
Genesis 15:1 - "I am thy shield, AND THY EXCEEDING GREAT REWARD"
This is also the reading of the NKJV 1982, the NIV 1984 and 2011, the TNIV 2005, Webster's 1833 translation, The Longman Version 1841, the Julia Smith Translation 1855, The Wellbeloved Scriptures 1862, The Smith Bible 1876, The Revised English Bible 1877, Darby 1890, the 1610 Douay-Rheims bible - "Fear not, Abram, I am thy protector, and thy reward exceeding great.", Rotherham's Emphasized Bible 1902, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907 - "I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.", the Douay of 1950, The Word of Yah 1993, the KJV 21st century 1994, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, A Conservative Version 2005, The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, The Context Group Version 2007 - "I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward.", The Jubilee Bible 2010, The Holy Scriptures VW Edition 2010, the New Heart English Bible 2010, The Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, The New European Version 2010 - "I am your shield, your exceeding great reward.", The Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011, The Far Above All Translation 2011 - "I am your shield and very much your reward.", The Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011, The World English Bible 2012, The Revised Douay-Rheims Bible 2012, The Bond Slave Version 2012, The Natural Israelite Bible 2012, The Biblos Bible 2013, The Modern English Version 2014 - "I am your shield, your exceeding great reward.", the Hebrew Names Version 2014, The International Standard Version 2014 - “Stop being afraid, Abram.” he said. “I myself—your shield—am your very great reward.” and The Tree of Life Version 2015 - “Do not fear, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
The Catholic Connection
Both the earlier Catholic Douay-Rheims of 1610 and the 1950 Douay version read like the King James Bible - "Fear not, Abram, I am thy protector, and thy reward exceeding great." but the more modern Catholic versions like the St. Joseph New American bible 1970 and the New Jerusalem 1985 read :"and I WILL MAKE YOUR REWARD VERY GREAT." This is how versions like the RSV, NASB, ESV, NET, Holman and the Jehovah Witness NWT read.
But now the Revised Douay-Rheims Bible 2012 has gone back to the reading of "I am your protector, and your reward exceeding great."
Foreign Language Bibles
Foreign Language Bibles that read like the KJB are the Spanish Cipriano de Valera 1602, the Spanish Reina Valeras from 1602 - 1909, and the 2004 Reina Valera Gómez - "Yo soy tu escudo, Y SOY TU GALARDON SOBREMANERA GRANDE", the Portuguese A Sagrada Biblia and the Portuguese Almeida Corregida 2009 - " Abräo, eu sou o teu escudo, o teu grandíssimo galardäo.", the French Martin 1744 - "je suis ton bouclier, ET TA GRANDE RECOMPENSE", Luther's German Bible 1545 - "ich bin dein Schild und dein sehr großer Lohn.", the Romanian Fidela Bible 2014 and the Romanian Revised Cornilescu Bible 2014 - "Eu sunt scutul tău şi răsplata ta cea foarte mare.
The Bible Commentaries
Hawker’s Poor Man’s Commentary is precisely to the point, saying: “Observe also, what the Lord promiseth, not only to defend, but to bless; NOT SIMPLY TO REWARD, BUT HIMSELF TO BE THE REWARD, AND THAT EXCEEDINGLY GREAT.”
Thomas Coke Commentary on the Whole Bible - “I am thy exceeding great reward. Every thing beside to a believing soul is light in the balance. The enjoyment of the Blessed God is the ultimatum, the whole of his felicity. O may I know more feelingly, and say more confidently, Thou art my portion, O Lord! “
Joseph Benson’s Commentary of the Old and New Testaments - “And thy exceeding great reward — NOT ONLY THY REWARDER, BUT THY REWARD. GOD HIMSELF IS THE FELICITY OF HOLY SOUL; HE IS THE "PORTION OF THEIR INHERITANCE, AND THEIR CUP."
John Gill comments on Genesis 15:1 “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” - “nay, HE HIMSELF WOULD BE HIS REWARD, and which must be a great one, an exceeding great one; as Christ is to his people in his person, offices, and grace, all being theirs, and he all in all to them; all the blessings of grace and glory coming along with him, and HE BEING THEIR PORTION HERE AND HEREAFTER, to all eternity; for since he is theirs, all are theirs, all things appertaining to life and godliness, and eternal life itself.”
Matthew Henry likewise remarks: “I will be thy exceedingly great reward; NOT ONLY THY REWARDER, BUT THY REWARD. (Caps are mine). Abram had generously refused the rewards which the king of Sodom offered him, and here God comes, and tells him he shall be no loser by it. GOD HIMSELF IS THE PROMISED FELICITY OF HOLY SOULS-- He is the portion of their inheritance and their cup.”
John Calvin comments on Genesis 15:1 - “The promise, therefore, that GOD WILL BE Abram’s shield AND HIS EXCEEDING GREAT REWARD, holds the first place; to which is added the exhortation, that, relying upon such a guardian of his safety, and such an author of his felicity, he should not fear. .. IN CALLING HIMSELF HIS “reward,” HE TEACHES ABRAM TO BE SATISFIED WITH HIMSELF ALONE...God declares, that HE ALONE IS SUFFICIENT for the perfection of a happy life to the faithful. For the word “reward” has the force of inheritance, or felicity . Were it deeply engraven on our minds, that IN GOD ALONE WE HAVE THE HIGHEST AND COMPLETE PERFECTION OF ALL GOOD THINGS; we should easily fix bounds to those wicked desires by which we are miserably tormented. The meaning then of the passage is this, that we shall be truly happy when God is propitious to us; for he not only pours upon us the abundance of his kindness, but OFFERS HIMSELF TO US, THAT WE MAY ENJOY HIM. NOW WHAT IS THERE MORE, WHICH MEN CAN DESIRE, WHEN THEY ENJOY GOD? David knew the force of this promise, when he boasted that he had obtained a goodly lot, because THE LORD WAS HIS INHERITANCE, (Psalm 16:6.) But since nothing is more difficult than to curb the depraved appetites of the flesh, and since the ingratitude of man is so vile and impious, that God scarcely ever satisfies them; THE LORD CALLS HIMSELF NOT SIMPLY “a reward,” BUT AN EXCEEDING GREAT REWARD, with which we ought to be more than sufficiently contented.”
Clearly men like John Calvin, John Gill, Thomas Coke, Joseph Benson and Matthew Henry saw this verse as teaching the truth found in the King James Bible and many others that God promised to Abraham that He Himself would be both his shield and his exceeding great reward- God Himself.
To see a really good, short study on this verse and others related to it that show that God Himself is our exceeding great reward, please see Jerry Bouey's blog here:
However the NASB along with the RSV, ESV, and Holman Standard along with the modern Catholic Versions have changed this to now read: "I am a shield to you; YOUR REWARD SHALL BE VERY GREAT."
Daniel Wallace's NET bible version also misses the correct meaning with: "I am your shield and THE ONE WHO WILL REWARD YOU IN GREAT ABUNDANCE."
Do you see the difference? Is should be noted there is no verb in the Hebrew "shall be", yet the NASB has placed it in the text and not even in italics. All these versions have ADDED a verb to the Hebrew text that simply is not there, and thus they have entirely changed the meaning of God's promise to Abraham.
In the NASB, ESV, NET, etc. it is no longer God Himself who is the exceeding great reward but instead teaches that Abraham's material reward will be very great.
Consider, what else could God give Abraham? He already was very rich 13:2; he has already been promised the land of Canaan and told that kings would come out of him and that all nations would be blessed in him; his name would be great and God would bless them which bless him and curse the one who cursed him, and God had delivered his enemies into his hand.
Nothing else could be added, but the promise that God Himself would be his exceeding great reward. Abraham was to continue his life journey learning more and more of God.
This whole promise is lost in versions like the NASB, RSV, ESV, NET, Jehovah Witness NWT, St. Joseph NAB and Holman.
The King James Bible is always right. Accept no inferior substitutes.
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