And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him.
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Didymus the Blind
As he contemplated the wonderful things of God, Abraham was struck with fear, the fear that belongs to the perfect. It will be noted … that the ecstasy came upon him “toward sunset.” The text suggests by this a progression, because the day of the present state has gone by for Abraham so that further progress might follow. Thus the blessing was extended to Abraham which says, “I will fill you with length of days,”a blessing that by no means promised him longevity but, as is quite clear, further advances in illumination. An ecstasy then fell upon him, not the ecstasy that resembles a loss of reason but that of wonder, the thrill of passing from visible to invisible things. The apostle even says, “Indeed, if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” By this he means not “we are out of our minds for God” but “even if we are transported through contemplation beyond the realm of human things, we do this for God.” David likewise declares, “I said in ...
A deep sleep, or ecstasy, like that of Adam, chap. ii. 21, wherein God revealed to him the oppression of his posterity in Egypt, which filled him with such horror (Menochius) as we experience when something frightful comes upon us suddenly in the dark. This darkness represented the dismal situation of Joseph, confined in a dungeon; and of the Hebrews condemned to hard labour, in making bricks, and obliged to hide their male children, for fear of their being discovered, and slain. Before these unhappy days commenced, the posterity of Abram were exposed to great oppression among the Chanaanites, nor could they in any sense be said to possess the land of promise, for above 400 years after this prophetic sleep. (Haydock)