And Abram said, Lord GOD, what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?
Read Chapter 15
Ambrose of Milan
Let us also consider what recompense he requests from the Lord. He does not ask for riches, as would a greedy person, nor for a long life in this world, as would one who fears death, nor for power. Rather he asks for an heir worthy of his work. “What will you give me?”—he says—“I am about to depart without children.” And then he says, “Because you have not given me posterity, a slave born in my house will be my heir.” Let everyone learn therefore not to despise marriage. Let them not unite with disreputable persons, so as not to have children of such a standing that they are unable to be their heirs. In view of the inheritance to be transmitted, if they are not moved by any consideration of decency, they at least should desire a worthy marriage. .
But the holy and prophetic mind is more concerned with an eternal posterity. What Abraham desires is in fact the offspring of wisdom and the inheritance of faith. This is why he says, “What will you give me, since I am about to depart without children?” What he desired was the progeny of the church. What he was requesting was a descendancy that would be not servile but free, not according to the flesh but according to grace. .
I shall go. To what purpose should I heap up riches, since I have no son to inherit them? Abram knew that God had promised him a numerous posterity; but he was not apprized how this was to be verified, and whether he was to adopt some other for his son and heir. Therefore, he asks modestly, how he ought to understand the promise.
And the son Hebrew is differently rendered, "and the steward of my house, this Eliezer of Damascus. "We know not whether Eliezer or Damascus be the proper name. The Septuagint have "the son of Mesech, my handmaid, this Eliezer of Damascus. "Most people suppose, that Damascus was the son of Eliezer, the steward. The sentence is left unfinished, and must be supplied from the following verse, shall be my heir. The son of the steward, filius procurationis, may mean the steward himself, as the son of perdition denotes the person lost. (Calmet)
These words reveal the extreme degree of the pain in his soul. [It is if he were saying] to God, Far from being granted what my slave was, I am to pass away without child or heir, whereas my slave will inherit the gifts granted me by you, despite the promise received from you more than once in the words “to your descendants I will give this land.” Consider, I ask you, the just man’s virtue in this case also in the fact that while entertaining these thoughts in his mind he did not protest nor say any harsh words. Instead, driven on in this case by the words spoken to him, he spoke boldly to the Lord, revealed the tumult of his interior thoughts and made no secret of the wound to his spirit. Hence in turn he received instant healing.
Since God had promised him a reward, a wonderfully, exceedingly great reward, Abraham revealed his grief of spirit and the disappointment affecting him constantly on account of his childless condition. He says, “Lord, what sort of thing will you give me? After all, you can see, I have reached the height of old age and am to pass on without children.” See how from the outset the just man showed his sound thinking in calling his departure from here a “passing on.” I mean, people who live an assiduous life of virtue really pass on from struggle, as it were, and are freed from their bonds when they transfer from this life. You see, for people living virtuously it is a kind of transfer from a worse situation to a better, from a temporary existence to an everlasting one that is protected from death and has no end.