(Abram was smoking something good.)
He had a vision that god was telling him
"Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
you very great reward."
But Abram had a beef about having no heir, and told god as much. And god again said he would have as many children as stars in the sky. Also, that he would have a son of his own that would take over. And Abram believed this. For some reason.
God reminded him that he brought him out of Ur and sent him to this land for it to be his. You know, the land that had the famine when Abram first came. Which, if I were Abram, I would've brought up, but whatever.
Abram said, yeah, but how can I know that I will have this land? The land that had the famine when you first sent me here?
And God said, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon."
Well, when god tells you to bring him some livestock, by golly you better do it.
Abram, knowing, apparently, what god was about, brought the animals and cut all the big ones in half. And didn't let any vultures or anything eat them. And then as the sun was setting, he fell into a deep sleep (that was probably no small amount of work) and "a thick and dreadful darkness came over him." I like that line.
So the lord told him that his descendants would be "strangers in a country not their own" and they would be slaves, which sucks, but god would punish the enslavers, and anyway afterwards they would have lots of neat stuff. So that's okay, I guess. And god also said that Abram would live a long life and that after four generations his descendants would come back to this land (hoping there's no famine). Apparently because of the sin of the Amorites.
So the sun set, and darkness fell, and a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and went between the animal pieces. Which, I'm told by the footnotes, was a common practice in that day to seal a deal with someone. Well, to pass between pieces of slaughter, not to appear as a smoking firepot. I think.
So that's the covenant with Abram, that he will not only have descendants, which was dubious to begin with, but that the land from the Nile to the Euphrates would belong to all his descendants. This, the author explains, is the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites. So where all those people are gonna go is anybody's guess.