Genesis 17




1 “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram,

and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.”

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine - consequently an interval of thirteen

years had elapsed since the birth of Ishmael; the long delay on the part of God being

probably designed as chastisement for Abram's second nuptials (Calvin), and at least

corresponding with Abram's undue haste (Lange) - the Lord appeared to Abram

lest he should regard Ishmael's birth as a complete fulfillment of the promise

(Menochius), and be satisfied with Hagar's child as the expected seed (Calvin) –

and said to him, I am the Almighty God - El Shaddai, found six times in Genesis

and thirty-one times in Job, composed of El, God, and Shaddai; not a nomen

compositum (from שֶׁ  = אֲשֶׁר and דַּי) signifying qui sufficiens est (Aquinas,

Symmachus, Theodoret, Saadias, Maimonides, Calvin), but either a pluralis

excellentiae., from the singular שַׁר, powerful - root ךשׁדַד, to be strong

(Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Wordsworth), or a singular from the same root with

the substantive termination יַ, as in הַגַּי, the festal, יְשִׁישַׁי, the old man, סִינַי,

the thorn-grown (Keil, Oehler, Lange); descriptive of God as revealing Himself

violently in His might, hence correctly rendered παντοκράτωρpantokrator

Almighty; omnipotent - by the Septuagint in Job (Oehler); distinguishing Jehovah,

the God of salvation, from Elohim, the God who creates nature so that it is and

supports it that it may stand, as "the God who compels nature to do what is

contrary to itself, and subdues it to bow and minister to grace" (Delitzsch);

(I recommend:  Genesis 17 – El Shaddai – Names of God by Nathan Stone –

this website - # 320 – CY  - 2019) characterizing Jehovah the covenant God,

"as possessing the power to realize His promises, even when the order of

nature presented no prospect of their fulfillment, and the powers of nature

were insufficient to secure it" (Keil); perhaps, like Elohim and Adonai, one

of the world-wide titles of the Most High since it was known to Balaam

(Numbers 24:4, 16), and is constantly used in Job ('Speaker's Commentary').

Said in Exodus 6:2-3 to have been the name by which God was known to the

patriarchs, it is regarded by the partitionists as characteristic of the Elohist

(Tuch, Blcek, Colenso, Davidson, Ewald), and accordingly to that writer

the present chapter is assigned, and the Jehovah of this verse expiated as

an alteration of the original Elohist's narrative; but the πρῶτον ψεῦδος

proton pseudosfirst lie - of this criticism lurks in the identification of

El-Shaddai with Elohim, whereas it is not Elohim, but Jehovah, who reveals

Himself as E1 Shaddai not alone in the Pentateuch, but in the historical and

prophetical books as well (compare Ruth 1:20-21; see Keil's Introduction,

pt. § 2; div. 1. § 25). Walk before me. Literally, set thyself to walk, as in

ch. 13:17, in my presence, as if conscious of my inspection and solicitous

of my approval; not behind me, as if sensible of shortcomings, and desirous

to elude observation. The phrase intimates a less exalted piety than the

corresponding phrase used of Enoch (ch. 5:24) and Noah (ch. 6:9). And be

thou perfect. Tamim, ἄμεμπτοιςamenmptois - blameless  (Septuagint),

used of Noah in Genesis 6:9, and rendered τέλειοςteleiosto the end  

(Septuagint), while perhaps retrospectively glancing at Abram's sin in

marrying Hagar, indicates that absolute standard of moral attainment, viz.,

completeness of being in respect of purity, which the supreme Lawgiver sets

before his intelligent creatures (compare Matthew 5:8).




God’s Call to Believers (v. 1)


“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to

Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be

thou perfect.” In what sense are we to take this? None can keep God’s law

perfectly (Romans 7:23). And why at this point in Abram’s history the

emphatic “I am?” The character of his life was faith (compare Hebrews 11:6)

resting on the promises made him (ch. 12:7; 13:16; 15:5).  The last of these was

a special instance of faith. But the triumph was followed by a fall — impatience,

would not wait God’s time (compare Psalm 27:14; 31:15). An instance of a common

faultpartial faith (compare Matthew 4:4; 14:28-31). The result was disappointment.

Thirteen years passed. Must we not connect this with his fault? Want of faith delayed

the blessing (compare Numbers 14:33). Then came the word of the Lord — a

gentle rebuke (compare Matthew 8:26), and a precept: “Walk before me,”

etc. Return to thy first faith; let it be perfect, not partial (compare Proverbs 3:5;

Matthew 17:20).


·         A LESSON FOR BELIEVERS. Watch lest faith grow cold. Some like

not to retain God in their thoughts. They hide themselves from Him amid

the vanities of the world. But His people, who have known His love

(I John 3:1), why should they ever shrink from opening their whole heart to

Him? Yet, imperceptibly perhaps, there is a change. The faith is held, but

the sunshine is gone. The desire to tell all to God is not there. Why? The

man has set his heart upon something, and cannot trust God’s love; or he is

drawn to something He cannot approve, and listens to what can be said for

it (compare Romans 14:4); or he has fallen into self-sufficiency. Then reserve

towards God. The hidden life becomes disordered. No longer the desire

that he should know all and guide all. And thus uneasiness, reserve,

distance. Then follow plans to quiet the uneasiness — business, ceremony,

theology, or work in some other direction. But no real communion with

God in all this.


·         THE REMEDY. “Walk before me.” Recognize the evil. Believe the

cause. Be not faithless. Bear in mind God’s presence (compare Psalm 62:1-7).

Seek not to hide from Him, or to justify self. And “be perfect,” i.e.

matured; not in any high or strange attainment, but in that which a child

may learn in trusting God’s truth and love; in bringing thoughts, wants, and

wishes before Him. Towards this active obedience and following Christ are

means; and, above all, sincerity, and a real definite dedication of the life to



·         ENCOURAGEMENT. “I am the Almighty God” — all-powerful

(Isaiah 59:1; Luke 1:37) and all-loving (Psalm 37:5; Romans 8:32).

This, really believed, would remove anxious care. What is it that leads

thee to seek another way? The consciousness of having wandered. Has He not

made provision for this? (I Timothy 1:15; I John 2:1). Or is it that the blessing

long desired is not given? Some power, some opportunity for God’s work, and

still the door is closed; or it may be some spiritual gift, some token of growth in

grace, and still the evil of thy nature is unsubdued. Be patient (James 1:4). Thy

Father in heaven will not fail thee (Romans 6:14). Walk before him. Tell Him all

that is in thy mind. In His time thou shalt find peace (Philippians 4:6; I John 5:4;

Revelation 21:7).


2 “And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee

exceedingly.”  And I will make my covenant between me and thee. Literally,

I will give (compare ch. 9:9,11-12). Neither an additional covenant to that

described in ch. 15. (Rosenmüller), nor a different traditional account of the

transaction contained there. (Tuch, Bleek), nor the original Elohistic narrative

of which that in ch. 15. was a later imitation (Knobel); but an intimation that

the covenant already concluded was about to be carried into execution, and

the promise of a son to be more specifically determined as the offspring of Sarai

(Keil). And will multiply thee exceedingly (see ch. 12:2; 13:16;  15:5).




 The True Life of Faith Set Forth (vs. 1-2)





Ø      The revelation one in a continued series of-progressive manifestations.


Ø      Accompanied with direct promise, which in the form of covenant

appeals to reciprocal fellowship and confidence.


Ø      Embracing both present and future blessedness. The blessing upon the

earthly lot, as preparatory to the higher blessedness, a foundation on

which the higher life is built up.


·         THE METHOD OF THE LIFE OF FAITH.   Walk before me; be perfect, &c.


Ø      Constant reference to God:


o       His will,

o       His truth,

o       His covenant.


Ø      Distinction from the world. Abram the pilgrim. Walk among the

heathen, and yet before me. The consciousness of a chosen aim a great

preservative. The sustaining favor of God. Development of the Divine

in the human.


Ø      A life which is worked out as a trust for others. The representative man

holds a special position towards God not for his own sake alone, but as the

depositary of the blessing. Great help to walk before God and be perfect,

that we are called to be the channel through which blessings flow.

Confirmation of the Covenant will be sent to us in the way, when there is

lack of promise in appearances, notwithstanding the evidence of our own

infirmity. We walk in the light towards a future which shall abundantly

reward patient continuance in well doing.


3 “And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,”

And Abram fell on his face - in reverential awe and worship (see v. 17; compare

ch. 24:52; Numbers 16:22; Mark 14:35). Other attitudes of devotion are mentioned

(I Kings 8:54; Mark 11:25; I Timothy 2:8). And God - Elohim, the third name for the

Deity within the compass of as many verses, thus indicating identity of being –

talked with him, saying,


4 “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of

many nations.”  As for me. Literally, I, standing alone at the beginning of the

sentence by way of emphasis (compare II Kings 10:29; Psalm 11:4; 46:5; see

Ewald's 'Hebrew Syntax,' § 309). Equivalent to "So far as I am concerned," or,

"I for my part," or, "So far as relates to me." Behold, my covenant is with thee,

and thou shalt be - literally, shalt become (compare ch. 2:7), or grow to (ch. 9:15) –

a father of many (or of a multitude of) nations.



5 “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be

Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.”

Neither shall thy name any mere be called Abram, - Abram, i.e. high father

(see ch. 11:26); but Abraham - Abraham (in Arabic signifying a multitude);

hence "the father of a multitude," as the next clause explains - for a father of many

(or a multitude of) nations have I made thee.


6 “And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and

kings shall come out of thee.” And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will

make nations of thee, - a promise fulfilled in the Ishmaelites, the descendants of

Keturah, the Edomites, and the Israelites - and kings (e.g. David and Solomon)

shall come out of thee.


7 “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after

thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee,

and to thy seed after thee.” And I will establish my covenant between me and

thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, -

literally, for a covenant of eternity (see ch. 9:16) - to be a God unto thee,

and to thy seed after thee. Literally, to be for Elohim; a formula comprehending

all saving benefits; a clear indication of the spiritual character of the Abrahamic

covenant (compare ch. 26:24; 28:13; Hebrews 11:16).


8 “And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou

art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and

I will be their God.”  And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the

land wherein thou art a stranger, - literally, of thy sojournings (ch. 12:9; Acts 7:5;

Hebrews 11:9) - all the land of Canaan (see ch. 10:19), - for an everlasting

possession. Literally, for a possession of eternity; i.e. the earthly Canaan should

be retained by them so long as the arrangement then instituted should continue,

provided always they complied with the conditions of the covenant; and the

heavenly Canaan should be the inheritance of Abraham's spiritual children

forever (see ch. 9:16; Genesis 13:15). And I will be their God. Literally, to them

for Elohim.


9 “And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou,

and thy seed after thee in their generations.” And God said unto Abraham, Thou

literally, and thou, the other party to the covenant, the antithesis to I (v. 4) - shalt

keep my covenant - literally, my covenant thou shalt keep - therefore, thou, and

thy seed after thee in their generations.


10 “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy

seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.”

This is my covenant (i.e. the sign of it, as in ch. 9:12), which ye shall keep

(i.e. observe to do), between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man

child among you shall be circumcised. Literally, circumcise among (or of) you

every male, the inf. abs. הִמּול, when it stands abruptly at the commencement of a

sentence, having the force of a command.


11 “And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token

of the covenant betwixt me and you.” And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your

foreskin. עָרְלָה, ἀκροβυστίαakrobustia -  membrum prveputiatum, from עָרַל,

to be naked, bare, hence to be odious, unclean, impure, was regarded afterwards

as unclean (Deuteronomy 10:16; Isaiah 52:3; Jeremiah 4:4), and is here directed

to be deprived of the skin covering its extremity, not because through it sin first

discovered its effects (Peele), and original corruption is still transmitted (Lapide,

Augustine), or to promote cleanliness (Philo), or to express detestation of certain

idolatrous rites which were paid to it by the Egyptians and other heathen nations

(Lyra, Kalisch), but


(1) as a sign of the faith that Christ should be descended from him (Lapide);


(2) as a symbolic representation of the putting away of the filth of the flesh and

of sin in general (Calvin). Hence it served a variety of uses:


(a) to distinguish the seed of Abraham from the Gentiles,

            (b) to perpetuate the memory of Jehovah's covenant,

            (c) to foster in the nation the hope of the Messiah,

(d) to remind them of the duty of cultivating moral purity (Deuteronomy 10:16),

(e)  to preach to them the gospel of a righteousness by faith (Romans 4:11),

(f)  to suggest the idea of a holy or a spiritual seed of Abram (ibid. 2:29), and

(g) to foreshadow the Christian rite of baptism (Colossians 2:11-12).

And it shall be a token of the covenant - literally, for a token of covenant (compare

Ch. 9:12; Acts 7:8; Romans 4:11) - betwixt me and you.


12 “And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man

child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money

of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.”  And he that is eight days old - literally,

and the son of eight days (compare v. 1) - shall be circumcised among you (Leviticus

12:3; Luke 2:21; Philippians 3:5), every man child - "The fact that several times the

circumcision of the males only is enjoined may point to the legislator's intention

to exclude that rite in the other sex, though it was customary among many ancient

nations, but not universal among the Egyptians" (Kalisch). Though not administered

to both, the symbol was ordained for the sake of both sexes (Calvin) - in your

generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger,

which is not of thy seed. Not only a proof of the Divine benignity to Abraham in

embracing all the members of his household within the pale of the visible Church

now constituted, but likewise a hint of the world-wide aspect of the Abrahamic

covenant, a first-fruits as it were of the "all the families of the earth" that should

be blessed in Abram.



13 “He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must

needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting

covenant.”  He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money,

must needs be circumcised. Literally, circumcised, must be circumcised, he that is

born, &c., the niph. inf. abe. with the finite verb occupying the place of emphasis

at the beginning of the sentence (see Gesenius, 'Grammar,' § 131). And my covenant

shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.


14 “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not

circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my

covenant.”  And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is

not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people. Ἐξολοθρευθήσεται

ἐκ τοῦ γένους αὐτῆς Exolothreuthaesetai ek tou genous autaes - (Septuagint), i.e.

shall be destroyed from amongst his nation, from among his people (Leviticus 17:4,10;

Numbers 15:30), from Israel (Exodus 12:15; Numbers 19:13), from the congregation

of Israel (Exodus 12:19), by the infliction of death at the hands of the congregation,

the civil magistrate, or of God (Abarbanel, Gesenius, Clericus, Michaelis,

Rosenmüller, Keil, Wordsworth, Alford); or shall be excommunicated from the

Church, and no longer reckoned among the people of God (Augustine, Vatablus,

Piscator, Willet, Calvin, Knobel, Murphy, Kalisch, Inglis). That excision from

one’s people was in certain cases followed by the death penalty (Exodus 31:14;

Leviticus 18:29; Numbers 15:30) does not prove that the capital infliction was an

invariable accompaniment of such sentence (see Exodus 12:19; Leviticus 7:20-21;

Numbers 19:13). Besides, to suppose that such was its meaning here necessitates

the restriction of the punishment to adults, whereas with the alternative signification

no such restriction requires to be imposed on the statute. The uncircumcised Hebrew,

whether child or adult, forfeited his standing in the congregation, i.e. ceased to be a

member of the Hebrew Church. He hath broken my covenant.




The Covenant Renewed (vs. 1-14)




Ø       The time.When Abram was ninety years old and nine,” i.e. thirteen

years after Ishmael’s birth. Mark the penalty of striving to anticipate

Divine promises. Human ingenuity, even when not directly sinful, can

only retard, not accelerate, Jehovah’s purpose.


Ø      The Author. “El Shaddai,” i.e. the Being who, though ordinarily

operating silently and invisibly in nature, is able to break through nature

in order to accomplish His designs. Nature is not superior to God, but vice

versa — the Almighty transcends His own handiwork; and much as Nature

discloses of God’s eternal power and Godhead in her ordinary workings,

She does not by means of these reveal the infinite fullness of His Divine



Ø      The condition. Walk before me, and be thou perfect,” i.e. follow

holiness as well as trust my word. Though grace is the prime mover in all

Heaven’s bargains or contracts with sinful men, they are invariably

conditioned by man’s obedience to and trust in the Divine Covenanter.

The meaning briefly is, that if God’s grace does not conquer man’s

unbelief and sin, man’s unbelief and sin will ultimately cancel God’s





Ø      The promise of a seed. An old promise recapitulated, since God gives

line upon line,” “precept upon precept” (Isaiah 28:10); with little

additional clearness of definition, beyond the hint, conveyed by the words

nations” and “kings,” that something more than Ishmael and his

descendants was to be expected, since the Revealer of the Father (the

Word of Jehovah, Christ) the Word of God) only discovers truth to the

human mind as it can bear (Mark 4:33).


Ø      The promise of a land. This too was an old promise redelivered, with

the old particularity of description and the old solemnity of donation;

partly to inform the hearer’s mind, partly to allay whatever anxious

thoughts might remain, but chiefly to prepare for the imposition of the

obligations that were about to be declared. Covenant mercies, at least

in God’s contracts, always go before covenant duties.


Ø      The promise of a blessing. This too had been included in the gracious

provisions of the covenant from the first; but now a slight advance is

made in the clarification of its nature. The blessing is to be distinctly

spiritual.  Jehovah is to be a God to Abram and his seed. Hence the

inference which Paul draws (Galatians 3:14-18) was designed to be

deduced by the patriarch — that the true and proper recipients of the

covenanted mercies were not to be his natural, but spiritual descendants.

See the prominence in respect of clearness of revelation which God

assigns to things spiritual.




Ø      The imposition of a new name.


o        Its significance. Instead of high-father, a personal appellation

descriptive of the elevation of his rank as a chieftain, or of his character as

a man, he was henceforth to be styled father of a multitude, a federal or

representative designation, defining his relation to both his natural and

spiritual descendants. It were well if names always were thus suggestive

and symbolic; but only names assigned by God, directly or indirectly, can

be relied on as expressive of reality.


o        Its intention. This was to indicate that God’s covenant was made not

with Abram the Chaldaean chieftain, but with Abraham the believer. It was

thus a symbol of the new position before God which Abraham occupied,

and the new nature which as a believer in God Abraham possessed; i.e. of

Abraham’s justification and regeneration. It was also a reminder that God’s

covenant was made not with the offspring of Abram as a man, i.e. with his

natural descendants, except, indeed, provisionally and typically; but with

the children of Abraham the believer, i.e. with his spiritual posterity, all of

whom, like himself, must have new names, i.e. occupy new positions and

possess new natures, in other words, be justified and regenerated children

of God by faith in Jesus Christ.


Ø      The attachment of a new sign.


o        Its nature. Circumcision. On the origin of the rite of circumcision see



o        Its import. As regarding the grand blessing of the covenant, the

promise of a seed, it was designed for a sign that that seed was to be not a

child of the flesh, but a child of the promise; not the offspring of nature,

but the gift of grace. Hence it served as an outline of the sinless

humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ, and an intimation of the holy character

of his seed. Then, as administered to the patriarch, it was intended as a

practical declaration of his faith in the coming seed, and a symbolic

representation of his personal devotement to holiness. In every one of these

respects its place has been supplied by the Christian rite of baptism, with

only this difference, that baptism is a visible token of faith not in a coming,

but a crucified and risen, Savior.


o        Its incidence. The ceremony was appointed to be administered first to

Abraham, and then to all his household, including Ishmael and his male

domestics, and subsequently to all his posterity through the promised son.

So the obligations of the covenant rest on all within the Church, and

descend from age to age upon believers.


15“And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her

name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.”  And God said unto Abraham, As for

Sarai thy wife, - who, not having hitherto been mentioned in any of the promises,

is now expressly taken into covenant, and accordingly receives a new name (compare

v. 5; ch. 32:28; Revelation 3:12) - thou shalt not call her name Sarai, - "my princess"

(Gesenius); "princely, noble" (Ikenins, Rosenmüller, Keil, Delitzsch); "the heroine"

(Knobel); "strife, contention" (Ewald, Murphy), with special reference to her struggle

against sterility. (Kalisch) - but Sarah "princess" (Gesenius), the meaning being that,

whereas formerly she was Abram's princess only, she was henceforth to be

recognized as a princess generally, i.e. as the mother of the Church (Jerome, Augustine),

or as princess to the Lord, the letter A being taken from the name Jehovah, as in the

change of Abram into Abraham (the Rabbis); though Ikenius and Rosenmüller derive

from an Arabic root, sara, to have a numerous progeny - shall her name be.



                                                (v. 15)


“Thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name

be,” “Mother of nations;” “kings of peoples shall be of her.”


·         EXALTATION OF THE LOWLY. A pilgrim and stranger, made a

princess. A mother of nations, though once desolate, mourning, ready to

murmur. The lamentation turned into laughter.


·         THE FREEDOM OF DIVINE GRACE. The blessing unexpected,

apart from creature strength, notwithstanding blind and foolish attempts to

obtain blessing in our own way — the Ishmael, not the Isaac. Though

many things “said in our heart,the one thing Divinely purposed the only

true fulfillment of that heart’s desire.


·         FOREGLEAMS OF THE COMING GLORY. The seed of the

woman, specially representing the promise of God, supernaturally given,

coming as the royal seed, son of a princess and forerunner of kings of



Ø      God-given heir,

Ø      God-given inheritance.


The birth of the child of promise, so manifestly Divine, points to the yet

greater glory: “Unto us a Son is born.”   (Isaiah 9:6)



16  And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her,

and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.”

And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her (the first intimation that

the promised seed was to be Sarai's child), and she shall be a mother of nations; -

literally, she shall become nations (compare v. 4) - kings of people shall be of her.


17  Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart,

Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah,

that is ninety years old, bear?”  Then Abraham fell upon his face (see v. 3),

and laughed. וַיּצְחָק from צָחַק, to laugh. Compare καχάζω καγχάζω -  kachazo

kagchazo - cachinnor, German, kichern; καὶ ἐγέλασενkai egelasenand

laughed  (Septuagint); rejoiced (Onkelos); marveled (Jerome, Targums);

laughed for joy (Arabic version, Augustine, Calvin, Delitzsch, Keil, Murphy,

et alii); not a smile of incredulity (Jerome, Chrysostom) or of diffidence (Kalisch),

as partitionists assert in order to produce a contradiction between the Elohist and

Jehovist of ch. 15. And said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is

(literally, to the son of) an hundred years old? A suggestion of natural reason

which was overruled by faith (Calvin, Wordsworth), though better regarded as

the exclamation of holy wonder, or as an illustration of believing not for joy

(Inglis; compare Luke 24:41). And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?

Yes. What reason declared impossible was possible to faith. (Remember,

God is El Shaddai – CY – 2019)  "He considered not the deadness of Sarah s

womb" (Romans 4:19).


18  And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!”

Not implying that Abram was content with Hagar's child as the promised seed

without waiting for Sarai s son (Jerome, Calvin, Kalisch); scarcely that he feared

lest God might remove Ishmael by death now that Isaac had been promised

(Wordsworth-); but probably that he desired that Ishmael might not only live

and prosper (Bush), but share with Sarah s son in the blessings of the covenant

(Keil, Longs, Rosenmüller, Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Inglis).


19  And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt

call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting

covenant, and with his seed after him.”  And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear

thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac. "Laughter," or "he laughs

(the third person future (yitsak) being frequently employed in personal designations;

compare Jacob, Jair, Jabin, etc.), with obvious reference to Abraham's laughter

(see v. 17).  Compare on naming before birth ch. 16:11. And I will establish my

covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.


20  And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and

will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes

shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.”  And as for Ishmael,

I have heard thee (meaning, also, "and will grant thy prayer; an allusion to the

significance of the name Ishmael, "God hears"): Behold, I have blessed him,

and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes

shall he beget (see ch. 25:12-16), and I will make him a great nation.


21But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto

thee at this set time in the next year (compare ch. 21:2).  22  And He (i.e. God)

left off talking with him (Abraham), and God went up - into heaven (see ch. 35:13) –

from Abraham.”


23  And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house,

and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of

Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the

selfsame day, as God had said unto him.”  Literally, in the bone of that day,

an expression occurring in ch. 7:13, which is commonly regarded as Jehovistic,

while this is Elohistic; though Quarry suggests that the ensuing section should

commence with this verse, in which case the present paragraph would also be

Jehovistic, and the appearance of unnecessary repetition in its statements avoided

by viewing them as the customary recapitulations that mark the opening of a new

division of the history (see Genesis, p. 440); against which, however, is the name

of God which continues to be here employed. As God (Elohim) had said unto him.


(In the phrase, 'In bone the day the this', the word 'bone' tightly binds 'the day' to

the phrase 'the this', an Hebraic way of saying that this is occuring on that same day.

It is bound to that very day, not some other. [Ancient Hebrew Forum])


24 “And Abraham was ninety years old and nine (literally, a son of ninety years and

nine - compare ch. 7:6), when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.”


25  And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old (the same form of expression

as above),, when he was circumcised in  the flesh of his foreskin.”  Hence among

the Arabs the ceremony is usually delayed till the thirteenth year (cf. Josephus,

'Ant.,' 1:13).


26 “In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.

27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money

of the stranger, were circumcised with him.” The usual charges of needless

repetition which are preferred against the closing verses of this chapter may be

disposed of by observing that v. 23 intimates that the sacrament of circumcision

was administered to the patriarch and his household on the very day that God

had enjoined it, i.e. without delay; that vs. 24-25 declare the respective ages of

Abraham and Ishmael when they received the Divinely-appointed rite; and that

vs. 26-27 state the fact that the entire household of the patriarch was circumcised

simultaneously with himself.



The Covenant Completed (vs. 15-27)




Ø      The changed name. As on entering within the covenant the name of

Abram was changed to Abraham, so, to signalize the reception of his

spouse, Sarai was transformed into Sarah (see Exposition), the

transformation having in her case the same significance as it had in

Abraham’s. In particular it proclaimed that, like Abraham, Sarah was now

a justified and regenerated believer in the Divine promise. There is

only one gate of entrance to Christ’s Church, viz., faith or conversion.


Ø      The guaranteed blessing. What is here affirmed of Sarai is that she

should not only be received into the Church, but made a sharer of

Abraham’s blessing, i.e. become entitled to all the gracious provisions of

the covenant. The blessing of Abraham belongs to all who are possessed of

Abraham’s faith. Christ’s salvation is the common property of believers.

And to all it is certain, as it was to Sarai. The “yea” concerning Sarai has

now become for Christ’s people “yea and amen.”


Ø      The promised son. This was the first intimation that Sarai was to be the

mother of the seed. The Eternal never hastens. God’s disclosures of His

own plans are ever slow, gradual, progressive, and mostly regulated by the

faith of the recipients. When the fullness of the time arrives He is able to be

minute, explicit, emphatic, as he was in intimating Isaac’s birth:


o       by the time — a year hence, and

o       by the name — Isaac.


Ø      The rejoicing husband. The laugh of gladness which escaped the

patriarch, though partly owing to the reiterated promise of a son, was

chiefly due to the announcement that Sarah was to be its mother. It was the

joy of a husband in the happiness of a beloved wife, long tried, but at

length about to be rewarded; it was also the joy of a believing husband in

the well-founded assurance of his wife’s interest in the covenant of grace.




Ø      The prayer of Abraham:


o        Reveals a note of sorrow. The displacement of Hagar’s child by the son

of Sarah, though for Sarah’s sake thrilling him with joy, appears to have

raised a tender sympathy in his breast for the disappointment which was to

fall upon the lad and his mother. For years he had himself no other thought

than that Ishmael might be the seed, and now he cannot put aside the

cherished hope without regret. Let fathers learn that though it is beautiful

to feel for children’s griefs, it is dangerous to construct plans for children’s



o        Breathes an earnest spirit. Deeply concerned for the welfare of his son,

Abraham was also filled with longing that God would listen to his prayer.

If there is anything about which a parent’s heart should be sincerely

passionate, it is the happiness and prosperity of his offspring; and if there

is one season more than another in which a parent’s heart should be

possessed by strong emotion, it is when pleading for his children at a

throne of grace.


o        Craves a heavenly blessing. Though Ishmael was to be denied the

honor of serving as a medium for the transmission of the blessings of the

covenant to future ages, his father supplicated for him a personal

participation in those blessings. The chief ambition of a parent should be

the conversion and spiritual advancement of his children (III John 1:4).


Ø      The answer of God:


o        Assures the praying father of acceptance. Ishmael, though not

admitted to the succession of the holy seed, should not be excluded from

the gifts of grace. If Hagar’s child, though born of the flesh, should become

possessed of faith, he too would share in the spiritual benediction of the

covenant. Let parents be encouraged to pray for their children.


o        Promises great temporal prosperity to the son. Abraham had sought

spiritual life for Ishmael; God bestowed m addition temporal renown. So

God did with Solomon (I Kings 3:11), and still does with saints

(Ephesians 3:20).


·         THE ACQUIESCENCE OF ABRAHAM. This was signified by the

patriarch’s observance of the rite of circumcision, in regard to which his

obedience was:


Ø      Immediate. There was no delay, no reluctance, no considering the

question, but instantaneous compliance with the Divine directions. On

the self-same day as God explained to him the provisions and conditions

of the covenant, he declared his consent before God by the acceptance

of the suggested sign. His behavior in this respect should be taken as a

model by believers.


Ø      Cheerful. The rite of circumcision was of course attended with pain and

something approaching to personal humiliation, and yet self-abasement

and suffering were joyously assented to in view of the coming gift of the

covenant. So should Christians delightedly accept tribulation and any sort

of bodily indignity that God may impose, considering them as nothing in

comparison with the eternal weight of glory.


Ø      Thorough-going. Prompt as to its time, willing in its spirit, the

obedience of Abraham was also minute in its performance. The appointed

ordinance was administered to himself, his son Ishmael, and every male

domestic in his house, as God had said unto him. So God’s people are

required to observe all things written in the book of the covenant!





The determination of this question does not appear of paramount importance, yet

the ascertained results may be briefly indicated.


(1) According to Herodotus (2. 104) circumcision was observed as a custom

of primitive antiquity among the Colchians, Ethiopians, and Egyptians, by the

last of whom it was communicated to the Syrians of Palestine and the Phoenicians.

It is, however, uncertain whether among the Egyptians the practice was universal,

as Philo and Herodotus assert, or limited to the priesthood, as Origen believed; and

equally doubtful whether the Egyptians themselves may not have adopted it from the

Hebrews in the time of Joseph, instead of from the Ethiopians, as appears to be the

judgment of Kalisch. Against the idea that circumcision was a national and universal

observance among the Egyptians in the time of Abraham, it has been urged that the

male servants of the patriarch, some of whom were Egyptians (ch. 12:16), were not

circumcised till Abraham was commanded to perform the rite; that Ishmael, the son

of an Egyptian mother, remained uncircumcised till the same time; and that the

daughter of Pharaoh recognized Moses as a Hebrew child, which, it is supposed,

she could not have done had circumcision been generally practiced among her own

people. On the other hand, it is contended that the absence of details as to how the

rite should be performed seems to imply that already circumcision was familiar to

Abraham; and by some modern Egyptologists it is asserted that an examination of

ancient mummies and sculptures, in which circumcision is a distinctive mark

between the Egyptians and their enemies, shows that the ceremony must have

been in use not among the priests only, but throughout the nation generally so

early as the time of the fourth dynasty, i.e. , or considerably earlier than the

time of Abraham. Still:


(2) though it should be held as indubitably established that circumcision was a

prevalent custom among the Egyptians in the time of Abraham, it would not

follow that the Hebrews adopted it from them. On the contrary, the Biblical

narrative expressly mentions that its observance by the patriarch and his household

was due to a Divine command, and was connected with a religious significance

which was altogether foreign to the Egyptians and others by whom that rite was

practiced. Among the reasons for its adoption by the heathen nations of antiquity

have been assigned, among the Ethiopians, a prophylactic design to ward off

certain painful, and often incurable, disorders; among the Egyptians, a regard to

cleanliness; and perhaps among the priesthood of the latter country a semi-religious

idea (the deification of the generative powers) was associated with a practice which

was commonly regarded as enhancing productivity; but the import of the ceremony

as enjoined upon the father of the faithful was as widely as possible removed from

every one of these ideas, being connected with spiritual conceptions of which the

heathen world was entirely ignorant.




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