Genesis 17:16
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) A son . . . of her.—This is the first place where it was definitely promised that Abram’s heir should be Sarah’s own son. This must be remembered in estimating the conduct of Abram and Sarah in the matter of Hagar. They had long waited, and hoped, before taking measures of their own for the fulfilment of the promise. The rest of the verse should be translated, “she shall become (grow into) nations: kings of peoples shall become of her, that is, “shall spring from her.”

17:15-22 Here is the promise made to Abraham of a son by Sarai, in whom the promise made to him should be fulfilled. The assurance of this promise was the change of Sarai's name into Sarah. Sarai signifies my princess, as if her honour were confined to one family only; Sarah signifies a princess. The more favours God confers upon us, the more low we should be in our own eyes. Abraham showed great joy; he laughed, it was a laughter of delight, not of distrust. Now it was that Abraham rejoiced to see Christ's day; now he saw it and was glad, Joh 8:56. Abraham, dreading lest Ishmael should be abandoned and forsaken of God, put up a petition on his behalf. God gives us leave in prayer to be particular in making known our requests. Whatever is our care and fear, should be spread before God in prayer. It is the duty of parents to pray for their children, and the great thing we should desire is, that they may be kept in covenant with Him, and may have grace to walk before him in uprightness. Common blessings are secured to Ishmael. Outward good things are often given to those children of godly parents who are born after the flesh, for their parents' sake. Covenant blessings are reserved for Isaac, and appropriated to him.On the journey, Rachel dies at the birth of her second son. "A stretch." It was probably a few furlongs. "Fear not." The cause for encouragement was that the child was born, and that it was a son. Rachel's desire and hope expressed at the birth of Joseph were therefore, fulfilled Genesis 30:24. "When her soul was departing." This phrase expresses not annihilation, but merely change of place. It presupposes the perpetual existence of the soul. "Ben-oni," son of my pain, is the natural expression of the departing Rachel. "Benjamin." The right hand is the seat of power. The son of the right hand is therefore, the child of power. He gave power to his father, as he was his twelfth son, and so completed the number of the holy family. "Ephrath and Beth-lehem" are names the origin of which is not recorded. "The pillar of Rachel's grave." Jacob loves the monumental stone. "Unto this day." This might have been written ten or twenty years after the event, and therefore, before Jacob left Kenaan (see on Genesis 19:37). The grave of Rachel was well known in the time of Samuel 1 Samuel 10:2, and the Kubbet Rahil, dome or tomb of Rachel, stands perhaps on the identical spot, about an English mile north of Bethlehem.15, 16. As for Sarai … I will … give thee a son also of her—God's purposes are gradually made known. A son had been long ago promised to Abraham. Now, at length, for the first time he is informed that it was to be a child of Sarai. No text from Poole on this verse.

And I will bless her,.... The Targum of Jonathan adds, "in her body", with fruitfulness, who before was barren, and in her soul with spiritual blessings, and in both with the blessing of eternal life:

and give thee a son also of her; as he had given him one of Hagar: God had before promised Abraham a son that should be his heir, but he had not till now told him that he should be born of Sarah his wife:

yea, I will bless her; which is repeated for the confirmation of it, and for the greater strengthening Abraham's faith in it:

and she shall be a mother of nations; of the twelve tribes of Israel; of the two nations of Israel and Judah:

kings of people shall be of her; as David, Solomon, and others, and especially the King Messiah.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. nations … kings of peoples] See note on Genesis 17:6.

Verse 16. - 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 (cf. Ver. 4) - kings of people shall be of her. Genesis 17:16The appointment of the sign of the covenant was followed by this further revelation as to the promised seed, that Abram would receive it through his wife Sarai. In confirmation of this her exalted destiny, she was no longer to be called Sarai (שׂרי, probably from שׂרר with the termination ai, the princely), but שׂרה, the princess; for she was to become nations, the mother of kings of nations. Abraham then fell upon his face and laughed, saying in himself (i.e., thinking), "Shall a child be born to him that is a hundred years old, or shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?" "The promise was so immensely great, that he sank in adoration to the ground, and so immensely paradoxical, that he could not help laughing" (Del.). "Not that he either ridiculed the promise of God, or treated it as a fable, or rejected it altogether; but, as often happens when things occur which are least expected, partly lifted up with joy, partly carried out of himself with wonder, he burst out into laughter" (Calvin). In this joyous amazement he said to God (Genesis 17:18), "O that Ishmael might live before Thee!" To regard these words, with Calvin and others, as intimating that he should be satisfied with the prosperity of Ishmael, as though he durst not hope for anything higher, is hardly sufficient. The prayer implies anxiety, lest Ishmael should have no part in the blessings of the covenant. God answers, "Yes (אבל imo), Sarah thy wife bears thee a son, and thou wilt call his name Isaac (according to the Greek form Ἰσαάκ, for the Hebrew יצחק, i.e., laughter, with reference to Abraham's laughing; Genesis 17:17, cf. Genesis 21:6), and I will establish My covenant with him," i.e., make him the recipient of the covenant grace. And the prayer for Ishmael God would also grant: He would make him very fruitful, so that he should beget twelve princes and become a great nation. But the covenant, God repeated (Genesis 17:21), should be established with Isaac, whom Sarah was to bear to him at that very time in the following year. - Since Ishmael therefore was excluded from participating in the covenant grace, which was ensured to Isaac alone; and yet Abraham was to become a multitude of nations, and that through Sarah, who was to become "nations" through the son she was to bear (Genesis 17:16); the "multitude of nations" could not include either the Ishmaelites or the tribes descended from the sons of Keturah (Genesis 25:2.), but the descendants of Isaac alone; and as one of Isaac's two sons received no part of the covenant promise, the descendants of Jacob alone. But the whole of the twelve sons of Jacob founded only the one nation of Israel, with which Jehovah established the covenant made with Abraham (Exodus 6 and 20-24), so that Abraham became through Israel the lineal father of one nation only. From this it necessarily follows, that the posterity of Abraham, which was to expand into a multitude of nations, extends beyond this one lineal posterity, and embraces the spiritual posterity also, i.e., all nations who are grafted ἐκ πίστεως Ἀβραάμ into the seed of Abraham (Romans 4:11-12, and Romans 4:16, Romans 4:17). Moreover, the fact that the seed of Abraham was not to be restricted to his lineal descendants, is evident from the fact, that circumcision as the covenant sign was not confined to them, but extended to all the inmates of his house, so that these strangers were received into the fellowship of the covenant, and reckoned as part of the promised seed. Now, if the whole land of Canaan was promised to this posterity, which was to increase into a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:8), it is perfectly evident, from what has just been said, that the sum and substance of the promise was not exhausted by the gift of the land, whose boundaries are described in Genesis 15:18-21, as a possession to the nation of Israel, but that the extension of the idea of the lineal posterity, "Israel after the flesh," to the spiritual posterity, "Israel after the spirit," requires the expansion of the idea and extent of the earthly Canaan to the full extent of the spiritual Canaan, whose boundaries reach as widely as the multitude of nations having Abraham as father; and, therefore, that in reality Abraham received the promise "that he should be the heir of the world" (Romans 4:13).

(Note: What stands out clearly in this promise-viz., the fact that the expressions "seed of Abraham" (people of Israel) and "land of Canaan" are not exhausted in the physical Israel and earthly Canaan, but are to be understood spiritually, Israel and Canaan acquiring the typical significance of the people of God and land of the Lord - is still further expanded by the prophets, and most distinctly expressed in the New Testament by Christ and the apostles. This scriptural and spiritual interpretation of the Old Testament is entirely overlooked by those who, like Auberlen, restrict all the promises of God and the prophetic proclamations of salvation to the physical Israel, and reduce the application of them to the "Israel after the spirit," i.e., to believing Christendom, to a mere accommodation.)

And what is true of the seed of Abraham and the land of Canaan must also hold good of the covenant and the covenant sign. Eternal duration was promised only to the covenant established by God with the seed of Abraham, which was to grow into a multitude of nations, but not to the covenant institution which God established in connection with the lineal posterity of Abraham, the twelve tribes of Israel. Everything in this institution which was of a local and limited character, and only befitted the physical Israel and the earthly Canaan, existed only so long as was necessary for the seed of Abraham to expand into a multitude of nations. So again it was only in its essence that circumcision could be a sign of the eternal covenant. Circumcision, whether it passed from Abraham to other nations, or sprang up among other nations independently of Abraham and his descendants (see my Archologie, 63, 1), was based upon the religious view, that the sin and moral impurity which the fall of Adam had introduced into the nature of man had concentrated itself in the sexual organs, because it is in sexual life that it generally manifests itself with peculiar force; and, consequently, that for the sanctification of life, a purification or sanctification of the organ of generation, by which life is propagated, is especially required. In this way circumcision in the flesh became a symbol of the circumcision, i.e., the purification, of the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6, cf. Leviticus 26:41; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 9:25; Ezekiel 44:7), and a covenant sign to those who received it, inasmuch as they were received into the fellowship of the holy nation (Exodus 19:6), and required to sanctify their lives, in other words, to fulfil all that the covenant demanded. It was to be performed on every boy on the eighth day after its birth, not because the child, like its mother, remains so long in a state of impurity, but because, as the analogous rule with regard to the fitness of young animals for sacrifice would lead us to conclude, this was regarded as the first day of independent existence (Leviticus 22:27; Exodus 22:29; see my Archologie, 63).

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