Genesis 17:17
Then Abraham fell on his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born to him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Abraham . . . laughed.—The Jewish interpreters regard Abraham’s laugh as one of joy, and Sarah’s (Genesis 18:12) as one of unbelief. We may, however, well doubt whether there really was this difference between them; but our Lord confirms the View that joy was uppermost in Abraham’s heart (John 8:56). Still with belief there was surprise, and the feeling that what was promised was so strange as to be well-nigh incredible. One who was ready to sacrifice his only son at God’s word (Hebrews 11:19) would not be staggered by this strangeness, and yet the thought of Sarah’s bearing a child at the age of ninety might easily present itself to his mind in a ludicrous aspect. As for Sarah, there is no proof that at the time when she laughed she knew or even suspected that the three travellers were more than men. She overheard their conversation, and laughed, imagining perhaps that they did not know how old she was. Really, the idea brought out by this double laughter is that Isaac’s birth was contrary to nature.

Genesis 17:17. Then Abraham fell on his face, and 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; (John 8:56;) for as he saw heaven in the promise of Canaan, so he saw Christ in the promise of Isaac, and said, Shall a child be born to him that is a hundred years old? — He doth not here speak of it as at all doubtful, for we are sure he staggered not at the promise, (Romans 4:20,) but as wonderful, and that which could not be effected but by the almighty power of God.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.17. Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed—It was not the sneer of unbelief, but a smile of delight at the improbability of the event (Ro 4:20). He

laughed, through admiration and holy rejoicing at so great a blessing, not through unbelief, as Sarah did, Genesis 18:12,13, as appears from Romans 4:19,20. And though the outward act was the same in both, yet God discerned their differing dispositions and intentions therein. Then Abraham fell upon his face,.... In reverence of the divine Being, and as amazed at what was told him:

and laughed; not through distrust and diffidence of the promise, as Sarah did, for he staggered not at that through unbelief, but for joy at such good news; and so Onkelos renders it, "and he rejoiced", with the joy of faith; it may be our Lord refers to this in John 8:56; he saw Christ in the promise of Isaac, and rejoiced that he should spring from his seed: the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem paraphrase it, "and he wondered"; he was amazed at the grace of God that gave him such a promise, and he was astonished at the power of God that must be exerted in the fulfilment of it: and therefore it follows:

and said in his heart; within himself, without expressing anything as to be heard and understood by any creature; but the omniscient God knew what he said, and the language of it, whether of unbelief or not:

shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? not that he was now a full an hundred years old, he was ninety nine, and going in his hundredth year; but then he would be, as he was, an hundred years old when this child was born to him, Genesis 21:5. It had been no unusual thing for a child to be born to a man when an hundred, and even many hundred years old, but it was so in Abraham's time; though indeed after this we read that Abraham himself had six sons by Keturah, when, his natural strength was afresh invigorated, and his youth was renewed like the eagle's; and besides Abraham said this, not so much with respect to himself, though his age was a circumstance that served to heighten the wonder, as with respect to Sarah, and the circumstances in which she was, who was to bear this son to him:

and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? and with whom it had ceased to be after the manner of women, which made it more difficult of belief how it could be. Some think that Abraham said this, as somewhat doubting of it, until he was more strongly assured by the Lord that so it would be indeed, as is expressed in Genesis 17:19; but meeting with no reproof for what he said and did, as Sarah, it seems to show the contrary.

Then Abraham fell upon his face, and {f} 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?

(f) Which proceeded from a sudden joy, and not from lack of faith.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. fell upon his face] See Genesis 17:3.

laughed] The incredulous laughter of Abraham here, according to P, should be compared with that of Sarah, in Genesis 18:12, according to J, as a play upon the name “Isaac” and its meaning of “laughter.”

Along with the incredulity must be reckoned the joy of the assurance that the promise of a son should be fulfilled. The joy of that hope, and of its significance to the whole world, is the subject of the allusion in, John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.”

ninety years old] The age of Sarah, nine years younger (cf. Genesis 17:24) than Abraham.Verse 17. - Then Abraham fell upon his face (vide Ver. 3), and laughed. וַיּצְחָק from צָחַק, to laugh. Cf. καχάζω καγχάζω, cachin-nor, German, kichern; καὶ ἀγέλασε (LXX.); 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 Genesis 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; cf. Luke 24:41). And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? Yes. What reason declared impossible was possible to faith. "He considered not the deadness of Sarah s womb" (Romans 4:19). On the part of Abraham (ואתּה thou, the antithesis to אני, as for me, Genesis 17:4) God required that he and his descendants in all generations should keep the covenant, and that as a sign he should circumcise himself and every male in his house. המּול Niph. of מוּל, and נמלתּם perf. Niph. for נמלּתם, from מלל equals מוּל. As the sign of the covenant, circumcision is called in Genesis 17:13, "the covenant in the flesh," so far as the nature of the covenant was manifested in the flesh. It was to be extended not only to the seed, the lineal descendants of Abraham, but to all the males in his house, even to every foreign slave not belonging to the seed of Abram, whether born in the house or acquired (i.e., bought) with money, and to the "son of eight days," i.e., the male child eight days old; with the threat that the uncircumcised should be exterminated from his people, because by neglecting circumcision he had broken the covenant with God. The form of speech ההיא הנּפשׁ נכרתה, by which many of the laws are enforced (cf. Exodus 12:15, Exodus 12:19; Leviticus 7:20-21, Leviticus 7:25, etc.), denotes not rejection from the nation, or banishment, but death, whether by a direct judgment from God, an untimely death at the hand of God, or by the punishment of death inflicted by the congregation or the magistrates, and that whether יוּמת מות is added, as in Exodus 31:14, etc., or not. This is very evident from Leviticus 17:9-10, where the extermination to be effected by the authorities is distinguished from that to be executed by God Himself (see my biblische Archologie ii. 153, 1). In this sense we sometimes find, in the place of the earlier expression "from his people," i.e., his nation, such expressions as "from among his people" (Leviticus 17:4, Leviticus 17:10; Numbers 15:30), "from Israel" (Exodus 12:15; Numbers 19:13), "from the congregation of Israel" (Exodus 12:19); and instead of "that soul," in Leviticus 17:4, Leviticus 17:9 (cf. Exodus 30:33, Exodus 30:38), we find "that man."
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