Genesis 17:4
As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
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(4) Of many nations.—This is a feeble rendering of a remarkable phrase. Literally the word signifies a confused noise like the din of a populous city. Abram is to be the father of a thronging crowd of nations. And so in Genesis 17:5.

Genesis 17:4. The promise is here introduced with solemnity: As for me, saith the great God, behold — Admire, and be assured of it; my covenant is with thee; and thou shalt be a father of many nations — This implies, 1st, That his seed after the flesh should be very numerous, both in Isaac and in Ishmael, and in the sons of Keturah. And the event answered; for there have been, and are, more of the children of men descended from Abraham, than from any one man at an equal distance with him from Noah, the common root. 2d, That all believers in every age should be looked upon as his spiritual seed. In this sense the apostle directs us to understand this promise, Romans 4:16. He is the father of the faithful, of those, in every nation, that, by faith, enter into covenant with God, and (as the Jewish writers express it) are gathered under the wings of the Divine Majesty.

17:1-6 The covenant was to be accomplished in due time. The promised Seed was Christ, and Christians in him. And all who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abram, being partakers of the same covenant blessings. In token of this covenant his name was changed from Abram, a high father, to Abraham, the father of a multitude. All that the Christian world enjoys, it is indebted for to Abraham and his Seed.As for me. - The one party to the covenant is here made prominent, as in Genesis 17:9 the other party is brought out with like emphasis. The exalted Being who has entered into it imparts a grandeur, solemnity, and excellence to the covenant. "Father of many nations." The promise of seed is here expanded and particularized. A multitude of nations and kings are to trace their descent from Abram. This is true in a literal sense. The twelve tribes of Israel and many Arab tribes, the twelve princes of Ishmael, Keturah's descendants, and the dukes of Edom sprang from him. But it is to be more magnificently realized in a spiritual sense. "Nations" is a term usually applied, not to the chosen people, but to the other great branches of the human race. This points to the original promise, that in him should all the families of the earth be blessed. "Abraham." The father of many nations is to be called by a new name, as he has come to have a new nature, and been elevated to a new dignity. The high father has become the father of the multitude of the faithful.4. my covenant is with thee—Renewed mention is made of it as the foundation of the communication that follows. It is the covenant of grace made with all who believe in the Saviour. Both literally, or after the flesh, of the Israelites, Ishmaelites, Edomites, &c., and spiritually, of all believers of all nations, to whom Abram hath in some sort the place of a father, Romans 4:12,17. Not only as he was the great example and teacher of that faith by which they are all saved, (as the instructors of others are called their fathers, both in Scripture, as Genesis 4:20,21, and in profane authors,) but as he was made by God the head of the covenant, by or through whom the covenant right was conveyed to all his natural seed, and afterwards to the spiritual seed, all Gentile believers.

As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee,.... Who was gracious to make it, faithful to keep it, and immutable in it, though Abram was but a man, and sinful:

and thou shalt be a father of many nations: as he was of many Arabian nations, and of the Turks in the line of Ishmael; and of the Midianites, and others, in the line of his sons by Keturah; and of the Israelites in the line of Isaac, as well as of the Edomites in the line of Esau; and in a spiritual sense the father of all that believe, in all the nations of the world, circumcised or uncircumcised, as the apostle explains it, Romans 4:11.

As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a {a} father of many nations.

(a) Not only physical descendants, but of a far greater multitude by faith, Ro 4:17.

4. father of a multitude of nations] “Multitude,” hamôn = “tumult.” LXX πολλῶν ἐθνῶν.

Verse 4. - As for me. Literally, I, standing alone at the beginning of the sentence by way of emphasis (cf. 2 Kings 10:29; Psalm 11:4; Psalm 46:5; wide 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 (cf. Genesis 2:7), or grow to (cf. Genesis 9:15) - a father of many (or of a multitude of) nations. Genesis 17:4On the part of God אני placed at the beginning absolutely: so far as I am concerned, for my part) it was to consist of this: (1) that God would make Abram the father (אב instead of אני chosen with reference to the name Abram) of a multitude of nations, the ancestor of nations and kings; (2) that He would be God, show Himself to be God, in an eternal covenant relation, to him and to his posterity, according to their families, according to all their successive generations; and (3) that He would give them the land in which he had wandered as a foreigner, viz., all Canaan, for an everlasting possession. As a pledge of this promise God changed his name אברם, i.e., high father, into אברהם, i.e., father of the multitude, from אב and רהם, Arab. ruhâm equals multitude. In this name God gave him a tangible pledge of the fulfilment of His covenant, inasmuch as a name which God gives cannot be a mere empty sound, but must be the expression of something real, or eventually acquire reality.
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