Genesis 17:4
As for me, behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall 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. In the angel, Hagar recognised God manifesting Himself to her, the presence of Jehovah, and called Him, "Thou art a God of seeing; for she said, Have I also seen here after seeing?" Believing that a man must die if he saw God (Exodus 20:19; Exodus 33:20), Hagar was astonished that she had seen God and remained alive, and called Jehovah, who had spoken to her, "God of seeing," i.e., who allows Himself to be seen, because here, on the spot where this sight was granted her, after seeing she still saw, i.e., remained alive. From this occurrence the well received the name of "well of the seeing alive," i.e., at which a man saw God and remained alive. Beer-lahai-roi: according to Ewald, ראי חי is to be regarded as a composite noun, and ל as a sign of the genitive; but this explanation, in which ראי is treated as a pausal form of ראי, does not suit the form ראי with the accent upon the last syllable, which points rather to the participle ראה with the first pers. suffix. On this ground Delitzsch and others have decided in favour of the interpretation given in the Chaldee version, "Thou art a God of seeing, i.e., the all-seeing, from whose all-seeing eye the helpless and forsaken is not hidden even in the farthest corner of the desert." "Have I not even here (in the barren land of solitude) looked after Him, who saw me?" and Beer-lahai-roi, "the well of the Living One who sees me, i.e., of the omnipresent Providence." But still greater difficulties lie in the way of this view. It not only overthrows the close connection between this and the similar passages Genesis 32:31; Exodus 33:20; Judges 13:22, where the sight of God excites a fear of death, but it renders the name, which the well received from this appearance of God, an inexplicable riddle. If Hagar called the God who appeared to her ראי אל because she looked after Him whom she saw, i.e., as we must necessarily understand the word, saw not His face, but only His back; how could it ever occur to her or to any one else, to call the well Beer-lahai-roi, "well of the Living One, who sees me," instead of Beer-el-roi? Moreover, what completely overthrows this explanation, is the fact that neither in Genesis nor anywhere in the Pentateuch is God called "the Living One;" and throughout the Old Testament it is only in contrast with the dead gods of idols of the heathen, a contrast never thought of here, that the expressions חי אלהים and חי אל occur, whilst החי is never used in the Old Testament as a name of God. For these reasons we must abide by the first explanation, and change the reading ראי into ראי.

(Note: The objections to this change in the accentuation are entirely counterbalanced by the grammatical difficulty connected with the second explanation. If, for example, ראי is a participle with the 1st pers. suff., it should be written ראני (Isaiah 29:15) or ראני (Isaiah 47:10). ראי cannot mean, "who sees me," but "my seer," an expression utterly inapplicable to God, which cannot be supported by a reference to Job 7:8, for the accentuation varies there; and the derivation of ראי from ראי "eye of the seeing," for the eye which looks after me, is apparently fully warranted by the analogous expression לדה אשׁת in Jeremiah 13:21.)

With regard to the well, it is still further added that it was between Kadesh (Genesis 14:7) and Bered. Though Bered has not been discovered, Rowland believes, with good reason, that he has found the well of Hagar, which is mentioned again in Genesis 24:62; Genesis 25:11, in the spring Ain Kades, to the south of Beersheba, at the leading place of encampment of the caravans passing from Syria to Sinai, viz., Moyle, or Moilahi, or Muweilih (Robinson, Pal. i. p. 280), which the Arabs call Moilahi Hagar, and in the neighbourhood of which they point out a rock Beit Hagar. Bered must lie to the west of this.

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