Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
Ge 17:1-27. Renewal of the Covenant.
1. Abram … ninety years old and nine—thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael [Ge 16:16]. During that interval he had enjoyed the comforts of communion with God but had been favored with no special revelation as formerly, probably on account of his hasty and blameable marriage with Hagar.
the Lord appeared—some visible manifestation of the divine presence, probably the Shekinah or radiant glory of overpowering effulgence.
I am the Almighty God—the name by which He made Himself known to the patriarchs (Ex 6:3), designed to convey the sense of "all-sufficient" (Ps 16:5, 6; 73:25).
walk … and … perfect—upright, or sincere (Ps 51:6) in heart, speech, and behavior.
And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
3. Abram fell on his face—the attitude of profoundest reverence assumed by Eastern people. It consists in the prostrate body resting on the hands and knees, with the face bent till the forehead touches the ground. It is an expression of conscious humility and profound reverence.
As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
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.
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.
5. but thy name shall be Abraham—In Eastern countries a change of name is an advertisement of some new circumstance in the history, rank, or religion of the individual who bears it. The change is made variously, by the old name being entirely dropped for the new, or by conjoining the new with the old; or sometimes only a few letters are inserted, so that the altered form may express the difference in the owner's state or prospects. It is surprising how soon a new name is known and its import spread through the country. In dealing with Abraham and Sarai, God was pleased to adapt His procedure to the ideas and customs of the country and age. Instead of Abram, "a high father," he was to be called Abraham, "father of a multitude of nations" (see Re 2:17).
And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
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 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.
8. I will give unto thee … the land—It had been previously promised to Abraham and his posterity (Ge 15:18). Here it is promised as an "everlasting possession," and was, therefore, a type of heaven, "the better country" (Heb 11:16).
And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
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.
10. Every man child among you shall be circumcised—This was the sign in the Old Testament Church as baptism is in the New, and hence the covenant is called "covenant of circumcision" (Ac 7:8; Ro 4:11). The terms of the covenant were these: on the one hand Abraham and his seed were to observe the right of circumcision; and on the other, God promised, in the event of such observance, to give them Canaan for a perpetual possession, to be a God to him and his posterity, and that in him and his seed all nations should be blessed.
And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
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.
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.
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 God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
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.
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.
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?
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).
And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
18. O that Ishmael might live before thee—natural solicitude of a parent. But God's thoughts are not as man's thoughts [Isa 55:8].
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.
19, 20. The blessings of the covenant are reserved for Isaac, but common blessings were abundantly promised to Ishmael; and though the visible Church did not descend from his family, yet personally he might, and it is to be hoped did, enjoy its benefits.
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.
But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
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.
And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.