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.
Verse 1. - And when Abram was ninety years old and nine - consequently an interval of thirteen years had elapsed since the birth of Ishmael; the long delay on the part of God being probably designed as chastisement for Abram's second nuptials (Calvin), and at least corresponding with Abram's undue haste (Lange) - the Lord appeared to Abram - lest he should regard Ishmael's birth as a complete fulfillment of the promise (Menochius), and be satisfied with Hagar's child as the expected seed (Calvin) - and said to him, I am the Almighty God - El Shaddai, found six times in Genesis and thirty-one times in Job, composed of El, God, and Shaddai; not a nomen compositum (from שֶׁ = אֲשֶׁר and דַּי) signifying qui sufficiens est (Aquinas, Symmachus, Theodoret, Saadias, Maimonides, Calvin), but either a pluralis excellentiae., from the singular שַׁר, powerful - root ךשׁדַד, to be strong (Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Wordsworth), or a singular from the same root with the substantive termination יַ, as in הַגַּי, the festal, יְשִׁישַׁי, the old man, סִינַי, the thorn-grown (Keil, Oehler, Lange); descriptive of God as revealing himself violently in his might, hence correctly rendered παντοκράτωρ by the LXX. in Job (Oehler); distinguishing Jehovah, the God of salvation, from Elohim, the God who creates nature so that it is and supports it that it may stand, as "the God who compels nature to do what is contrary to itself, and subdues it to bow and minister to grace" (Delitzsch); characterizing Jehovah the covenant God, "as possessing the power to realize his promises, even when the order of nature presented no prospect of their fulfillment, and the powers of nature were insufficient to secure it" (Keil); perhaps, like Elohim and Adonai, one of the world-wide titles of the Most High since it was known to Balaam (Numbers 24:4, 16), and is constantly used in Job ('Speaker's Commentary'). Said in Exodus 6:2, 3 to have been the name by which God was known to the patriarchs, it is regarded by the partitionists as characteristic of the Elohist (Tuch, Blcek, Colenso, Davidson, Ewald), and accordingly to that writer the present chapter is assigned, and the Jehovah of this verse expiated as an alteration of the original Elohist's narrative; but the πρῶτον ψεῦδος of this criticism lurks in the identification of El-Shaddai with Elohim, whereas it is not Elohim, but Jehovah, who reveals himself as E1 Shaddai not alone in the Pentateuch, but in the historical and prophetical books as well (cf. Ruth 1:20, 21; vide Keil's Introduction, pt. § 2; div. 1. § 25). Walk before me. Literally, set thyself to walk, as inch. 13:17, in my presence, as if conscious of my inspection and solicitous of my approval; not behind me, as if sensible of shortcomings, and desirous to elude observation. The phrase intimates a less exalted piety than the corresponding phrase used of Enoch (5. 24) and Noah (Genesis 6:9). And be thou perfect. Tamim, ἄμεμπτοις (LXX.), used of Noah in Genesis 6:9, and rendered τέλειος (LXX.), while perhaps retrospectively glancing at Abram's sin in marrying Hagar, indicates that absolute standard of moral attainment, viz., completeness of being in respect of purity, which the supreme Lawgiver sets before his intelligent creatures (cf. Matthew 5:8).
And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
Verse 2. - And I will make my covenant between me and thee. Literally, I will give (cf. Genesis 9:9, 11, 12). Neither an additional covenant to that described in Genesis 15. (Rosenmüller), nor a different traditional account of the transaction contained in Genesis 15. (Tuch, Bleek), nor the original Elohistic narrative of which that in Genesis 15. was a later imitation (Knobel); but an intimation that the covenant already concluded was about to be carried into execution, and the promise of a son to be more specifically determined as the offspring of Sarai (Keil). And will multiply thee exceedingly (vide Genesis 12:2; Genesis 13:16; Genesis 15:5).
And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
Verse 3. - And Abram fell on his face - in reverential awe and worship (vide Ver. 17; cf. Genesis 24:52; Numbers 16:22; Mark 14:35). Other attitudes of devotion are mentioned (1 Kings 8:54; Mark 4:25; 1 Timothy 2:8). And God - Elohim, the third name for the Deity within the compass of as many verses, thus indicating identity of being - talked with him, saying -
As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
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.
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.
Verse 5. - Neither shall thy name any mere be called Abram, - Abram, i.e. high father (vide Genesis 11:26); but Abraham - Abraham (in Arabic signifying a multitude); hence "the father of a multitude," as the next clause explains - for a father of many (or a multitude of) nations have I made thee.
And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
Verse 6. - And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, - a promise fulfilled in the Ishmaelites, the descendants of Keturah, the Edomites, and the Israelites - and kings (e.g. David and Solomon) 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.
Verse 7. - And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, - literally, for a covenant of eternity (vide Genesis 9:16) - to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. Literally, to be for Elohim; a formula comprehending all saving benefits; a clear indication of the spiritual character of the Abrahamic covenant (cf. Genesis 26:24; Genesis 28:13; Hebrews 11:16).
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.
Verse 8. - And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, - literally, of thy sojournings (Genesis 12:9; Acts 7:5; Hebrews 11:9) - all the land of Canaan (vide Genesis 10:19), - for an everlasting possession. Literally, for a possession of eternity; i.e. the earthly Canaan should be retained by them so long as the arrangement then instituted should continue, provided always they complied with the conditions of the covenant; and the heavenly Canaan should be the inheritance of Abraham's spiritual children forever (vide Genesis 9:16; Genesis 13:15). And I will be their God. Literally, to them for Elohim (vide supra).
And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
Verse 9. - And God said unto Abraham, Thou - literally, and thou, the other party to the covenant, the antithesis to I (ver. 4) - shalt keep my covenant - literally, my covenant thou shalt keep - 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.
Verse 10. - This is my covenant (i.e. the sign of it, as in Genesis 9:12), which ye shall keep (i.e. observe to. do), between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. Literally, circumcise among. (or of) you every male, the inf. abs. הִמּול, when it stands abruptly at the commencement of a sentence, having the force of a command (cf. Ewalds 'Hebrew Syntax,'§ 328; Gesenius, 'Grammar,' § 130).
And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
Verse 11. - And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin. עָרְלָה, ἀκροβυστία, membrum prveputiatum, from עָרַל, to be naked, bare, hence to be odious, unclean, impure, was regarded afterwards as unclean (Deuteronomy 10:16; Isaiah 52:3; Jeremiah 4:4), and is here directed to be deprived of the skin covering its extremity, not because through it sin first discovered its effects (Peele), and original corruption is still transmitted (Lapide, Augustine), or to promote cleanliness (Philo), or to express detestation of certain idolatrous rites which were paid to it by the Egyptians and other heathen nations (Lyra, Kalisch), but
(1) as a sign of the faith that Christ should be descended from him (Lapide);
(2) as a symbolic representation of the putting away of the filth of the flesh and of sin in general (Calvin). Hence it served a variety of uses:
(1) to distinguish the seed of Abraham from the Gentiles,
(2) to perpetuate the memory of Jehovah's covenant,
(3) to foster in the nation the hope of the Messiah,
(4) to remind them of the duty of cultivating moral purity (Deuteronomy 10:16),
(5) to preach to them the gospel of a righteousness by faith (Romans 4:11),
(6) to suggest the idea of a holy or a spiritual seed of Abram (Romans 2:29), and
(7) to foreshadow the Christian rite of baptism (Colossians 2:11, 12). And it shall be a token of the covenant - literally, for a token of covenant (cf. Genesis 9:12; Acts 7:8; Romans 4:11) - 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.
Verse 12. - And he that is eight days old - literally, and the son of eight days (cf. Genesis 17:1) - shall be circumcised among you (Leviticus 12:3; Luke 2:21; Philippians 3:5), every man child - "The fact that several times the circumcision of the males only is enjoined may point to the legislator's intention to exclude that rite in the other sex, though it was customary among many ancient nations, but not universal among the Egyptians" (Kalisch). Though not administered to both, the symbol was ordained for the sake of both sexes (Calvin) - in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. Not only a proof of the Divine benignity to Abraham in embracing all the members of his household within the pale of the visible Church now constituted, but likewise a hint of the world-wide aspect of the Abrahamic covenant, a first-fruits as it were of the "all the families of the earth" that should be blessed in Abram.
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.
Verse 13. - He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised. Literally, circumcised, must be circumcised, he that is born, &c., the niph. inf. abe. with the finite verb occupying the place of emphasis at the beginning of the sentence (vide Gesenius, 'Grammar,' § 131). 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.
Verse 14. - And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people. Ἐξολοθρευθήσεται ἐκ τοῦ γένους αὐτῆς (LXX.), i.e. shall be destroyed from amongst his nation, from among his people (Leviticus 17:4, 10; Numbers 15:30), from Israel (Exodus 12:15; Numbers 19:13), from the congregation of Israel (Exodus 12:19), by the infliction of death at the hands of the congregation, the civil magistrate, or of God (Abarbanel, Gesenius, Clericus, Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Keil, Wordsworth, Alford); or shall be excommunicated from the Church, and no longer reckoned among the people of God (Augustine, Vatablus, Piscator, Willet, Calvin, Knobel, Murphy, Kalisch, Inglis). That excision from one s people was in certain cases followed by the death penalty (Exodus 31:14; Leviticus 18:29; Numbers 15:30) does not prove that the capital infliction was an invariable accompaniment of such sentence (vide Exodus 12:19; Leviticus 7:20, 21; Numbers 19:13). Besides, to suppose that such was its meaning here necessitates the restriction of the punishment to adults, whereas with the alternative signification no such restriction requires to be imposed on the statute. The uncircumcised Hebrew, whether child or adult, forfeited his standing in the congregation, i.e. ceased to be a member of the Hebrew Church. 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.
Verse 15. - And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, - who, not having hitherto been mentioned in any of the promises, is now expressly taken into covenant, and accordingly receives a new name (cf. Ver. 5; Genesis 32:28; Revelation 3:12) - thou shalt not call her name Sarai, - "my princess" (Gesenius); "princely, noble" (Ikenins, Rosenmüller, Keil, Delitzsch); "the heroine" (Knobel); "strife, contention" (Ewald, Murphy), with special reference to her struggle against sterility. (Kalisch) - but Sarah "princess" (Gesenius), the meaning being that, whereas formerly she was Abram's princess only, she was henceforth to be recognized as a princess generally, i.e. as the mother of the Church (Jerome, Augustine), or as princess to the Lord, the letter A being taken from the name Jehovah, as in the change of Abram into Abraham (the Rabbis); though Ikenius and Rosenmüller derive from an Arabic root, sara, to have a numerous progeny - shall her name be.
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.
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.
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?
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).
And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
Verse 18. - And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! Not implying that Abram was content with Hagar's child as the promised seed without waiting for Sarai s son (Jerome, Calvin, Kalisch); scarcely that he feared lest God might remove Ishmael by death now that Isaac had been promised (Wordsworth-); but probably that he desired that Ishmael might not only live and prosper (Bush), but share with Sarah s son in the blessings of the covenant (Keil, Longs, Rosenmüller, Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Inglis).
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.
Verse 19. - And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac. "Laughter," or "he laughs (the third person future (yitsak) being frequently employed in personal designations; cf. Jacob, Jair, Jabin, &c.), with obvious reference to Abraham's laughter (vide Ver. 17). Cf. on naming before birth Genesis 16:11. And I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
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.
Verse 20 - And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee (meaning, also, "and will grant thy prayer; an allusion to the significance of the name Ishmael, "God hears"): Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he begot (vide Genesis 25:12-16), 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.
Verse 21. - But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year (cf. Genesis 21:2).
And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
Verse 22. - And he (i.e. God) left off talking with him (Abraham), and God went up - into heaven (vide Genesis 35:13) - 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.
Verse 23. - 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 self-same day. Literally, in the bone of that day, an expression occurring in Genesis 7:13, which is commonly regarded as Jehovistic, while this is Elohistic; though Quarry suggests that the ensuing section should commence with this verse, in which case the present paragraph would also be Jehovistic, and the appearance of unnecessary repetition in its statements avoided by viewing them as the customary recapitulations that mark the opening of a new division of the history (vide Genesis, p. 440); against which, however, is the name of God which continues to be here employed. As God (Elohim) had said unto him.
And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
Verse 24. - And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, - literally, a son of ninety years and nine (cf. Genesis 7:6; Genesis 16:16) - 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.
Verse 25. - And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old (the same form of expression as above), when he was circumcised. Hence among the Arabs the ceremony is usually delayed till the thirteenth year (cf. Josephus, 'Ant.,' 1:13).
In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
Verses 26, 27. - In the self-same 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, wore circumcised with him. The usual charges of needless repetition which are preferred against the closing verses of this chapter may be disposed of by observing that Ver. 23 intimates that the sacrament of circumcision was administered to the patriarch and his household on the very day that God had enjoined it, i.e. without delay; that Vers. 24, 25 declare the respective ages of Abraham and Ishmael when they received the Divinely-appointed rite; and that Vers. 26, 27 state the fact that the entire household of the patriarch was circumcised simultaneously with himself. THE ORIGIN OF CIRCUMCISION. The determination of this question does not appear of paramount importance, yet the ascertained results may be briefly indicated.
(1) According to Herodotus (2. 104) circumcision was observed as a custom of primitive antiquity among the Colchiaus, Ethiopians, and Egyptians, by the last of whom it was communicated to the Syrians of Palestine and the Phoenicians. It is, however, uncertain Whether among the Egyptians the practice was universal, as Philo and Herodotus assert, or limited to the priesthood, as Origen believed; and equally doubtful whether the Egyptians themselves may not have adopted it from the Hebrews in the time of Joseph, instead of from the Ethiopians, as appears to be the judgment of Kalisch. Against the idea that circumcision was a national and universal observance among the Egyptians in the time of Abraham, it has been urged that the male servants of the patriarch, some of whom were Egyptians (Genesis 12:16), were not circumcised till Abraham was commanded to perform the rite; that Ishmael, the son of an Egyptian mother, remained uncircumcised till the same time; and that the daughter of Pharaoh recognized Moses as a Hebrew child, which, it is supposed, she could not have done had circumcision been generally practiced among her own people. On the other hand, it is contended that the absence of details as to how the rite should be performed seems to imply that already circumcision was familiar to Abraham; and by some modern Egyptologists it is asserted that an examination of ancient mummies and sculptures, in which circumcision is a distinctive mark between the Egyptians and their enemies, shows that the ceremony must have been in use not among the priests only, but throughout the nation generally so early as the time of the fourth dynasty, i.e. , or considerably earlier than the time of Abraham. Still
(2) though it should be held as indubitably established that circumcision was a prevalent custom among the Egyptians in the time of Abraham, it would not follow that the Hebrews adopted it from them. On the contrary, the Biblical narrative expressly mentions that its observance by the patriarch and- his household was due to a Divine command, and was connected with a religious significance which was altogether foreign to the Egyptians and others by whom that rite was practiced. Among the reasons for its adoption by the heathen nations of antiquity have been assigned, among the Ethiopians, a prophylactic design to ward off certain painful, and often incurable, disorders; among the Egyptians, a regard to cleanliness; and perhaps among the priesthood of the latter country a semi-religious idea (the deification of the generative powers) was associated with a practice which was commonly regarded as enhancing productivity; but the import of the ceremony as enjoined upon the father of the faithful was as widely as possible removed from every one of these ideas, being connected with spiritual conceptions of which the heathen world was entirely ignorant. That a heathen custom should have been adopted by Jehovah and elevated to the rank and connected with the spiritual significance of a religious sign will not occur as a difficulty to those who remember that the rainbow, a well-known natural phenomenon, was selected as the sign for Noah's covenant, and that Christian baptism is a similar transformation of a previously existing ceremony by which Gentile proselytes were admitted to the Hebrew Church.
And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.