The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Genesis 17

Gen 17:1

Gen 17; 18: "The work of the Elohim in the life of Abram draws him nearer to the great moment of his life: the expression of the covenant, and to see the goodness of Yahweh in the provision of a son as the medium of the divine promises. Gen 17 provides the background to the covenant, and Gen 18 to the preparation for a son. So Yahweh instructed his man of faith: [1] The covenant extended and renewed: Gen 17:1-8. [2] The token of the covenant revealed: vv 9-14. [3] The covenant confirmed: vv 15-22. [4] The token accepted: vv 23-27.

"Then Abraham experiences a visit from the Elohim, recorded in Gen 18. [1] Visitors for Abraham: Gen 18:1-8. [2] A son is promised: vv 9-15. [3] Impending destruction of Sodom revealed to Abram: vv 16-22. [4] Abraham pleads for his nephew: vv 23-33.

"In view of the threatened and impending destruction of Sodom, Abraham pleaded for the righteous as his seed proclaims the Gospel today. Even as he laboured in pleading, the Destroying Angels were approaching the doomed city. The Sodomites were oblivious to the impending destruction; so also was Lot. Abraham alone knew the fate of the city, as we do the state of the world today. Thus Abraham's eloquent and urgent appeal (cp Luk 17:28-30). But when it came to ten only in Sodom (Gen 18:32), Abraham concluded his appeal, as he knew that there were at least ten in Lot's immediate family. What a sad state concludes the chapter" (GEM).

"If the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand" (Psa 37:23,24).

The promise of Isaac: the seed of the Abraham covenant.

NINETY-NINE YEARS OLD: 24 years since Abraham entered the Land: "So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran" (Gen 12:4).

THE LORD: Cp Gen 18:1, angels!

ALMIGHTY: "Shaddai", from rt "shadad" = to be powerful. By impl, to ravage. "Shadad" is translated "destroy" (Pro 11:3), "destroyer" (Job 15:21), "spoiler" (Jer 6:26; 15:8; 51:48,53,56). Other words derive from "shad", such as "breast", pap, teat. Thus, EL as the "nourisher".

THE LORD ALMIGHTY: "El Shaddai": Gen 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 49:25; 2Co 6:18. "Strength of the Destroyers".

WALK BEFORE ME: Walking in relation to God: (1) Before: here -- security, presence; (2) After: Deu 13:4 -- service, obedience; (3) With: Gen 5:24; 6:9 -- fellowship; (4) In: Col 2:6 -- full union.

BLAMELESS (PERFECT): Cp Gen 6:9. The word "perfect" means "upright or sincere" (AV mg). Righteous men such as Noah, Jacob, and Job all were described by this Heb word, or a form of it. Jesus said in Mat 5:48: "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." The Gr "teleios" sig completeness or maturity. So if Abraham really did, in a spiritual sense, "walk before God", he would be showing his godly and upright character.

Gen 17:2

CONFIRM: "Establish" or "give" or "make". Not sw as Gen 15:18.

MY COVENANT: God begins to implement His covenant, already given in Gen 15.

I WILL GREATLY INCREASE YOUR NUMBERS (WILL MULTIPLY THEE EXCEEDINGLY): "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands" (Rev 7:9).

Gen 17:3

ABRAM FELL FACEDOWN: Humility, extreme reverence.

GOD SAID TO HIM: When man is in the dust, God can speak to him of grace!

Gen 17:4

A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS: In ct to one nation. A multitude of "goyim" (ie Gentiles); thus the widening of the promise: HAW. Cp Rom 4:16,17; Gal 3:29.

Gen 17:5

ABRAM: "Father of a height": ref Abraham's pagan origins?

ABRAHAM: "Hamon" = "a multitude, as of swelling of springs, or voices of singers" (Gesenius).

Gen 17:6

KINGS WILL COME FROM YOU: Fulfilled in (1) line of David; (2) Jesus (Luk 1:32,33) and (3) immortalized saints (Mat 19:28; Rev 5:9,10; 17:24; 20:4; Isa 32:1). By ct, Ishmael had princes (v 2), and Esau had dukes (Gen 36).

From Abraham came the line of David culminating in Christ (Mat 1:1). Also the immortal saints in the kingdom age are described in Rev as "kings and priests reigning on the earth" (Rev 5:10). Heb intensive plural to describe one really great "something" (Isa 53:9, AV mg; Zec 6:11; Num 5:29,14; Dan 2:1,5; 2Ch 16:14; Oba 1:21). So the one really great king coming from Abraham (ie Jesus). In Gen 17: 20 Ishmael would beget 12 "princes", and in Gen 36 that "dukes" would come from Esau. In both cases these Heb words are not the same as "kings" (melek) in Gen 17:6, and in neither case is the word ever translated "king". So this passage applies to the kings coming thru David, incl Christ, rather than Ishmael or later on Esau and their descendants.

Gen 17:7

GENERATIONS: "Circles of time": The Abraham covenant was for all peoples and times as a Memorial.

TO BE YOUR GOD: This phrase is often repeated in the OT in ref to the Jews (Jer 31:33; Eze 11:20; Zec 13:9), and occasionally in the NT in ref to Christians (Heb 8:10; 2Co 6:16).

Gen 17:8

Ct Act 7:5: "He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child."

Gen 17:10

MY COVENANT: Or, "the seal of my covenant".

CIRCUMCISED: Abraham openly assents to this. Circumcision was only the outward sign of an inward disposition. As the rite was not displayed to open view, so the true keeping of the covenant, in heart, is not a matter of external appearance. Cp Deu 30:6; Rom 2:25-29; Col 3:11. See Elp 250. Circumcision was the lit cutting off of the flesh... sym of sin nature or sinful thinking or sinful actions. So the act of circumcising was an outward act pointing to a spiritual need. Only an indirect correspondence between circumcision and baptism: only males were circumcised. Also, people are baptized only when they are old enough to know and believe the gospel and to repent. A similarity is that in baptism one's sins are forgiven and in circumcision the "flesh" of sin is cut off. In each, one enters into a covenant with God as well. Faith supersedes circumcision: Rom 4:11,12; Gal 5:2.

Gen 17:11

Circumcision of the flesh: repudiation (cutting of) of flesh: Gal 5:24. In AV, "foreskin" = "prepuce". From rt "arel" = to be naked, unclean. Nakedness sym sin: Gen 3:11; Rev 3:18. Circumcision is a cutting off of sin's flesh. Being situated in the organ of generation, God's mark of circumcision brought home to the individual that he was a member of the divine family. His redemption would not be thru the flesh. History of circumcision: prob practiced by other nations, esp Egypt, before Abraham's day. But only now consecrated as a religious rite (Spk).

Gen 17:12

3 provisions, related to: age, sex, and status.

Gen 17:13

God promises to save all classes: Jews (born in house) and Gentiles (bought with money) thru a common rite of circumcision (Rom 2:26-29) -- a cutting off of flesh.

Gen 17:14

Death will also be the penalty of those who neglect spiritual circumcision (cp Rev 21:8).

Gen 17:15

The same letter "h" is added to Sarai's name as to Abram's name. The "h" plus "yod" = "Yah"!

Gen 17:16

"Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him" (Psa 127:3).

Gen 17:17

FACEDOWN: Prostration, humility, prayer.

LAUGHED: Not the laughter of doubt, but of joy and hope based on faith: Joh 8:56; Rom 4:19. Note the question of amazed wonderment.

SARAH: Note: Abraham is already using Sarah's new name, given her by God.

Gen 17:18

Abraham believed God's promise, thru Sarah. He knew that Isaac would be true seed (v 17), and he had abandoned thought that Ishmael would be the heir, and he wished only that God would favor Ishmael in some small way (v 20) (WAbr 73).

Gen 17:19

The seed to be called "through Isaac": Gen 21:12. "Isaac" = "laughter" (v 17). The covenant to be renewed to Isaac: Gen 26:1-4. And to his seed (Jacob) after him: Gen 28:13,14.

Sarah repr the new covenant: Jerusalem above (Gal 5:24), the barren that shall bear (Isa 54:1), the ecclesia.

EVERLASTING COVENANT: Typ Christ: Luk 1:68-71; Rom 15:8.

Gen 17:20

A GREAT NATION: The Arabian (Moslem) empire, from India to Atlantic at one time. Today, the many members of the Arab confederacy.

Gen 17:22

The angel ascended from him into the heavens.

Gen 17:23

All the men of Abraham's camp were circumcised the same day (v 26), and thus incapacitated -- ie unable to defend against attack. Men of faith today are circumcised in heart, rendered unable to wage fleshly warfare during the days of their probation. Like Abraham's camp, they will be entirely dependent upon Yahweh's protection.

Gen 17:25

THIRTEEN: 13 = attitude of rebellion: Gen 14:4; cp 1Ki 6:38; 7:7; Est 3:12,13. In Gen 49:9, "evil days" = 130 (13x10) years! Deu 14: unclean animals are 26 (2x13)! 2Co 11:24: 40 stripes less one = 39 (13x3)!
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