Genesis 17:1


(1) Abram was ninety years old and nine.--Thirteen years, therefore, had passed by since the birth of Ishmael, who doubtless during this time had grown very dear to the childless old man, as we gather from the wish expressed in Genesis 17:18.

I am the Almighty God.--Heb., El shaddai. The word is Archaic, but there is no doubt that it means strong so as to overpower. Besides its use in Genesis we find it employed as the name of Deity by Balaam (Numbers 24:4; Numbers 24:16); by Naomi (Ruth 1:20); and in the Book of Job, where it occurs thirty-one times. We may thus regard it as "one of the more general worldwide titles of the Most High" (Speaker's Commentary). In Exodus 6:3 it is said, with evident reference to this place, that El shaddai was the name of God revealed to the patriarchs, but that He was not known to them by His name Jehovah. Here, nevertheless, in a passage said by commentators to be Elohistic, we read that "Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said to him I am El shaddai." But the very gist of the passage is the identification of Jehovah and El shaddai, and the great object of the manifest care with which Moses distinguishes the Divine names seems to be to show, that though Jehovah became the special name of Elohim in His covenant relation to Israel after the Exodus, yet that the name was one old and primeval (Genesis 4:26), and that the God of revelation, under various titles, was ever one and the same. And so is it now, though we, by following a Jewish superstition, have well-nigh forfeited the use of the name Jehovah, so greatly prized of old (Genesis 4:1).

Walk before me.--The same verb as that used of Enoch (Genesis 5:22), and of Noah (Genesis 6:9), but the preposition before implies less closeness than with. On the other hand, Noah was described as "perfect among his contemporaries" (ibid.), while Abram is required still to strive after this integrity (see Note on Genesis 6:9).

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).

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.And when Abram was ninety years old and nine,.... Which was thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael last mentioned; so many years more it was before be is expressly told he should have a son by Sarai, or had the promise of Isaac, which was for the trial of his faith; and his age is here observed, that the power of God might be more manifest in fulfilling his promise, and giving him a son by Sarai:

the Lord appeared to Abram; in a visible manner, in an human form very probably, even the Logos, the Word and Son of God: it seems as if the Lord had not appeared to him since the birth of Ishmael, until this time; and if so, it may be thought to be a correction of him for listening to the voice of his wife in marrying Hagar, without asking counsel of God:

and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; as the Word of God is, as appears by his creation of all things, his in sustaining of them, his government of the church, his redemption of it, and preservation of his people safe to glory, see Revelation 1:8; and this epithet is very appropriate here, when the Lord was about to give out a promise of a son to Abram and Sarai, so much stricken in years. Some render it "all sufficient" (c), as Jehovah is, sufficient in and of himself, and for himself, and stands in no need of any, or of anything from another; and has a sufficiency for others, both in a way of providence and grace:

walk before me: not as though Abram had not so walked, or had discontinued his walk before God, but that he would go on to walk by faith in a dependence on him for everything he wanted, both with respect to things temporal and spiritual; and to walk in all his commandments and ordinances, that he either had given, or should give him; and all this as in his presence, and under his watchful eye, that sees and observes all things, and before whom all things are naked and open, as all are to the essential Word of God, Hebrews 4:12,

and be thou perfect: upright and sincere in acts of faith, and in duties of religion, and go on to perfection; which though a sinless one is not attainable in this life, is desirable, and is to be had in Christ, though not in ourselves: but here it chiefly denotes an holy and unblamable life and conversation, which though not entirely free from sin, yet without any notorious ones, which bring dishonour to God, and disgrace upon a man's character and profession, see Genesis 6:9. This respects not perfection in his body or flesh, as the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it, through circumcision, by which the Jews (d) fancy Abram became perfect, but was not till circumcised.

(c) "Deus sufficiens", Cocceius; so Jarchi and Ainsworth. (d) Jarchi in loc. Pirke Eliezer, c. 29. Misn. Nedarim, c. 13. sect. 11.

Genesis 16:16
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