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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Genesis 17

Verses 1-27

God the Giver

Genesis 17:8

'I will give.' That is the text. It is found in Genesis, and therefore in the right place; it is heard in the Apocalypse, and therefore the great Amen cannot be far off. Let us see how the river runs, and walk by it, as it were, hand in hand with God.

I. The Lord had to incarnate Himself in little phrases and small toy meanings in order to get at man's imagination, so He says in Genesis XVII, 8, 'I will give unto thee... land'. Do not put a full-stop after 'land'. That is the poorest and meanest of His gifts, and would be poorer and meaner still if it did not carry with it all the other gifts by implication, suggestion, far-flashing indication of an opening universe. But the land is God's to give. The land never belonged to any one but God. It is something to know that God gives men land, and clay out of which to make bricks, and quarries out of which to dig palaces, and forests out of which to bring navies and homes of beauty.

II. 'I will give you rain.' Of course; having given us the land, He could not withhold the rain. What is the land without rain? dust unshaped into humanity and stewardship and responsibility a poor waste, nothing but dust, that cannot grow a flower. Now I feel to be warming towards this great notion of the One-Giver and All-Giver. 'I will give you rain' soft water, the kind of water the roots like and pine for. Never dissociate God from land and from water; they are both His, He only can give them in any sense that will bring with it satisfaction. There is a way of appeasing hunger that does not touch the deeper inner hunger of the other self that excites a man and mocks him every day.

III. 'I will give thee ' what more can He give? He has given us the land, He has given us the rain, He says, 'I will give thee riches and wealth and honour'. Is there a fountain of honour in the universe? Yes, and if we seek it not, we shall find it sooner; if we do not go after riches and wealth and honour, the poor weazened things will come to us.

IV. Now He begins a higher style of talk. He was condescending all the while to get at us, so lowly was our place in the pit. Now we are coming nearer to the light. He says, 'I will give you pastors according to Mine heart' (Jeremiah 3:15 ) bits of God's own heart, fragments of His infinite love, souls that have received the kiss and will impart it to despairing spirits.

V. He is coming very near us now. What can follow such gifts land and rain and riches and pastors? He said, 'I will give unto thee a son'. 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.' So loved that He gave. That is the way to love. He lives to give. That is love. If you take all in and allow nothing to flow out you will one day find that your great gathering of water has burst the cistern or the deep reservoir and has gone. You come in the morning and say, 'I have an abundance of water, but I will not give you any, but you may look at it and see how rich I am; this is the reservoir, walk up this green slope, and I will show you what is worth more than crystal.' We say, 'I do not see it, where is it?' 'Wait a moment and you will see it, over this little hillock.' And we climb the hillock, and look, and the water, the gathered, stored water, kept from the poor and the needy and the thirsty, has gone. God will take it all up again into His sky and turn it into rainbows and into showers and pour it upon worthier receivers. They are storing poverty who are storing gold without God.

Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. v. p. 242.

Genesis 17:18

'Abraham looked upon the vigorous, bold, brilliant young Ishmael, and said appealingly to God: "O that Ishmael might live before Thee!" But it cannot be; the promises are to conduct, to conduct only. And so, again, we in like manner behold, long after Greece has perished, a brilliant successor of Greece, the Renascence, present herself with high hopes.... And all the world salutes with pride and joy the Renascence, and prays to Heaven: "O that Ishmael might live before Thee!" Surely the future belongs to this new-comer.'

M. Arnold in Literature and Dogma. References. XVII. 18. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Genesis, p. 123. XVIII. 1. Expositor (3rd Series), vol. ii. p. 203; ibid. vol. iii. p. 69. XVIII. 16-33. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Genesis p. 129. XVIII. 19. G. Bainton, Christian World Pulpit, 5 Nov. 1890. J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii. p. 185. XVIII. 22. C. J. Vaughan, Harrow School Sermons, p. 371. XVIII. 25. Bishop W. Ingram, Under the Dome. p. 219. W. R. Inge, Faith and Knowledge, p. 57. Professor Story, Christian World Pulpit, 1891, p. 88. XVIII. J. Parker, Adam, Noah, and Abraham, p. 135. XVIII. 25. J. Vaughan, Sermons (15th Series), p. 117.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Genesis 17". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/genesis-17.html. 1910.