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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Genesis 17

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 17:1 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.

Ver. 1. The Lord appeared to Abram.] After thirteen years’ absence and silence, far aught we read; so that Abram began to conclude, that Ishmael surely was the promised seed, and all the sons he was likely to have to inherit the land. The Church then may err, when she cleaves not close to the word; though God at length will direct her into the right way, as here he did Abram.

I am God Almighty.] Or all-sufficient, self-sufficient (so Aquila), (a) independent, absolute, the original, universal good. Aben-Ezra interprets Shaddai, a conqueror: others, a destroyer, which a conqueror must needs be. Eundem victorem et vastatorem esse oportet , saith Cameron. And to this the Scripture alludes when it saith Shod shall come from Shaddai, "Destruction from the Almighty". [Isaiah 13:6] Some there are that derive Shaddai of Shad a dug, because God feeds his children with sufficiency of all good things, as the loving mother doth the child with the milk of her breasts. Hence the heathen called Diana (and likewise Ceres) πολυμαθον and Mammosam, as if she were the nurse of all living creatures. God is the only satisfactory good, proportionable and fitting to our souls, as the dug to the child’s stomach.

Walk before me.] Heb., Indesinenter ambula , Walk constantly, step for step, and keep pace with me. Austin would not, for the gain of a million of worlds, be an athiest for half an hour, because he knew not but God might in that time make an end of him. For "can two walk together and they not agreed?" saith the prophet. [Amos 3:3] "Ye cannot serve the Lord," saith Joshua to the people that promised fair, [Joshua 24:19] that is, unless ye will serve him entirely, walk uprightly, as Abram here; walk evenly, without halting or halving with him. Holiness must run through the whole life, as the warp doth through the woof: all the parts of our line of life must be straight before God. "As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity," with openly profane persons, when "peace shall be upon Israel," [Psalms 125:5] upon all that are "Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile". [John 1:27 Psalms 32:2] Surely, as an unequal pulse shows a distempered body, so doth uneven walking an unsound soul, - such as is not verily persuaded that God is all-sufficient, able, and ready to reward the upright, and punish the hypocrite.


Verse 2

Genesis 17:2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

Ver. 2. And I will make my covenant.] This is now the fifth confirmation of the Covenant; which shows that it is the alpha and omega, the first, second, and third of our salvation; and it is fit we should be well studied in it, and assured of our interest. For as the mercy seat was no larger than the ark, [Exodus 25:10-17] so neither is the grace of God than the covenant. And as the ark and mercy seat were never separated; so neither is his mercy from his people.


Verse 3

Genesis 17:3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,

Ver. 3. And Abram fell on his face.] It was fit he should, now that God talked with him. Such a posture of body befits us at the hearing of the word, as may best express our reverence, and further our attention. Balak is bid to rise up to hear Balaam’s parable. [Numbers 23:18] Eglon, though a fat unwieldy man, riseth up from his seat to hear God’s message from Ehud. [ 3:20] The people in Nehemiah "stood up" [Nehemiah 8:5] to hear the law read and expounded. Constantine the Great would not be entreated to sit down or be covered at a sermon: (a) no more would our Edward VI, whose custom was also to take notes of what he heard, which (together with his own applications of the word to himself) he wrote in Greek characters, that his servants might not read them. (b) The Thessalonians are commended for this, that they heard Paul’s preaching "as the word of God, and not of man". [1 Thessalonians 2:13] Had Samuel thought it had been God that called to him (and not Eli), he would not have slept, but fallen on his face before the Lord, as Abram here, who was no novice, but knew well that though God loves to be acquainted with men in the walks of their obedience yet he takes state upon him in his ordinances, and will be trembled at in his word and judgments.


Verse 4

Genesis 17:4 As for me, behold, my covenant [is] with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

Ver. 4. As for me.] Ego ecce . An abrupt speech, to show what haste God made to comfort and confirm Abram, now fallen at his feet.

Thou shalt be a father of many nations.] The Israelites, Ishmaelites, Edomites, Keturites, &c., besides all believers. [Galatians 3:28-29]


Verse 5

Genesis 17:5 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.

Ver. 5. Neither shall thy name any more, &c.] This is reckoned for a high favour by those holy Levites. [Nehemiah 9:7] The Jews say, that for honour’s sake, God inserted one of the letters of his own incommunicable name Jehovah into the name of Abram, now Abraham. Sure it is, that by styling himself "the God of Abraham," he doth him more honour, than if he had engraven the word Abraham upon the firmament, or in the clouds in letters of gold.


Verse 6

Genesis 17:6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

Ver. 6. I will make thee exceeding fruitful.] Heb., Foecundabo te valde valde :and as oft as thou thinkest upon thy new name, thou shalt remember my promise, and rest assured of my performance. See how God, of his grace, condescends unto us, and accommodates us.


Verse 7

Genesis 17:7 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.

Ver. 7. For an everlasting covenant.] Circumcision, the outward sign of it, was temporary, and changeable into baptism; but the covenant of grace, thereby then, and by baptism now, sealed up unto us, is eternal; being established and ratified. by the death of the Testator, "by the blood of the Arch-shepherd". [Hebrews 13:20] Here it must be considered (a) that there is a twofold covenant: 1. Single; such as God makes with children, when baptized; viz., if you will repent, believe, and walk with me, ye shall be saved. Now, if they break the condition, God is freed, he it not bound any further. 2. Double; such as God makes with his elect only; and that is to perform both parts, sc., if you will believe, repent, obey, ye shall be saved: and further, I will give you a new heart, so that you shall repent, believe, &c., and be saved. Thus God undertakes for both parts, and so it becomes an everlasting covenant, such as hath the "sure" or unfailable "mercies of David" (b) [Isaiah 55:3] And here those, that are in double covenant with God, are fitly compared to them that are gone in at a church door: some are farther in than others, but yet all are in. So, though the weak in faith be not so forward, yet they may be in, though not so far in.

And to thy seed after thee.] {See Trapp on "Genesis 17:8"}


Verse 8

Genesis 17:8 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.

Ver. 8. All the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession.] And yet now, for their inexpiable guilt, in putting to death the Lord of life, they are utterly dispossessed of that pleasant land. In Jerusalem itself there are not to be found a hundred households of Jews. (a) Adrian the emperor drove them utterly out of Judea, and commanded them by proclamation not so much as to look toward it, from any tower or high mountain. (b) Yea, long before this, the Lord, for their wickedness, counted them but usurpers, and called them "sojourners in that land." [Ezekiel 20:38; Ezekiel 11:15] If men forfeit their privileges, God may, at his pleasure, take the forfeiture, and disprivilege them, as he did Saul, and Judas, who "by transgression fell" from his office, "that he might go to his own place". [Acts 1:25]

I will be their God.] This is a singular comfort for all believing parents. Their greatest care is for their poor little ones, what they shall do another day: why, cast them upon God, their God as well as thine: for is not tie in covenant with them too? It would be a great stay of mind, if God should say to us for our children, as David said to Mephibosheth, or to Barzillai, of his son Chimham, "Chimham shall go over with me, and will I do to him that which shall seem good unto thee; and whatsoever thou shalt require of me, that will I do for, thee," [2 Samuel 19:38] Behold, God saith all this, and more to us, when he saith, "I will be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee." I remember a sweet passage of Mr Saunders the martyr in a letter to his wife: "Though we do shortly depart hence, and leave our poor infant, to our seeming, at all adventures, yet shall he have our gracious God to be his God: for so hath he said - and he cannot lie; - ‘I will be thy God, and of thy seed.’ Yea, if you leave him in the wilderness, destitute of all helps, being called of God to do his will, either to die for the confession of Christ, or any work of obedience; that God, which heard the cry of the little poor infant of Hagar, and did succour it, will do the like to the children of you, or any other fearing him, and trusting in him." (c)


Verse 9

Genesis 17:9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

Ver. 9. Thou shalt keep my covenant.] This is the stipulation on Abraham’s part, by receiving the sacrament of circumcision, to "avouch God to be his God". [Deuteronomy 26:17] Now to the making the Lord to be our God, it is required, that with highest estimations, most vigorous affections, and utmost endeavours we bestow ourselves upon him. Thus, if we choose God for our God, [Psalms 73:25] we shall be assured that he hath chosen and avouched us for his people. [1 John 4:19]


Verse 10

Genesis 17:10 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.

Ver. 10. Every man-child among you.] Infants were circumcised to signify that we had better be flayed, and have our skin quite stripped off, than to have it as a skin-bottle hanging in the smoke of filthy desires, and blown full of unclean motions with the breath of Satan. That wretched renegade that betrayed Rhodes was well served. For his promised wife and portion were presented: but the Turk told him that he would not have a Christian to be his son-in-law, but he must be a Mussulman, that is, a believing Turk, within and without. And therefore he caused his baptized skin, as he called it, to be flayed off, and him to be cast in a bed, strewed with salt, that he might get a new skin, and so he should be his son-in-law. But the wicked wretch ended his life with shame and torment. (a)


Verse 11

Genesis 17:11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.

Ver. 11. It shall be a token of the covenant.] It seals up nothing then to those that are not in covenant. Circumcision to such is but as a seal to a blank. Unregenerate Israel was to God as Ethiopia. [Amos 9:7] Circumcision of itself avails nothing, if the heart be uncircumcised. The apostle distinguisheth of circumcision, [Colossians 2:11] and tells us that the true circumcision is "made without hands" ( αχειροποιητος), and "is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter". [Romans 2:29] It is a wonderful work of the Spirit, wrought by the word, upon the saints in their first conversion, whereby corruption of nature is wounded, beloved sins cast away with sorrow, and the sinner received into an everlasting communion with God and his saints. Labour this, or you are not a button the better for your baptism. A man may go to hell with font-water on his face, if not baptized "with the Holy Ghost, and with fire". [Matthew 3:11] Circumcision seals not up any covenant of grace to Turks, as it did not, of old, to Ishmaelites, Edomites, and Midianites, who yet would needs be circumcised.


Verse 12

Genesis 17:12 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.

Ver. 12. And he that is eight days old.] This warrants our baptizing of infants of both sexes. {See Trapp on "Genesis 9:10"} (Great leap of logic here! Editor.)


Verse 13

Genesis 17:13 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.

Ver. 13. He that is born in thy house.] Householders must see to it, that their families fear God. They walk not "in a perfect way" that do otherwise, [Psalms 101:2] that look not

“Aedibus in propriis, quae prava, aut recta gerantur.”

My covenant shall be in your flesh.] That is, the sign of my covenant (by a metonymy of the subject), seem it never so simple, and prove it never so painful and shameful. The foolishness of God is wiser than men, that cry, Credat Iudaeus Apella ,& c.


Verse 14

Genesis 17:14 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.

Ver. 14. That soul shall be cut off.] From the commonwealth of Israel; so shall those be from benefit by Christ, that are uncircumcised in heart; as hateful to him as Goliath was to David. Pray, therefore, that God will thrust his holy hand into thy bosom, and pull off that abominable foreskin. He had much ado to forbear Moses, when he met him in the inn; and we know why. [Exodus 4:24-25]


Verse 15

Genesis 17:15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah [shall] her name [be].

Ver. 15. Thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah.] The Chaldee, Sarai, is made Hebrew, Sarah: One of the four letters of Jehovah being also added (as before in Abraham), that she may be, absolutely, a lady or princess.


Verse 16

Genesis 17:16 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.

Ver. 16. Yea, I will bless her.] This is repeated, for the greater comfort of this good old couple, q.d., I will double-bless her, bless her with a witness. Margarita in mari nascitur, verum ex rore coelesti .


Verse 17

Genesis 17:17 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?

Ver. 17. Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed.] Not as doubting, much less deriding, [Romans 4:19] but as rejoicing and admiring the goodness and power of God. The narrow-mouthed vessel of his heart not quickly capable of so great comfort - for, Tarda solet magnis rebus inesse fides - he fell upon his face, and laughed.


Verse 18

Genesis 17:18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!

Ver. 18. Oh that Ishmael might live.] The life of grace here, and of glory hereafter: that he be not "killed with death" when he dies, as Jezebel’s children were. [Revelation 2:23]


Verse 19

Genesis 17:19 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.

Ver. 19. I will establish my covenant with him.] This was a far greater favour than that bestowed on Ishmael in the next verse, "Twelve princes shall he beget." Nothing so ennobleth as Christ, graces, being in the covenant, &c. [Isaiah 19:25] "Assyria" is "the work of" God’s "hands," but "Israel" his "inheritance."


Verse 20

Genesis 17:20 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.

Ver. 20. And us for Ishmael, I have heard thee.] Faithful prayer may have anything at God’s hands. It is but ask and have, with Abraham. As Zedekiah said to his courtiers glossingly, God saith to his servants seriously, The King can deny you nothing. Let this encourage us to pray for ourselves and children; for by prayer we may take out of God’s treasury, plentiful mercy for ourselves and ours.


Verse 21

Genesis 17:21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.

Ver. 21. But my covenant.] This is the thirteenth time that the covenant is named in this chapter, saith an interpreter; and hereby is meant the promise of Christ and salvation by him. A subject so sweet to every sanctified soul, that St Paul cannot come off it. He names the Lord Jesus Christ ten times together in ten verses. [1 Corinthians 1:1-10] It was to him Mel in ore, melos in aure, iubilum in corde .{ a}


Verse 22

Genesis 17:22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.

Ver. 22. And he left off talking with him.] As man with his friend. Such honour have all his saints. Oh, speak it when I am gone, and preach it at my funeral, God dealeth familiarly with man, said that heavenly spark, now ready to be extinct (a) St Paul calls prayer εντευξιν, an entreparlance with God, [1 Timothy 2:1] and επερωτημα, the confident interrogatory or rejoinder of a good conscience toward God. [1 Peter 3:21] The Persian monarchs held it a piece of their silly glory to keep themselves from their greatest subjects. [Esther 4:11] And Jupiter’s image at Crete was made without ears. Plutarch gives the reason, Non enim convenit audiri ab eo quenquam, qui omnium rerum sit Dominus atqui princeps . A pretty plea for Baal! He is too great to talk with men. Our God thinks not himself so. He solicits suitors, and loves to be, interchangcably, solicited by them.


Verse 23

Genesis 17:23 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 selfsame day, as God had said unto him.

Ver. 23. Abraham took Ishmael.] To make the other more willing.

Circumcised the flesh.] Not regarding the affliction, danger, scandal, shame of the action in the eyes of the world.


Verse 24

Genesis 17:24 And Abraham [was] ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

Ver. 24. And Abraham was ninety years old and nine.] Five different times is Abraham’s age exactly noted in Scripture; which showeth how dear the saints are to God; when the wicked are, ουτιδανοι, little set by; men of no account.


Verse 25

Genesis 17:25 And Ishmael his son [was] thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

Ver. 25. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old.] The Turks’ children are not circumcised till they are ten years old, and then they use great feasting, banqueting, music, and bringing of presents. (a) They say that Abraham loved Ishmael, and not Isaac: and that it was Ishmael whom Abraham would have sacrificed.


Verse 26

Genesis 17:26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.

Ver. 26. In the self-same day.] To show his prompt and present obedience, without shucking and hucking, without delays and consults.


Verse 27

Genesis 17:27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.

Ver. 27. All the men of his house.] Faciles se proebent in re ardua et ridicula . An excellent pattern of a well-ordered family.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Genesis 17:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/genesis-17.html. 1865-1868.

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Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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