This chapter contains articles of agreement betwixt the great Jehovah,
the father of mercies, and pious Abram, the father of the faithful.
Mention was made of this covenant, chap. xv. 18.
but here it is particularly drawn up.
The circumstances of the making of this covenant, the time and
manner, ver. 1.
and the posture Abram was in, ver. 3.
The covenant itself, in the particular instances.
That he should be the father of many nations, ver. 4. 6.
and in token of that his name was changed, ver. 5.
That God would be a God to him and his seed, and would give them
the land of Canaan, ver. 7, 8.
and the seal of this part of the covenant was circumcision,
ver. 9 - 14.
That he should have a son by Sarai, and in token of that her
name was changed, ver. 15, 16.
This promise Abraham received, ver. 17.
And his request for Ishmael, (ver. 18.) was answered abundantly
to his satisfaction, ver. 19 - 22.
The circumcision of Abraham and his family, according to God's
appointment, ver. 23 - 27.
1: And when Abram was ninety nine years old - Full thirteen years
after the birth of Ishmael. So long the promise of Isaac was
Perhaps to correct Abram's over - hasty marrying of
That Abram and Sarai being so far striken in age, God's power in
this matter might be the more magnified.
The Lord appeared unto Abram
- In some visible display of God's immediate glorious presence with him.
And said, I am the Almighty God - By this name he chose to make himself
known to Abram, rather than by his name Jehovah, (Ex 6:3).
He used it to Jacob, (Ge 35:11). They called him by this name,(Ge 28:5,43:14,48:3). It is the name of God that is mostly used
throughout the book of Job, at least 30 times in the discourses of that
book, in which Jehovah is used but once. After Moses, Jehovah is more
frequently used, and this very rarely. I am El - Shaddai. It speaks the
almighty power of God, either
As an avenger, from wrv he destroyed, or laid waste; so some:
and they think God took this title from the destruction of the old world:
As a benefactor, v for rva who, and yr it sufficeth.
Our old English translation reads it here, very significantly,
I am God All - sufficient. The God with whom we have to do, is
self - sufficient; he hath every thing, and he needs not any thing. And he is
enough to us, if we be in covenant with him; we have all in him, and we have
enough in him; enough to satisfy our most enlarged desires; enough to supply
the defect of every thing else, and to secure us happiness for our immortal
But the covenant is mutual, walk before me, and be thou perfect - That
is, upright and sincere. Observe,
That to walk before God, is to set God always before us, and to think,
and speak, and act, in every thing as those that are always under his eye.
It is to have a constant regard to his word, as our rule, and to his glory,
as our end, in all our actions. It is to be inward with him in all the
duties of religious worship, and to be entire for him in all holy
That upright walking with God is the condition of our interest in his
all - sufficiency. If we neglect him, or dissemble with him, we forfeit the
benefit of our relation to him.
A continual regard to God's all - sufficiency will have a great influence
upon our upright walking with him.
3: And Abram fell on his face while God talked with him - Either,
As one overcome by the brightness of the Divine glory: Daniel and
John did so likewise. Or.
As one ashamed of himself, and blushing to think of the honours done
to one so unworthy. He looks upon himself with humility, and upon God with
reverence, and, in token of both, falls on his face.
4: The promise is here introduced with solemnity: As for me, saith
the Great God, Behold, behold and admire it, behold and be assured of
it, my covenant is with thee. And thou shalt be a father of many
nations - This implies,
That his seed after the flesh should be very numerous, both in Isaac
and in Ishmael, and in the sons of Keturah. And the event answered,
for there have been, and are, more of the children of men descended from
Abraham, than from any one man at equal distance with him from Noah,
the common root.
That all believers, in every age, should be looked upon as his spiritual
seed, as the father of the faithful. In this sense the apostle directs
us to understand this promise, (Ro 4:16,17). He is the father of those,
in every nation, that, by faith, enter into covenant with God, and (as the
Jewish writers express it) are gathered under the wings of the divine
5: In token of this, his name was changed from Abram, a high
father, to Abraham, the father of a multitude. This was to confirm
the faith of Abraham, while he was childless; perhaps even his own name
was sometimes an occasion of grief to him; Why should he be called a
high father, who was not a father at all? But now God had promised him a
numerous issue, and had given him a name which signified so much; that name
was his joy.
7: And I will establish my covenant - Not to be altered or revoked;
not with thee only, then it would die with thee but with thy seed after
thee; and it is not only thy seed after the flesh, but thy spiritual
seed. It is everlasting in the evangelical meaning of it. The covenant
of grace is everlasting; it is from everlasting in the counsels
of it, and to everlasting in the consequences of it; and the external
administration of it is transmitted, with the seal of it, to the seed of
believers, and the internal administration of it by the Spirit to Christ's
seed in every age. This is a covenant of exceeding great and precious
promises. Here are two which indeed are all - sufficient, that God would be
their God. All the privileges of the covenant, all its joys, and all
its hopes, are summed up in this. A man needs desire no more than this to
make him happy. What God is himself, that he will be to his people: wisdom
to guide and counsel them, power to protect and support them, goodness to
supply and comfort them; what faithful worshippers can expect from the God
they serve, believers shall find in God as theirs. This is enough, yet not
8: And I will give thee Canaan for an everlasting possession - God
had before promised this land to Abraham and his seed, (Ge 15:18).
But here, it is promised for an everlasting possession, as a type of
heaven, that everlasting rest which remains for the people of God. This is
that better country to which Abraham had an eye, and the grant of
which was that which answered the vast extent of that promise, that God
would be to them a God; so that if God had not designed this, he would
have been ashamed to be called their God, (Heb 11:16). As the land
of Canaan was secured to the seed of Abraham, according to the
flesh; so heaven is secured to all his spiritual seed for a possession
truly everlasting. The offer of this eternal life is made in the word,
and confirmed by the sacraments, to all that are under the external
administration of the covenant, and the earnest of it is given to all
10: The token of the covenant, is circumcision, for the sake of
which the covenant is itself called the covenant of circumcision,(Ac 7:8). It is here said to be the
covenant which Abraham and his seed must keep, as a copy or
counterpart, it is called a sign and seal, (Ro 4:11), for it
A confirmation to Abraham and his seed of those promises which
were God's part of the covenant, assuring them that, in due time, Canaan
should be theirs: and the continuance of this ordinance, after Canaan
was theirs, intimates, that that promise looked farther, to another
An obligation upon Abraham and his seed to that duty which was
their part of the covenant, not only to the duty of accepting the
covenants and putting away the corruption of the flesh, which were primarily
signified by circumcision, but in general to the observation of all God's
commands. They who will have God to be to them a God, must consent to be
to him a people.
Now, 1. Circumcision was a bloody ordinance, for all things by the law were
purged with blood, (Heb 9:22). See (Ex 24:8). But the blood
of Christ being shed, all bloody ordinances are now abolished. Circumcision
therefore gives way to baptism.
2. It was peculiar to the males, though the women also were included in the
3. Christ having not yet offered himself for us, God would have man to
enter into covenant, by the offering of some part of his own body, and no
part could be better spared.
4. The ordinance was to be administered to children when they were eight
days old, that they might gather some strength to be able to undergo the
pain of it.
5. The children of the strangers were to be circumcised, which looked
favourable upon the Gentiles, who should, in due time be brought into
the family of Abraham, by faith.
Here is, (1.) The promise made to Abraham of a son by Sarai, that
son in whom the promise made to him should be fulfilled, that he should be
the father of many nations, for she also shall be a mother of
nations, and kings of people shall be of her, (Ge 17:16).
God reveals the purposes of his good - will to his people by degrees. God
had told Abraham long before, that he should have a son, but never 'till
now that he should have a son by Sarai.
The blessing of the Lord makes fruitful, and adds no sorrow with it;
no such sorrow as was in Hagar's case. I will bless her, with the
blessing of fruitfulness, and then thou shalt have a son of her.
Civil government and order is a great blessing to the church. It is
promised not only that people, but kings of people should be of her;
not a headless rout, but a well modelled, well governed society.
15: Sarah shall her name be - The same letter is added to her name
that was to Abraham's. Sarai signifies my princess, as if her
honour were confined to one family only: Sarah signifies a princess,
viz. of multitudes.
17: Then Abraham fell on his face, and laughed - It was a laughter of
delight, not of distrust. Now it was that Abraham rejoiced to see
Christ's day, now he saw it and was glad, (Joh 8:56), for as
he saw heaven in the promise of Canaan, so he saw Christ in the
promise of Isaac, and said, Shall a child be born to him that is an
hundred years old? - He doth not here speak of it, as at all doubtful,
for we are sure he staggered not at the promise, (Ro 4:20), but as
wonderful, and that which could not be effected but by the almighty
power of God.
18: And Abraham said, O that Ishmael might live before thee! - This
he speaks nor as desiring that Ishmael might be preferred before the son
he should have by Sarah, but as dreading lest he should be forsaken of
God, he puts up this petition on his behalf. The great thing we should
desire of God, for our children, is, that they may live before him, that
is, that they may be kept in covenant with him, and may have grace to walk
before him in their uprightness. God's answer to this prayer, is an
answer of peace. Abraham could not say he sought God's face in vain.
20: As for Ishmael, I have heard thee; I have blessed him - That is,
I have many blessings in store for him.
His posterity shall be numerous; I will multiply him exceedingly;
They shall be considerable; twelve princes shall he beget.
We may charitably hope that spiritual blessings also were bestowed upon him,
though the visible church was not brought out of his loins.
21: He names that child, Isaac - Laughter, because Abraham
rejoiced in spirit when this son was promised him.