CONFIRMATION OF THE COVENANT BY THE SACRAMENT OF CIRCUMCISION.
(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).
Abraham = Father of a multitude, “raham” being an Arabic word, perhaps current in Hebrew in ancient times. Another interpretation of Abram is that it is equivalent to Abi-aram, Father of Aram, or Syria. This too is an Arabic form, like Abimael in Genesis 10:28. By some commentators the stress is thrown upon the insertion of the letter “h,” as being the representative of the name Yahveh or Yehveh. (Compare the change of Oshea into Jehoshua, Numbers 13:16.)
The fitness of circumcision to be a sign of entering into a covenant, and especially into one to which children were to be admitted, consisted in its being a representation of a new birth by the putting off of the old man, and the dedication of the new man unto holiness. The flesh was cast away that the spirit might grow strong; and the change of name in Abram and Sarai was typical of this change of condition. They had been born again, and so must again be named. And though women could not indeed be admitted directly into the covenant, yet they shared in its privileges by virtue of their consanguinity to the men, who were as sponsors for them; and thus Sarai changes her name equally with her husband.
Thou shalt call his name Isaac.—That is, he laughs. The name was to be a perpetual memorial that Isaac’s birth was naturally such an impossibility as to excite ridicule.
Genesis 17:27And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.