17:1 When Abram was 99 years old, 1 the Lord appeared to him and said, 2 “I am the sovereign God. 3 Walk 4 before me 5 and be blameless. 6 17:2 Then I will confirm my covenant 7 between me and you, and I will give you a multitude of descendants.” 8
17:3 Abram bowed down with his face to the ground, 9 and God said to him, 10 17:4 “As for me, 11 this 12 is my covenant with you: You will be the father of a multitude of nations. 17:5 No longer will your name be 13 Abram. Instead, your name will be Abraham 14 because I will make you 15 the father of a multitude of nations. 17:6 I will make you 16 extremely 17 fruitful. I will make nations of you, and kings will descend from you. 18 17:7 I will confirm 19 my covenant as a perpetual 20 covenant between me and you. It will extend to your descendants after you throughout their generations. I will be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 21 17:8 I will give the whole land of Canaan – the land where you are now residing 22 – to you and your descendants after you as a permanent 23 possession. I will be their God.”
1 tn Heb “the son of ninety-nine years.”
2 tn Heb “appeared to Abram and said to him.” The proper name has been replaced by the pronoun (“him”) and the final phrase “to him” has been left untranslated for stylistic reasons.
3 tn The name אֵל שַׁדַּי (’el shadday, “El Shaddai”) has often been translated “God Almighty,” primarily because Jerome translated it omnipotens (“all powerful”) in the Latin Vulgate. There has been much debate over the meaning of the name. For discussion see W. F. Albright, “The Names Shaddai and Abram,” JBL 54 (1935): 173-210; R. Gordis, “The Biblical Root sdy-sd,” JTS 41 (1940): 34-43; and especially T. N. D. Mettinger, In Search of God, 69-72. Shaddai/El Shaddai is the sovereign king of the world who grants, blesses, and judges. In the Book of Genesis he blesses the patriarchs with fertility and promises numerous descendants. Outside Genesis he both blesses/protects and takes away life/happiness. The patriarchs knew God primarily as El Shaddai (Exod 6:3). While the origin and meaning of this name are uncertain (see discussion below) its significance is clear. The name is used in contexts where God appears as the source of fertility and life. In Gen 17:1-8 he appeared to Abram, introduced himself as El Shaddai, and announced his intention to make the patriarch fruitful. In the role of El Shaddai God repeated these words (now elevated to the status of a decree) to Jacob (35:11). Earlier Isaac had pronounced a blessing on Jacob in which he asked El Shaddai to make Jacob fruitful (28:3). Jacob later prayed that his sons would be treated with mercy when they returned to Egypt with Benjamin (43:14). The fertility theme is not as apparent here, though one must remember that Jacob viewed Benjamin as the sole remaining son of the favored and once-barren Rachel (see 29:31; 30:22-24; 35:16-18). It is quite natural that he would appeal to El Shaddai to preserve Benjamin’s life, for it was El Shaddai’s miraculous power which made it possible for Rachel to give him sons in the first place. In 48:3 Jacob, prior to blessing Joseph’s sons, told him how El Shaddai appeared to him at Bethel (see Gen 28) and promised to make him fruitful. When blessing Joseph on his deathbed Jacob referred to Shaddai (we should probably read “El Shaddai,” along with a few Hebrew
4 tn Or “Live out your life.” The Hebrew verb translated “walk” is the Hitpael; it means “to walk back and forth; to walk about; to live out one’s life.”
5 tn Or “in my presence.”
6 tn There are two imperatives here: “walk…and be blameless [or “perfect”].” The second imperative may be purely sequential (see the translation) or consequential: “walk before me and then you will be blameless.” How one interprets the sequence depends on the meaning of “walk before”: (1) If it simply refers in a neutral way to serving the
7 tn Following the imperative, the cohortative indicates consequence. If Abram is blameless, then the
8 tn Heb “I will multiply you exceedingly, exceedingly.” The repetition is emphatic.
9 tn Heb “And Abram fell on his face.” This expression probably means that Abram sank to his knees and put his forehead to the ground, although it is possible that he completely prostrated himself. In either case the posture indicates humility and reverence.
10 tn Heb “God spoke to him, saying.” This is redundant in contemporary English and has been simplified in the translation for stylistic reasons.
11 tn Heb “I.”
12 tn Heb “is” (הִנֵּה, hinneh).
13 tn Heb “will your name be called.”
14 sn Your name will be Abraham. The renaming of Abram was a sign of confirmation to the patriarch. Every time the name was used it would be a reminder of God’s promise. “Abram” means “exalted father,” probably referring to Abram’s father Terah. The name looks to the past; Abram came from noble lineage. The name “Abraham” is a dialectical variant of the name Abram. But its significance is in the wordplay with אַב־הֲמוֹן (’av-hamon, “the father of a multitude,” which sounds like אַבְרָהָם, ’avraham, “Abraham”). The new name would be a reminder of God’s intention to make Abraham the father of a multitude. For a general discussion of renaming, see O. Eissfeldt, “Renaming in the Old Testament,” Words and Meanings, 70-83.
15 tn The perfect verbal form is used here in a rhetorical manner to emphasize God’s intention.
16 tn This verb starts a series of perfect verbal forms with vav (ו) consecutive to express God’s intentions.
17 tn Heb “exceedingly, exceedingly.” The repetition is emphatic.
18 tn Heb “and I will make you into nations, and kings will come out from you.”
19 tn The verb קוּם (qum, “to arise, to stand up”) in the Hiphil verbal stem means “to confirm, to give effect to, to carry out” (i.e., a covenant or oath; see BDB 878-79 s.v. קוּם).
20 tn Or “as an eternal.”
21 tn Heb “to be to you for God and to your descendants after you.”
22 tn The verbal root is גּוּר (gur, “to sojourn, to reside temporarily,” i.e., as a resident alien). It is the land in which Abram resides, but does not yet possess as his very own.
23 tn Or “as an eternal.”