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.”
17:9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep 24 the covenantal requirement 25 I am imposing on you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 17:10 This is my requirement that you and your descendants after you must keep: 26 Every male among you must be circumcised. 27 17:11 You must circumcise the flesh of your foreskins. This will be a reminder 28 of the covenant between me and you. 17:12 Throughout your generations every male among you who is eight days old 29 must be circumcised, whether born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not one of your descendants. 17:13 They must indeed be circumcised, 30 whether born in your house or bought with money. The sign of my covenant 31 will be visible in your flesh as a permanent 32 reminder. 17:14 Any uncircumcised male 33 who has not been circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin will be cut off 34 from his people – he has failed to carry out my requirement.” 35
17:15 Then God said to Abraham, “As for your wife, you must no longer call her Sarai; 36 Sarah 37 will be her name. 17:16 I will bless her and will give you a son through her. I will bless her and she will become a mother of nations. 38 Kings of countries 39 will come from her!”
17:17 Then Abraham bowed down with his face to the ground and laughed 40 as he said to himself, 41 “Can 42 a son be born to a man who is a hundred years old? 43 Can Sarah 44 bear a child at the age of ninety?” 45 17:18 Abraham said to God, “O that 46 Ishmael might live before you!” 47
17:19 God said, “No, Sarah your wife is going to bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. 48 I will confirm my covenant with him as a perpetual 49 covenant for his descendants after him. 17:20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you. 50 I will indeed bless him, make him fruitful, and give him a multitude of descendants. 51 He will become the father of twelve princes; 52 I will make him into a great nation. 17:21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this set time next year.” 17:22 When he finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him. 53
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.”
24 tn The imperfect tense could be translated “you shall keep” as a binding command; but the obligatory nuance (“must”) captures the binding sense better.
25 tn Heb “my covenant.” The Hebrew word בְּרִית (bÿrit) can refer to (1) the agreement itself between two parties (see v. 7), (2) the promise made by one party to another (see vv. 2-3, 7), (3) an obligation placed by one party on another, or (4) a reminder of the agreement. In vv. 9-10 the word refers to a covenantal obligation which God gives to Abraham and his descendants.
26 tn Heb “This is my covenant that you must keep between me and you and your descendants after you.”
27 sn For a discussion of male circumcision as the sign of the covenant in this passage see M. V. Fox, “The Sign of the Covenant: Circumcision in the Light of the Priestly ‘ot Etiologies,” RB 81 (1974): 557-96.
28 tn Or “sign.”
29 tn Heb “the son of eight days.”
30 tn The emphatic construction employs the Niphal imperfect tense (collective singular) and the Niphal infinitive.
31 tn Heb “my covenant.” Here in v. 13 the Hebrew word בְּרִית (bÿrit) refers to the outward, visible sign, or reminder, of the covenant. For the range of meaning of the term, see the note on the word “requirement” in v. 9.
32 tn Or “an eternal.”
33 tn The disjunctive clause calls attention to the “uncircumcised male” and what will happen to him.
34 tn Heb “that person will be cut off.” The words “that person” have not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons.
sn The meaning of “cut off” has been discussed at great length. An entire tractate in the Mishnah is devoted to this subject (tractate Keritot). Being ostracized from the community is involved at the least, but it is not certain whether this refers to the death penalty.
35 tn Heb “he has broken my covenant.” The noun בְּרִית (bÿrit) here refers to the obligation required by God in conjunction with the covenantal agreement. For the range of meaning of the term, see the note on the word “requirement” in v. 9.
36 tn Heb “[As for] Sarai your wife, you must not call her name Sarai, for Sarah [will be] her name.”
37 sn Sarah. The name change seems to be a dialectical variation, both spellings meaning “princess” or “queen.” Like the name Abram, the name Sarai symbolized the past. The new name Sarah, like the name Abraham, would be a reminder of what God intended to do for Sarah in the future.
38 tn Heb “she will become nations.”
39 tn Heb “peoples.”
40 sn Laughed. The Hebrew verb used here provides the basis for the naming of Isaac: “And he laughed” is וַיִּצְחָק (vayyitskhaq); the name “Isaac” is יִצְחָק (yitskhaq), “he laughs.” Abraham’s (and Sarah’s, see 18:12) laughter signals disbelief, but when the boy is born, the laughter signals surprise and joy.
41 tn Heb “And he fell on his face and laughed and said in his heart.”
42 tn The imperfect verbal form here carries a potential nuance, as it expresses the disbelief of Abraham.
43 tn Heb “to the son of a hundred years.”
44 sn It is important to note that even though Abraham staggers at the announcement of the birth of a son, finding it almost too incredible, he nonetheless calls his wife Sarah, the new name given to remind him of the promise of God (v. 15).
45 tn Heb “the daughter of ninety years.”
46 tn The wish is introduced with the Hebrew particle לוּ (lu), “O that.”
47 tn Or “live with your blessing.”
48 tn Heb “will call his name Isaac.” The name means “he laughs,” or perhaps “may he laugh” (see the note on the word “laughed” in v. 17).
49 tn Or “as an eternal.”
50 sn The Hebrew verb translated “I have heard you” forms a wordplay with the name Ishmael, which means “God hears.” See the note on the name “Ishmael” in 16:11.
51 tn Heb “And I will multiply him exceedingly, exceedingly.” The repetition is emphatic.
52 tn For a discussion of the Hebrew word translated “princes,” see E. A. Speiser, “Background and Function of the Biblical Nasi’,” CBQ 25 (1963): 111-17.
53 tn Heb “And when he finished speaking with him, God went up from Abraham.” The sequence of pronouns and proper names has been modified in the translation for stylistic reasons.
sn God went up from him. The text draws attention to God’s dramatic exit and in so doing brings full closure to the scene.