New English Translation
The Cutting of the Covenant
15 After these things the Lord’s message came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram! I am your shield[a] and the one who will reward you in great abundance.”[b]
2 But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord,[c] what will you give me since[d] I continue to be[e] childless, and my heir[f] is[g] Eliezer of Damascus?”[h] 3 Abram added,[i] “Since[j] you have not given me a descendant, then look, one born in my house will be my heir!”[k]
4 But look,[l] the Lord’s message came to him: “This man[m] will not be your heir, but instead[n] a son[o] who comes from your own body will be your heir.” 5 The Lord[p] took him outside and said, “Gaze into the sky and count the stars—if you are able to count them!” Then he said to him, “So will your descendants be.”
6 Abram believed[q] the Lord, and the Lord[r] credited[s] it[t] as righteousness[u] to him.
7 The Lord said[v] to him, “I am the Lord[w] who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans[x] to give you this land to possess.” 8 But[y] Abram[z] said, “O Sovereign Lord,[aa] by what[ab] can I know that I am to possess it?”
9 The Lord[ac] said to him, “Take for me a heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” 10 So Abram[ad] took all these for him and then cut them in two[ae] and placed each half opposite the other,[af] but he did not cut the birds in half. 11 When birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
12 When the sun went down, Abram fell sound asleep,[ag] and great terror overwhelmed him.[ah] 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain[ai] that your descendants will be strangers[aj] in a foreign country.[ak] They will be enslaved and oppressed[al] for 400 years. 14 But I will execute judgment on the nation that they will serve.[am] Afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 But as for you,[an] you will go to your ancestors[ao] in peace and be buried at a good old age.[ap] 16 In the fourth generation[aq] your descendants[ar] will return here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its limit.”[as]
17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking firepot with a flaming torch[at] passed between the animal parts.[au] 18 That day the Lord made a covenant[av] with Abram: “To your descendants I give[aw] this land, from the river of Egypt[ax] to the great river, the Euphrates River— 19 the land[ay] of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”[az]
- Genesis 15:1 sn The noun “shield” recalls the words of Melchizedek in 14:20. If God is the shield, then God will deliver. Abram need not fear reprisals from those he has fought.
- Genesis 15:1 tc Instead of the Hiphil infinitive absolute הַרְבֵּה (harbeh), the Samaritan Pentateuch reads ארבה, the first person imperfect and most likely still Hiphil (ʾarbeh) meaning “I will make [your reward very] great.”tn Heb “your reward [in] great abundance.” When the phrase הַרְבֵּה מְאֹד (harbeh me’od) follows a noun it invariably modifies the noun and carries the nuance “very great” or “in great abundance.” (See its use in Gen 41:49; Deut 3:5; Josh 22:8; 2 Sam 8:8; 12:2; 1 Kgs 4:29; 10:10-11; 2 Chr 14:13; 32:27; Jer 40:12.) Here the noun “reward” is in apposition to “shield” and refers by metonymy to God as the source of the reward. Some translate here “your reward will be very great” (cf. NASB, NRSV), taking the statement as an independent clause and understanding the Hiphil infinitive absolute as a substitute for a finite verb. However, the construction הַרְבֵּה מְאֹד is never used this way elsewhere, where it either modifies a noun (see the texts listed above) or serves as an adverb in relation to a finite verb (see Josh 13:1; 1 Sam 26:21; 2 Sam 12:30; 2 Kgs 21:16; 1 Chr 20:2; Neh 2:2).sn Abram has just rejected all the spoils of war, and the Lord promises to reward him in great abundance. In walking by faith and living with integrity he cannot lose.
- Genesis 15:2 tn The Hebrew text has אֲדֹנָי יֱהוִה (ʾadonay yehvih, “Lord Yahweh”). Since the tetragrammaton (YHWH) usually is pointed with the vowels for the Hebrew word אֲדֹנָי (ʾadonay, “Lord”) to avoid pronouncing the divine name, that would lead in this place to a repetition of אֲדֹנָי. So the tetragrammaton is here pointed with the vowels for the word אֱלֹהִים (ʾelohim, “God”) instead. That would produce the reading of the Hebrew as “Lord God” in the Jewish textual tradition. But the presence of “Lord” before the holy name is rather compelling evidence that the original would have been “Lord Lord,” which is rendered here “Sovereign Lord.”
- Genesis 15:2 tn The vav (ו) disjunctive at the beginning of the clause is circumstantial, expressing the cause or reason.
- Genesis 15:2 tn Heb “I am going.”
- Genesis 15:2 tn Heb “the son of the acquisition of my house.”sn For the custom of designating a member of the household as heir, see C. H. Gordon, “Biblical Customs and the Nuzu Tablets,” Biblical Archaeologist Reader, 2:21-33.
- Genesis 15:2 tn The pronoun is anaphoric here, equivalent to the verb “to be” (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 23, §115).
- Genesis 15:2 sn The sentence in the Hebrew text employs a very effective wordplay on the name Damascus: “The son of the acquisition (בֶּן־מֶשֶׁק, ben mesheq) of my house is Eliezer of Damascus (דַּמֶּשֶׂק, dammeseq).” The words are not the same; they have different sibilants. But the sound play gives the impression that “in the nomen is the omen.” Eliezer the Damascene will be Abram’s heir if Abram dies childless because “Damascus” seems to mean that. See M. F. Unger, “Some Comments on the Text of Genesis 15:2-3, ” JBL 72 (1953): 49-50; H. L. Ginsberg, “Abram’s ‘Damascene’ Steward,” BASOR 200 (1970): 31-32.
- Genesis 15:3 tn Heb “And Abram said.”
- Genesis 15:3 tn The construction uses הֵן (hen) to introduce the foundational clause (“since…”), and וְהִנֵּה (vehinneh) to introduce the main clause (“then look…”).
- Genesis 15:3 tn Heb “is inheriting me.”
- Genesis 15:4 tn The disjunctive draws attention to God’s response and the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, translated “look”) mirrors Abram’s statement in v. 3 and highlights the fact that God responded to Abram.
- Genesis 15:4 tn The subject of the verb is the demonstrative pronoun, which can be translated “this one” or “this man.” That the Lord does not mention him by name is significant; often in ancient times the use of the name would bring legitimacy to inheritance and adoption cases.
- Genesis 15:4 tn The Hebrew כִּי־אִם (ki ʾim) forms a very strong adversative.
- Genesis 15:4 tn Heb “he who.”
- Genesis 15:5 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 15:6 tn The sentence begins with vav (ו) plus a perfect verb. It does not show simple sequence, which would have been indicated with a vav plus preterite as in the surrounding clauses. The nuance may be that Abram had already come to believe or did so while God was speaking. For a detailed discussion of the vav plus perfect construction in Hebrew narrative, see R. Longacre, “Weqatal Forms in Biblical Hebrew Prose: A Discourse-modular Approach,” Biblical Hebrew and Discourse Linguistics, 50-98. The verb אָמַן (ʾaman) occurs with a Niphal and Hiphil opposition. In the Niphal it means “to be faithful, reliable, firm, enduring.” While in the Hiphil, the form used here, it means “to consider or treat something as reliable, or dependable.” Abram regarded God as reliable for this promise; he believed.
- Genesis 15:6 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity. The Lord is the subject of a series of third masculine singular preterite verbs in 15:5-7, while Abram is the subject of the perfect verb at the beginning of this verse.
- Genesis 15:6 tn The verb חָשַׁב (khashav) is a verb of recognition, which can be rendered with words like “think, plan, reckon, impute, consider, assign.” Uniquely in this verse, the verb has two objects (a double accusative) and a prepositional phrase with ל (lamed). Without the double accusative, the syntax of the verb would be straightforward. When the object of the verb is an attribute and the object of the preposition is a person, it means “consider X (the verb’s object) to apply to (ל) Y (person).” This also occurs when imputing guilt to someone (2 Sam 19:20; Ps 32:2); the attribute is functionally applied to someone. When the object of the verb and the object of the preposition are impersonal, it means “consider X to be Z.” Gen 15:6 has two direct objects and both are impersonal. The closest parallels use an additional preposition. For example, Job 19:11, “He considers me (object suffix) like (כ; kaf) his enemies toward (ל) him,” and Job 33:10 He considers me (object suffix) to be (ל) an enemy toward (ל) him.” So the normal uses of the verb include considering a trait or evaluation to apply to a person, and also considering one thing to be [like] another. The translation takes the two impersonal objects of the verb (the double accusative) as being equated, while the preposition (ל) indicates that the attribute is imputed to the personal object of the preposition. That is, the Lord considered it (Abram’s belief) to be צְדָקָה (tsedaqah; “righteousness”), and he imputed this righteousness to Abram. We might suppose different nuances to be possible for how the two accusatives relate. Is one the evidence of the other, the basis for the other, an expression of the other? Or are these questions imposed on the text? We should note that when imputing (חָשַׁב; khashav) guilt, or not imputing (i.e., forgiving) guilt (Ps 32:1-3) the emphasis is on the legal or relational standing. The concept of considering righteousness to apply to someone’s account also occurs without this verb, as in Deut 6:25 and 24:13 “it will be righteousness for you before the Lord your God.” While the act of obedience and motivation for it can be characterized as righteous, the emphasis is on the righteous standing that the obedient person has. Likewise, Abram’s righteous standing before God is of the greatest significance in this passage.
- Genesis 15:6 tn Heb “and he imputed it.” The third feminine singular pronominal suffix refers back to Abram’s act of faith, mentioned in the preceding clause. On third feminine singular pronouns referring back to verbal ideas see GKC 440-41 §135.p. Some propose taking the suffix as proleptic, anticipating the following feminine noun (“righteousness”). In this case one might translate: “and he reckoned it to him—[namely] righteousness.” See O. P. Robertson, “Genesis 15:6: A New Covenant Exposition of an Old Covenant Text,” WTJ 42 (1980): 259-89.
- Genesis 15:6 tn The noun צְדָקָה (tsedaqah, “righteousness”) occurs with the Niphal of the same verb in Ps 106:31. Alluding to the events recorded in Numbers 25, the psalmist notes that Phinehas’ actions were “credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come.” Phinehas acted in opposition to idolatry. So he was righteous in motive, his actions were righteous in character, and after he acted he was accorded righteous standing before God. Further the Lord rewarded Phinehas with an unconditional, eternal covenant (Num 25:12-13) as he rewards Abram with a covenant. From that contextual fact, the צְדָקָה (tsedaqah) “righteousness”) may be viewed by some as focusing on the rewardability of the behavior more than the righteous standing before God, though the two notions are related. (See R. B. Chisholm, “Evidence from Genesis,” A Case for Premillennialism, 40.) In Phoenician and Old Aramaic inscriptions cognate nouns may be glossed as “correct, justifiable conduct” and may carry this same semantic nuance (DNWSI 2:962). HALOT seems to focus on the motive and character of righteous actions when it lists “loyalty to the community” among its glosses for צְדָקָה (HALOT, 1006). The translation takes the righteous standing to be central, though it coincides with righteous or loyal motives, righteous conduct, and being viewed as worthy of reward. sn This episode is basic to the NT teaching of Paul on justification (Romans 4). Paul weaves this passage and Ps 32 together, as both refer to imputing an attribute, righteousness or guilt. Paul explains that for the one who believes in the Lord, like Abram, God credits him with righteousness but does not credit his sins against him because he is forgiven. Justification does not mean that the believer is thoroughly righteous in motive and conduct; it means that God credits him with righteous standing, so that in the records of heaven (as it were) he is declared righteous. See M. G. Kline, “Abram’s Amen,” WTJ 31 (1968): 1-11.
- Genesis 15:7 tn Heb “And he said.”
- Genesis 15:7 sn I am the Lord. The Lord initiates the covenant-making ceremony with a declaration of who he is and what he has done for Abram. The same form appears at the beginning of the covenant made at Sinai (see Exod 20:1).
- Genesis 15:7 sn The phrase of the Chaldeans is a later editorial clarification for the readers, designating the location of Ur. From all evidence there would have been no Chaldeans in existence at this early date; they are known in the time of the neo-Babylonian empire in the first millennium b.c.
- Genesis 15:8 tn Here the vav carries adversative force and is translated “but.”
- Genesis 15:8 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Abram) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 15:8 tn See note on the phrase “Sovereign Lord” in 15:2.
- Genesis 15:8 tn Or “how.”
- Genesis 15:9 tn Heb “He”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 15:10 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Abram) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 15:10 tn Heb “in the middle.”
- Genesis 15:10 tn Heb “to meet its neighbor.”sn For discussion of this ritual see G. F. Hasel, “The Meaning of the Animal Rite in Genesis 15, ” JSOT 19 (1981): 61-78.
- Genesis 15:12 tn Heb “a deep sleep fell on Abram.”
- Genesis 15:12 tn Heb “and look, terror, a great darkness was falling on him.”
- Genesis 15:13 tn The Hebrew construction is emphatic, with the Qal infinitive absolute followed by the imperfect from יָדַע (yadaʿ, “know”). The imperfect here has an obligatory or imperatival force.
- Genesis 15:13 tn The Hebrew word גֵּר (ger, “sojourner, stranger”) is related to the verb גּוּר (gur, “to sojourn, to stay for awhile”). Abram’s descendants will stay in a land as resident foreigners without rights of citizenship.
- Genesis 15:13 tn Heb “in a land not theirs.”
- Genesis 15:13 tn Heb “and they will serve them and they will oppress them.” The verb עִנּוּ, (ʾinnu, a Piel form from עָנָה, ʾanah, “to afflict, to oppress, to treat harshly”), is used in Exod 1:11 to describe the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt.
- Genesis 15:14 tn The participle דָּן (dan, from דִּין, din) is used here for the future: “I am judging” = “I will surely judge.” The judgment in this case will be condemnation and punishment. The translation “execute judgment on” implies that the judgment will certainly be carried out.
- Genesis 15:15 tn The vav with the pronoun before the verb calls special attention to the subject in contrast to the preceding subject.
- Genesis 15:15 sn You will go to your ancestors. This is a euphemistic expression for death.
- Genesis 15:15 tn Heb “in a good old age.”
- Genesis 15:16 sn The term generation is being used here in its widest sense to refer to a full life span. When the chronological factors are considered and the genealogies tabulated, there are 400 years of bondage. This suggests that in this context a generation is equivalent to 100 years.
- Genesis 15:16 tn Heb “they”; the referent (“your descendants”) has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 15:16 tn Heb “is not yet complete.”sn The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its limit. The justice of God is apparent. He will wait until the Amorites are fully deserving of judgment before he annihilates them and gives the land to Israel.
- Genesis 15:17 sn A smoking pot with a flaming torch. These same implements were used in Mesopotamian rituals designed to ward off evil (see E. A. Speiser, Genesis [AB], 113-14).
- Genesis 15:17 tn Heb “these pieces.”
- Genesis 15:18 tn Heb “cut a covenant.”
- Genesis 15:18 tn The perfect verbal form is understood as instantaneous (“I here and now give”). Another option is to understand it as rhetorical, indicating certitude (“I have given” meaning it is as good as done, i.e., “I will surely give”).sn To your descendants I give this land. The Lord here unconditionally promises that Abram’s descendants will possess the land, but he does not yet ratify his earlier promises to give Abram a multitude of descendants and eternal possession of the land. The fulfillment of those aspects of the promise remain conditional (see Gen 17:1-8) and are ratified after Abraham offers up his son Isaac (see Gen 22:1-19). For a fuller discussion see R. B. Chisholm, “Evidence from Genesis,” A Case for Premillennialism, 35-54.
- Genesis 15:18 sn The river of Egypt is a wadi (a seasonal stream) on the northeastern border of Egypt, not the River Nile.
- Genesis 15:19 tn The words “the land” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
- Genesis 15:21 tn Each of the names in the list has the Hebrew definite article, which is used here generically for the class of people identified.
New English Translation
The Sign of the Covenant
17 When Abram was 99 years old,[a] the Lord appeared to him and said,[b] “I am the Sovereign God.[c] Walk[d] before me[e] and be blameless.[f] 2 Then I will confirm my covenant[g] between me and you, and I will give you a multitude of descendants.”[h]
3 Abram bowed down with his face to the ground,[i] and God said to him,[j] 4 “As for me,[k] this[l] is my covenant with you: You will be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer will your name be[m] Abram. Instead, your name will be Abraham[n] because I will make you[o] the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you[p] extremely[q] fruitful. I will make nations of you, and kings will descend from you.[r] 7 I will confirm[s] my covenant as a perpetual[t] 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.[u] 8 I will give the whole land of Canaan—the land where you are now residing[v]—to you and your descendants after you as a permanent[w] possession. I will be their God.”
9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep[x] the covenantal requirement[y] I am imposing on you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my requirement that you and your descendants after you must keep:[z] Every male among you must be circumcised.[aa] 11 You must circumcise the flesh of your foreskins. This will be a reminder[ab] of the covenant between me and you. 12 Throughout your generations every male among you who is eight days old[ac] must be circumcised, whether born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not one of your descendants. 13 They must indeed be circumcised,[ad] whether born in your house or bought with money. The sign of my covenant[ae] will be visible in your flesh as a permanent[af] reminder. 14 Any uncircumcised male[ag] who has not been circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin will be cut off[ah] from his people—he has failed to carry out my requirement.”[ai]
15 Then God said to Abraham, “As for your wife, you must no longer call her Sarai;[aj] Sarah[ak] will be her name. 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.[al] Kings of countries[am] will come from her!”
17 Then Abraham bowed down with his face to the ground and laughed[an] as he said to himself,[ao] “Can[ap] a son be born to a man who is a hundred years old?[aq] Can Sarah[ar] bear a child at the age of ninety?”[as] 18 Abraham said to God, “O that[at] Ishmael might live before you!”[au]
19 God said, “No, Sarah your wife is going to bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac.[av] I will confirm my covenant with him as a perpetual[aw] covenant for his descendants after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you.[ax] I will indeed bless him, make him fruitful, and give him a multitude of descendants.[ay] He will become the father of twelve princes;[az] I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this set time next year.” 22 When he finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.[ba]
23 Abraham took his son Ishmael and every male in his household (whether born in his house or bought with money)[bb] and circumcised them[bc] on that very same day, just as God had told him to do. 24 Now Abraham was 99 years old[bd] when he was circumcised;[be] 25 his son Ishmael was thirteen years old[bf] when he was circumcised. 26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised on the very same day. 27 All the men of his household, whether born in his household or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.
- Genesis 17:1 tn Heb “the son of ninety-nine years.”
- Genesis 17:1 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.
- Genesis 17:1 tn Or “God Almighty.” The name אֵל שַׁדַּי (ʾel 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 mss, Smr, the LXX, and Syriac) as the one who provides abundant blessings, including “blessings of the breast and womb” (49:25). (The direct association of the name with “breasts” suggests the name might mean “the one of the breast” [i.e., the one who gives fertility], but the juxtaposition is probably better explained as wordplay. Note the wordplay involving the name and the root שָׁדַד, [shadad, “destroy”] in Isa 13:6 and in Joel 1:15.) Outside Genesis the name Shaddai (minus the element “El” [“God”]) is normally used when God is viewed as the sovereign king who blesses/protects or curses/brings judgment. The name appears in the introduction to two of Balaam’s oracles (Num 24:4, 16) of blessing upon Israel. Naomi employs the name when accusing the Lord of treating her bitterly by taking the lives of her husband and sons (Ruth 1:20-21). In Ps 68:14; Isa 13:6; and Joel 1:15 Shaddai judges his enemies through warfare, while Ps 91:1 depicts him as the protector of his people. (In Ezek 1:24 and 10:5 the sound of the cherubim’s wings is compared to Shaddai’s powerful voice. The reference may be to the mighty divine warrior’s battle cry which accompanies his angry judgment.) Finally, the name occurs 31 times in the Book of Job. Job and his “friends” assume that Shaddai is the sovereign king of the world (11:7; 37:23a) who is the source of life (33:4b) and is responsible for maintaining justice (8:3; 34:10-12; 37:23b). He provides abundant blessings, including children (22:17-18; 29:4-6), but he can also discipline, punish, and destroy (5:17; 6:4; 21:20; 23:16). It is not surprising to see the name so often in this book, where the theme of God’s justice is primary and even called into question (24:1; 27:2). The most likely proposal is that the name means “God, the one of the mountain” (an Akkadian cognate means “mountain,” to which the Hebrew שַׁד, [shad, “breast”] is probably related). For a discussion of proposed derivations see T. N. D. Mettinger, In Search of God, 70-71. The name may originally have depicted God as the sovereign judge who, in Canaanite style, ruled from a sacred mountain. Isa 14:13 and Ezek 28:14, 16 associate such a mountain with God, while Ps 48:2 refers to Zion as “Zaphon,” the Canaanite Olympus from which the high god El ruled. (In Isa 14 the Canaanite god El may be in view. Note that Isaiah pictures pagan kings as taunting the king of Babylon, suggesting that pagan mythology may provide the background for the language and imagery.)
- Genesis 17:1 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.”
- Genesis 17:1 tn Or “in my presence.”
- Genesis 17:1 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 Lord, then the second imperative is likely sequential. (2) But if it has a positive moral connotation (“serve me faithfully”), then the second imperative probably indicates purpose (or result). For other uses of the idiom see 1 Sam 2:30, 35 and 12:2 (where it occurs twice).
- Genesis 17:2 tn Following the imperative, the cohortative indicates consequence. If Abram is blameless, then the Lord will ratify the covenant. Earlier the Lord ratified part of his promise to Abram (see Gen 15:18-21), guaranteeing him that his descendants would live in the land. But the expanded form of the promise, which includes numerous descendants and eternal possession of the land, remains to be ratified. This expanded form of the promise is in view here (see vv. 2b, 4-8). See the note at Gen 15:18 and R. B. Chisholm, “Evidence from Genesis,” A Case for Premillennialism, 35-54.
- Genesis 17:2 tn Heb “I will multiply you exceedingly, exceedingly.” The repetition is emphatic.
- Genesis 17:3 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.
- Genesis 17:3 tn Heb “God spoke to him, saying.” This is redundant in contemporary English and has been simplified in the translation for stylistic reasons.
- Genesis 17:4 tn Heb “I.”
- Genesis 17:4 tn Heb “is” (הִנֵּה, hinneh).
- Genesis 17:5 tn Heb “will your name be called.”
- Genesis 17:5 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 (ʾav hamon, “the father of a multitude,” which sounds like אַבְרָהָם, ʾavraham, “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.
- Genesis 17:5 tn The perfect verbal form is used here in a rhetorical manner to emphasize God’s intention.
- Genesis 17:6 tn This verb starts a series of perfect verbal forms with vav (ו) consecutive to express God’s intentions.
- Genesis 17:6 tn Heb “exceedingly, exceedingly.” The repetition is emphatic.
- Genesis 17:6 tn Heb “and I will make you into nations, and kings will come out from you.”
- Genesis 17:7 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).
- Genesis 17:7 tn Or “as an eternal.”
- Genesis 17:7 tn Heb “to be to you for God and to your descendants after you.”
- Genesis 17:8 tn The verbal root is גּוּר (gur, “to sojourn, to reside temporarily,” i.e., as a resident foreigner). It is the land in which Abram resides, but does not yet possess as his very own.
- Genesis 17:8 tn Or “as an eternal.”
- Genesis 17:9 tn The imperfect tense could be translated “you shall keep” as a binding command, but the obligatory nuance (“must”) captures the binding sense better.
- Genesis 17:9 tn Heb “my covenant.” The Hebrew word בְּרִית (berit) 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.
- Genesis 17:10 tn Heb “This is my covenant that you must keep between me and you and your descendants after you.”
- Genesis 17:10 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 ʾot Etiologies,” RB 81 (1974): 557-96.
- Genesis 17:11 tn Or “sign.”
- Genesis 17:12 tn Heb “the son of eight days.”
- Genesis 17:13 tn The emphatic construction employs the Niphal imperfect tense (collective singular) and the Niphal infinitive.
- Genesis 17:13 tn Heb “my covenant.” Here in v. 13 the Hebrew word בְּרִית (berit) 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.
- Genesis 17:13 tn Or “an eternal.”
- Genesis 17:14 tn The disjunctive clause calls attention to the “uncircumcised male” and what will happen to him.
- Genesis 17:14 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.
- Genesis 17:14 tn Heb “he has broken my covenant.” The noun בְּרִית (berit) 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.
- Genesis 17:15 tn Heb “[As for] Sarai your wife, you must not call her name Sarai, for Sarah [will be] her name.”
- Genesis 17:15 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.
- Genesis 17:16 tn Heb “she will become nations.”
- Genesis 17:16 tn Heb “peoples.”
- Genesis 17:17 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.
- Genesis 17:17 tn Heb “And he fell on his face and laughed and said in his heart.”
- Genesis 17:17 tn The imperfect verbal form here carries a potential nuance, as it expresses the disbelief of Abraham.
- Genesis 17:17 tn Heb “to the son of a hundred years.”
- Genesis 17:17 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).
- Genesis 17:17 tn Heb “the daughter of ninety years.”
- Genesis 17:18 tn The wish is introduced with the Hebrew particle לוּ (lu), “O that.”
- Genesis 17:18 tn Or “live with your blessing.”
- Genesis 17:19 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).
- Genesis 17:19 tn Or “as an eternal.”
- Genesis 17:20 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.
- Genesis 17:20 tn Heb “And I will multiply him exceedingly, exceedingly.” The repetition is emphatic.
- Genesis 17:20 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.
- Genesis 17:22 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.
- Genesis 17:23 tn Heb “Ishmael his son and all born in his house and all bought with money, every male among the men of the house of Abraham.”
- Genesis 17:23 tn Heb “circumcised the flesh of their foreskin.” The Hebrew expression is somewhat pleonastic and has been simplified in the translation.
- Genesis 17:24 tn Heb “the son of ninety-nine years.”
- Genesis 17:24 tn Heb “circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin” (also in v. 25).
- Genesis 17:25 tn Heb “the son of thirteen years.”
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