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American Standard Version with Notes

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An * beside a note indicates it was taken from a bible student source.

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Genesis Chapter Seventeen


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50



1. And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

God had promised to make a definite covenant with Abram before he left his native land, Haran. (Gen. 12:1-4.) He actually made that covenant after Abram had complied with the conditions and come into the land of Canaan. (Gen. 12:6,7.) And now, in the words of this lesson, we find God encouraging Abram's faith by amplifying and explaining that covenant, and counseling him to continue to keep his heart in the proper attitude to receive such favors, saying, "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will perform my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly."The covenant was to give all "the land of Canaan" to Abram and to his seed for an everlasting possession. The terms of the covenant clearly indicate an earthly inheritance, an inheritance of that which Abram actually saw with his natural eyes. And Abraham (for his name was here changed as a confirmation of the covenant) [R1617 : page 45] believed the word of the Lord, and never relaxed his faith, even to his dying day; for, says Paul, he "died in faith, not having received the promises; but, having seen them afar off, he was persuaded of them and embraced them" (Heb. 11:13), although, during his past life, as Stephen said, "God gave him none inheritance in the land; no, not so much as to set his foot on; yet he promised that he would give it to him and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child."—Acts 7:5.

That was indeed a remarkable covenant, and a wonderful manifestation of the favor of God toward his faithful servant Abraham; and it was a remarkable faith on the part of Abraham which was able to grasp and appreciate a promise whose realization must be beyond the floods of death; and extending to a posterity so numerous as to be beyond all hope of reckoning. R1617

Let us look into the past, and note the method by which God has all along sought His peculiar people. The first proclamation of God's purposes respecting our race was made to Abraham. God spake to Abraham, saying, "Walk as in My presence, and be thou perfect"—i. e., Do your best to be perfect. After Abraham had manifested some faith, God gave him further tests. When in obedience to those tests Abraham left his native land to live in Canaan, he manifested so great a faith that God called him His friend, and made to him the very first revelation of the Divine purposes in respect to humanity.

Abraham knew that there was a curse upon the race, under which the whole creation was groaning, going down to the tomb, and God's declaration to him was that the time would come when, instead of the curse, He would send a blessing. This meant to Abraham that, instead men becoming more imperfect and wasting away in death, a change would come, by which they would be rescued from the dying condition, and resurrected from the power of the tomb.

This was a wonderful proposition, even for God to make; yet Abraham, with childlike faith, believed the Message. God declared to him that, because of his own faith, He would greatly bless him and his posterity, so that through him as a father eventually would come children who would accomplish the great work of blessing mankind, and would rescue all from the power of sin, Satan and death. The briefly epitomized statement of all this was in the words, "In thee and in thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."—Genesis 28:14.

What was it to have faith in that Promise?  What did it mean to Abraham? Assuredly it meant that thenceforth Abraham's mind would take in a larger horizon—the world of humanity, instead of merely his own immediate family and flocks and herds, and his nearest neighbors. It meant that if God would so honor his posterity, Abraham would seek in everything to co-operate with God and that great Promise.

For years God tested Abraham's faith. Yet he still believed. "His faith staggered not." After Isaac had been born and as yet had no child, God directed that this son of promise, the one in whom the whole Promise centered, should be sacrificed. What a test of faith! What a grand development of faith Abraham had acquired when he was ready to obey the Voice Divine, accounting that God was able to raise Isaac up again from the dead! Oh, for such a trust in God! Oh, for such a faith! Oh, for such an appreciation of Divine Power! What could not be accomplished in the world through the Divine Message if such faith prevailed amongst God's children! What would God not do for children who would trust Him thus! R5244

2. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.



3. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,




4. As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be the father of a multitude of nations.

Doubtless it was because it would have been beyond the comprehension of the Jews that the Lord did not [R3664 : page 345] make very plain in all his prophecies that the blessings proposed for fleshly Israel were the same blessings which later would be bestowed upon all nations, peoples, kindreds and tongues. As he veiled the fact that there would be a spiritual Israel as well as a natural Israel, so he veiled in the promises the fact that in the future all the nations, peoples and tongues will have an opportunity of becoming Israelites indeed, children of Abraham. These gracious promises are indeed clear when we attain a proper viewpoint in respect to the divine Word, though hidden from any other standpoint. For instance we now see the meaning of the Lord's word, "I have constituted thee a father of many nations," (Gen. 17:4); and again the promise, "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:3); and again the Apostle's assurance that as the rejection of natural Israel meant the acceptance of spiritual Israel to the higher and chief elements of the promise, so the regathering of spiritual Israel would mean life from the dead to all humanity.—Rom. 11. R3662B

The Apostle explains to us that although this Oath-Bound Covenant is the real, genuine first one, nevertheless it was not time for it to go into operation at once; but instead the Law Covenant was added, and developed during the Jewish age the Jewish nation, as a typical people of God under the Law Covenant, with Moses as its mediator, which was typical of the New Covenant, with Christ as its Mediator. The Apostle points out that this Covenant failed to bring forth [R3916 : page 9] any children of God—it brought forth only servants—and that with its failure it was set aside when our Lord Jesus at his first advent, by his obedience, proved his right to be heir to the Abrahamic Covenant. The Apostle points out that Sarah, Abraham's wife, typified that Oath-Bound Covenant, which for more than 2000 years was barren—did not bring forth the spiritual Seed of Abraham to bless the world. He declares that Hagar, the bondwoman of Abraham's family, represented the Law Covenant, that her child Ishmael represented the Jews, and that the casting off of the Jewish nation and the setting aside of their Law Covenant was typified in Abraham's dealing with Hagar—"Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for he shall not be heir with the son of the free woman."—Gal. 4:30.

The Apostle points out that antitypically the Son of the free woman, the son of Sarah, the Seed of Abraham that was to inherit this promise, was primarily the Lord Jesus himself, and in a larger and secondary sense the entire Gospel Church, the "little flock," of which he is the Head and Captain—"If ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's Seed and heirs according to the promise." Thus we have before our minds now, by the Apostle's aid, a clear view of the Jewish nation and their Law Covenant; and also a clear view of the true Seed, Christ and the Church, the heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant, which had no mediator. It has required all of this Gospel age for the selection of this spiritual Seed (house of sons) just as it required all of the Jewish age for the selection of the class symbolized by Ishmael, the house of servants, born in bondage under the Law. R3914 


5. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for the father of a multitude of nations have I made thee.

But, as for giving health and stopping disease and death, my understanding is that it will all be done under God's arrangement under the New Covenant, and that that New Covenant will be made with the nation of Israel, and that only those of a right heart amongst Israel will get blessings from it. As Israel will more and more get the blessings, the other nations will see their blessings and prosperity and they will say: "Let us go up to the mountain of the house of the Lord and we will walk in His paths." He is going to make all of His blessings go through this New Covenant and through Israel, so that all the nations may come in.  The prophet said of those nations that would not come up to Jerusalem, that upon them should come no rain. Whether you use "rain" as literal rain or as blessings, we know that He is going to let it rain until all the earth is filled ocean deep. These blessings are to be with only those who are in harmony with Him, and with the New Covenant. Whoever ignores God's arrangement suffers for it, and he will not have God's blessing. When they see the prosperity of Israel they will all want to join with them, and every individual who wants God's blessings will come into this New Covenant with Israel, as we read: "I have constituted thee a father of many nations." Here the many nations will be the children of Abraham. All will have to join the natural stock of Israel, just as foreigners who come to this country become naturalized when they take out their papers of citizenship they are then known as Americans, or citizens of the United States. So it will be then, for it will be under Israel's New Covenant that all the world will be blessed. I remind you of the 16th chapter of Ezekiel, (Eze.16:20) "When I bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of the captives in the midst of them . . . and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant." Not by the Old Covenant, "I will make a New Covenant," and they will come in under this arrangement. Our Lord is there pointing out the restitution blessings. Q622:T 

It can be stated in this way that the Abrahamic Covenant included particularly the spiritual seed, but that it shadowed forth an earthly seed also, as representing just the way that it will be fulfilled; Christ and the Church being the spiritual seed and through them all the blessing should come, first to the earthly seed, and then to all the families of the earth who will become the seed of Abraham. Under the New Covenant, God's blessing will not be to all nations, but merely to one nation, the seed of Abraham, as Jer. 31:31 says, "After those days I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah," not with Egypt, Persia, etc., but with Israel, and this New Covenant with Israel will not be applicable to other nations, but only to Israel, because it is the seed of Abraham according to the flesh.  The Abrahamic Covenant reflecting the light and blessing through the New Covenant by His will or testament through death, gives the blessing of restitution to the nation of Israel, and then, through the nation of Israel, it will be made applicable to as many as will come in'. You remember what the Scriptures tell us about that Millennial time at its beginning; they intimate that the nations at that time will be taking notice of Israel, and God's special blessings to Israel. "The Law shall go forth from Zion (Spiritual Israel), and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Natural Israel)." The nations of the world will be looking on and seeing God's blessings with Israel, will say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord's house, He will teach us His way, we also will walk in His paths." The nations of the world will see that all of God's blessings are coming to the nation of Israel and they will want a share also, and it shall come to pass that the nation that will not go up to walk in the Lord's way, and hear His word, upon that nation there shall be no rain. The word [Page Q171] "rain" represents all the blessings of restitution, coming from the refreshing showers of God's mercies, health, strength and deliverance from the pests of the earth, the thorns and thistles, and sickness shall not be upon the nations, and this new arrangement will be under the rule of the Ancient Worthies. Nothing will appeal to people more than practical facts. They will be dying still, and life will be only where the New Covenant goes, and will be only for those who come under the New Covenant arrangement, and as these many nations see the blessings of those under the New Covenant, they will desire also to come in, and this is God's arrangement; that, whosoever will may come in that they may all become Israelites; and so, at the end of the Millennial Age, the whole world will be Israelites, and the whole world will be the seed.  Abraham then, as it is written, will be the "father of many nations." Q171:T

The Abrahamic Covenant is an all-embracing arrangement.  Everything that God has done and will yet do for our race is included in that Abrahamic Covenant. The Law Covenant of Israel was added to this Covenant "because of trangression." Although only a typical arrangement, nevertheless the Law Covenant developed a certain faithful class, to be made "princes in all the earth" during the Millennial Age. This Covenant was represented by Hagar; and her son Ishmael represented the nation of Israel. (Galatians 4:21-31.) The Christ, the New Creation class, was represented in Isaac, Sarah's son. Sarah, Abraham's first wife, represented that part of the Abrahamic Covenant which pertained to the Spiritual Seed, the New Creation, that which we sometimes speak of as the Sarah Covenant. This Sarah Covenant—the Grace Covenant, the Covenant of Sacrifice (Psalm 50:5)—brings forth the Isaac class, the Church, head and Body.

Even as Isaac was not born after the flesh in the ordinary sense (Abraham and Sarah being too old naturally), but was a special creation, so with The Christ company, the Church. This "Isaac" class is developed as a distinctly new creation, formed from members of the fallen human race. The Divine invitation to these is to present their bodies living sacrifices. They sacrifice their human nature that they may attain with their Head, the antitypical "Isaac" the Divine nature—something never before offered. After this New Creation is completed, the blessing indicated in God's Promises to Abraham will reach all the families of the earth. It will teach them, first through the "Isaac" Seed, the New Creation, and secondly, through the Ancient Worthies developed in the Ages preceding this Age, under God's typical arrangements.

All kindreds and families of the earth will be blessed [R5909 : page 170] by the privilege or opportunity to become children of Abraham, children of God, whom Abraham represented in a figure. "I have made thee a father of many nations (Genesis 17:5Romans 4:17), said the Lord to Abraham—"In becoming thy seed shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves." These will be blessed under the New covenant, an arrangement whereby the Abrahamic Covenant will be fulfilled as relates to Israel and to all.

The Abrahamic Covenant, then, embraces all the other Covenants, those Covenants being merely different features of God's arrangements by which the work implied in the great Abrahamic Covenant or Promise is to be accomplished.

As we have elsewhere previously shown, Abraham took another wife, after the death of Sarah—Keturah. By her he had many sons and daughters. Thus the New Covenant is typed and its grand work of bringing many to life—to "the liberty of the sons of God."—Romans 8:19,21. R5909:5

Abraham no doubt expected that Isaac, the son of promise, would be "the Seed," or the offspring, through whom the blessings would come; but when Isaac was grown and nothing wonderful was accomplished through him, God confirmed to him, and subsequently to Jacob, his son, the same Abrahamic promise, assuring them that "the Seed" was still future, and implied that the promise meant a nation instead of an individual—a nation of Abraham's Seed, Abraham's children. And this feature of the Divine arrangement was made manifest at Jacob's death, when the blessing was passed on from him, not to only one of his children, but to all of [R4451 : page 244] them collectively. There he pronounced them a nation of twelve tribes, and indicated that to them as a whole descended this Abrahamic promise—that they, as the Seed of Abraham, inherited the promise, "In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."

This promise held that nation together for all the centuries down to Christ—yea, it still holds them together as a peculiar people, separate from all the other nations of the world. St. Paul and the other Apostles refer to this repeatedly. St. Paul says, Our twelve tribes instantly (incessantly) serving God, hope to come to the fulfilment of this Abrahamic promise—the blessing of all the families of the earth through them.—Acts 26:7. R4451 

The children of Israel, from God's standpoint, were a typical people—they represented typically all who would ever become Abraham's seed, on the heavenly and the earthly planes. Thus it is written, "I have made thee a father of many nations."All who will ultimately be saved to relationship with God out of many nations were well represented in the many tribes of Israel. R4389

Some names were as monuments to remind of some special dealings of the Lord, and others were prophetic. The qualities, work or destiny of an individual was often expressed by his name. When the direction of a life was changed it was sometimes indicated by a change of name. Adam, indicates man's origin—"of the earth, earthy." Cain, is "acquired," and the woman was mistaken in the value of the man she had gotten of the Lord. Abel, is "feeder," a shepherd, and fitly represents the great Shepherd of the sheep, who gave His life for them. Abraham, means "father of a great multitude," or "of many nations." His name was changed from Abram to Abraham when God made him the promise. (Gen. 17:5.) And in reference to the same great plan Sarai was changed to Sarah, i.e. Princess (ver. 15.) These are prophetic in their character and point to the grand success of the gospel in bringing the nations to God, the Father of all, through the agency of the "seed" of promise—Christ and the Church—the antitypes of Isaac and Rebekah. David, means beloved, a type of Christ, the true King of Israel. David as a prophet personifies Christ, and God makes promises to him as if he were Christ. R48

6. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.



7. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.

Both the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant are Scripturally styled "The Everlasting Covenant," in contrast with the Law Covenant, which passed away, a failure because of its "unprofitableness." (Heb. 7:18.) The one is perpetuated in the other, even as the spiritual Seed (spiritual Israel) will rule and bless through the earthly Seed (fleshly Israel). Note the Scripture testimony that the original Grace (or Sarah) Covenant is everlasting. (Gen. 17:7,13,192 Sam. 23:5Psa. 105:8-10.) Note other Scriptures which apply the same term prophetically to the New Covenant. (Jer. 32:4031:31,32Ezk. 16:60.) Note carefully the context in each instance, that the reference is to the Millennium. R4318 

But, can the promises to Abraham be thus fulfilled? We think so—let us see. We read (Gen. 12:1-3), "Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country [Chaldea] and from thy kindred and from thy father's house, unto a land which I will shew thee, and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." If Abraham be placed at the head of the (earthly) kingdom, all this can be accomplished.

Again we read (Gen. 13:15,16): "All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed forever; and I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered." [There is not much need of urging that this does not refer to the "little flock."]

Again (Gen. 17:7,8): "I will give to thee and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger—all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession."

Again (Gen. 22:17): "In blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is by the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."

Now unless we can see more seeds than one in these promises, we will [R220 : page 7] have confusion: but if we can see that the earthly is to be as the sand, and that the blessing seed is Christ and the little flock under him, we may see how Abraham might suppose it all to belong to the natural seed. And indeed we should not know of the distinction were it not revealed through Paul. (Gal. 3:29).


Paul, in Rom. 4:16, seems to mention both of these seeds (natural and spiritual) when he says, that God's promise was "of faith, to the end that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the Law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham who is the father of us all (...) like unto Him whom he believed, even God." [We give the marginal reading which conveys the true idea, viz: that Abraham was the actual father to one of the seeds and a likeness of the Father of the other—"even God."] R218


8. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.


Furthermore, in Gen. 17:8, God said unto Abraham, "And I will give unto thee and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." Two thousand years later, St. Stephen said that God never gave Abraham so much as a foot of the promised land (Acts 7:5); but he implied that Abraham will yet receive that land and afterward leave it to his posterity. If the land is to be given to Abraham and his coadjutors, and then to be left to his seed and mankind in general, the [R5182 : page 53] thought would seem to be implied that the Ancient Worthies will pass to the spirit nature. R5182:5 

"For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land." This unquestionably refers to the literal and final regathering of Israel to Palestine—the land which God promised to Abraham, saying, "Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed forever." (Gen. 13:14,1517:8.) It is the land of which Stephen said (Acts 7:5) Abraham never owned a foot, but in the confident hope of which he died. Such a promise, made to Abraham, as well as to his seed, and made by God who cannot lie, and which Abraham never realized before he died, manifestly implies the resurrection of Abraham, as well as of that large proportion of his seed which has gone down into the grave, in order to the receiving of the land. Nor was "the land" here used in a mystical sense: it was plainly—"all the land which thou seest," and, as stated in Gen. 17:8"the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan. R1371C 

That the re-establishment of Israel in the land of Palestine is one of the events to be expected in this Day of the Lord, we are fully assured by the above expression of the prophet. Notice, particularly, that the prophecy cannot be interpreted in any symbolic sense. It is not a Canaan in heaven to which they are appointed, but a Canaan on earth. They are to be planted upon "their land," the land which God says he had given them, the land which he promised [C245] to Abraham, saying, "Lift up now thine eyes and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land WHICH THOU SEEST, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. [An intimation of a then far distant period, giving ample time for such a multiplication of his seed.] Arise, walk through the land, in the length of it, and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee." "And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger —all the land of Canaan, for an EVERLASTING POSSESSION." (Gen. 13:14-17; 17:8) It is a land into which they were once privileged to enter, and in which they dwelt for centuries. But during that time they were many times plucked up and carried into captivity in other lands, while strangers wasted their cities, drank the wine of their vineyards, and ate the fruit of their gardens. And finally they were completely rooted out, their cities laid waste and desolate, and they were driven as wanderers and exiles from country to country the world over. But when replanted in their land according to this promise, "they shall no more be pulled up out of their land," which God gave them; and "they shall build the waste cities [cities in which they had formerly lived], and inhabit them." A scattered, homeless, desolate and persecuted people, they are still a distinct and homogeneous people. United by the strong ties of blood relationship, by common hopes inspired by a common faith in the wonderful promises of God, though they have but dimly comprehended those promises, and still further bound together by the bond of sympathy growing out of their common sufferings and privations as exiles, they, to this day, look and long for the hope of Israel. C244 

9. And God said unto Abraham, And as for thee, thou shalt keep my covenant, thou, and thy seed after thee throughout their generations.

10. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised.

CIRCUMCISION was given to Abraham and his posterity as a sign or mark by which they attested faith in the divine promises. It was obligatory upon every Jew who would maintain his relationship to the divine promises, and it is still obligatory upon that nation. (Gen. 17:14.) We are not to forget, however, that a Jew, no less than a Gentile, is reckoned as losing earthly nationality in becoming a Christian. To all such, "old things pass away, all things become new." They are thenceforth "new creatures" in Christ Jesus, members of the "holy nation."

Inasmuch as circumcision in the flesh as a mark in the flesh had been observed for over eighteen centuries by all recognized as God's people, it should not surprise us to find that some of the early Christians, previously Jews, concluded that it was still obligatory upon all who had become children of God. All the broad distinctions between the Law Covenant and the New Covenant were not clearly distinguished at first,—even the apostles appear for a time not to have distinguished clearly on all points. Nevertheless, the Lord had held them, as the special guides of the new dispensation, and had prevented their making any declaration on the subject, until in his due time the matter was brought clearly to their attention; and then they were guided aright. R2158 

11. And ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt me and you.


12. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any foreigner that is not of thy seed.


13. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

14. And the uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.



15. And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.


The Medium of the blessedness promised. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their seed are the medium. Not the whole of Abraham's seed, but his seed in that particular line:—"And God said to Abraham, As for Sarai, thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her." "Sarah, thy wife, shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac, and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting (age-lasting) covenant, and with his seed after him." (Gen. 17:15-19.) Referring to this election, the Apostle Paul wrote:—"They are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children; but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed." (Rom. 9:6-8.) Abraham's wife was "barren," and they were both "old and well-stricken in age." What could Abraham do under such circumstances? He could believe "God who quickeneth (maketh alive) the dead;" and that was exactly what he eventually did: "Being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about a hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb; he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what He hath promised He was able to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness." (Rom. 4:13-22.) Thus Isaac was brought forth. In reference to this son of promise, God afterwards said to Abraham: "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering." (Gen. 22:2.) [R1436 : page 249] What could Abraham do now? He could obeyGod; and that was exactly what he did: "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac, and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said that In Isaac shall thy seed be called, accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." (Heb. 11:17-19.) Thus Isaac was brought forth the second time.  The elect seed is the seed of "promise" throughout.The elect seed in "figure" was the seed of promise, and the elect seed in reality is also the seed of promise. The Apostle Paul identifies the real seed most unmistakably: "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." Not the Christ in one person merely, but the Christ in many persons: "For ye are all the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."—Gal. 3:16-29.

The medium of the blessedness was incomplete while it was merely "according to the flesh:" Hence in writing respecting its Root, the Apostle Paul describes Him as having been "made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." "Whose are the fathers, and of whom concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever.  Amen." (Rom. 1:1-49:5.) It was necessary that Christ should come according to the flesh in order that man might be redeemed; and He redeemed man from the curse by becoming a curse for him: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Gal. 3:13,14.) The death of Christ was necessary, but the death of Christ in itself is not the medium of blessedness. There is no blessedness in death, but the death of Christ prepared the way for untainted life. Untainted life is the cardinal element of blessedness; and the Root of it is the Christ—"the Resurrection and the Life." In resurrection, in life, in incorruptibility, in immortality, and having all authority and power in heaven and on earth, Christ is the Root of the medium of blessedness for all the nations of the earth. In the complete medium of blessedness there are natures both human and divine. In those natures there are many ranks, and from the lowest to the highest of them Christ "is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." R1434B

16. And I will bless her, and moreover I will give thee a son of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be [a mother of] nations; kings of peoples shall be of her.



17. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?



ISAAC signifies "laughter." Abraham laughed with pleasure when informed that he would have a son that would be born in his old age. (Gen. 17:17.) Sarah laughed with incredulity when she was informed on the subject. (Gen. 18:12.)And again she laughed in joy and appreciation at the time of Isaac's birth: hence he was named Laughter, or Joyous. R2860

 (1) We read, for instance, in Genesis 17:17 that Abraham laughed at the idea of a son being born to those so old. (2) In Gen. 18:12 we read that Sarah laughed at the idea of her having a son in old age. (3) In Gen. 21:6we read that Sarah laughed with joy at the birth of her son.  Another thought is that as Isaac was a type of Christ (Gal. 4:28), and the joy typified by his name was a prophecy of the blessing that is yet to come through the glorified Christ to all nations, in harmony with the prediction of the angels—"good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people." (Luke 2:10.) But as Isaac was not peculiarly mirthful or joyous, neither was Jesus, his great antitype, nor yet the Church, the body of Christ. Nevertheless there are joys of the Lord which the world cannot appreciate—the experience of all of those who have the divine peace and blessing. R3952

18. And Abraham said unto God, Oh that Ishmael might live before thee!



19. And God said, Nay, but Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his seed after him.


From Strong's 3327, yitschaq, he laughs, from 6711, tsachaq, to laugh.

The only son of Abraham and Sarah, a child of promise, in the old age of his parents. He was the longest lived of the three patriarchs (Genesis 21:1-3). As a test of Abraham's faith, God commanded him to sacrifice his son. (Genesis 22). At forty years of age Rebekah was chosen for his wife (Genesis 24).  After Abraham's death, he lived at Beer-lahai-roi (25:7-11), and here his sons, Esau and Jacob was born. During a famine, he moved among the Phillistines where he claimed Rebekah was his sister, as his father had in Egypt with Sarah. Returning to Beersheba, God reinterated the promises he had made to Abraham. He died at Mamre, "being old and full of days" (35:27-29), one hundred and eighty years old, and was buried in the cave of Machpelah. His character was passive, kind and gentle.


ISAAC, the child of promise, in whom centered for the time the riches of God's gracious provision for the world of mankind, was not remarkable, either as a boy or a man. His experiences were rather commonplace as a rule. But is it not so with the majority of the Lord's people? Not many great, not many wise, not many learned, not many noble, not many rich, hath God chosen, but chiefly the poor of this world, rich in faith, heirs of the Kingdom. (1 Cor. 1:26-29Jas. 2:5.) If all the characters of the Scriptures were notable, the majority of us would feel ourselves so commonplace as to excite our fears that the Lord would have no place for us amongst his elect. We are glad that in divine providence some have prominence, greatness, almost thrust upon them by the necessity or interests of the Lord's plan. We are glad also for those less prominent, in whose hearts the Lord works equally a work of grace, purification, strength of character, to make them meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. A lesson in this connection is that strong characters may be developed and high ideals attained in the heart and in deed amongst the lowly and obscure. The majority of the Lord's elect are of this kind—"Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight."—Matt. 11:26.

The name Isaac signifies laughter, yet it would appear to be a misfit so far as the boy and the man were concerned. Retiring, peace-loving, meditative, quiet, he had not the rollicking disposition that might be represented by the name. A probable suggestion is that the laughter connected with his name was the remembrance of the experience of his parents in that matter.  (1) We read, for instance, in Genesis 17:17 that Abraham laughed at the idea of a son being born to those so old. (2) In Gen. 18:12 we read that Sarah laughed at the idea of her having a son in old age. (3) In Gen. 21:6we read that Sarah laughed with joy at the birth of her son. Another thought is that as Isaac was a type of Christ (Gal. 4:28), and the joy typified by his name was a prophecy of the blessing that is yet to come through the glorified Christ to all nations, in harmony with the prediction of the angels—"good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people." (Luke 2:10.) But as Isaac was not peculiarly mirthful or joyous, neither was Jesus, his great antitype, nor yet the Church, the body of Christ. Nevertheless there are joys of the Lord which the world cannot appreciate—the experience of all of those who have the divine peace and blessing.


Of a very different character indeed was Isaac's elder half-brother, Ishmael—domineering, tyrannical. Not amenable to restraints and reproofs, he made life miserable for Isaac until Abraham, in harmony with the Lord's direction, treated him as an incorrigible, and refused to him and his mother the privileges of the home. (Gen. 21:12.) We are informed that Hagar also had a sneering spirit. (Gen. 16:4.) Separation was not only wise but necessary to the type, as St. Paul shows. Ishmael was 13 years old, or 18 if, as some think, this occurred in Isaac's fifth year. We are to remember the Apostle's explanation of this incident, that it was typical: that Hagar and her son Ishmael represented the Law Covenant and the Jews, while Sarah and her son represented the original Abrahamic Covenant and the Church of this Gospel age. The persecution of the Isaac class at the first advent was very manifest, and as a result the Ishmael class, the Jews, have been cast off from divine favor and have had a [R3953 : page 72] time of trouble ever since. It is with pleasure that we see in the type, as well as in the direct statement of the Apostle, that the time will come when God's favor shall return to them and they shall return to the Lord, and he shall abundantly have mercy upon them, and we rejoice that this time is now near at hand, even at the door.

When Isaac was forty years of age, according to the custom of the time Abraham selected a wife for him—not that this was an invariable custom of the time, either, for we find that Isaac's two sons, Jacob and Esau, selected their own wives; but as Isaac was intended to be the type of Christ, so the bride of Isaac was intended to be the type of the Church. Hence the selection of the typical bride must be after the manner of the selection of the antitypical Bride. Thus as Abraham sent his servant to select the bride for [R3953 : page 73] Isaac, so the Scriptures inform us the heavenly Father sends the holy Spirit to make selection of those who may constitute the Bride of Christ, for, as Jesus declared, "No man can come unto me except the Father which sent me draw him." The story of the selection is a beautiful one, and fits well to the calling of the Church, thus:—

The divine guidance was sought and had in the matter of the selection, and this guidance was along practical lines—the approved maiden showed herself hospitable and kindly disposed in that she proffered the drawing of water for the camels which Abraham's servant had brought. It demonstrated her physical strength as well as her quality of heart. So those who are drawn of the Father to the Son must have certain elements of character to begin with, however these may be afterwards shaped and polished. The kindly, the generous, seem always to have the divine approval; hence we all should be on the alert to cultivate these qualities in our hearts and lives, and as parents and preceptors of the rising generation we should endeavor to cultivate this same quality in those under our care, having in mind the fact that such will be the more likely and the more ready to receive divine blessings of various kinds.

The record shows that Isaac inherited the great wealth of his father Abraham, flocks, herds, gold, silver, servants, etc. And that he increased this considerably is shown in our lesson—"The man waxed great and grew more and more until he became very great: for he had possessions of flocks and of herds and a great household: and the Philistines envied him." At the time of this lesson a drouth had prevailed in the more southern part, and Isaac had moved his establishment to the vicinity of Gerar north to the Mediterranean coast, because of the better pasturage and water. The Philistines had recognized God's favor with Abraham in his great growth, and now they saw the same in respect to Isaac. Not wishing to encourage this growingly influential family they had stopped the wells that the herdsmen of the north should not come their way; but Isaac's herdsmen, not taking the hint, had dug the wells afresh, and this led the king or chief of the Philistines to come out plainly and request Isaac and his retainers to move to other parts, saying, "Go from us; for thou art mightier than we." They knew not when the strife between the herdsmen might mean a civil war, and in the interests of peace they urged Isaac not to remain too close a neighbor.

We see a similar spirit manifested in various parts of the world today toward the posterity of Isaac—Russians, for instance, use these very words to the Jews, "Go from us, for you are mightier than we." The Lord's blessing has been with the seed of Abraham in a very remarkable manner, notwithstanding their chastenings during this Gospel age. No wonder, then, that other men feel somewhat envious of them and desire not to sit under their shadow. If the Russians merely asked the Jews to remove it would not be so bad, so unjust, provided, of course, that they would purchase from them their property at a reasonable value. But, coming far short of the spirit of the Philistines, they are ready to kill, to rob, to destroy the Jews.

In compliance with the request, Isaac did change the seat of his encampment a distance down the valley, but again trouble broke out. The Philistines were still jealous and claimed the water wells found by Isaac's herdsmen. But [R3953 : page 74] the man of peace would not permit of strife and moved his home again. Still angry feeling continued, and again he moved still farther away, and rejoiced that although the country was poorer, less advantageous every way, nevertheless he had peace for himself and his possessions.

Had Isaac and his servants been less numerous than the Philistines there would have been less merit in his conduct. We are to remember that, according to the words of the Philistines themselves, Isaac's clan was greater than that of the Philistines. For the greater to be submissive, yielding, peace-loving, is peculiarly commendable. Too frequently it is the case that might makes right, and the stronger one declares to the weaker, "Go yourself," with the result of clashing, bitterness, resistance, etc. Let us as the followers [R3954 : page 74] of the Lord in such matters take the course of Isaac, and, as the Apostle exhorts, "So far as lieth in you live peaceably with all men"; do not stand upon your rights—be willing to sacrifice for the interests of others, or at least to preserve peace between yourselves and others.

The Lord appeared to Isaac in a vision, or through an angel perhaps, and assured him that the promise made to his father Abraham under divine blessing was sure to him, and he built an altar unto the Lord, rendering worship. Possibly Isaac was fearful that the course he was pursuing, the course of peace, was an unwise one, and that the Philistines thereby would be encouraged to more and more take advantage of him. Many in his place would have thought, However much we are disposed for peace we must give these Philistines a lesson, and let them know there is a limit to our gentleness—a point beyond which if they go they will find a stern resistance and serious injury. Such would have been worldly wisdom and quite probably such thoughts did come to Isaac. It was at this time, then, that the Lord manifested himself especially to him and gave him especial assurances of his protecting care, and that all the good promises made to Abraham respecting that land and his own posterity would be absolutely fulfilled.


To Isaac's surprise Abimelech, the king of the Philistines, with Phichol, the chief captain of his army, visited him at his new home. "Isaac said unto them, Wherefore art thou come unto me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?"  "And they said, We saw plainly that the Lord was with thee, and we said, Let there now be an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee; that thou wilt do us no harm, even as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the Lord."

What an illustration Isaac here had of God's overruling providence! By his course of peace he had not only gained the respect and friendship of those who were envious of him, but additionally he had honored his God and incidentally honored himself in that these men recognized the fact that the favor of God was with him. And is not this the case with the Lord's people who seek to follow the counsel of his Word? Is it not better that we should suffer some disadvantages at times and keep the peace and accept the Lord's Spirit, thus holding up a light before the world, than that we should give way to wrangling and quarreling and give evidences of a carnal spirit and of doubt of God's power to protect us? Surely we may learn a lesson in this, and appreciate more and more the Master's words, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." R3952


20. And as for Ishmael , I have heard thee: behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.




21. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.



22. And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.  
23. And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.  
24. And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. Some will claim that it was Circumcision that Paul referred to, as being abolished, being superseded by circumcision of the heart. Yes, we answer, that is true, but it is also true that every element of the Law was abolished. In proof of this we cite the fact that Abraham and Isaac were circumcised (Gen. 17:2421:4.) and that the Law at Sinai was not given for four hundred and thirty years afterward. And Paul's language clearly and distinctly shows that this four hundred and thirty years later law, was the one that was added because of sin until Christ, the promised Seed, should come. (See Gal. 3:17,19,23-25; [R974 : page 5]  4:4-7.) This proves exactly what Law Paul referred to, as already shown. R970 
25. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.  
26. In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.  
27. And all the men of his house, those born in the house, and those bought with money of a foreigner, were circumcised with him.