Genesis 17:15-22

Genesis 17:15-22
A Women’s Lectionary 2


15 GodA said to Abraham,B “As for SaraiC your wife,D

Notes on verse 15a

A “God” = Elohim.
B “Abraham” = Abraham. From the same as Abiram (exalted father, a high father – lofty) {from ab (father literal or figurative) + rum (rise, bring up, being high, extol, exalt, haughty; to raise in a literal or figurative sense)}. This is Abraham, father of many nations or father of a multitude.
C “Sarai” = Saray. 17x in OT. From the same as sar (chief, ruler, lord, official, governor, prince; someone at the top of a rank or class). This is Sarai, which means princess or ruler.
D “wife” = ishshah. From ish (man); perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is woman, wife, or female.

you shall not callE herF Sarai, but SarahG shall be her name.H 16 I will blessI her, and moreover I will giveJ you a sonK by her.

Notes on verses 15b-16a

E “call” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
F {untranslated} = shem. May be from sum (to put, place, set). This is name, fame, renown. A name was thought to indicate something essential about a person – something about their individuality. So, this word can also mean honor, authority, or character.
G “Sarah” = Sarah. Related to “Sarai” in v15. From the same as Saray (see note C above). This is Sarah, meaning princess.
H “name” = shem. Same as {untranslated} in v15. See note F above.
I “bless” = barak. This is to kneel, to bless. It is blessing God as part of worship and adoration or blessing humans to help them. It can be used as a euphemism to say curse God.
J “give” = natan. This is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.
K “son” = ben. From banah (to build or obtain children). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense.

I will bless her, and she shall give rise toL nations;M kingsN of peoplesO shall comeP from her.” 

Notes on verse 16b

L “give rise to” = hayah. This is to be or become, to happen.
M “nations” = goy. From the same root as gevah (the back, person, or body); related to gev (among); related to gaah (to rise up). This is nation or people. Often used to refer to Gentiles or foreign nations. It can also be used figuratively for a group of animals. This is where the Yiddish “goy” comes from.
N “kings” = melek. From malak (to be or become king or queen, to rise to the throne, to be crowned; by implication, to take counsel). This is king or royal.
O “peoples” = am. From amam (to darken, hide, associate; creating shadows by huddling together). This is people or nation. It can be used specifically for a tribe, collectively of troops or armies, or figuratively to refer to a flock of animals.
P “come” = hayah. Same as “give rise to” in v16. See note L above.

17 Then Abraham fellQ on his faceR and laughed,S and said to himself,T

Notes on verse 17a

Q “fell” = naphal. This is to fall, whether by accident, to fall prostrate, or to fall in violent death. Figuratively, it can refer to personal ruin or calamity, a city falling, an attack or a falling away. It can also be a deep sleep or wasting away.
R “face” = paneh. From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.
S “laughed” = tsachaq. 13x in OT. This is to laugh, mock, play, make sport. It is laughing out loud whether in joy or in a scornful way. This is the root of “Isaac.”
T “to himself” = leb. Literally, “in his heart.” May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.

“Can a child be bornU to a man who is a hundredV yearsW old?X Can Sarah, who is ninetyY years old,Z bearAA a child?” 

Notes on verse 17b

U “be born” = yalad. This is to bear or bring forth. It can mean to act as midwife or to show one’s lineage. This is often used for birth or begetting.
V “hundred” = meah. This is hundred or some number times one hundred (i.e. hundredfold or the base of two hundred, three hundred, etc.).
W “years” = shanah. From shana (to change, alter). This is a year, age, old. It can also mean yearly.
X “old” = ben. Same as “son” in v16. See note K above.
Y “ninety” = tishim. From the same as tesha (nine, perhaps as looking to the next number associated with fullness – 10); perhaps from sha’ah (to gaze at, gaze around, regard – to look to, especially for help; to consider or be compassionate; to look at in amazement or while confounded). This is ninety.
Z “old” = bat. Related to “son” in v16. From ben (see note K above). This is daughter in a literal or figurative sense.
AA “bear” = yalad. Same as “be born” in v17. See note U above.

18 And Abraham said to God, “O that IshmaelBB might liveCC in your sight!”DD 

19 God said, “No, butEE your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall nameFF him Isaac.GG 

Notes on verses 18-19a

BB “Ishmael” = Yishmael. Related to “God” in v15. From shama (hear, call, consent, or consider; implies listening intelligently, giving attention; obedience and action are often implied) + el (see note A above). This is Ishmael, meaning “God hears” or “God will hear.”
CC “live” = chayah. This is to live or keep alive in a literal or figurative sense. So, it an be revive, nourish, or save.
DD “sight” = paneh. Same as “face” in v17. See note R above.
EE “no, but” = abal. 11x in OT. Perhaps from abal (to mourn, bewail). This is truly, indeed, but.
FF “name” = qara + et + shem. Literally, “call his name.” Qara is the same as “call” in v15. See note E above Shem is the same as {untranslated} in v15. See note F above.
GG “Isaac” = Yitschaq. Related to “laughed” in v17. From tsachaq (see note S above). This is Isaac, meaning “he laughs.”

I will establishHH my covenantII with him as an everlastingJJ covenant for his offspringKK afterLL him. 

Notes on verse 19b

HH “establish” = qum. To arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide. This is rising as in rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action. It can also be standing in a figurative sense.
II “covenant” = berit. Perhaps from barah (to eat, choose, make clear); perhaps from bar (grain, wheat); from bara (to select, purify, cleanse, test, brighten, polish). This is a compact, covenant, alliance, treaty, or league.
JJ “everlasting” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).
KK “offspring” = zera. From zara (to sow or scatter seed; conceive or yield). This is seed or sowing. It can, thus, mean a fruit, plant, sowing time, child, offspring, or posterity.
LL “after” = achar. From achar (to remain behind, linger, continue, be behind, or delay; can also imply procrastination). This is after or the last part, following.

20 As for Ishmael, I have heardMM you;NN I will bless him and make him fruitfulOO and exceedinglyPP numerous;QQ

Notes on verse 20a

MM “heard” = shama. Related to “Ishmael” in v18. See note BB above.
NN {untranslated} = hinneh. From hen (lo! Behold! If, though; an expression of surprise). This is to draw attention, show suddenness or surprise, or to emphasize the importance of the coming statement. See! Lo! Behold!
OO “make…fruitful” = parah. This is to bear fruit, grow, be fruitful, increase. It is bearing fruit in a literal or figurative sense.
PP “exceedingly” = meod + meod. Perhaps from the same as uwd (firebrand, a poker). This is very, greatly, exceedingly. It can also mean vehemence, force, abundance.
QQ “numerous” = rabah. This is increasing in any aspect whether quantity, authority, size, quality, greatness, etc.

he shall be the father ofRR twelveSS princes,TT and I will makeUU him a greatVV nation. 

Notes on verse 20b

RR “be the father of” = yalad. Same as “be born” in v17. See note U above.
SS “twelve” = shenayim + asar. Shenayim is from sheni (double, again, another, second); from shanah (to fold, repeat, double, alter, or disguise). This is two, both, second, couple. Asar is from the same as eser (ten). This is ten or -teen.
TT “princes” = nasi. From nasa (to lift in a broad sense, literally and figuratively; to carry, take, or arise; to bring forth, advance, accept). This is one lifted up or exalter. So, it could be prince, chief, ruler, captain, king, or vapor.
UU “make” = natan. Same as “give” in v16. See note J above.
VV “great” = gadol. From gadal (to grow up, become great, become wealthy – to advance. The root meaning may be to twist in the sense of the process of growing). This is great, high, bigger, noble, old, marvelous. It can also refer to someone who is powerful or distinguished.

21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this seasonWW nextXX year.” 

22 And when he had finishedYY talkingZZ with him, God went upAAA from Abraham.

Notes on verses 21-22

WW “season” = moed. From yaad (to appoint, assemble or gather selves, agree). This is a meeting, assembly, fixed time. It can be used for a festival or feast. It can also refer to a meeting place.
XX “next” = acher. Related to “after” in v19. From achar (see note LL above). This is following, next, strange, other.
YY “finished” = kalah. This is to end, be finished, complete, prepare, consume, spent, or completely destroyed.
ZZ “talking” = dabar. This is generally to speak, answer, declare, or command. It might mean to arrange and so to speak in a figurative sense as arranging words.
AAA “went up” = alah. This is to go up, approach, ascend, be high, be a priority; to arise in a literal or figurative sense.

Image credit: “Abraham Contemplates the Stars” from The Books of the Bible by Ephraim Moses Lilien, 1908.

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