Nations and Kings
“I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you” (Gen. 17:6).- Genesis 17:6–7
As the Lord continues to specify His promises to Abraham, we read that He will make the patriarch “exceedingly fruitful” (Gen. 17:6). If this seems familiar, it is because Adam and Noah, both men with whom God made covenants, were commanded to be fruitful as well (1:28; 9:7). Today’s passage therefore identifies Abraham as beginning a new epoch of history. Like Adam and Noah before him, Abraham’s covenant with Yahweh has universal ramifications.
Despite this direct connection between Abraham and the covenant heads before him, there is also significant dissimilarity. Whereas Adam and Noah were commanded to multiply and subdue the earth, Abraham does not receive an order to do the same. This time God says He will make Abraham fruitful (17:6). The patriarch will enjoy the benefits of God’s grace and power in a way Adam and Noah never did. Divine blessing will rest on this man, favor that must come to Abraham as his advanced age (17:1) makes it impossible for him to bring about the Lord’s promise through his own effort.
Adam failed previously to keep the covenant (3:6), but God will guarantee the success of the bond with Abraham. The patriarch and his sons will falter (20; 26:6–11), but the Creator will stand in a unique relationship to this family, ensuring that His plan for man to fill and subdue the earth will be accomplished by the kings and nations that descend from Abraham (17:6).
The greatest covenant blessing is the sovereign Lord’s vow to be God to Abraham and his progeny (v. 7). This promise undergirds all other blessings, including eternal life, and is the starting point for any aid the Lord gives to His people (Ezek. 11:19–20; Matt. 1:20–21). John Calvin reminds us that God’s bond with Abraham is “a spiritual covenant, not confirmed in reference to the present life only; but one from which Abraham might conceive the hope of eternal salvation, so that being raised even to heaven, he might lay hold of solid and perfect bliss. For those whom God adopts to himself, from among a people — seeing that he makes them partakers of his righteousness and of all good things — he also constitutes heirs of celestial life.”
In his commentary, Matthew Henry tells us this passage teaches that “what God is himself, that he will be to his people: his wisdom theirs, to guide and counsel them; his power theirs, to protect and support them; his goodness theirs, to supply and comfort them.” All of the Lord’s people can be encouraged that His power, wisdom, and goodness are resting upon them. Are you feeling weak this day? Know that God is with you and will sustain you in your need.
Passages for Further Study
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