What does Genesis 17:4 mean?
ESV: “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.
NIV: As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.
NASB: 'As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you will be the father of a multitude of nations.
CSB: "As for me, here is my covenant with you: You will become the father of many nations.
NLT: This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations!
KJV: As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
Verse Commentary:
After God appeared to Abram, instructing him to walk with the Lord and to be blameless, promising to increase Abram's numbers greatly, Abram fell face down before the Lord in reverence. This is a common expression of worship, submission, and humility. To this point, Abram has demonstrated a willingness to honor God, and to follow Him, even when he's unsure of every detail.

Now God continues the covenant promise. Specifically, God says Abram will be the father of many nations. While God had promised before this to give Abram countless offspring, this is the first time God describes Abram as the patriarch of multiple nations. It won't be the last time, though. In fact, in the next verse, God will declare a change in Abram's name, signifying this great future. Finally, after 23 years (Genesis 12:4; Genesis 17:1) and many struggles, the man known as Abram will take on the name by which he is truly remembered: Abraham (Genesis 17:5).
Verse Context:
Genesis 17:1–14 describes God's appearance to a 99-year-old Abram. Again God confirms His expansive covenant promises: to make Abram a father of nations and to give to him and his offspring the land of Canaan. At this time, God even changes Abram's name to Abraham to mark the occasion. This time, though, the repetition of the promise comes with God's requirements for Abraham: walk with me, be blameless, and circumcise yourself and every male of your household from now through every generation in the future.
Chapter Summary:
God appears to Abram once more in Genesis 17, but this instance is very different from prior meetings. God reconfirms His promises to make Abram a father of nations and to give to him and his descendants the land of Canaan. This time, though, God changes Abram's name to Abraham and gives him a requirement to circumcise himself and every male in his household forever. He also changes Sarai's name to Sarah. God announces that Abraham and Sarah will have a son, after all. His 13-year old son Ishmael will be blessed, but this new son, Isaac, to be born within the year, will be the one to whom God's covenant promises will pass.
Chapter Context:
Genesis 17 records the details of God's appearance to Abram, now 99. Thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael to Sarah's servant Hagar, God arrives to change Abram's name to Abraham, to confirm the covenant promises, and to command Abraham. He is to circumcise every male in his household as a sign of the covenant. Then the big news: within a year, Abraham's wife—now renamed Sarah—would bear Abraham a son. This long-awaited son would be the one through whom God would keep all of His promises to Abraham.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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