on Romans 4 :17
As it is written, I have made thee a father - That Abraham's being a father of many nations has relation to the covenant of God made with him, may be seen, Genesis 17:4, Genesis 17:5 : Behold my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations: neither shall thy name any more be called Abram; but thy name shall be Abraham, for a father of many nations have I made thee, i.e. he was constituted the head of many nations, the Gentile world, by virtue of the covenant, which God made then with him.
God, who quickeneth the dead, etc. - God is the most proper object of trust and dependence; for being almighty, eternal, and unchangeable, he can even raise the dead to life, and call those things which be not as though they were. He is the Creator, he gave being when there was none; he can as infallibly assure the existence of those things which are not, as if they were already actually in being. And, on this account, he can never fail of accomplishing whatsoever he has promised.
on Romans 4 :17
As it is written - Genesis 17:5.
I have made thee - The word used here in the Hebrew Gen 17:5 means literally, to give, to grant; and also, to set, or constitute. This is also the meaning of the Greek word used both by the Septuagint and the apostle. The quotation is taken literally from the Septuagint. The argument of the apostle is founded in part on the fact that the past tense is used - I have made thee - and that God spoke of a thing as already done, which he had promised or purposed to do. The sense is, he had, in his mind or purpose, constituted him the father of many nations; and so certain was the fulfillment of the divine purposes, that he spoke of it as already accomplished.
Of many nations - The apostle evidently understands this promise as referring, not to his natural descendants only, but to the great multitude who should believe as he did.
Before him - In his view, or sight; that is, God regarded him as such a father.
Whom he believed - Whose promise he believed; or in whom he trusted.
Who quickeneth the dead - Who gives life to the dead, Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5. This expresses the power of God to give life. But why it is used here has been a subject of debate. I regard it as having reference to the strong natural improbability of the fulfillment of the prophecy when it was given, arising from the age of Abraham and Sarah, Romans 4:19. Abraham exercised power in the God who gives life, and who gives it as he pleases. It is one of his prerogatives to give life to the dead (νεκρους nekrous), to raise up those who are in their graves; and a power similar to that, or strongly reminding of that, was manifested in fulfilling the promise to Abraham. The giving of this promise, and its fulfillment, were such as strongly to remind us that God has power to give life to the dead.
And calleth ... - That is, those things which he foretels and promises are so certain, that he may speak of them as already in existence. Thus, in relation to Abraham, God, instead of simply promising that he would make him the father of many nations, speaks of it as already done, "I have made thee," etc. In his own mind, or purpose, he had so constituted him, and it was so certain that it would take place, that he might speak of it as already done.
on Romans 4 :17
4:17 Before God - Though before men nothing of this appeared, those nations being then unborn. As quickening the dead - The dead are not dead to him and even the things that are not, are before God. And calling the things that are not - Summoning them to rise into being, and appear before him. The seed of Abraham did not then exist; yet God said, So shall thy seed be. A man can say to his servant actually existing, Do this; and he doeth it: but God saith to the light, while it does not exist, Go forth; and it goeth. Gen 17:5.