(44) What is the meaning of, “I will greatly increase thee, and set thee among the nations, and kings shall proceed from thee?” (#Ge 17:6). That expression, “I will greatly increase thee,” was used to the wise man with exceeding propriety; since every wicked or bad man does increase and advance, not to improvement but towards deficiency; as withering flowers advance not towards life but towards death; but the man whose life is extended long and is greatly increased is like a passing cloud, or like the continually flowing stream of a river, because as it increases it is extended more and more out of doors, as its wisdom also is divine. And that expression, “I will set thee among the nations,” was used in order that God might the more evidently demonstrate that he was making him worthy to be as a foundation and firm support to the nations through his wisdom, not only to his own nation, but also to all other peoples who in various manners are in want in respect of their minds, as has been said before; since the wise man is the redeemer of nations and intercessor for them before God, and since it is he who implores pardon for the sins of his relations. Last of all, the promise, “Kings shall come forth from thee,” is again used with especial propriety; for everything which relates to wisdom is a royal seed; the offspring of the chief and master according to nature: but the wise man has no seed or fruit of his own, but is fertile and abundant in the seed which proceeds from the great cause himself.
(45) What is the meaning of, “I will give this land to thee and to thy seed after thee, in which thou hast sojourned, namely all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession?” (#Ge 17:8). The letter of the promise is so clear that the language does not stand in need of any explanation whatever; but with respect to the inward meaning of it we must have recourse to an allegory of this kind. The mind which is endowed with virtue is rather a sojourner in the corporeal space allotted to it, than a regular inhabitant of it; for its real country is the air and the heaven; and the earth, and the earthly body in which it is said to sojourn, is only a colony; therefore the Father, conferring a benefit upon it, gives to it the sovereign authority over all the things of the earth for ever and ever, as he says himself, for an everlasting possession; so that it for the future shall not be governed by the body, but shall always be its master and ruler, having the body for its servant and attendant.