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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Genesis

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Genesis 17: The Covenant of Circumcision


v.1-8 Restatement of the Covenant by the Lord

v.9-14 Abraham's side of the Covenant – Circumcision

v.15-22 Focus on Sarah and promise of Isaac

v.23-27 Circumcision Applied



v.1-8 Restatement of the Covenant by the Lord


v.1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old , the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.

v.2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

v.3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,

v.4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.

v.5 No longer will you be called Abram [Abram means exalted father.]; your name will be Abraham, [Abraham probably means father of many.] for I have made you a father of many nations.

v.6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.

v.7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

v.8 The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”


[Notes: This covenant has a number of important features:

1. It is initiated by the Lord.

2. Abram's side of it is to walk before God faithfully and blamelessly.

3. The Lord's side of it was to make Abraham fruitful with many children.

4. Not only that, but those numbers would also form many nations.

5. It is an everlasting covenant.

6. The covenant also includes the Land to be theirs.

We should note the fulfilment of this not only came through Isaac who formed Israel but also through Ishmael who formed twelve ‘tribes' – Gen 25:12-16.]



v.9-14 Abraham's side of the Covenant – Circumcision


v.9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.

v.10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

v.11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.

v.12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring.

v.13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.

v.14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”


[Notes: Not only was there a general call to Abram and his descendants to walk before God faithfully and blamelessly, but they were to perform a sign of their commitment to do that – circumcision. Doctors say that the 8 th day (v.12) is the safest day for this to be performed. It had to include every male within the household, family members or servants.]



v.15-22 Focus on Sarah and promise of Isaac


v.15,16 God's Declaration

v.15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.

v.16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”


v.17,18 Abraham's doubt

v.17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”

v.18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”


v.19-22 God reiterates the promise

v.19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. [Isaac means he laughs] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

v.20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.

v.21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”

v.22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.


[Notes: Four times in this chapter we have seen the formula, “God said”, the first two about Abram [v.3,9] and the latter two to Abram but about Sarai [v.15,10]. Abraham's problem is not with being a father – because he already is with Ishmael - but with Sarah being a mother. The fact that he had managed to sire a son with Hagar showed the barrenness was truly on Sarah's side. The Lord emphasizes the following:

1. She WILL have a son [v.19a]

2. He will be called Isaac [v.19b]

3. God will establish an everlasting covenant with him [v.19c]

4. God will also bless Ishmael, [v.20] making him into a great nation and father of twelve rulers [Gen 25:12-16]

5. However His primary covenant will be with Isaac who will be born within a year [v.21]



v.23-27 Circumcision Applied


v.23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him.

v.24,25 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised,  and his son Ishmael was thirteen;

v.26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day.

v.27  And every male in Abraham's household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.


[Notes: Thus Abraham, Ishmael and all the male servants were circumcised]



Lessons or Challenges to Ponder from Genesis Chapter 17


1. Circumcision was for the Jews only, but a sign of relationship with God. In the New Testament the apostle Paul speaks of us having (as a parallel) the old sinful desire-orientated nature cut off (Col 2:11) as the outworking of our relationship with God. Am I free from it?

2. This was a symbol of a new level of relationship with God. It is good to come to fresh points of commitment to God in life, for they build on the past and strengthen the future.

3. This is also a time when God changes Abram [exalted father] to Abraham [father of many] both names looking to the future, the first of human hope, the second of God's intent. Do we receive revelation that increases our understanding of who we are in God's sight and in God's plans?



Continue to Chapter 18