Genesis Chapter Seventeen


Read Genesis 17:1-8 – God’s Covenant with Abram


v.1And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.”


            Thirteen years have passed since Ishmael was born.  Abram and Sarai have apparently learned patience and that God keeps his promises when He feels that the time is right.  Perhaps it is that patience that has convinced God that now is the right time.  Abram is now 99 years old, Sarai is about ten years younger, they still have no child but that is about to change.

            God commands Abram to “WALK BEFORE ME, AND BE THOU PERFECT.”  We know that Adam walked with God in the garden before sin came into the world and that Enoch walked with God afterward (Genesis 5:22).  God identifies himself as the (singular) Almighty God and tells Abram what he expects, just as the Israelite nation was told at a later time:


For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:” Deuteronomy 10:17


Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.” Deuteronomy 10:20


v.2-3And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,”


            God renews his promise and his covenant with Abram and talks with him directly, leaving no doubt what he wants and what Abram is to do.  As most others have done when brought before the Almighty, Abram falls on his face in worship, honor and perhaps even fear.


v.4As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.”


            God’s covenant with Abram was not restricted to the land of promise but included that he would be the father of many nations.  We already know that through Ishmael he is the father of all Arabic peoples.  Through Isaac he would become the father of all Israel but the promise goes much further than that.  Paul in his writing to the Roman brethren emphasizes that their sonship to Abraham was not through the temporary law given through Moses but through their faith in Jesus Christ:


Romans 4:17Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,


And also in the Galatian letter that we all, you and I, if we are Christ’s are also heirs of Abraham.


Galatians 3:29And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”


v. 5-6Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.”


            At this time God also changes the name of Abram.  Abram meant “exalted father”, Abraham means “the father of a multitude”.  Not only would he the father of kings, rulers on this earth; confirmed by the Holy Spirit in the genealogy recorded in Matthew:


And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;” Matthew 1:6


But also of the Son of God:


Matthew 1:16And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”


v.7And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.”


            God made two covenants with Abraham and his seed that was to follow him. They are the land covenant with his physical seed and the everlasting covenant with his spiritual seed.  In the word of God written to the church at Rome Paul makes a distinction between the physical seed and the spiritual seed.


Romans 9:7-8Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”


Abraham would have seed from the flesh, not all of whom would be faithful to God.  But Abraham would also have spiritual seed; seed of the promise to bless all nations who would be faithful to God.


v.8And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”


            In this verse God renews again the land promise for the children of Abraham, a promise that he communicates to Israel through Moses:


Exodus 6:7-8And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD.”


Read Genesis 17:9-14 – The Sign of God’s Covenant


v.9-10And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.”


            Stephen calls this covenant the covenant of circumcision in his sermon:


Acts 7:8  And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.”


            Was circumcision limited to Abraham and Isaac?  No, all the household of Abraham were included; Ishmael and “EVERY MALE AMONG THE MEN OF ABRAHAM’S HOUSE” (Genesis 17:23).  Consequently, since Muhammad is counted as a son of Ishmael most followers of the Islamic religions are also circumcised today as well as those who are of the Jewish religion.


v.11And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.”


            This token was required until the promise was fulfilled but is not required of Abraham’s spiritual seed today.  Why would that token be removed by God?


Romans 4:11-12And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:”


Galatians 5:6For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”


God removed this token of his covenant because the covenant that it represented was removed.  The descendant of Abraham through whom God would bless all nations (Jesus Christ) came and those blessings made available.  Its purpose was completed, fulfilled.


v.12And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.”


            After eight days, any male child born to any descendant of Abraham, any male child born in that household of a descendant was to be circumcised.  In addition any male brought into a household as a servant or slave was also to be circumcised.  This included the Son of God:


Luke 2:21And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”


            What is the significance of doing the circumcision at the age of eight days?


            “On the eighth day after birth, the amount of prothombim present actually is elevated above 100 percent of normal, and is the only day in the male’s life in which this will be the case under normal conditions.  If surgery is to be performed, day eight is the perfect day to do it.  Vitamin K and prothombim levels are at their peak.”  (Reason & Revelation, Apologetics Press, July, 1993)


v.13-14He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.”


            God’s punishment for failing to follow his command is quite simple; since he has broken God’s covenant he is cut off from God’s blessings.  God would no longer consider that person His child, he would be disowned.


Read Genesis 17:15-22 – God’s Promise of Isaac


v.15And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.”


            God also changes the name of Sarai to Sarah.  Sarai means “my princess”, Sarah means “a princess”.  With the name Sarai the meaning seems to be restricted to a certain father or family, while the name Sarah expands her relationship as “a princess” to multitudes or so the commentators think.


v.16And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.”


            Just as Abraham was to be the father of nations and kings of nations, so too was Sarah to be the mother of nations and kings of nations.  As well, it would be through Sarah that all nations of the world would be blessed.


v.17Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?”


            Abraham and God are having a conversation, Abraham is skeptical of what God is promising.  He’s 100 years old in general terms; Sarah is 90 so how can two people that old bear a child.  We see here also that not only was the birth of Jesus a miracle but the birth of Isaac as well.


v.18  And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!”


            In this verse Abraham is actually praying or stating a wish for his son, Ishmael.  It was his desire that Ishmael would live before God as he has done. Some commentators also think that he was asking God not to abandon Ishmael completely when his son Isaac was finally born.  However, we already know that Ishmael was to be a “…WILD MAN, HIS HAND will be AGAINST EVERY MAN AND EVERY MAN’S HAND AGAINST HIM…” (Genesis 16:12).


v. 19 “And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and with his seed after him.”


            God heard Abraham’s prayer, repeated and confirmed his plans for Abraham and Sarah to have a son; a son through whom he would continue the seed promise made to Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Abraham would have a son through whom God would make an everlasting covenant, consequently as spiritual children of Abraham we are also spiritual children of Isaac as well.


Galatians 4:28Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.”


v.20  And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.”


            God repeats the promise that he had made to Hagar through the angel to Abraham.  Ishmael will be blessed as well but in a different manner.  He will be fruitful and multiplied exceedingly, bearing twelve princes.  Confirmation of the fulfillment of this promise is found:


Genesis 25:12-16Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bare unto Abraham: 13And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Ne-ba-joth; and Ke-dar, and Ad-beel, and

Mib-sam, 14And Mish-ma, and Du-mah, and Mas-sa, 15Ha-dar, and Te-ma, Je-tur, Na-phish, and Ke-d-emah: 16These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.”


v.21-22But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. 22And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.


            God repeats again that Ishmael will not be overlooked, will be blessed greatly but that it is through Isaac through whom God will continue his covenant.  “AT THIS SET TIME IN THE NEXT YEAR”, Sarah will conceive and bear their son.  At this juncture God ends his visit with Abraham.


Read Genesis 17:23-26 – Abraham is Circumcised


v.23And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.”


            Not only is Abraham circumcised but as God commanded Ishmael and all the males in Abraham’s household.  No hesitation, no delay, “IN THE SELFSAME DAY”, Abraham obeyed God’s command.  He did “AS GOD HAD SAID UNTO HIM” and did not ask why or wherefore.  God’s will was not only a law to Abraham but also a reason; he did it because God told him to.  He didn’t do like we probably did when we were children and have to be told “I’m your father and I told you to.”  What God requires we must do and Abraham understood that.


v.24-25And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.”


            Abraham is 99 years old and Ishmael is 13 when they are circumcised.


v.26-27In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. 27And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.”


            God’s commandment was universal to those in Abraham’s household.  Everyone associated with him was to be set apart from those who lived around them.  Again he didn’t try to put it off his obedience to God until a “CONVENIENT SEASON” as did Felix in Acts 24:25 but obeyed God while his sense of duty to God is still fresh in his mind.