Genesis Chapter 17

The Circumcision of Abraham I. The Covenant Confirmed A. God's Commitment to Abraham i. “You will be the father of many nations” (v. 4) a) God changed his name to “Abraham” which means “father of many” b) not just common people, but nations and kings (v. 6) c) this was to be an everlasting covenant between God and Abraham's descendants (v. 7) ii. “The whole land of Canaan” (v. 8) a) his line would possess the land forever (“as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you”) b) was not his land now (“you are an alien” v. 8), but would be at some point in the future. iii. “I will be their God” (v. 7, 8) a) God is committing himself to a special relationship with Abraham and his descendants b) Although God is God to all mankind, here he sets apart Abraham and his descendants as his people, chosen as his very own forever. B. Abraham's Responsibility to God i. Every male, now and in the future, must be circumcised. (v. 10) a) What was the purpose of circumcision? • It was to be a sign (v. 11) of the covenant between God and his people • In a way, it is similar to our observance of baptism b) Specifics • Every male, regardless of whether or not they were family or servant • At least eight days old: babies had to be circumcised basically within their first week • Covenant in your flesh (v. 13): a physical act of obedience, not merely verbal or mental • Everlasting covenant: this covenant observance was to be observed forever • Consequences: not being circumcised resulted in being cut off from his people. C. Regarding Sarai (v. 15-16) i. She was now to be called Sarah, meaning “princess” • Sarai meant “my princess,” thus this change may not have been as much for meaning as perhaps as a reminder of this covenant. • It is interesting that God points out that “kings of peoples will come from her,” which would be true of a princess. II. Abraham's doubt and God's Reassurance (v. 17) A. “Abraham fell face down” (an act of reverence), but in his heart, he still doubted (sound familiar?) B. Abraham looked to human logic: We are too old to have children, maybe Ishmael will be my heir. i. Remember that God just told him that Sarah (not Hagar) would be the mother of nations (v. 16) ii. Ishmael would be blessed, but not inherit God's covenant (v. 21) iii. “father of 12 rulers and...a great nation”--Most believe that present-day Arabs are descendants of Ishmael and the hostility (see Gen. 16:12) between Jews and Arabs is still prevalent today. C. God gets specific, leaves no confusion: Sarah will bear you a son and you will call him Isaac (v. 19) i. “Isaac” which means “he laughs” serves as a reminder of God's faithfulness in the face of doubt. ii. God also gives him a specific timeline: “by this time next year” (v. 21) D. God did honor Abraham's request and does bless Ishmael (see II.B.ii-iii above) III.Abraham's response: Obedience A. Abraham responded to God's command immediately, “on that very day...” (v. 23) B. Every male was circumcised; both Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised on the same day