The Covenant of Circumcision
1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, # 17:1 Thirteen years elapsed between chs. 16 and 17. Abram and Sarai were incapable of conceiving a child. See Rom. 4:19. Yahweh appeared to him again and said, “I am the God who is more than enough. # 17:1 Or “I am El Shaddai.” This is the most frequently used name for God prior to the Law being given at Sinai. El is one of the words for God. Shaddai (šadday) is taken from a Hebrew root word that carries multiple expressive meanings. It can mean “God of the Holy Mountain,” “God of the Wilderness,” “God the Destroyer of Enemies,” “God the All-Sufficient One,” “God the Nurturer of Babies [the Breasted One],” “God the Almighty,” “the Sovereign God,” or “the God who is more than enough.” The combination of El (Almighty) with Shaddai describes the tender heart of God, one who cares for his beloved ones. To a man ninety-nine years of age, God All-Sufficient was a revelation that would sustain Abraham. Live your life in my presence # 17:1 Or “before me.” Living consciously before God frees us from the false self that lives only before others. and be blameless. # 17:1 The Hebrew word tamim can also mean “perfect,” “complete,” “whole,” or “full.” The more-than-enough God is telling Abram to walk continuously in the fullness of God’s presence, which will make him perfect and complete. A new revelation of God’s goodness (The God of more than enough) will always be followed by a new challenge (walk blameless before God). Because he is Almighty, we can live in holiness, following his ways. 2I will confirm my covenant between me and you, and I will greatly multiply your descendants.”
3Then Abram fell on his face in awe before God, # 17:3 When man bows in the dust, God will speak in grace. Abram’s posture is a picture of his humility as he ponders this revelation in the presence of God. and God said to him, 4“I establish my covenant with you:
“You will become a father of many nations.
5You will no longer be named Abram
because I am changing your name to Abraham, # 17:5 Abram means “exalted father”; Abraham means “father of a multitude.” The church today does not need exalted fathers; we need fathers who will multiply themselves in their sons and daughters. Generational transfer is in the heart of God and was here revealed to Abraham.
for I have made you a father of many nations.
6I will make you abundantly fruitful, more than you expect.
I will make nations out of you,
and kings will trace their lineage back to you. # 17:6 David, Solomon, and Hezekiah, for example, were kings and leaders who came forth from Abraham’s blessed relationship with God. He has likewise made us kings and priests! See Rev. 1:6; 5:10.
7Yes, I will establish my eternal covenant of love between me and you,
and it will extend to your descendants throughout their generations.
I will be your children’s # 17:7 Or “descendants’.” God, just as I am your God.
8I will give to you and your seed
the land to which you have migrated.
The entire land of Canaan will be yours and your descendants’ # 17:8 Or “seed.”
as an everlasting possession.
And I will be their God forever!”
9God explained to Abraham, “Your part of the covenant is to obey its terms, you and your descendants throughout the ages. 10So here is the sign of the covenant that you are to keep, so that it will endure between you and me and your descendants: circumcise # 17:10 The Hebrew word for “circumcision” (muwl) means “to cut short,” “curtail,” “to blunt,” “to cut off,” or “to destroy.” With a new name, Abraham was to perform circumcision on the eighth (number of new beginning) day. This external sign of circumcision would set the Israelites apart for God. The New Testament truth of heart-circumcision is the cutting away of our flesh (our rights to ourselves), in dedication to God (see Phil. 3:3; Col. 2:11–12). every male among you. 11You must undergo cutting off the flesh of your foreskin as a special sign of the covenant between me and you. 12Throughout your generations, each male child must be circumcised eight days after his birth. This includes those not of your descendants—those born in your household and foreign-born servants whom you have purchased; 13they must be circumcised, homeborn and purchased alike. In this way, you will carry in your flesh the sign of my everlasting covenant. 14Any uncircumcised male who does not have the foreskin of his flesh cut off will be cut off from his people, for he has broken my covenant.”
15God also said to Abraham:
“Concerning your wife Sarai,
you are not to call her Sarai anymore, but Sarah, # 17:15 The names Sarai and Sarah appear to be dialectical variations of the word for “princess” or “queen.” God was emphasizing to Abraham and Sarah that the past, with its season of waiting, was over. Their new names signified a new era, a new fulfillment of promises, and a new destiny calling them forward.
‘My Princess,’ will be her name.
16I will wonderfully bless her,
and I will certainly give you a son through her.
Yes, I will bless her greatly,
and she will become a mother of nations;
kings of nations will arise among her children!”
17Then Abraham laughed so hard he fell to the ground, saying to himself, “How in the world can a hundred-year-old man become a father? How can my wife Sarah get pregnant at ninety?” 18And then he spoke out loud: “O, that Ishmael might prosper with your blessing!” # 17:18 Or “O, that Ishmael might live in your sight!” a metaphoric way of saying that he longed for Ishmael to prosper and live under God’s favor. Ishmael was Abraham’s “plan B,” and Abraham is still hoping that the promises God had given to him could transfer over to Ishmael. God, however, has no “plan B.” He will always accomplish his original, perfect plan.
19God said, “Listen to me. I promise that you and Sarah will have a son, and you will call him Isaac. # 17:19 Isaac means “he laughs.” It can mean “he [God] laughs” or “he [Abraham] laughs.” I will confirm my everlasting covenant of love with him and his seed. 20And regarding Ishmael, I have heard your cry and I will indeed bless him. I will cause him to have many, many descendants. He will father twelve rulers, # 17:20 Or “princes.” See Gen. 25:12–18; 1 Chron. 1:29–31. and I will make him into a great nation. 21But my everlasting covenant relationship is with Isaac, who will be born to you and Sarah about this time next year.” 22When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God ascended up to heaven. # 17:22 Or “God rose from upon” (lit. Hb.) or “God went up from Abraham.” The implication is that God ascended, returning to heaven after coming down to meet with Abraham.
23So without delay Abraham obeyed God and took his son Ishmael and every male in his household (whether born in his house or foreign-born servants) and circumcised them that very same day. 24Abraham was already ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25and his son Ishmael was thirteen. 26They were both circumcised on the same day, 27along with all the men of his household (whether born in his house or foreign-born servants).
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B'resheet (Gen) 17
1When Avram was 99 years old Adonai appeared to Avram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai [God Almighty]. Walk in my presence and be pure-hearted. 2I will make my covenant between me and you, and I will increase your numbers greatly.” 3Avram fell on his face, and God continued speaking with him: 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: you will be the father of many nations. 5Your name will no longer be Avram [exalted father], but your name will be Avraham [father of many], because I have made you the father of many nations. 6I will cause you to be very fruitful. I will make nations of you, kings will descend from you.
(vii) 7“I am establishing my covenant between me and you, along with your descendants after you, generation after generation, as an everlasting covenant, to be God for you and for your descendants after you. 8I will give you and your descendants after you the land in which you are now foreigners, all the land of Kena‘an, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.”
9God said to Avraham, “As for you, you are to keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you, generation after generation. 10Here is my covenant, which you are to keep, between me and you, along with your descendants after you: every male among you is to be circumcised. 11You are to be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; this will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12Generation after generation, every male among you who is eight days old is to be circumcised, including slaves born within your household and those bought from a foreigner not descended from you. 13The slave born in your house and the person bought with your money must be circumcised; thus my covenant will be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant. 14Any uncircumcised male who will not let himself be circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin — that person will be cut off from his people, because he has broken my covenant.”
15God said to Avraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are not to call her Sarai [mockery]; her name is to be Sarah [princess]. 16I will bless her; moreover, I will give you a son by her. Truly I will bless her: she will be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” 17At this Avraham fell on his face and laughed — he thought to himself, “Will a child be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah give birth at ninety?” 18Avraham said to God, “If only Yishma‘el could live in your presence!” 19God answered, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you are to call him Yitz’chak [laughter]. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20But as for Yishma‘el, I have heard you. I have blessed him. I will make him fruitful and give him many descendants. He will father twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21But I will establish my covenant with Yitz’chak, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year.” 22With that, God finished speaking with Avraham and went up from him.
23Avraham took Yishma‘el his son, all the slaves born in his house and all who had been bought with his money, every male among the people in Avraham’s household, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin that very day, just as God had said to him.
(Maftir) 24Avraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, 25and Yishma‘el his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26Avraham and Yishma‘el his son were circumcised on the same day; 27and all the men in his household, both slaves born in his house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.
Haftarah Lekh L’kha: Yesha‘yahu (Isaiah) 40:27–41:16
B’rit Hadashah suggested readings for Parashah Lekh L’kha: Acts 7:1–8; Romans 3:19–5:6; Galatians 3:15–18; 5:1–6; Colossians 2:11–15; Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 7:1–19; 11:8–12
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