Circumcision—Proof of the Agreement
1When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him. He said, “I am God All-Powerful.#17:1 God All-Powerful Literally, “El Shaddai.” Obey me and live the right way. 2If you do this, I will prepare an agreement between us. I will promise to make your people a great nation.”
3Then Abram bowed down before God. God said to him, 4“This is my part of our agreement: I will make you the father of many nations. 5I will change your name from Abram#17:5 Abram This name means “honored father.” to Abraham,#17:5 Abraham This name means “great father” or “father of many.” because I am making you the father of many nations. 6I will give you many descendants. New nations and kings will come from you. 7And I will prepare an agreement between me and you. This agreement will also be for all your descendants. It will continue forever. I will be your God and the God of all your descendants. 8And I will give this land to you and to all your descendants. I will give you the land you are traveling through—the land of Canaan. I will give you this land forever, and I will be your God.”
9Then God said to Abraham, “Now, this is your part of the agreement: You and all your descendants will obey my agreement. 10This is my agreement that all of you must obey. This is the agreement between me and you and all your descendants. Every male must be circumcised. 11You will cut the skin to show that you follow the agreement between me and you. 12When the baby boy is eight days old, you will circumcise him. Every boy born among your people and every boy who is a slave of your people must be circumcised. 13So every baby boy in your nation will be circumcised. Every boy who is born from your family or bought as a slave will be circumcised. 14Abraham, this is the agreement between you and me: Any male who is not circumcised will be cut off from his people#17:14 cut off from his people This means he must be separated from his family and lose his share of the inheritance. because he has broken my agreement.”
Isaac—the Promised Son
15God said to Abraham, “I will give Sarai,#17:15 Sarai A name, probably Aramaic, meaning “princess.” your wife, a new name. Her new name will be Sarah.#17:15 Sarah A Hebrew name meaning “princess.” 16I will bless her. I will give her a son, and you will be the father. She will be the mother of many new nations. Kings of nations will come from her.”
17Abraham bowed his face to the ground to show he respected God. But he laughed and said to himself, “I am 100 years old. I cannot have a son, and Sarah is 90 years old. She cannot have a child.”
18Then Abraham said to God, “I hope Ishmael will live and serve you.”
19God said, “No, I said that your wife Sarah will have a son. You will name him Isaac.#17:19 Isaac This name means “he laughs” or “he is happy.” I will make my agreement with him that will continue forever with all his descendants.
20“You mentioned Ishmael, and I heard you. I will bless him, and he will have many children. He will be the father of twelve great leaders. His family will become a great nation. 21But I will make my agreement with Isaac, the son who Sarah will have. He will be born at this same time next year.”
22After God finished talking with Abraham, God went up into heaven. 23Then Abraham gathered together Ishmael and all the slaves born in his house. He also gathered all the slaves he had bought. Every man and boy in Abraham’s house was gathered together, and they were all circumcised. Abraham circumcised them that day, just as God had told him to do.
24Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised. 25And Ishmael, his son, was 13 years old when he was circumcised. 26Abraham and his son were circumcised on the same day. 27Also, on that day all the men in Abraham’s house were circumcised. All the slaves born in his house and all the slaves he had bought were circumcised.
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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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