Chapter 17

Covenant Circumcision

    • When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty. Serve me faithfully and live your life blamelessly. I will make a covenant with you in which I will give you countless descendants.

      • Guzik notes, “Undoubtedly, this is another appearance of God in the person of Jesus, who took on a temporary human appearance before His incarnation on earth.”

      • “The word blameless literally means “whole.” God wanted all of Abram, wanting a total commitment.” (Guzik)

      • The original word translated in most Bibles to say “God Almighty” is “El- Shaddai”. Scholars aren’t in complete agreement about what exactly El Shaddai means, but here are some of the interpretations quoted from Guzik’s commentary:

        • God is sufficient”, “I am the God who pours out blessings”, “One who has His hand on everything.”

    • Abram fell to the ground and God said, “My covenant is with you. Since I will make you the father of many nations your name will now be Abraham. I will make you fruitful and kings will come from the nations that are descended from you. I will keep my covenant with you and with your offspring throughout their generations. I will always be your God and the God of your descendants. I will give you and your descendants all the land of Canaan forever.

      • “God also reminded Abram He has not forgotten the covenant…The last time we are told the Lord communicated with Abram directly was more than 13 years before. Seemingly, Abram had 13 years of “normal” fellowship with God, waiting for the promise all the time.” (Guzik)

      • The name Abram means “ father of many”. God changed his name to Abraham, meaning “father of many nations”.

    • God continued saying, “ You and your descendants are to keep My covenant: Every male must be circumcised at the age of 8 days old as a sign of the covenant between us. This includes slaves born in your house as well as slaves you purchase. Any male who isn’t circumcised will be cut off from his people because he has broken the covenant.”

      • “Circumcision was not unknown in the world at that time. It was a ritual practice among various peoples. There were undoubtedly hygienic reasons, especially making sense in the ancient world. ‘There is some medical evidence that this practice has indeed contributed to the long-lasting vigor of the Jewish race.’ (Morris) McMillen, in None of These Diseases, noted studies in 1949 and 1954 showing an incredibly low rate of cervical cancer for Jewish women, because they mostly have husbands who are circumcised…McMillen also notes newborn children have a peculiar susceptibility to bleeding between the second and fifth days of life. It seems an important blood-clotting agent, vitamin K, is not formed in the normal amount until the fifth to seventh day of life. Another blood clotting agent, prothrombin, is at its highest levels in infants on precisely the eighth day of life, making the eighth day the safest, earliest day to circumcise an infant.” (Guzik)

      • “It [circumcision] provides the powerful metaphor of ‘circumcision of the heart,’ which designates a heart that is committed to God and is inwardly set apart to God, rather than being stubbornly resistant…When Jesus Christ established God’s new covenant, He fulfilled the requirements of the old covenant. It is not necessary for Gentile believers to be circumcised, since they are incorporated into the people of God through faith in Christ. (Acts 15:1-29, Romans 2:25-29, Galatians 2:1-10; 6:15, Colossians 2:11-12)” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

      • “The closest Christian parallel we have to circumcision is baptism. Paul relates the two ideas together in Colossians 2:11-12. However, baptism is also a “sign” of the covenant; it does not save us, but is a sign of the covenant that does. Being baptized does not save us, but no Christian should refuse baptism.” (Guzik)

    • God said to Abraham, “Your wife Sarai’s name will now be Sarah. I will bless her and give you a son by her. Nations and kings will come from her.

      • Sarai signifies my lady, or my princess, which confines her dominion to one family; but Sarah signifies either a lady or princess, simply and absolutely without restriction, or the princess of a multitude”. (Poole)

    • Abraham fell to the ground and laughed, thinking “Can a 100 year old man and 90 year old woman have a baby?” Abraham then asked if Ishmael could live under His special blessing.

    • God told Abraham that Ishmael could not. But He continued, “Sarah will give birth to a son at this time next year and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm My covenant with him for his descendants. I will however, bless Ishmael. I will make him fruitful and multiply him into a great nation. He will be the father of 12 princes.” When God finished talking to Abraham, He left.

      • The name Isaac means “he laughs”.

      • “Ishmael will be blessed (because Abraham prayed he would), but the covenant and its promises will pass only through the son to come, the son of promise.” (Guzik)

    • That day, Abraham took Ishmael and all every male of his household and circumcised them as he had been instructed. Abraham was 99 when he was circumcised and Ishmael was 13.