Genesis 17 - Outline of Genesis (Book Notes menu page)
17:1 And 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
{ie., upright}.
17:2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee,
and will multiply thee exceedingly.
17:3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
17:4 As for me, behold, my covenant [is] with thee,
and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
17:5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram,
but thy name shall be Abraham;
for a father of many nations have I made thee.
17:6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful,
and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
17:7 And 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.
17:8 And 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.
when Abram was 99 years old... - Since his failure of impatience in the matter of Ishmael (ch.16),
Abram has had another 13 years of waiting, in which to practice the patience of faith.
I am the Almighty God...- This is the first occurrence of this name for God.
This name occurs most often in OT passages prior to the giving of the Law (eg., the book of Job). After Exodus 6:3, the name 'the LORD' (Jehovah) becomes predominant in His covenant relationship to Israel.
  • God- HB= El, the strong One
  • Almighty- HB= Shaddai
    1. derived from- the HB word 'shad' meaning 'breast' (cp. Gen 49:25; Psa 22:9).
    2. meaning- Nourisher, Provider, Satisfier, All-sufficient One, the One who makes fruitful.
    3. significance here (v.1-8)- God was about to bring His promises to Abram to fruition.
      Abram, at 99 years of age, was ''as good as dead'' (Heb 11:12), with no hope in himself for another son. But God is sufficient, in Himself, to provide.
      ''God called Abram to be His servant, but then He bound Himself to him as his Provider.'' [CHM]
      This name is used with the same significance, at later confirmations of the covenant (cp. Gen 28:3,4; 35:8-12).
I will make {HB= nathan, ascribe, constitute, commit} my covenant between Me and thee. v.2
Almighty God reviews His covenant with Abram. cp. Gen 12:1-3,7
It rests upon Him alone. Seven times, God says, ''I will...''
The points of the covenant:
  1. exceeding fruitfulness (v.2,6)- ''I will multiply thee exceedingly...
    I will make thee exceedingly fruitful... I will make nations of thee...''
    To underline this point, the Lord changes his name -
    • from Abram, ''exalted father''- For most of his life, ''the exalted father'' had no child...
      his name seemed to mock the promise of children (cp. 15:2,3).
    • to Abraham, ''father of a multitude''- Abraham became the physical progenitor of Israel and of several Arab tribes, and the spiritual father of all who receive righteousness by faith (Rom 4:11).
  2. everlasting relationship (v.7)- ''I will be their God...''
    ''I will establish {HB=quwm, cause to arise, cause to stand} my covenant between Me and thee... and thy seed... an everlasting covenant...''
  3. everlasting possession (v.8)- the land of Canaan. cp. 12:7; 13:14,15; 15:18-21
walk before Me, and be thou perfect (v.1)- 'perfect' may have the sense of 'guileless' [GWms]
Abraham is to abandon fleshly schemes (such as the one that produced a son by Hagar, ch.16),
and place his trust wholly in the Almighty God. cp. Psa 62:5,6
Abraham's posture (v.3)-
indicates his repentance for his failure, and his reverent submission to the Lord.
17:9 And God said unto Abraham,
Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
17:10 This [is] my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee;
Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
17:11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin;
and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
17:12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you,
{cp. Luk 2:21; Gal 4:4,5}
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.
17:13 He 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.
17:14 And 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.
circumcision -
A. is ''a token {sign, reminder} of the covenant.'' v.11
As the rainbow was a token of God's covenant with Noah (cp. 9:13; 8:20-22).
As a wedding ring is a token of marriage vows.
  • A token is a reminder of promises made. The token has no power to establish the covenant, rather it is received as an evidence of faith in the one who has promised.
  • Long before the token was given, God had established the covenant.
    Abraham had simply believed God. Abraham's faith was counted as righteousness.
    Circumcision was a 'seal' of the faith which Abraham had already exhibited. Gen 15:6; Rom 4:9-12
B. the word 'circumcision,' or 'circumcise' - HB= mul, to cut, to cut off.
This word is almost always translated ''circumcise,'' but when translated with its primary meaning, it refers to the 'cutting off' of the flesh (cp. word usage in Psa 58:7; 90:6). In the NT, the word 'circumcision' {GK= peritemno, to cut around} has the same meaning.
C. significance to Abraham and his natural descendants-
  1. The location of the ''token of the covenant'' upon the male reproductive organ, was to be a continual reminder of God's promise of a seed in two aspects: (1) the multitude of descendants, and (2) the individual seed of promise (the Messiah, the Savior) through whom all families of the earth would be blessed. Gen 3:15; 12:3; Gal 3:16
  2. The mechanism of the ''token of the covenant,'' the cutting off of superficial flesh, was to be a continual reminder that the natural man (ie., sinful flesh) cannot bring about God's promises or accomplish God's will. Abraham's body had become reproductively dead. Only God could give him seed. The flesh was cut off.
D. significance to Abraham's spiritual descendants (including believers today)-
  1. In the OT, circumcision is a picture of spiritual purity and separation unto God. God's people were to be 'circumcised in heart,' having cut off fleshly lusts & motivations in order to serve God (Deu 10:16). Their failure would bring judgment, but God promised that, in a future time, He would accomplish this circumcision of heart within them (cp. Jer 4:4; Deu 30:1-6).
  2. In the NT, the means for obtaining this purity is provided. Those, who are circumcised in the spiritual sense, ''put no confidence in the flesh'' but find righteousness through faith in Christ alone (Php 3:3-9).
    • The pictures of crucifixion and circumcision are combined in Christ (Col 2:10-14) and involve the believer's (1) cutting off, separation from, or death to sin, and (2) joining to Him in His life, purity and purposes.
    • For the believer today, the token (or 'seal') of the covenant is the Holy Spirit. God has placed His life within us, so that we might live, by His power, cut off from our sinful fleshly nature. Eph 1:13,14; 4:22-24,30; cp. Rom 6:3-10
the eighth day- hints at Christ's fulfillment of the picture of circumcision.
By His death and resurrection, He put away the filth of the flesh.
His resurrection, on the first day of the week, was on 'the eighth day' in the cycle of seven days.
It marks the beginning of a 'new creation' for those who trust in Him. 2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15
the uncircumcised man... shall be cut off... hath broken my covenant.-
  • The Jewish person who refuses the token is making a statement of unbelief.
    The refusal is a rejection of the covenant & disassociation from the One who promised. (Just as refusal of a wedding ring rejects the potential spouse and negates the proposed marriage.) From time to time, Israel neglected this token, and had to be reminded of it, before God could bless them (eg., Josh 5:2-9).
  • On the other hand, it is possible to wear the external token, in the absence of inner faith toward God.
    A man deceives himself to put his confidence in the flesh, rather than in God who justifies the ungodly. External religious ritual is no substitute for the righteousness which God provides to those who trust Him. cp. Rom 2:25-29; Gal 3:6-16; 5:3-6; 6:15; Php 3:3-9
17:15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai {meaning 'bitter'} thy wife,
thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah
{'princess'} [shall] her name [be]. {cp. Gal 4:27}
17:16 And 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.
17:17 Then 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?
17:18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
17:19 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.
{cp. Gen 26:1-5}
17:20 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.
{cp. Gen 21:13}
17:21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac,
which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
Abraham laughed-
This is not the laughter of unbelief, but of joy at the possibility of the impossible.
After human hope was gone, the promised son would yet be born.
At long last, the ''set time'' (v.21) for his birth was announced.
cp. v.17; Gen 18:12; 21:6; Rom 4:17-22
thou shalt call his name Isaac - meaning 'laughter.'
By naming this son, prior to his birth, God was declaring the certainty and significance of that event (cp. Mat 1:21-23).
Oh, that Ishmael might live before thee! -
Abraham desired that his first son should be blessed.
God makes clear that His covenant is with Isaac & his descendants. v.19-21
  • Through Isaac's line, the promises made to Abraham would be fulfilled
    (namely: (1) a great nation, (2) the land, (3) the Savior to bless the world).
  • But for Abraham's sake, God would also bless Ishmael, with a great nation.
Abraham, acting in faith, was quick to obey God -
17:22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
17:23 And 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.
17:24 And Abraham [was] ninety years old and nine,
when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
17:25 And Ishmael his son [was] thirteen years old,
when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
17:26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
17:27 And all the men of his house,
born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger,
were circumcised with him.
The token of the covenant declared that the promised seed would come,
but not by the power of the flesh, which is "as good as dead" (Heb 11:11,12).

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