Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision
17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
Isaac’s Birth Promised
And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.
Genesis 17 Commentary
by Hank Workman
“Abram was becoming a great man of faith, but you don’t make a great man of faith overnight. It takes years of God’s work in them, years of almost mundane trusting in God, interspersed with a few spectacular encounters with the LORD.”David Guzik
These thoughts resonate so deeply. So often we read stories like this and forget the everyday monotony of what was between that recorded. God had appeared to Abraham 2 times before this with promises. This was the third and more than 13 years had passed! That’s an awfully long time of not hearing from God of the promise let alone not seeing anything take place. Yet throughout those years God had been working in Abraham and Abraham had been simply plodding along with his God.
There had to be moments where he thought God had forgotten him. I’m sure, we would feel this way and undoubtedly do on some levels with whatever we continue to feel led toward but seeing no answer. Throughout this process for Abraham though God was refining him and deepening their own relationship.
When God appeared to him here he opened with “I am God Almighty. Walk before Me and be blameless.” The fine-tuning of our own relationship with God and his own expectation for us is the same. We must recognize the incredible mightiness of our God but also continue to walk before Him in a full and personal way – trusting and moving on every level that honors Him. It was a total commitment God was asking of Abraham.
Through the times of God’s movement for you, He is working even though you may not see it. He is refining your relationship with Him during the in-between. And yes, He is readying you for whatever purpose He holds next. Stay committed. Stay faithful. These experiences are deepening your faith and relationship with Him even though at the moment you may not see that.
Genesis 17 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
The question we all ask ourselves at one point or another is, why circumcision?
First, in the context of what God is speaking to Abraham, the covenant is dealing specifically with fathering nations. Circumcision dealt with the organ of reproduction, and that was no coincidence. But further than that, circumcision would have practical benefits.
Medical research indicates that circumcision decreases UTI and STI risk. It protects against some types of cancer and inflammation as well. Historically, Jewish women have an incredibly low rate of cervical cancer and doctors believe it is due to their husbands being circumcised.
Circumcision is literally the cutting away of the flesh… something Paul wrote about from a spiritual point of view.
For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.Galatians 5:17 HCSB
God was setting apart His people with a covenant that involved the cutting away of the flesh. Much later, Jesus would come to destroy sin and death and send to us the Holy Spirit who would battle the flesh.
“We have two natures—the old and the new. That is what Paul describes in the last part of Romans. He himself experienced the turmoil of two natures, and this has also been the experience of many believers. The flesh wars against the Spirit, and the Spirit wars against the flesh. Therefore, we cannot do the things that we would like to do. The new nature rebels against the old nature. They are contrary; they are at war with each other. Have you experienced this in your own life?”J. Vernon McGee