Genesis 17

Listen to Genesis 17

Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty;[a] walk before me, and be 1blameless,
2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and 2may multiply you greatly."
3 Then Abram 3fell on his face. And God said to him,
4 "Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be 4the father of a multitude of nations.
5 No longer shall your name be called Abram,[b] but 5your name shall be Abraham,[c]6for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make 7you into nations, and 8kings shall come from you.
7 And I will 9establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, 10to be God to you and to your offspring after you.
8 And 11I 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 12I will be their God."
9 And God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.
10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.
11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a 13sign of the covenant between me and you.
12 He who is 14eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or 15bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring,
13 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.
14 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

15 And God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah[d] shall be her name.
16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will 16give[e] you a son by her. I will bless her, and 17she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her."
17 Then Abraham 18fell on his face 19and 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?"
18 And Abraham said to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before you!"
19 God said, "No, but 20Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name 21Isaac.[f] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.
20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and 22multiply him greatly. He 23shall father twelve princes, and 24I will make him into a great nation.
21 But 25I will establish my covenant with Isaac, 26whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year."
22 When he had finished talking with him, 27God went up from Abraham.
23 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.
24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
26 That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised.
27 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

Chapter 17

God renews the covenant with Abram. (1-6) Circumcision instituted. (7-14) Sarai's name changed, Isaac promised. (15-22) Abraham and his family are circumcised. (23-27)

Verses 1-6 The covenant was to be accomplished in due time. The promised Seed was Christ, and Christians in him. And all who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abram, being partakers of the same covenant blessings. In token of this covenant his name was changed from Abram, "a high father," to Abraham, "the father of a multitude." All that the Christian world enjoys, it is indebted for to Abraham and his Seed.

Verses 7-14 The covenant of grace is from everlasting in the counsels of it, and to everlasting in the consequences of it. The token of the covenant was circumcision. It is here said to be the covenant which Abraham and his seed must keep. Those who will have the Lord to be to them a God, must resolve to be to him a people. Not only Abraham and Isaac, and his posterity by Isaac, were to be circumcised, but also Ishmael and the bond-servants. It sealed not only the covenant of the land of Canaan to Isaac's posterity, but of heaven, through Christ, to the whole church of God. The outward sign is for the visible church; the inward seal of the Spirit is peculiar to those whom God knows to be believers, and he alone can know them. The religious observance of this institution was required, under a very severe penalty. It is dangerous to make light of Divine institutions, and to live in the neglect of them. The covenant in question was one that involved great blessings for the world in all future ages. Even the blessedness of Abraham himself, and all the rewards conferred upon him, were for Christ's sake. Abraham was justified, as we have seen, not by his own righteousness, but by faith in the promised Messiah.

Verses 15-22 Here is the promise made to Abraham of a son by Sarai, in whom the promise made to him should be fulfilled. The assurance of this promise was the change of Sarai's name into Sarah. Sarai signifies my princess, as if her honour were confined to one family only; Sarah signifies a princess. The more favours God confers upon us, the more low we should be in our own eyes. Abraham showed great joy; he laughed, it was a laughter of delight, not of distrust. Now it was that Abraham rejoiced to see Christ's day; now he saw it and was glad, ( John 8:56 ) . Abraham, dreading lest Ishmael should be abandoned and forsaken of God, put up a petition on his behalf. God gives us leave in prayer to be particular in making known our requests. Whatever is our care and fear, should be spread before God in prayer. It is the duty of parents to pray for their children, and the great thing we should desire is, that they may be kept in covenant with Him, and may have grace to walk before him in uprightness. Common blessings are secured to Ishmael. Outward good things are often given to those children of godly parents who are born after the flesh, for their parents' sake. Covenant blessings are reserved for Isaac, and appropriated to him.

Verses 23-27 Abraham and all his family were circumcised; so receiving the token of the covenant, and distinguishing themselves from other families that had no part nor lot in the matter. It was an implicit obedience; he did as God said unto him, and did not ask why or wherefore. He did it because God bade him. It was a speedy obedience; in the self-same day. Sincere obedience makes no delay. Not only the doctrines of revelation, but the seals of God's covenant, remind us that we are guilty, polluted sinners. They show us our need of the blood of atonement; they point to the promised Saviour, and teach us to exercise faith in him. They show us that without regeneration, and sanctification by his Spirit, and the mortification of our corrupt and carnal inclinations, we cannot be in covenant with God. But let us remember that the true circumcision is that of the heart, by the Spirit, ( romans 2:28 romans 2:29 ) . Both under the old and new dispensation, many have had the outward profession, and the outward seal, who were never sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.

Cross References 27

  • 1. Genesis 6:9; Deuteronomy 18:13; Job 1:1; Psalms 119:1; Matthew 5:48
  • 2. Genesis 12:2; Genesis 13:16; Genesis 22:17
  • 3. ver. 17
  • 4. Rom. 4:11, 12, 16
  • 5. Nehemiah 9:7
  • 6. Cited Romans 4:17
  • 7. Genesis 35:11
  • 8. ver. 16
  • 9. Galatians 3:17
  • 10. Hebrews 11:16; [Genesis 26:24; Genesis 28:13]
  • 11. Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15; Psalms 105:11
  • 12. Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 26:12
  • 13. Acts 7:8; Romans 4:11
  • 14. Leviticus 12:3; Luke 1:59; Luke 2:21; Philippians 3:5
  • 15. [Exodus 12:48, 49]
  • 16. Genesis 18:10
  • 17. Genesis 35:11
  • 18. ver. 3
  • 19. Genesis 21:6; Romans 4:19; [John 8:56]
  • 20. Genesis 18:10; Genesis 21:2; Galatians 4:23, 28
  • 21. Genesis 21:3
  • 22. Genesis 16:10
  • 23. See Genesis 25:12-16
  • 24. Genesis 21:13, 18
  • 25. Genesis 26:2-5
  • 26. Genesis 21:2
  • 27. Genesis 35:13

Footnotes 6

  • [a]. Hebrew El Shaddai
  • [b]. Abram means exalted father
  • [c]. Abraham means father of a multitude
  • [d]. Sarai and Sarah mean princess
  • [e]. Hebrew have given
  • [f]. Isaac means he laughs

Chapter Summary


This chapter treats of a covenant made with Abram, sometimes called the covenant of circumcision, the time when God appeared to him, and promised to make it, and did, Ge 17:1-3; the particulars of it, both with respect to himself, whose name was now changed, and to his posterity, Ge 17:4-8; the token of it, circumcision, the time of its performance, and the persons obliged to it, Ge 17:9-14; the change of Sarai's name, and a promise made that she should have a son, to the great surprise of Abraham, Ge 17:15-17; a prayer of his for Ishmael, and the answer to it, with a confirmation of Sarah's having a son, whose name should be called Isaac, and the establishment of the covenant with him, Ge 17:18-22; and the chapter is closed with an account of the circumcision of Abraham, and all his family of the male sort, agreeably to the command of God, Ge 17:23-27.

Genesis 17 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.