Genesis 17

The Covenant of Circumcision

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a] ; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.
2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,
4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.
5 No longer will you be called Abram[b] ; your name will be Abraham,[c] for I have made you a father of many nations.
6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.
7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
8 The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.
10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.
11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.
12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring.
13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.
14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.
16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”
18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[d] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.
21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”
22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.
23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him.
24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised,
25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen;
26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day.
27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was 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 62

  • 1. S Genesis 12:4
  • 2. S Genesis 12:7
  • 3. Genesis 28:3; Genesis 35:11; Genesis 43:14; Genesis 48:3; Genesis 49:25; Exodus 6:3; Ruth 1:20; Job 5:17; Job 6:4,14; Job 22:21; Job 33:19; Job 36:16; Isaiah 13:6; Joel 1:15; Micah 6:9
  • 4. S Genesis 5:22; Genesis 20:5; Deuteronomy 18:13; 1 Kings 3:6; 1 Kings 9:4; Job 1:1; Psalms 15:2; Psalms 18:23; Psalms 78:72; Psalms 101:2
  • 5. S Genesis 15:18; S Genesis 22:16-18
  • 6. S Genesis 12:2
  • 7. ver 17; Genesis 18:2; Genesis 19:1; Genesis 33:3; Exodus 18:7; Numbers 14:5; Joshua 5:14; Joshua 7:6; Judges 13:20; Ezekiel 1:28; Ezekiel 3:23
  • 8. S Genesis 15:18
  • 9. ver 16; S Genesis 12:2; Genesis 25:23; Genesis 35:11; Genesis 48:19
  • 10. ver 15; Genesis 32:28; Genesis 35:10; Genesis 37:3,13; Genesis 43:6; Genesis 46:2; 1 Kings 18:31; 2 Kings 17:34; 1 Chronicles 1:34; Nehemiah 9:7; Isaiah 48:1; S John 1:42
  • 11. Romans 4:17*
  • 12. Genesis 1:28; Genesis 22:17; Genesis 26:22; Genesis 28:3; Genesis 35:11; Genesis 41:52; Genesis 47:27; Genesis 48:4; Genesis 49:22; Leviticus 26:9; Deuteronomy 7:13
  • 13. ver 16,19; Genesis 18:10; Genesis 21:1; Genesis 36:31; Isaiah 51:2; Matthew 1:6
  • 14. S Genesis 15:18; Leviticus 26:9,15
  • 15. S Genesis 6:18
  • 16. S Hebrews 13:20
  • 17. S Genesis 9:16
  • 18. Exodus 6:7; Exodus 20:2; Exodus 29:45,46; Leviticus 11:44-45; Leviticus 18:2; Leviticus 22:33; Leviticus 25:38; Leviticus 26:12,45; Numbers 15:41; Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 7:6,21; Deuteronomy 29:13; 2 Samuel 7:24; Jeremiah 14:9; Revelation 21:7
  • 19. Romans 9:8; Galatians 3:16
  • 20. S Genesis 10:19; Psalms 105:9,11
  • 21. Genesis 23:4; Genesis 28:4; Genesis 35:27; Genesis 37:1; Exodus 6:4; 1 Chronicles 29:15
  • 22. S Genesis 12:7; S Genesis 15:7
  • 23. S ver 7; Jeremiah 31:1
  • 24. Genesis 22:18; Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 5:2
  • 25. Genesis 18:19
  • 26. ver 23; Genesis 21:4; Leviticus 12:3; Jos 5:2,5,7; John 7:22; Acts 7:8; Romans 4:11
  • 27. Exodus 12:48; Deuteronomy 10:16
  • 28. S Genesis 9:12; Romans 4:11
  • 29. S Genesis 9:12
  • 30. Genesis 21:4; Leviticus 12:3; Joshua 5:2; S Luke 1:59; Luke 2:21
  • 31. Exodus 12:44,48
  • 32. S Genesis 9:16
  • 33. ver 23
  • 34. Exodus 4:24-26; Exodus 12:15,19; Exodus 30:33; Leviticus 7:20,25; Leviticus 17:4; Leviticus 18:29; Leviticus 19:8; Leviticus 20:17; Numbers 9:13; Numbers 15:30; Numbers 19:13; Deuteronomy 17:12; Joshua 5:2-8; Job 38:15; Psalms 37:28
  • 35. Ezekiel 44:7
  • 36. S Genesis 11:29
  • 37. S ver 5
  • 38. S ver 6; S Isaiah 29:22; Genesis 18:10
  • 39. S ver 4; Genesis 24:60; Genesis 35:11; Galatians 4:31
  • 40. S ver 3
  • 41. Genesis 18:12; Genesis 21:6
  • 42. S Genesis 12:4
  • 43. Genesis 18:11,13; Genesis 21:7; Genesis 24:1,36; Jeremiah 20:15; Luke 1:18; Romans 4:19; Galatians 4:23; Hebrews 11:11
  • 44. S Genesis 16:15
  • 45. Genesis 21:11
  • 46. S ver 6,21; Genesis 18:14; Genesis 21:2; 1 Samuel 1:20
  • 47. S Genesis 16:11; Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:13,31
  • 48. Genesis 26:3; Genesis 50:24; Exodus 13:11; Deuteronomy 1:8
  • 49. S Genesis 9:16; S Galatians 3:16
  • 50. S Genesis 13:16; Genesis 16:10
  • 51. Genesis 25:12-16
  • 52. Genesis 25:18; Genesis 48:19; Genesis 21:18
  • 53. Exodus 34:10
  • 54. S ver 19
  • 55. Genesis 18:10,14; Genesis 21:2
  • 56. Genesis 18:33; Genesis 35:13; Numbers 12:9
  • 57. S Genesis 12:5
  • 58. S ver 10,S 14
  • 59. S Genesis 12:4
  • 60. Romans 4:11
  • 61. Genesis 16:16
  • 62. Genesis 14:14

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. Hebrew "El-Shaddai"
  • [b]. "Abram" means "exalted father."
  • [c]. "Abraham" probably means "father of many."
  • [d]. "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

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