Genesis 17

Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision

1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine * years old, 1the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God 2Almighty; Walk before Me, and be 3blameless.
2 "I will establish My 4covenant between Me and you, And I will 5multiply you exceedingly."
3 Abram 6fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying,
4 "As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you will be the father of a 7multitude of nations.
5 "No longer shall your name be called Abram, But 8your name shall be Abraham; For 9I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.
6 "I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and 10kings will come forth from you.
7 "I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an 11everlasting covenant, 12to be God to you and 13to your descendants after you.
8 "14I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and 15I will be their God."
9 God said further to Abraham, "Now as for you, 16you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.
10 "17This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.
11 "And 18you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.
12 "And every male among you who is 19eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner *, who is not of your descendants.
13 "A servant who is born in your house or 20who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14 "But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be 21cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant."
15 Then God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.
16 "I will bless her, and indeed I will give you 22a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; 23kings of peoples will come from her."
17 Then Abraham 24fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, "Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And 25will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?"
18 And Abraham said to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before You!"
19 But God said, "No, but Sarah your wife will bear you 26a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and 27I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
20 "As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and 28will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. 29He shall become the father of twelve * princes, and I will make him a 30great nation.
21 "But My covenant I will establish with 31Isaac, whom 32Sarah will bear to you at this season next year."
22 When He finished talking with him, 33God went up from Abraham.
23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all the servants who were 34born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's household, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the very same day, 35as God had said to him.
24 Now Abraham was ninety-nine * years old when 36he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
25 And 37Ishmael his son was thirteen * years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
26 In the very same day Abraham was circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
27 All the men of his household, who were 38born in the house or 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 38

  • 1. Genesis 12:7; Genesis 18:1
  • 2. Genesis 28:3; Genesis 35:11
  • 3. Genesis 6:9; Deuteronomy 18:13
  • 4. Genesis 15:18
  • 5. Genesis 13:16; Genesis 15:5
  • 6. Genesis 17:17; Genesis 18:2
  • 7. Genesis 35:11; Genesis 48:19
  • 8. Nehemiah 9:7
  • 9. Romans 4:17
  • 10. Genesis 17:16; Genesis 35:11
  • 11. Genesis 17:13, 19; Psalms 105:9, 10; Luke 1:55
  • 12. Genesis 26:24; Leviticus 11:45; Leviticus 26:12, 45; Hebrews 11:16
  • 13. Genesis 28:13; Galatians 3:16
  • 14. Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15, 17; Acts 7:5
  • 15. Exodus 6:7; Exodus 29:45; Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 29:13; Revelation 21:7
  • 16. Exodus 19:5
  • 17. John 7:22; Acts 7:8; Romans 4:11
  • 18. Exodus 12:48; Deuteronomy 10:16; Acts 7:8; Romans 4:11
  • 19. Leviticus 12:3
  • 20. Exodus 12:44
  • 21. Exodus 4:24-26
  • 22. Genesis 18:10
  • 23. Genesis 17:6; Genesis 36:31
  • 24. Genesis 17:3; Genesis 18:12; Genesis 21:6
  • 25. Genesis 21:7
  • 26. Genesis 17:16; Genesis 18:10; Genesis 21:2
  • 27. Genesis 26:2-5
  • 28. Genesis 16:10
  • 29. Genesis 25:12-16
  • 30. Genesis 21:18
  • 31. Genesis 17:19; Genesis 18:10, 14
  • 32. Genesis 21:2
  • 33. Genesis 18:33; Genesis 35:13
  • 34. Genesis 14:14
  • 35. Genesis 17:9-11
  • 36. Romans 4:11
  • 37. Genesis 16:16
  • 38. Genesis 14:14

Footnotes 16

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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