Genesis 17: Covenant of Promise

June 16, 2023 ·

Summary:
At the age of 99, God appears to Abram once again, affirming that Abram will become the father of nations and that his descendants will inherit the land of Canaan (God’s plan remains unchanged!). God then changes Abram’s name to Abraham and instructs him to circumcise himself, his household, the foreigners living with them, and all future descendants as a sign of their covenant. Sarai is also renamed Sarah, and God declares that He will bless her with descendants who will be greatly favored. Abraham finds this amusing since Sarah is both barren and 90 years old, and he suggests that Ishmael should receive the blessing. However, God reassures Abraham that Ishmael will also be blessed, but it is Sarah’s son, Isaac (who is not yet born), who will receive a greater portion of the blessing. So, Abraham proceeds to circumcise his household as instructed by God.

Key Verses: 

  1. 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,
  1. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.

My thoughts:
When Abram falls facedown in verse 3, it represents the most complete physical gesture of submission, a practice often seen in the Bible as an act of worship towards God. Facedown worship is a humbling posture that is fitting when encountering God.

Circumcision can be likened to Jewish baptism. It serves as an outward sign of an internal decision to follow God. It is not primarily for practical purposes but rather as a symbol of the covenant. It becomes an integral part of the Jewish faith to the extent that even with the introduction of the new covenant in the New Testament where circumcision is no longer required, many Jews struggle to accept this change and continue to advocate for circumcision. However, circumcision is associated with the old covenant of the law, and anyone who believes that circumcision is necessary to follow God should also feel obligated to adhere to the entire Jewish law. The new covenant brought by Jesus is one of grace and faith, rendering physical circumcision irrelevant. Even in the Old Testament, circumcision of the heart is deemed more significant than any physical ritual.

Although God’s covenant was initially established with the Hebrews through Abraham, He allowed foreigners to become part of that covenant if they fully embraced and submitted to the ‘Jewish’ way of life, including circumcision. God has always had a heart for all people of every nation. This inclusiveness can be observed in the case of the foreigners living with Abraham who essentially became Jewish, not by ethnicity, but by faith.

In category:Genesis
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