Genesis 17 God’s Covenant with Abraham CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
In this lesson we will study God’s covenant with Abraham. We will see the Lord’s appearance to Abraham, the covenant that He made with him, the token of that covenant, the name changes and the initiation of the token.
The Lord’s Appearance
When the Lord appeared to Abraham in verse 1, it had been over 13 years since He had spoken to Abraham (Gen. 15, 16, 17:25). Conceiving a son by Hagar was a mistake that cost him all those years of fellowship with God. Abraham was humbled at the presence of the Lord (v. 3) and he fell on his face. He actually saw God (vs. 1, 22). So, Abraham had to be looking at a preincarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. Otherwise, he would have never survived being in the presence of the Lord (Exodus 33:20).
There were several things that were promised to Abraham in this covenant.
- God promised to multiply Abraham exceedingly, v. 2. This promise predominately dealt with what God revealed to Abraham in the vision when God promised to multiply Abraham’s seed as the stars of heaven (Gen. 15:5).
- God promised to make Abraham a father of many nations, v. 4. He did. Abraham’s genealogy includes:
- Ishmael’s offspring (Genesis 25:12-18);
- Isaac’s offspring (Genesis 25:24-28);
i. Jacob’s offspring (Genesis 25:22-26);
ii. Esau’s offspring (Genesis 36:1-19, 40-43);
- Keturah’s offspring (Genesis 25:1-4).
- God promised Abraham a seed, v. 7. The promised seed could have included Ishmael through Genesis 17:25. However, beyond Genesis 21: 10-12, only Isaac could fulfill this promise. Although God credits Abraham with the faith to believe this promise (Rom. 4: 19-21), Abraham’s initial reaction was disbelief. He laughed when he heard that Sarah would be the mother of the promised seed. Therefore, God told him that he would call his son Isaac, which means “Laughter.” Sarah had the same reaction when she heard the news (Gen. 18:12).
- God promised Abraham the land of Canaan, v. 8. This land was given to Abraham for an everlasting possession, which means that it belongs to his seed even to this day. This same promise was given to Isaac in Genesis 26:3, to Jacob in Genesis 28:13, and to the 12 tribes of Israel in Joshua 1: 1-4. You can find the summary of these promises in Psalm 105:8-12.
- God promised that this would be an everlasting covenant, v. 19. You can find where God reaffirmed this covenant in Isaiah 66: 22.
The Token of the Covenant
All covenants that God made with men had tokens that were used to establish the covenants. For instance, when God made a covenant with Noah, that he would no longer flood the earth, he gave him the token of the rainbow. In the case of Abraham’s covenant, God gave the token of circumcision (v.11). This token had to do with removing the foreskin of every male that was born in his house or bought with money. The reason for this is that the covenant had to do with the promise of a seed. So, God had Abraham remove the foreskin of his flesh before Isaac, the promised seed, was conceived.
The circumcision was to be performed on the 8th day of the child’s life (v. 12, Acts 7: 8). Doctors have learned that this was the best time for a circumcision because this is when the body has the highest immunity to infection.
Any man child that was not circumcised would be cut off from his people (v.14). This could be a form of excommunication. Or God could have been talking about killing them (Exodus 4: 24-26). When or how they were to be cut off is not made clear.
Abram’s name was changed Abraham (v. 5). Abram means “High Father.” That was too lofty of a title. So God changed his name to Abraham, which means, “Father of a multitude.”
Sarai’s name was changed to Sarah (v. 15). Sarai means, “Contentious.” While that may have been her former nature, God chose to call her Sarah, instead, which means “My Princess.”
Initiation of the Token
At the end of the chapter, all of the males were circumcised including Abraham and his son Ishmael (vs. 23-27). This circumcision was performed before Sarah conceived Isaac (Genesis 21: 1-3). For Abraham and his seed, the circumcision was in the flesh. While this physical circumcision might picture the New Birth (Col. 2:11), it does not mean that males that were circumcised were saved, since this is not a covenant of salvation but a covenant of a land grant and a promised seed.