Genesis 17:4 – “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.”
Following God’s covenant with Abram in Genesis 15, and Abram’s sexual sin with Hagar in Genesis 16, God then institutes male circumcision with Abram as the sign of the covenant in Genesis 17. The reason why God chose to mark His men on this part of their anatomy is not revealed to us. However, it makes sense as, for men, this is of great importance to them, the means by which they conceive children, and the cause of some of their most grievous sins, as we have seen in Genesis and throughout human history.
Circumcision was performed either with a sharp knife or stone. Circumcision began in Genesis 17 with Abram who was 99 years of age as a sign of his covenant with God, much like the rainbow was the sign of God’s covenant with Noah. God spoke to Abram and Abram responded to God’s command in faith, falling down on his face to worship God. God then changed his name from Abram which means “exalted father” to Abraham which means “father of a multitude” as the time for God to fulfill His promise of a son for Abram was very near. God then described His covenant with Abraham to include Abraham’s descendants.
God also gave Abraham the terms of the covenant which included Abraham and his descendants trusting God by faith in obedience by walking with God as Enoch and Noah had. The sign of their faith in God and membership in the covenant was to be circumcision of the male flesh of every generation, and all their household under their headship.
Theologically, in the covenant of circumcision, we are given significant insight into the doctrines of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility working together. In the covenant of circumcision, God pledges to be a trustworthy God. He also calls His people to obey Him by faith as they are created by Him to be responsible moral agents. Tomorrow we will continue looking at God’s faithfulness to Abraham and his family and how the Abrahamic Covenant affected Abraham’s wife, Sarah, and his children.
Circle in your Bible each of the occurrences of the word “covenant” in Genesis 17. Make note of what God promises to do in the covenant as well as what is required of Abraham and his descendants in the covenant.
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