Genesis 17:6 – I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.
In Genesis 17, we see God confirm His covenant with Abraham through the act of circumcision. After Abraham circumcised himself and his name was changed from Abram to Abraham, God then told Abraham that his wife’s name would be changed from Sarai which means “contentious” to Sarah which means “princess”. God also promised that through Sarah the princess would come kings and the ultimate fulfillment to come would be the birth of Jesus Christ, who is the King of Kings promised to Sarah’s great-grandson Judah in Genesis 49:10.
God appeared to Abraham, something that happens on only a few occasions in Genesis (12:7, 18:1, 26:2, 26:24, 35:9). Like chapter 15, Abraham spoke to God in unbelief rather than simply obeying Him by faith. Subsequently, in yet another mini-Fall, Abraham laughed at God in distrust that he and Sarah could conceive as God had promised.
God kindly restated His promise to Abraham that he would have a son, even instructing Abraham to name him Isaac which means “laughter”, as God would get the last laugh. Summarily, God’s portion of the covenant to Abraham consisted of offspring (Genesis 17:4-6) and eternal faithfulness (Genesis 17:7-8). God also kindly answered Abraham’s request to bless his other son, Ishmael, even though he was not the son of the promise or covenant. God also promised that 12 princes would come from Ishmael in contrast to the 12 tribes of Israel and they are listed in Genesis 25:12-26.
Abraham immediately obeyed God as Moses makes clear with the statement “On that very day…” Abraham was circumcised at the age of 99 along with every member of his household as God had commanded. He did this because God promised that any male who was not cut in circumcision would be cut off altogether by God.
God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 has puzzled theologians because God had already entered a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. The three most likely reasons for both accounts are that God was either expanding the covenant of land in Genesis 15 with offspring in Genesis 17, God was again restating His covenant with Abraham after he sinned with Hagar in Genesis 16, or God was expanding His covenant promise to Abraham to not be the father of one great nation (12:2), but in fact the father of many nations (17:5).
Throughout the rest of Scripture, the concepts of covenant and circumcision are expanded to include we who are Christians as the descendants of Abraham by new birth. Circumcision pointed to the circumcision that God brings to our hearts through His covenant relationship with us (Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 44:7-9; Romans 2:25-29; Colossians 2:11). Those with hearts circumcised by the Holy Spirit are truly Abraham’s descendants as they like him live in covenant relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 4; Galatians 3:6-8).
When God commands Abraham to raise his children and grandchildren in faith, what example is being set for all believers, including yourself?
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