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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Genesis 17

 

 

Verses 1-27

The Covenant of Circumcision - In Genesis 17:1-27 we have the account of Abraham's covenant of circumcision with the Lord. The word "covenant" is used thirteen times in this chapter, more often than in any other chapter of the Holy Bible.

The Seal of Circumcision- The seal of God's covenant with Abraham was circumcision, which symbolizes a severing from the flesh in order to serve God from the heart. Thus, it serves as a constant reminder of a life of faith. Today, our seal is the Holy Spirit. Our sign is internal, but Abraham's sign was external because the Holy Spirit was not yet given.

Ephesians 1:13, "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,"

It is interesting to note that Abraham and Sarah did not have a son until the time of Abraham's circumcision. God called him into the land of Canaan at the age of seventy-five. At that time God promised to make him a nation that would possess this land. But it was not until Abraham was circumcised at the age of ninety-nine that his wife conceived, which was twenty-four years later. For the Scriptures tell us that shortly after his circumcision Sarah conceived.

Song of Solomon , we must ask the question, "What is the relationship between circumcision and conception?" But more particular, "What is the relationship between circumcision and giving birth to a son rather than a daughter?" For we know that in order to produce a nation a man must have a son. We read later how Isaac born two sons, and how Jacob bore twelve sons.

After my wife bore us two daughters, we inquired from others about a technique that insures a son. Although there are many ideas out there, we found one that made physiological sense. We were told to come together after ovulation, and not before, after the egg had been released on the fourteenth day of the menstrual cycle. This means that we were to come together after the fourteenth day and not before this day. The reasoning is rather simple. The male sperm are said to be stronger that the female sperm and are able to swim faster towards the egg. Thus, the male sperm arrive at the egg first. However, these male sperm have a much shorter lifespan than the female sperm simply because they have used up their energy resources faster. If a couple come together before ovulation, the male sperm have usually died by the time the egg reaches the fallopian tubes and the female sperm are the ones to fertilize the egg. However, when the egg is waiting in the tubes, the male sperm reach it first and a male child is conceived.

Song of Solomon , here is my theory about circumcision. When a man is uncircumcised he is able to place his sperm further into the woman, which gives the sperm a shorter distance to the egg. This gives a greater chance for the female sperm to reach the egg first. But after circumcision the sperm are deposited at a shorter distance in the woman and they are required to travel further to reach the egg. This serves as an advantage for the male sperm. Thus, after circumcision, there is a greater chance of having a male child, especially if a couple comes together after ovulation. When my wife and I, who am circumcised, tried this technique, it worked. God blessed us with my firstborn son.

Genesis 17:1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

Genesis 17:1 — "And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him" - Comments- Abraham was eighty-six years old when he took Hagar as his wife. After Abraham went it to Hagar and bore a son ( Genesis 16:4; Genesis 16:16), there is no record of God speaking to him for another thirteen years. Genesis 17:1 tells us he was ninety years old when God spoke to him again.

Genesis 17:1"I am the Almighty God" - Word Study on "Almighty God" - The name "Almighty God" in the Hebrew is ( אֵל שַׁדַּי), or "El Shaddai." Strong says the Hebrew word "El" ( אֵל) (H 410), means "strength," and as an adjective it means, "mighty." When used as a noun, it is translated "God." Strong says this Hebrew word is an abbreviated form of the word ( אַיִל) (H 352) or ( אוּל) (H 193), meaning "strength." Strong says the Hebrew word "Shaddai" ( שַׁדַּי) (H 7706) is derived from "shadad" ( שָׁדַד) (H 7703), which means, "to be burly, or powerful," and implies the meaning, "to ravage."

H. C. Leupold says, "It would appear that this name Shadday comes from the root ‘shadad,' which may mean, ‘deal violently,' but would in reference to God signify ‘to display power.' 204] Adam Clarke says "El shaddai" means, "I am God all-sufficient," coming from "shadah, to shed, to pour out." Clark gives the illustration that it is God who pours out blessings, who gives them richly, abundantly, continually. 205]

204] H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis , 2 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, c 1942, 1970), in OnLine Bible, v 20 [CD-ROM] (Nederland: Online Bible Foundation, 1992-2005), comment on Genesis 17:1.

205] Adam Clarke, Genesis , in Adam Clarke"s Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Genesis 17:1.

This is the first use of El Shaddai in the Bible, where God reveals his Holy and Divine Nature through His name to Abraham ( Exodus 6:3). At this time, a covenant is made and God renames Abraham.

Exodus 6:3, "And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them."

Comment- When God last appeared to Abraham in Genesis 15, He revealed Himself as a Shield and exceeding great Reward. Abraham had come to know God as his shield of protection and the One who had rewarded him with great wealth. God was now going to teach Abraham to know Him as a God with whom nothing is impossible.

In Genesis 12God had promised to make of Abraham a great nation. Therefore, Abraham made Eliezer of Damascus his heir. In Genesis 15, God told Abraham that this heir would be a son from his own bowels. Abraham then chose to conceive a child through Hagar, his handmaid. Here, in this passage, God is about to tell Abraham that his heir would be a son through Sarah, his wife. Only an Almighty God could make the barren conceive. Abraham was about to know his God in a greater way than ever before.

Genesis 17:1"walk before me, and be thou perfect" - Word Study on "walk before me" - The Hebrew word "walk" ( הָלַךְ) (H 1980) in the Hithpael construction literally means, "Make yourself walk," (reflexive) or "walk constantly." The phrase "before me" ( לְפָנַי) (H 6440) literally means, "to my face," or "in my presence." Gesenius says that the Hebrew phrase "My person" equals "I" (see [ פָּנִים], definition 2); hence the English translation "walk constantly before Me."

Genesis 17:2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

Genesis 17:2Word Study on "I will make" - Gesenius says the Hebrew verb "I will make" ( נָתַן) (H 5414) means, ""to give, to set, to make." The Enhanced Strong tells us it is found 2008 times in the Old Testament, so it is one of those commonly used verbs that carry a wide range of meanings, depending upon context. In Genesis 17:2 it carries the cohortative construction in the Hebrew text, which expresses emphasis. In other words, we may paraphrase this verse to read, "I will make my covenant a certainty, a sure thing." The NASB reads, "I will establish," and the NIV reads, "I will confirm."

Genesis 17:2Comments- Note a statement regarding the certainly of our divine calling in 2 Peter 1:10, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:"

Genesis 17:3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,

Genesis 17:4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

Genesis 17:4Comments- We know that Abraham would naturally become the father of the nation of Israel. We know that through Ishmael he became the father of the Arab nations. But how is this one man considered the father of many nations? Paul explains this is the fourth chapter of his epistle to the Romans. His faith in this promise from God, demonstrated by his act of circumcising his household, made him the father of all others who were to believe upon God's promises ( Romans 4:11). Thus, out of all nations on earth men and women who believe in the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are reckoned as his children.

Romans 4:11, "And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:"

Genesis 17:5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

Genesis 17:5 — "Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham" - Word Study on "Abram" - The Hebrew name "Abram" ( אַבְרָם) (H 87) means, "the father of elevation" (Gesenius), or "exalted father" (Strong). Strong says this Hebrew word is considered a contracted form of "Abiram" ( אֲבִירָם) (H 48), which is derived from "ab" ( אָב) (H 1), which means, father, grandfather, prince, head or founder of a household," and the primitive root "ruwm" ( יָרוּם) (H 7311), which means, "to rise up, to be exalted."

Word Study on "Abraham" - Strong says the Hebrew name "Abraham" ( אַבְרָהָם) (H 85) means, "father of a multitude," which is derived from "ab" ( אָב) (H 1) and an unused root.

Comments- The Lord changed Abram's name, which means, "exalted father," to Abraham, which means, "father of a multitude."

Genesis 17:5 — "for a father of many nations have I made thee" - Comments- Paul quotes the phrase "a father of many nations have I made thee" in Romans 4:17-18.

Romans 4:17-18, "(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be."

Paul explains that this verse declares Abraham to be a father both to the Jews and to the Gentiles, that Isaiah , to all who follow in the faith of Abraham ( Romans 4:16).

Romans 4:16, "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,"

Paul explains that this promise was made to Abraham while he was yet uncircumcised. In this passage in Genesis , the covenant of circumcision was immediately instituted after this promise, that Isaiah , in Genesis 17:10-14 of this passage.

Genesis 17:6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

Genesis 17:7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.

Genesis 17:7Word Study on "I will establish" - Strong says the Hebrew word "establish" ( קוּם) (H 6965) literally means, "to rise," and carries a wide variety of meanings, such as "abide, accomplish, continue, establish, etc."

Genesis 17:7Word Study on "and to thy seed" - The Hebrew phrase ( וּלְזַרְעֲךָ) used here is a conjunction ( ו = and), a preposition ( ל = to) and a pronoun ( ך = thy) attached to the singular noun ( זָרַע) (H 2233) "seed" (Strong).

Genesis 17:7Comments- The phrase "and to thy seed" is quoted in Galatians 3:16 in order to explain that it is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Galatians 3:16, "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ."

It is also true that other New Testament passages describe the children of the promise as "seed" in a collective sense of this singular usage. See:

Romans 9:7-8, "Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That Isaiah , They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed."

Genesis 17:8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

Genesis 17:8"for an everlasting possession" - Comments- This everlasting possession is not just referring to the present earth, which is going to pass away, nor about a kingdom of mortal men. This phrase includes the New Jerusalem and the new heavens and earth spoken about in Hebrews 11:10 and Revelation 21.

Hebrews 11:10, "For he (Abraham) looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."

Revelation 21:1, "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea."

Genesis 17:8Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - Note a New Testament reference to Genesis 17:8 :

Acts 7:5, "And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child."

Genesis 17:9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

Genesis 17:10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

Genesis 17:11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.

Genesis 17:11 — "And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin" - Word Study on "foreskin" - Strong says the Hebrew word "foreskin" "orlah" ( עָרְלָה) or ( הָעֲרָלֹות) (H 6190) means, "the prepuce, or foreskin, uncircumcised." The Enhanced Strong says it is used 16 times in the Old Testament, being translated "foreskin 13, uncircumcised 3."

Genesis 17:11"and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you" - Comments- Benny Hinn teaches that there are three aspects to biblical covenants: a promise, a condition, and a token. In addition, each covenant was instituted with the shedding of blood, which ratified, or sealed the covenant. 206] The token of the Abrahamic covenant was circumcision, while the token of the Noahic covenant was the rainbow ( Genesis 9:12-17).

206] Benny Hinn, "Fire Conference," 5-6 June 2009, Miracle Center Cathedral, Kampala, Uganda.

Genesis 9:12-13, "And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth."

Genesis 17:12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.

Genesis 17:12 — "And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you" - Comments- Why did God choose the eighth day? Scientists have discovered in the twentieth century a newborn's blood does not clot well until the eighth day. However, when parents wait longer, then the pain is more intense in the child. 207] Bert Thompson explains that vitamin K and prothrombin serve to cause clotting of the blood. Vitamin K is first produced in the body during the fifth to the seventh day after birth. It is on the eighth day that the highest levels of vitamin K and prothrombin are found in the body during the life of a person. Therefore, the eighth day is the ideal day to perform circumcision since the blood clots the quickest of any day of a person's life. 208]

207] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen, and H. Wayne House, eds, Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), comments on Leviticus 12:3.

208] Bert Thompson, Biblical Accuracy and Circumcision on the 8th Day [on-line]; accessed 19 June 2009; available from http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2204; Internet.

Illustration- I had my son circumcised on the eighth day, and he suffered very little pain and discomfort. The only time when he cried was coming out of surgery. After nursing him in response to this cry, he never showed any visible signs of discomfort or pain again.

Genesis 17:13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

Genesis 17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

Genesis 17:15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.

Genesis 17:15Word Study on "Sarai" - Gesenius says the Hebrew name "Saria" ( שָׂרַי) (H 8297) means, "my princess?" or "nobility." BDB says that this name means, "princess." Strong says that it is derived from the word ( סָרַר) (H 8269), which means, "prince, ruler, leader, chief, chieftain, official, captain."

Genesis 17:15Word Study on "Sarah" - Strong says the Hebrew name "Sarah" ( שָׂרָה) (H 8283) means, "a noble woman," or "a princess, lady, queen," and is derived from the same root as the name "Sarai."

Genesis 17:15Comments- Calvin, Gill and others explains that the Hebrew letter "yod" found at the end of the name Sarai indicates a possessive noun, and is translated "my princess." With her name being changed from Sarai to Sarah, the possessive is dropped so the name means "princess." This implies that she becomes a princess for every people.

Genesis 17:16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.

Genesis 17:17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?

Genesis 17:18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!

Genesis 17:18Comments- Note that Sarah also laughs at this news ( Genesis 18:12-13).

Genesis 18:12-13, "Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?"

Genesis 17:19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.

Genesis 17:20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.

Genesis 17:21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.

Genesis 17:21"which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year" - Comments- God had a set time to both announce to Abraham that he would have a son and God had a set time to give them a son. These two set times were twenty-five years apart. God chose a time when their bodies were past the age to have children. So faith must truly be involved.

Genesis 17:22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.

Genesis 17:23 And Abraham took Ishmael his Song of Solomon , and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham"s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.

Genesis 17:24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

Genesis 17:24Comments- Abraham was circumcised at the age of ninety-nine years old.

Genesis 17:25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

Genesis 17:26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.

Genesis 17:27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Genesis 17:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/genesis-17.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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