Genesis Chapter 17: 13 Years After Ishmael’s Birth, Name Changed to Abraham, Circumcision

Feb 2nd, 2010 | By | Category: Genesis, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Genesis Chapter 17: 13 Years After Ishmael’s Birth, Name Changed to Abraham, Circumcision

Gen. 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.

Abram was now 99 years old. Hence it was 13 years after Ishmael’s birth that God again confirmed the covenant with Abram. Thirteen years was a long time to wait in silence.

God instructed Abram to walk upright and to be blameless; that is, “Continue to walk upright.” (The covenant was already unconditional.) Abram had been faithful a long time, ever since leaving Ur, and now he was told to keep on being faithful. We do not know how long he lived in Haran before Terah died. In fact, we do not even know how old Abram was when he left Ur, but he was 75 when he left Haran and entered Canaan. Much that Abram did was typical—like Elijah. But with Elijah the pictures are sequential, and with Abram they are separate.

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

God repeated the covenant. Notice the phrase “between me and thee.” Several times this same phrase is mentioned in chapter 17, and always God’s name is first (verses 7, 10, and 11).

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

Abram prostrated himself on the ground to hear further what God had to say.

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

The covenant was unilateral (one-sided) and unconditional. God would do such and such. He was saying in effect, “My responsibility now is to fulfill my part of the promise, and I intend to fulfill it”—but He did not say WHEN.

Gen. 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.

God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. With “ab” meaning “father,” Abram means “high or exalted father,” and Abraham has the thought of “father of a multitude.”

Comment: It is interesting that Abram, the original name, and the new name both contain the thought of “father,” the latter giving a further detail. He was named from birth for a purpose, or stated another way, his name was overruled even at birth.

Reply: Abraham would look back later and realize there was a greater significance. The covenant was elaborated on, and so was his name.

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

“I will make thee exceeding fruitful.” Ishmael had already been born, and Isaac was born later.

After Sarah died, Abraham married Keturah and had six more sons (his daughters are not mentioned) (Gen. 25:1,2). God promised that Ishmael would be multiplied exceedingly (Gen. 16:10), and so would Isaac. However, if we put ourselves in Abraham’s place, we can see that he had to exercise much faith. At this time, Ishmael seemed to be his only heir, yet God said that Abraham would be very fruitful.

The term “kings” has a double application. (1) Abraham is the “father” of the faithful spiritual class. Those who have the spirit of Abraham in the Gospel Age have spiritual promises; they give up earthly hopes in their desire to be with Jesus. In other words, the “kings” are the Church. (2) The Ancient Worthies will be princes in all the earth in the Kingdom. A prince is an heir-apparent, and thus can be considered a ruler or a king. The glorified Church will have the Ancient Worthies as their mouthpieces. The world will look to the Ancient Worthies for instruction, not to the Church, for the latter will be invisible. Stated another way, The Christ, The King of that age, will be invisible. The word of the Ancient Worthies will be law, for the law will go forth from Zion and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem, that is, by appointed human agencies (Isa. 2:3). The principle is similar to Jesus’ being the Word, or Logos, of the Father; the words he taught at the First Advent were like the words of God.

“Princes” are “kings” in another sense too. Daniel 12:1 says that Michael, “the great prince,” will stand up for Daniel’s people (Israel) and deliver them when Gog comes down. If Michael the Prince is in reality the King, then sometimes “prince” can be equated with “king.” Therefore, the “princes” in the earth in the Kingdom (that is, the Ancient Worthies) will be like kings as far as the world is concerned.

Gen. 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.

Gen. 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.

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

Notice the repetition: “thee and thy seed after thee”; “unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (twice); and “thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.” Although Abraham was now a stranger in Canaan, all the land would someday be given to him and to his seed after him, and God would be their God. In other words, the inheritance and fulfillment would not occur in Abraham’s day.

From a natural standpoint, Abraham’s seed after him did go into Canaan and possess it but not in the fullest sense. Abraham died, not having received the inheritance. Since God is not a God of the dead but a God of the living, He will give Canaan to a live Abraham. Abraham died without getting the land, and since he must receive it, the implication is that he will be raised from death to get his inheritance. The statement in Genesis 15:13 that Abraham‘s seed would be afflicted for 400 years is another proof that the inheritance would not come in his day back there but when he is resurrected.

Hebrews chapter 11 proves Abraham (and the other Ancient Worthies) concluded that the fulfillment of the promise was a long way off and not in the present life. “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God…. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they … declare plainly that they seek … a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God … hath prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:10,13,14,16).

Temporarily in the Kingdom, the Ancient Worthies will be involved down here. Jesus said that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, etc., will be in the Kingdom, but the scribes and the Pharisees will be thrust out (Luke 13:28). Abraham will get the land temporarily and after that, a permanent spiritual inheritance: a “heavenly” city.

“Unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” In one sense, the “seed” after Abraham were his natural posterity who actually entered the land; but in the fuller sense, the “seed” will inherit the land in the Kingdom, especially when the Ancient Worthies get their spiritual inheritance.

Under Joshua, land boundaries were given, but under Ezekiel, the new Kingdom boundaries were given, plus a new city, temple, and conditions. Those born in Israel—even if they are Arabs—will have a right to the land in the Kingdom, but in name, the land will be called “Israel” and the Kingdom will be Israelitish. The temporary Kingdom “camp” condition of the Ancient Worthies will be changed to a heavenly condition at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:9). The Abrahamic promise is like a tiny acorn that will grow into a giant oak.

Gen. 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.

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

Gen. 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.

Gen. 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.

Gen. 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.

Circumcision has a typical significance. Paul referred to the Book of Genesis in many epistles and gave the deeper meaning. Hence much of Genesis is spiritual, not just natural.

The Jewish Christian thought circumcision was mandatory for the Christian (whether Jew or Gentile), but Paul showed that when Abraham was called at age 75, he was not even circumcised (see Romans chapter 4). Years later, at age 99, he was circumcised. Circumcision was to be a sign or token of the covenant made with Abraham. Hence the Jewish people were recognized as a circumcised people. Back there sharp stones were used to circumcise the males. Spiritual circumcision is consecration, the cutting off of earthly hopes, aims, and ambitions. When one consecrates, he enters into a covenant. The “sign” of this covenant is the cutting off of the old man with his deeds and the putting on of the new man. It is a cutting off of the “excess” (we are still in the flesh) and leading a changed life.

Abraham was 99 when circumcised. From then on, however, every male child who was born was to be circumcised on the eighth day. Hence a time period was established for the natural Israelite, and circumcision was to remind them that they were different from the uncircumcised Gentiles. The term “eighth day” is significant and can be considered from several aspects, some of which follow:

(1) Those who enter the eighth day, the age beyond the Kingdom, will have passed the test of the “little season” and hence will live forever (Rev. 20:3). They will be thoroughly “circumcised,” thoroughly proved fit for life, and thus be sons of God as Adam was.

(2) The eighth day begins a new week. Seven days, the past week, represents the past life. The eighth day is the turning of a new leaf, that is, consecration. Therefore, the eighth day symbolizes a beginning. The context indicates what beginning, and when? For the Christian, the seven days are the old life, and the eighth day marks the beginning of the new consecrated life.

Also, from the standpoint of a class (not individuals), the eighth day began at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the waiting disciples, granting them official recognition.

(3) Regarding the world in the Kingdom, there will be seven stages just as there are in the Gospel Age; that is, there will be a succession of development. The new age, the age beyond the Kingdom, will be the eighth day. Those who attain the eighth day will be like the angels and not die anymore, being children of the resurrection in the fullest sense (Luke 20:35,36).

(4) The eighth day is also the fifty thousandth year, the year following the seven Creative Days (7 x 7,000). This eighth day is the Jubilee of Jubilees, which signals an unending “day” of everlasting life.

(5) The number 8 signifies “resurrection” or “newness” in some pictures.

“He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised.” “Every man child … that is born in the house, or bought [of any stranger] with money … must … be circumcised.” In other words, natural male Jewish children, as well as male children of servants, had to be circumcised. Male servants who were purchased as adults also had to be circumcised. The antitype applies to the Kingdom and signifies that both Jews and Gentiles must be spiritually circumcised. Gentiles will have to become Israelitish. Notice the penalty for failure to be circumcised: death.

Gen. 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.

The meaning of both Sarai and Sarah is “princess.” “Sarai” was the birth name back in Ur of the Chaldees, as was “Abram.” When these names were transferred to Hebrew, an “h” was added. “Abraham” is a little more significant in the Hebrew than “Abram,” although essentially they are the same.

Gen. 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.

God told Abraham that he would have a son through Sarah. He also said, “She shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.” With the lineage being Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel), and Jacob’s 12 sons, verse 16 is a reference to natural Israel—but also to spiritual Israel from another standpoint.

When Isaac and Ishmael are considered, the comparison is different. The promise to Ishmael is given in verse 20. He would be multiplied exceedingly and would beget 12 princes, but through Isaac would come kings. The Isaac seed will reign with Jesus, spiritually speaking, and the Ishmael or princely seed will be the Ancient Worthies. The distinction in rank is significant. And through Esau (or Edom) will come dukes (Gen. 36:15-18).

Gen. 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?

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

At news of the announcement, Abraham said in his heart (not aloud), “Shall a child be born to me when I am 100 years old and Sarah is 90?” He realized that a double miracle would be required: with himself and with Sarah.

God was telling Abraham these things. Abraham could have heard a voice from a cloud or from the air or in his inner ear. Or he could have been in a tent and heard the voice. Whatever the method, Abraham’s audible response was, “O that Ishmael might live!” What does this account tell us about Abraham? He was 99 years old (verse 24). The promise was originally made when he was 75—24 years earlier. He had first thought that his chief servant, Eliezer, would be the heir, but God said the seed would come out of Abraham’s loins. Then he and Sarah thought that perhaps the seed was to come through Abraham but not through Sarah, so 13 years earlier (verse 25) he conceived Ishmael through Hagar the concubine. Abraham’s comment here in verse 18 indicates that he was resigned to Ishmael’s being the seed. He was saying, “I will be satisfied if Ishmael is the seed.” Abraham was not pressing the matter but was simply expressing a spirit of resignation and submission. Subconsciously, too, he was probably thinking of Sarah’s age. It would be a greater miracle for Sarah to bear a child now than for him to sire one, for he had fathered Ishmael when 86 years old. However, Abraham probably felt he, too, could no longer have children; that is, he probably became impotent after having Ishmael. And Sarah was definitely barren. Therefore, the miracle with Abraham and Sarah was twofold. (Many men over 100 had children both before and after Abraham, so impotency seemed to be his situation.)

Gen. 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.

God ignored Abraham’s response and said in effect, “Sarah shall bear a son indeed (because I have said it), and his name shall be Isaac.” Notice that God named Isaac, whose name means “laughter.” The thought of laughter, a play on words, is pure joy in both the natural and the spiritual sense. Abraham laughed within himself at this current announcement, and later Sarah laughed (Gen. 18:12). After Sarah was barren for so many years, we can imagine her joy at the thought of having a son. Her laughter would become explosive with joy—to have a beautiful son in her old age! Her inward laughter became outward laughter. And of course spiritually speaking, joy and laughter will come to all the families of the earth through Isaac.

God continued, “I will establish my covenant with him [Isaac], … and with his [Isaac’s] seed after him.” God had already established the covenant with Abraham, and He would confirm or reaffirm the same covenant with Isaac. The expression “his seed after him” showed that Isaac would also have children and that the covenant was everlasting and would be for many “nations” (verse 16).

Gen. 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.

God told Abraham that He would bless Ishmael and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly. The same promise was made earlier to Hagar (Gen. 16:10-12) when God told her to return and submit to Sarah. Now God added a detail: Ishmael would beget “twelve princes.” Just as Isaac was a miraculous seed, so the calling of the Church, the seed of promise, is miraculous. For the Church to be changed from human to divine is a miracle of the highest order.

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

Sarah would bear Isaac at “this set time in the next year,” that is, not in a calendar year from that date but in nine months.

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

God “left off talking” with Abraham and “went up” from him, but how? If the Logos was speaking to Abraham, there could have been a visual representation of the Logos rising up to heaven (compare the account of the angel with Manoah in Judges 13:20). However, Abraham probably heard a voice explaining all these things, and then the voice trailed off or upward—it receded—at the end. In other words, God’s voice got fainter and fainter.

Gen. 17:23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, 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.

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

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

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

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

Now we get a time perspective. The whole chapter took place in one day (“the selfsame day”— verse 26). After hearing all the things God had to say, Abraham performed the circumcision on the very same day—according to the instruction given earlier that day.

Abraham must have been extremely busy, for he had 318 male servants of battle age plus younger males (Gen. 14:14). Circumcision was a quick procedure. Each one stepped up to the rock and was circumcised with a small sharp rock on that larger rock. Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised, and Ishmael was 13. Abraham would have circumcised himself last so that he could supervise the others first.

Comment: Probably Abraham alone heard God’s voice, so the respect the servants rendered to Abraham in submitting to circumcision was remarkable. Circumcision was something new, and yet all obeyed Abraham, their master. The servants did not know whether this procedure would cripple them.

Comment: If Abraham circumcised Ishmael first, his own son and only heir, that would be an example for the servants, who would reason that the rite must be safe, for Abraham would not harm his own son.

Reply: Yes, Abraham circumcised Ishmael first and himself last.

One who is circumcised cannot resume normal duties for three days, and it takes about a week to be healed completely, especially an adult. About a million male Israelites were circumcised many years later at the Jordan River (Josh. 5:2). As a result, the Israelites were temporarily helpless. However, instead of capitalizing on the situation, the people of Jericho were providentially so fearful that they stayed within the city walls.

(1987–1989 Study)

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  1. lol
    Don’t you ever think, what Abraham/Ibrahim did wrong? He didn’t patience. God promise will never end. God didn’t gave him son because, God want to make him trust that even your age go old, God promise will be done! After that because he think that impossible for me and my wife Sarah to have son, he get married with Hagar. I called him Father of unpatient because, unpatient = risk, isn’t it?!


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