by Robert Brow    (

Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: 2004

Introduction | Genesis 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11| 12| 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30

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Genesis 17:1-2 Genesis 17:19
Genesis 17:3-4 Genesis 17:20
Genesis 17:5-7 Genesis 17:21
Genesis 17:8 Genesis 17:22
Genesis 17:9-11 Genesis 17:23
Genesis 17:12-14 Genesis 17:24
Genesis 17:15 Genesis 17:25-27
Genesis 17:16-17  
Genesis 17:18  

GENESIS   17:1‑ 8   (Abram Renamed Abraham)

 17:1-2   The LORD (yihaweh, Jehovah in KJV and  Yahweh in other translations) the eternal Son of God) appeared to Abraham on at least three  occasions (12:7, 17:1; 18:1, 22, as he did to Hagar, 16:13, see John 1:18).  Here the LORD  introduced himself as el shaddai as he did to Jacob (35:11).  The name el shaddai for the Son of God is used by Isaac (28:3), Jacob (43:14; 48:34, see Exodus 6:2;  Ezekiel 10:5).  The name el shaddai is similar to Melchizedec’s title as priest of  el elyon God most high (14:18), and  the name  el gholam meaning “God of eternity” which Abraham used (21:33).  The term shaddai without being preceded by el means “The Almighty”and it  is used by Job,  his friends, and the LORD himself  (Job 5:17; 6:4; 8:3; 11:7; 32:8; 40:2).

 The LORD invited Abraham into a walk with him (see Genesis 3:8; and Enoch, 5:24).  The word “blameless” is the Hebrew thamim which does not suggest sinless perfection, but a heart attitude meaning whole, entire, having integrity. e.g.  “You must be completely loyal to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 18:13.  “I will study the way that is blameless . . . I will walk with integrity (tham) of heart” (Psalm 101:2).

 17:3-4   Abraham’s firstborn son Ishmael by Hagar (16:15) was now 13 years old (17:25).  Abraham bowed his face to the ground, and the LORD repeated  his covenant that Abraham would have heirs as numerous as the stars Abraham could see in the night sky (15:5-6, repeated to Hagar, 16:10, and 17: 5, 20).   He would also be the ancestor of a multitude of nations.    At least this means that the Arab nations would be numbered among this multitude.   But the third part of the original  promise was that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (12:3), which Christians interpret to mean that families from all nations would be included by faith as sharers in Abrahamic faith (Romans 4:11, 16-18).

 17:5-7   This was reflected in the change of name from Abram to Abraham (ancestor of a multitude).   The Abrahamic nations would include Arab Sheiks (as in 25:16), Jews (17:16), and the kings of other nations who would bring their people under the covenant of Abraham.  

17:8   Abraham’s offspring would in due course inherit the land of Canaan (see 15:18).  The word “perpetual” does not mean they would never be removed from the land.  There was a 70 year exile when the Jews were taken away to Mesopotamia.   And also the 1900 year exile  from the fall of Jerusalem (AD 70) to their return in 1948.


GENESIS  17:9-14    Circumcision as the Covenant Sign for Arabs and Jews

17:9-11   Abraham’s Arab offspring from Ishmael and his Jewish offspring from Isaac and Jacob would both use circumcision as a sign of this covenant.   As Moses (Deuteronomy 10:16) and the prophets (Jeremiah 4:4)  insisted,  this sign was an outward sign of a heart love for God.   Paul explained that “a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical.  Rather, a person is a real Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart - it is spiritual and not literal” (Romans 2:28-29; 4:11; Colossians 2:11-12 ).

17:12-14   The sign was not a sign of racial identity since slaves from other nations could be included in the Abrahamic covenant.


GENESIS  17:15-22    (Covenants Concerning Abraham’s descendants and the land)

17:15 Abraham’s wife also had her name changed from Sarai to Sarah (lady, princess, as in Judges 5:29, 1 Kings 11:3, Esther 1:18, Isaiah 49:23, Lamentations 1:1).

17:16-17   When Abraham was told that he would have a son born from Sarah, he again fell on his face (as in 17:2).  And he laughed at the idea of a child being born to him when he was a hundred years old and Sarah was aged 90.

17:18   He wondered whether it would not be far simpler if Ishmael, now aged 13, continued to be Abraham’s legal heir?

17:19    But that was not what God had in mind.  God’s covenant would remain concerning a progeny (Jews and Arabs) that would be “exceedingly numerous” (17:2).    The covenant concerning the land (15:18-21) referred to all of Abraham’s descendants (at that time only Ishmael had been born), but later it was promised to Isaac and his descendants (26:3).  The “everlasting covenant” made here seems to refer, neither to land or to numbers of offspring, but to a genealogy which would lead to the birth of the Messiah among his people (Matthew 1:16, Luke 1:31-32, 35; 2:11; 3:23, 34).   And this “everlasting covenant”  continues in the lives of those who look with Abrahamic faith to the eternal Son of God.

17:20   God had heard Abraham’s concern for Ishmael (17:18).  His progeny would be very numerous.  Ishmael would give birth to twelve princes (Sheikhs, listed in 25:12-16), and the Ismaelite tribes would later include all Arabs as a result of tribal warfare and marriage alliances (see  BOOKS, Ishmael the Arab).    

17:21   This covenant seems to be the “everlasting covenant” (17:19) which promised that the birth of the Messiah would be from the line of Isaac.  This was fulfilled 1800 years later when Joseph accepted Jesus as the rightful heir to the line of David (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:32; 2:11; 3:22).

17:22   Evidently the LORD God (17:1) had been meeting with Abraham face to face, and the conversation was now ended.


GENESIS 17:23-27   (The Circumcision of Males among Arabs and Jews )

17:23   Abraham circumcised his son Ishmael (aged 13), the male slaves in the household, and also had himself circumcised (aged 99).   As a result of this, all Arabs and Jews  (after 3900 years !) still circumcise their male children usually on the eighth day (17:12).  The words “that very day” (repeated in17:26) again illustrate Abraham’s faith (see note on 15:6) which resulted in faithful obedience.

17:24 The practice of circumcision among Arabs and Jews was described earlier in this chapter  (17:9-14).

17:25-27   Through the circumcision of Ishmael and all the males of the bene Ishmael (Ishmaelites) all Arab males bear the Abrahamic covenant sign of circumcision.

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