Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the [a]Lord appeared to him and said,
“I am [b]God Almighty;
Walk [habitually] before Me [with integrity, knowing that you are always in My presence], and be blameless and complete [in obedience to Me].
“I will establish My covenant (everlasting promise) between Me and you,
And I will multiply you exceedingly [through your descendants].”
Then Abram fell on his face [in worship], and God spoke with him, saying,
“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you,
And [as a result] you shall be the father of many nations.
“No longer shall your name be Abram (exalted father),
But your name shall be Abraham (father of a multitude);
For I will make you the father of many nations.
I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and [c]kings will come from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger [moving from place to place], all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession [of property]; and I will be their God.”
Further, God said to Abraham, “As for you [your part of the agreement], you shall keep and faithfully obey [the terms of] My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is [the sign of] My covenant, which you shall keep and faithfully obey, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be the sign (symbol, memorial) of the covenant between Me and you. Every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, [including] a servant whether born in the house or one who is purchased with [your] money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. A servant who is born in your house or one who is purchased with your money must be circumcised; and [the sign of] My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai (my princess), but her name will be Sarah ([d]Princess). I will bless her, and indeed I will also give you a son by her. Yes, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael [my firstborn] might live before You!” But God said, “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son indeed, and you shall name him Isaac (laughter); and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and with his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard and listened to you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will greatly multiply him [through his descendants]. He will be the father of twelve princes (chieftains, sheiks), and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant [My promise, My solemn pledge], I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year.” And God finished speaking with him and went up from Abraham.
Then Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all the servants who were born in his house and all who were purchased with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s household, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin the very same day, as God had said to him. So Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised. On the very same day Abraham was circumcised, as well as Ishmael his son. All the men [servants] of his household, both those born in the house and those purchased with money from a foreigner, were circumcised along with him [as the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham].
- Genesis 17:1 Heb YHWH (Yahweh).
- Genesis 17:1 Heb El Shaddai; God is the All-Sufficient One; He gives life; He nurtures; He pours out His blessings.
- Genesis 17:6 This prophecy and promise has been literally fulfilled countless times—for example, by all of the kings of Israel and Judah.
- Genesis 17:15 The difference in the names can perhaps be seen in a comment made by the rabbis: “At first she became a princess to her own people, but later she became a princess to the entire world” (as quoted from the Talmud).
Birth of Isaac Promised
Now the Lord appeared to Abraham by the terebinth trees of Mamre [in Hebron], while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he raised his eyes and looked up, behold, three men were standing [a little distance] from him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed down [with his face] to the ground, and Abraham said, “My [a]lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please do not pass by your servant [without stopping to visit]. Please let a little water be brought [by one of my servants] and [you may] wash your feet, and recline and rest comfortably under the tree. And I will bring a piece of bread to refresh and sustain [b]you; after that you may go on, since you have come to your servant.” And they replied, “Do as you have said.” So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quickly, get ready three [c]measures of fine meal, knead it and bake cakes.” Abraham also ran to the herd and brought a calf, tender and choice, and he gave it to the servant [to butcher], and he hurried to prepare it. Then he took [d]curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before the men; and he stood beside them under the tree while they ate.
Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” He said, “I will surely return to you at this [e]time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in years; she was past [the age of] childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself [when she heard the Lord’s words], saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure and delight, my lord (husband) being also old?” And the Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh [to herself], saying, ‘Shall I really give birth [to a child] when I am so old?’ Is anything too difficult or too wonderful for the [f]Lord? At the appointed time, when the season [for her delivery] comes, I will return to you and Sarah will have a son.” Then Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh”; because she was afraid. And He (the Lord) said, “No, but you did laugh.”
Then the men got up from there, and looked toward Sodom; and Abraham walked with them to send them on the way. The Lord said, “Shall I keep secret from Abraham [My friend and servant] what I am going to do, since Abraham [g]is destined to become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him? For I have known (chosen, acknowledged) him [as My own], so that he may teach and command his children and [the sons of] his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is righteous and just, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has promised him.” And the Lord said, “The outcry [of the sin] of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. I will go down now, and see whether they have acted [as vilely and wickedly] as the outcry which has come to Me [indicates]; and if not, I will know.”
Now the [two] men (angelic beings) turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Abraham approached [the Lord] and said, “Will You really sweep away the righteous (those who do right) with the wicked (those who do evil)? Suppose there are fifty righteous [people] within the city; will You really sweep it away and not spare it for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from You to do [h]such a thing—to strike the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right [by executing just and righteous judgment]?” So the Lord said, “If I find within the city of Sodom fifty righteous [people], then I will spare the entire place for their sake.” Abraham answered, “Now behold, I who am but dust [in origin] and ashes have decided to speak to the Lord. If five of the fifty righteous are lacking, will You destroy the entire city for lack of five?” And He said, “If I find [at least] forty-five [righteous people] there, I will not destroy it.” Abraham spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose [only] forty are found there.” And He said, “I will not do it for the sake of the forty [who are righteous].” Then Abraham said [to Him], “Oh, may the Lord not be angry, and I will speak; suppose thirty [righteous people] are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” And he said, “Now behold, I have decided to speak to the Lord [again]. Suppose [only] twenty [righteous people] are found there?” And the Lord said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.” Then Abraham said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry [with me], and I will speak only this once; suppose ten [righteous people] are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.” As soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham the Lord departed, and Abraham returned to his own place.
- Genesis 18:3 At some point during this encounter, Abraham understood that one of the three men was actually God appearing as a man (or as an angel; cf note 16:7), and he addressed Him as such in v 14. Verse 13 confirms that it was the Lord who spoke to him. The other two men were angels.
- Genesis 18:5 Lit your heart.
- Genesis 18:6 Heb seim, plural of seah; since one seah equals about nine quarts, this was a large quantity. However, Abraham was asking Sarah to make cakes of bread which actually could be baked quickly because they were similar to pizza dough, that is, large, round, and flat. Together with the other food that Abraham provided (vv 7, 8), his promise of “a piece of bread” in v 5 was greatly understated, and the generous meal reflected the respect that he held for his special visitors.
- Genesis 18:8 Or sour milk, or perhaps butter. It may have served as a kind of condiment for the bread.
- Genesis 18:10 Lit when the time revives. Some regard this as a reference to springtime. Others think it means “the time when the life is ready.”
- Genesis 18:14 The divine Hebrew name YHWH (Yahweh), usually represented by “Lord,” occurs more than 5,000 times in the Bible.
- Genesis 18:18 Lit will surely.
- Genesis 18:25 Lit according to this word.