Teaching Notes are Bible studies we taught before GraceLife Ministries began publishing articles online in 1995. Some were presented as sermons, others as group studies.

Our hope is that these older studies will be a blessing to you in your life and ministry. Please use them in any way God leads you.

These teaching notes are from a series of studies about the Book of Genesis

[These notes are from a study from 45 years ago.]

Genesis 17:1-2

“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. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.”

Abram is 99-years-old now. 13 years have elapsed since Ishmael was born.

God appeared to Abram and said, “I am the Almighty God” (’êl šadday). Here is a new name for God.

Abram is told to walk before God and be blameless. He said it after telling Abram that He is Almighty.

God is now going to “make” (’ettənāh) the covenant with Abram. The meaning of the Hebrew word is “set” and has the idea in the context of establishing the covenant, bringing it into fulfillment. God was faithful in bringing to fruition His covenant agreement.

The word “covenant” (ḇərîṯî) is used 13 times in this brief chapter. It is a key word.

This chapter has been called the key chapter of Genesis and even the key chapter of the whole Bible.

Genesis 17:3-9

“And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 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. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. 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. 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. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.”

Abram fell on his face before the Lord. He may have responded to the new way in which God revealed Himself as “Almighty God.”

God spoke again of His covenant with Abram and promised him that he would be the father of many nations.

Abram’s name was changed to Abraham. Abram means “exalted father” and Abraham means “father of many.”

God promised to be the God of Abraham’s descendants. The whole land of Canaan would be an everlasting possession for them.

Genesis 17:10-14

“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. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 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. 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. 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.”

Next, God gave Abraham a covenant that he would have to keep. It’s the covenant of circumcision.

Circumcision (mōwl) is the removal of the foreskin. It might be called the sign of the covenant. I believe it also has spiritual implications.

The sign of the covenant between God and Abraham’s descendants was the cutting off of “flesh” from the source of life. Cutting off the flesh seems to be a main theme throughout Scripture. God gave an ordinance that would continually remind people of His covenant and the cutting away of the flesh.

Every male born into Abraham’s household would have to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth. This probably symbolized that God was creating or working anew. He worked for six days and rested on the seventh day. On the eighth day, God created a new people from the first creation.

This covenant in the flesh was to be an everlasting covenant. Any male who would not be circumcised would be cut off from his people. The flesh must be put out! God would save His people, but deal with the flesh. He would not put away the nation, but would put away the disobedient individual.

Genesis 17:15-16

“And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. 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 changed Sarai’s name to Sarah. The meaning of Sarai’s name is somewhat obscured since she brought it with her from Mesopotamia. The name Sarah (śārāh) means “princess.” (Some scholars think that Sarai meant “contentious one.”)

The Lord promised Abraham a child through Sarah. She would be the mother of nations and kings just as Abraham would be the father of nations and kings.

Genesis 17:17-18

“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? And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!”

Abraham fell on his face again, but laughed and doubted God’s Word. He looked at the impossibilities of the flesh and questioned God. Again, Abraham looked at the flesh, but this time there was no way for the flesh to meet his needs or provide for him.

Abraham told God he wished Ishmael could live under His blessing. Abraham was looking back at the accomplishments of the flesh wishing that was good enough.

Genesis 17:19-22

“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. 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. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.”

God restated the promise – He would give Sarah a son and his name would be called Isaac (yiṣḥāq). The names “he laughs.” This may have been a reminder to Abraham of how he had questioned God’s power and ability.

God would establish His covenant with Isaac and all his descendants.

God would bless Ishmael, as Abraham asked, and greatly increase his numbers. Ishmael would be the father of twelve great rulers and a great nation.

However, the Abrahamic covenant would be passed along only to the line of Isaac.

Isaac would be born at this time next year. The baby would be conceived in about three months.

Genesis 17:23-27

“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. And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.”

On the same day Abraham took Ismael and all those born into his household or bought with money (males only) and circumcised them. Abraham was 99 and Ishmael was 13. He and his son were both circumcised on the same day.

It’s interesting that the account of the circumcision is repeated in these verses twice. The account of the circumcision would be of extreme importance to the nation of Israel.

Next Time

We will look at Genesis Chapter 18 in the next part of our special series.

[Thank you for reading these teaching notes from 45 years ago. My prayer is they will be a blessing to you and your life and ministry.]