Genesis 17: Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”

-Abram was now 99 years old. It has been 24 years since Abram first got the call while in Ur to go to Canaan and was given the promise by God. Ishmael was now 13 years old as Abram was 86 years old when he was born. We are not given anything in scripture to suggest Abram didn’t still assume that Ishmael was the promised heir and had been raising him with that thought in mind up to this point. After such a long time and God not appearing to say otherwise, Abram must have figured he did what he was supposed to. Hagar had returned with the child and stayed and all seemed to work out. Hagar was the only one spoken to and she was told to return and her child would have innumerable offspring. If Hagar shared these events, it would appear to be confirmation that this was God’s plan. Why else would God appear before Hagar? He had never appeared to Sarai before, perhaps Hagar was the intended mother all along? We obviously have limited details of this story but if we are to assume we are getting all the major details of this story and with human nature being what it is, they all must have been thinking this at the time. Given everything appeared to go as planned, Abram probably did not expect to hear from God again. The lesson here is we all know what happens with Abram but given his and everyone else’s perspectives, they must have thought they had it all figured out. This is the danger in assuming you understand God’s intention. You start to guess and fill in the blanks and then in the end, you end up looking like an idiot! This is why the old saying of taking things “one day at a time” is so essential in our journeys as Christians. If we try to see the whole plan, it is a guarantee that we are going to be wrong. Our tendency to want to see the whole picture and know all the details is a sin of pride. We think we are entitled to know everything and be omniscient like God. Only God is omniscient and can see the whole of time, we can’t. It’s a hard thing for many to accept, including myself. I am writing this while serving as a missionary in Mexico and yet I have no specific ministry that I am attached to. In a sense, I am wandering around Canaan as Abram did, waiting for God to make His move and carry out whatever His plan is. I sincerely hope it does not take 24 years until God’s plan for myself comes into fruition but it may. This is why it’s vital for me and anyone else in a similar position to not try and see the whole picture, because I most definitely will be wrong. We must learn to live in the present, not the past, and not the future. After all, in heaven there is no time and God is not bound by time but rather rules over it. If we are truly to be more like Christ, more like God, we must live as God does…in a constant “present” time. No dwelling on the past and letting it hold you back, but also not living always in the hope of some future blessing. We do have a future blessing in heaven to look forward to but that should not define how we live. Eternity has already started right now here on Earth.

3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.

-The name “Abram” in Hebrew means “exalted father” in Hebrew and “Abraham” literally means “father of a multitude”. Abram’s name must have been a source of great irony considering he was childless in an age where likely everyone else had dozens and dozens of children. And now, with only one son, he is dubbed “father of a multitude”. Those who knew him must have considered him a total joke. God never changes His mind but we have seen that He repeats Himself a lot for our benefit. It seems reasonable to assume Abram forgot this promise and this is in part why God appeared again to remind him by changing his very name. It would be easy to imagine settling into life after 13 years of nothing. The changing of the name may also have additional significance as well. God has been working with Abram, molding him, teaching him patience and trust. Even if he had settled into life and forgot, he is much more mature and much closer to a godly man than he was 24 years ago. When we are saved as Christians, we become born-again. We are no longer living in sin for ourselves but our lives change and we now begin living a new life for God. Being given a new name just before Isaac, the long-waited for heir, is born may signify to that Abraham is now living for God and has been born again and this is the start of the rest of his life. This may be why God said “walk before me, and be blameless”. This is God’s command that with his new name, Abraham start now as being born-again before God.

7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

-This is an “everlasting” covenant. We need to pay attention to this word because “everlasting” means forever. Remember that nothing God says is hyperbole or an exaggeration unless stated like when God said Abraham’s offspring “so shall be” like the number of stars. This wasn’t literal. God was showing him the stars so that Abraham would have an image as a metaphor to understand what it will be like. In this case though, God clearing says that this is an “everlasting” covenant. This is not a temporary covenant. So everything being told to Abraham is true for ALL ETERNITY. Not even when the end times occur and Earth ends as we know it will this covenant end. The land of Canaan on earth will always belong to Abraham’s descendants as their possession and God will always be their God. Many Christians mistakenly believe that when Jesus came and the veil was torn upon Jesus’ death that this signified and end to God’s covenant with Israel. This is not so because God says that this is an everlasting covenant. To this day, God still protects the nation of Israel. The veil being torn was a sign that we no longer required priests and sacrificial rituals to go before God because Jesus’ sacrifice covered over all sin and no sacrifice is necessary anymore to cover sin. Jesus serves as our priest and is our mediator between us and God. This is why all we must do to come before God is pray in Jesus’ name. Because we are sinners, we cannot come before God because our sin is the opposite of God and offends Him at a level we cannot even understand. Jesus being 100% God and 100% man and having been the sacrifice for us, serves as mediator so that we can always come before God because we our washed clean as if “blameless” and pure. This is what God commanded of Abram in verse 1, “walk before me, and be blameless”. We cannot walk before God and be blameless without Jesus.

9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

-This seems a rather bizarre practice to signify belonging to God. Why in the world would God choose this seemingly barbaric practice to signify that we belong to Him? . There are a number of things the mark of circumcision signifies:

1) Being done to a private part, it is done to an intimate, private area, signifying that nothing is kept from God, even that which is most personal and private.

2) The area also suggests God is very close to us such as the bond between lovers when their parts are intertwined.

3) This is a mark that is always hidden unless the man is naked which should never happen in public. God is not about boasting or bragging. If the mark was on the forehead, we could boast and show off our mark as belonging to God. I can’t imagine anyone running around showing off this!

4) The fact that this is a mark for the male and there is no mark for a woman shows that God’s covenant is generational. This does not mean that God favors men that they should have a mark, but that heredity and blessing are always passed down from father to son just as God is passing down this covenant to every son. Again this mark is not for showing off, hence why women don’t also need one. Even though this mark is a physical mark, there is no physical significance in it. Circumcision is something done in the heart, the physical mark is for our benefit because we will fail to understand this and always see things through our own physical and worldly perspective.

5) Although this does not signify physical things, it is a physical mark. But the decision to have this physical mark as opposed to another was not random. As it turns out, there are actual health benefits for men to be circumcised and this is a mark that, when done properly, does not leave a scar. In fact, one would never know without being told or seeing what it looks like uncircumcised that one that is circumcised wasn’t the way it naturally looked. Not only this but a mind-blowing scientifically proven fact that if a baby were to be given a circumcision, the eighth day just so happens to be the safest: http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=1118 . Should we really be surprised God knew the medical information ahead of time when choosing the eighth day? For millenia, we could never answer this question until this was able to be proven.

Isaac’s Birth Promised

15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

-Sarai was not forgotten and here God finally tells Abraham that the child will come through his first wife, Sarah. The name “Sarai” means “Princess” in Hebrew and “Sarah” means “noblewoman”. God is saying kings will come from her and even names her “Noble Woman” signifying that she is now of noble blood. Sarah has been following her husband the entire time through this 24 year journey believing in and trusting her husband when scripture only says that Abraham and Hagar were ever spoken to. It was her idea to give him Hagar in an attempt to, what she thought, satisfy God’s will and her husbands desire for an heir. We can look at her as foolish or we can also see a loving supportive wife who has been with him all this time and all this craziness. They have been roaming around Canaan and won’t even stay in one place. She is said to be quite beautiful, why did she not ditch the bum? Sarah showed an incredible amount of faith as well.

17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.

-Many have interpreted this two ways: as a laugh of joy or as literally laughing at God. Given that Abraham suggests Ishmael be the one I tend to side with the latter. It’s possible too a bit of frustration being that Abraham probably thought the ordeal was over, he had Ishmael, that was it! What more, God?!? The laugh may have been more like madness at this point. We just got done reading about father’s who have had sons at 100 years old so the genetic degradation or whatever was causing people not to live as long probably gave Abraham and Sarah the white-haired, wrinkly appearance as someone in the latter stages of life who were certainly to old to father children. Given how long they live, their age equivalents to today may have been in their 60’s. It would still be possible for a man but not for a woman to conceive at this age. As mentioned before, Abraham is obviously not accustomed with miraculous acts by God that defy the very nature of the way the world works and doesn’t realize that God has no limitations in this regard.

20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”

-We see God clarify too that the “everlasting” covenant will be done through Isaac and his descendants, not Ishmael’s. Ishmael’s blessing is in numbers only. Ishmael’s descendants will make up a great nation of peoples. But Ishmael’s blessing is not “everlasting”.

22 When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. 23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. 27 And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

-That must have been a hard one to explain…”Look out, Grandpa Abram has gone insane! He’s calling himself by a different name and wants to take a knife to our private parts!” All the more trust it must have required on Abraham’s part to carry out. Abraham was the head of the household, but there must have been limitations to the obedience of his servants and herdsmen. Perhaps God helped him through this ordeal. We do know that in this day in age, there were tattoos, piercings, and various other forms of bodily mutilation including those with religious significance. This idea may not have been as bizarre as it seems to us today. Perhaps other households have done something similar when that household decided on following a particular god or set of gods that are said to require something like this.

Spanish Words:

todopoderoso = almighty

rostro = face

perpetuo = perpetual

linaje = lineage, class, kind

ojalá = hopefully

ciertamente = certainly

establacer = to establish, set

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Genesis 2: The Seventh Day, God Rests

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

-“all the host of them” everything that exists in the sky and in space was created at this time. Obviously, stars have burnt out, supernovas, comets, who knows what has happened but everything was set in motion and put in its place here.

2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.

-A simple logical question is, If God is…well…God, why does He need to rest? Was He tired? How can God get tired? God is doing this for our benefit. Long before the establishment of the Sabbath rest, God is showing us in creation that all living things have been created for a need of rest. We are given a model for a week, six days of work, one day of rest. Like I said last chapter, this is a model for the way things were intended upon creation and the way they will be in the new Earth. Sin corrupted the original model to the point that it is very hard and even impossible for many to follow this model of 6 days on and 1 day off. Here in Mexico, families would not survive if the men and sometimes the whole household did not do something all 7 days without rest. Like the ocean existing and eating meat, it is not a sin to not follow this pattern, but this exists as a result of sin.

3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

-the word translated as “holy” in Hebrew is the word “qadosh” which means “to be set apart for a special purpose”. God set the seventh day apart for a special purpose and to dismiss the idea of the Sabbath because we are not bound by the law as Israel or because we go to church on Sunday now instead of the seventh day of Saturday is foolish. God created things this way. Have you ever tried working weeks straight at a time? I have and I learned first-hand that we are not created to do this and doing so causes serious physical and mental health issues. The sabbath day and when to go to church should not be confused. There is no specific day given to when we should gather for Church, the early Christians started meeting on Sunday because the Jews continued to hold Sabbath services on Saturdays. It’s simply tradition. We do not need to switch our church days to Saturdays, its unnecessary. We should be gathering as much as possible anyway, not simply once a week.
The Creation of Man and Woman
4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

-The word “generations” here means “history” not multiple generations. This word is used this way throughout the bible describing histories so we are not seeing a passing of generations, just 7 days. The word “day” in the second sentence simply means “age” or “the time” not one day.

5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—

-This is something I missed dozens of times over the course of my life, you just sort of skim right past it. These two verses are saying rain did not exist yet. It did not rain. Plants were watered by mist coming up from the ground. We also see the plants were intended to be cared for by man. They were not designed to trim and plant themselves, this is part of our job of subduing the Earth. If we don’t do it plants grow wild or do not grow at all.

7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

-Why is it so important to point out that man became a living creature when at this point every other living creature was already made? There is a difference here, no other creation was given “the breath of life”. What this means is God did something in our creation different from everything else in creation, He gave us a soul. We are the only Earthly beings with eternal spirits and that is what the breath of life means. This is part of how we are in the image of God, we are Spiritual beings and not just physical like the rest of creation. This is what gives us the ability to be regents of the Earth. Other times the breath of life is mentioned is when Jesus breathed on His disciples and they received gifts of the Holy Spirit and also in reference to the scripture as being God breathed. Remember what I said last chapter about the voice of God being creation? God’s breath created something else AFTER we were already formed out of dust.

8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.

-In the East means East of where the Hebrews were in the wilderness. We will see where in a few verses.

9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

-There is no reason in the world not to think of these two trees as literal trees with some kind of literal fruit that can be consumed. Nothing is suggested as poetic and the Hebrew words for “tree” and for “good” are the same used everywhere else. Not only this, but we know the tree of life still exists and the nations will eat of it for healing during the millennium. It is located in “the midst” of God’s paradise and has 12 kinds of fruit, one for each month.

10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.

-This gives us some geography to prove that Eden was a real physical place on Earth and not only that, it was located at a higher elevation so a river can flow down from it.

11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.

-Experts believe this is located in modern day Saudi Arabia at the Hijaz mountains. There is a dried up area where there used to be a river called the Kuwait River. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijaz_Mountains

12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there.

-There really is gold in that land even today! There is a mine site there called “”Mahd edh-Dhahab”(cradle of Gold) that produces 5 tons of gold per year! http://www.mauenvios.com/trujillo2001/The_Lost-River-of-Eden.htm

13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush.

-the land of “Kush” is located in modern day Sudan just south of Egypt. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Kush

14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

-These rivers still exist today and flow through Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. Given these descriptions and the language of this account, Eden must have been a very large place like a country encompassing parts of modern day Saudi Arabia, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Iran and others. The garden of Eden was simply “within” Eden somewhere and the waters that flowed down to make these four great rivers also flowed in the garden, wherever it was.

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

-Man was created to work. There are many who think heaven is simply us floating in the clouds and playing harps for all eternity. This will not be so. We will be doing tasks and working throughout time which to many probably sounds more like hell but as we see in the next chapter, the ground was cursed and work was made burdensome and painful. Work use to be pleasant. Don’t you ever feel proud of a job well done? Doesn’t it often seem better to keep yourself busy at times? Have you heard of people in relatively good health who retire and then end up passing away in a short amount of time? We were created to work but the curse will be removed in the new Earth so work will be enjoyable and fulfilling.

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

-The first thing to point out here is the Lord “commanded”. He did not say, you have a choice, He said “Don’t do this!”. It is interesting that the man was not commanded to not eat from the tree of life which implies he was free to eat from it. We find out later that neither Adam or Eve did because it was kept from them. Also, this is the tree “of the knowledge” of good and evil and so it did not contain poison. Everything God created was good, including this tree. The knowledge itself is not evil, its what we do with it that can be.

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

-It has already been established last chapter that man and woman are equal before God and are equally made in the image of God. At the same time, man was created first and woman was created as a helper. It’s very clear here that this is the purpose. Woman was created “for” man, not vise versa and not equal in the sense of authority and role. Before sin, we also see God saying that something is “not good”. That is not the same as evil or sinful, just that it lacked a goodness about it. Being alone is not good. The very nature of God in three persons means that no one person is ever alone: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the marriage relationship, men and women get to be together in a sense symbolic of God the Father and God the Son being united as one yet still different persons. Paul reveals to us in Ephesians that the husband role in marriage reflects God the Father’s role and the wife role reflects God the Son’s role. We would never say, with proper understand, that Jesus is “less” than God. Jesus is equal to God. In that same sense, woman is equal to man only she has a role to play of submissiveness to a man’s leadership. This to, due to the corruption of sin, is impossible to carry out all the time but this was the original created purpose. It’s important to keep in mind that being submissive is not the same thing as being lesser. Jesus’ submissive to the father’s will is what all Christians should strive towards. Submissiveness is the feminine form of love while sacrifice is the masculine form of love. God sent His son to sacrifice for us on the cross to pay for our sins which was the masculine act of love. Jesus carried out that will in perfect obedience which is the feminine for of love.

19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

-Here we our seeing our new role as Regents of Earth in practice. Giving something a name means power and Adam is exercising His given power to name animals which was granted by God. Previously, only God had named things which also shows we are reflecting His image by doing something that He does. God created time and named “day” and “night” being that this is His domain. But the animals are ours.

20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.

-We see that part of the reason God brought the animals before Him wasn’t just to name them but to teach Him something. He was trying to make Adam understand that he was missing something. Something was incomplete, and “not good”. God didn’t simply create Eve but he prepared Adam for her. He molded him into the man He wanted him to be and gave him his start and his purpose in life before bringing her before him. Adam had to know who he was before he can know how to lead another. I think this is 100% true today. I have seen it in my own experience that I have not been given my Eve and have had some bizarre, unexplainable instances surrounding women I have been interested in and things not working out to where it seems as if God has put up a wall and stopped me from proceeding further with anyone. The reason is that I am still learning who I am, what my created purpose is, what my future will be, where it will be, and until I know and see what He wants me to see, He will not send my Eve to me. Take heed single Christian men! You want to find her now? Then listen to God and what He’s trying to show you!

21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.

-Why a rib? The Hebrew word used here is the word “tselo” which is actually translated as “side” elsewhere in the bible. A rib comes from the side meaning that a woman belongs at a man’s side, not in front or behind, not on top or below, but an equal, side-by-side. Once again, men and women are equal in value and worth, despite the differences in designed roles. Given the word meaning, this could be translated as God taking a part of Adam’s side, not necessarily just a rib.

22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

-I love the imagery of God, the Father, escorting His daughter down the aisle towards Adam and presenting her to him. I’d like to think that’s how it happened.

23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.”

-There are four words in Hebrew that mean translate to “man” in English. The one’s given here are “ish” for man and “ishshah” for woman. “ishshah” literally means “man with a womb”. So again, the same thing as a man, but different role.

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

-And that’s where marriage comes from. Again this is the created purpose of marriage but the corruption of sin makes this not possible in today’s society. I can’t imagine a woman not going on her own and making a life for herself before marriage nor can I imagine a man waiting to leave home until he has met the right woman to establish his own household. If anything, the opposite seems to be true. Women seem to wait for a man to be well established before she would consider marriage seriously for the sake of security. This is not wrong or sinful, just not the way things were created to be before sin. We live in a broken world.

25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

-Seeing as there is no sin and therefore nothing to be ashamed of, it makes sense that there was no need to cover nakedness. Today I can’t imagine being naked alone with literally “the most beautiful woman in the world” and not at the very least having my mind filled with intense lust and desire. But this is the effects of sin. Lust is a desire for something that we want. We want to feel good so badly that we will do anything to get that feeling. Without sin, without pride, we would not have a problem controlling ourselves in such a situation, the thought would not even occur. Selfishness causes us to lust to the point that we must be clothed to hide our shame of desiring the flesh for personal pleasure as well as our desire to be wanted by others by how good we look naked. We operate based on how desirable we look towards others and we can never look good enough. Without sin, there is no need for any of this. In the new Earth, we will be genderless like the angels and there will not be reproduction which makes me wonder if there will not be clothing in the new earth either. There wouldn’t be anything to cover up nor would there be a reason to.
Spanish words:

acabar = to finish, end
reposar = to rest
campo = field, countryside, campground
regar = to water, scatter, sprinkle, act rashly
polvo = dust
huerto = orchard, garden
brazo = arm
mandar = to command, mandate, order
idónea = suitable, genuine
profundo = deep, intense, profound
costilla = rib
hueso = bone
Por tanto = therefore
unir = to join, unite
avergonzar = to embarrass, shame, be ashamed