ABRAHAM, THE NEW NAME FROM GOD – GOD’s NEW COVENANT (G-17-HBS)

GOD GIVES ABRAHAM A NEW NAME

A great many people feel that the seventeenth chapter is the most outstanding chapter of the Book of Genesis.

Here God makes a covenant with Abram and confirms His promise to him about a son. He lets Abram know that Ishmael is not the one He promised to him.

In one sense this chapter is the key to the Book of Genesis, and it may be a key to the entire Bible. God’s covenant with Abram concerns two important items: a seed and a land.

He reveals Himself to Abram by a new name—El Shaddai, the Almighty God—and He also gives Abram a new name.

Up to this point his name was Abram; now it is changed to Abraham. Abram means “high father,” and Abraham means “father of a multitude” That Ishmael was not the son God promised to Abraham is the thing this chapter makes very clear.

Genesis 17:1-5 KJV

[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.

[2] And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

[3] And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,

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

[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.

Genesis 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.


  • Thirteen years pass without notice in the divine record between Genesis 16:16 and 17:1, given mentions of Abram’s age. Whether the Lord appears or otherwise speaks to him during these 13 years, we cannot say. Some suggest that 13 years of silence is some kind of punishment for Abram because he went along with the idea of breaking sexual faithfulness to his wife, Sarai, in order to have a child. But like most all arguments from silence, this is mere conjecture.
  • The name by which the Lord identifies himself is the Almighty God, the first of dozens of times He is designated as such (sometimes rendered simply as “the Almighty”). The Almighty God is El Shaddai in Hebrew, a term we hear in Christian songs today. The significance of this designation seems to be that God is unlimited in His ability to act for the good of His people; nothing can thwart His plans.
  • That does not mean God’s promises are unconditional, however. Here He puts the condition on Abram to walk before me (that is, to live to meet with God’s approval) and be … perfect. The two may seem to be one and the same, and from a God-centered perspective that is reasonable. But Abram’s pagan culture is not centered on God; hardly anyone lives with the desire to please Him.
  • The emphasis here is on before me. In effect, God is saying “Make me, not your culture, your standard of conduct.” The word translated perfect is the same word used of Noah in Genesis 6:9. It need not be understood as “absolute perfection,” but more as “living with integrity in not being open to charges of wrongdoing.” Putting the two together, we might see the conditions as living by God’s standards (first) and also living in such a way that is respected by the people around him as well.

Genesis 17:2

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


  • This is the third time God has promised to bless Abram (see Genesis 12:1–3; 15:1–21). In the second blessing, God specifically told him that a son of Abram’s own flesh and blood would be his heir (15:4). The record then notes the implications of Abram’s belief (15:6).
  • In spite of that faith, Abram had come to believe that he needed to take matters in his own hands. When Sarai, his wife, suggests he take her servant Hagar as a surrogate wife, he agrees; Ishmael is born as a result. But the covenant of which God speaks does not involve Ishmael. God will multiply Abram through another son, one yet to be born to Abram and Sarai.

Genesis 17:3

And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,


  • Abram is properly awed by this appearance of the Lord. Whether falling on his face means lying prostrate before God or dropping to his knees and bowing forward is not specified. In either case, Abram shows the respect due to the Lord.

Genesis 17:4

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


  • Earlier God had promised to make of Abram “a great nation” (Genesis 12:2). Now the promise is that he will be a father of many nations. It is easy to read this and to see the fulfillment in Israel (through Isaac and his son Jacob), Edom (through Isaac and his son Esau), the nations that descend from Ishmael, and also the nations that descend from Abraham via Keturah (the woman he marries after Sarah’s death; Genesis 25:1–6).
  • But there is more to the covenant than political nations, since Paul makes clear that Isaac alone is the heir of promise (Romans 9:7). Thus the nations primarily in view, the ones included in this promise, must come from Isaac, whom Abram will father.

Genesis 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 gives two symbols of the covenant. The second symbol is described in Genesis 17:10–14, below. The first is the name change we see here. Abram, whose name means “exalted father,” is henceforth to be known as Abraham, which probably means father of many. As God repeats the promise of making Abraham such a father, He speaks as if it is already the case.

GOD’S COVENANT

Here was a man who was a father before he had any children. Abraham was Abraham, father of a multitude, by faith at that time. But four thousand years later, where you and I sit, we can say that God sure made this good. The name stuck, if you please, and he is still Abraham, the father of a multitude.

Genesis 17:6-19 KJV

[6] And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

[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.

[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.

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

[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.

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

[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.

[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.

[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.

[15] And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.

[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.

[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?

[18] And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!

[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.

Genesis 17:6

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


  • Abraham has one son at this point: Ishmael, whose mother is Hagar. God promises a greater fruitfulness to come. It will be seen in the birth of Isaac and, later, in the birth of six sons to Keturah (Genesis 25:1, 2). However, the key to the covenant promise is Isaac, so the fruitfulness God promises is Abraham’s through his descendants. Grandson Jacob will have 12 sons and a daughter. The nation of Israel will come from these sons, with many kings born to them.
  • These kings will make their entrance some 900 years later with Saul. He will be a descendant of Abraham’s great-grandson Benjamin. Greater far than the kings of Israel will be the King of kings and Lord of lords: Jesus (see Matthew 1:1–16).

Genesis 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.


  • The language of everlasting covenant is the same as that used in Genesis 9:16 (see lesson 1) and Exodus 31:16 (see lesson 3). Insofar as it finds its fulfillment in Christ, it is an enduring covenant in the fullest sense of the term everlasting. Paul makes clear that Christ is the fulfillment; see Galatians 3:16, where the apostle distinguishes between the singular seed as opposed to the plural seeds. This indicates the fulfillment is in the one person, Jesus Christ.
  • Even so, there appears to be a dual fulfillment, as it is to thy seed after thee in their generations. So the fulfillment is in the generations of Abraham’s seed until the ultimate fulfillment is seen in Christ himself.

Genesis 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.


  • Abraham has been in Canaan for more than two decades at this point, and still he owns none of it. Further, God has already said his descendants will be oppressed in a foreign land for 400 years (Genesis 15:13). Even so, God assures Abraham that his descendants will indeed be given all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession.
  • Even more important than the land promise is the relationship promise we see here. This promise is repeated in texts such as Exodus 29:45 and is included in the new covenant that is promised in Jeremiah 31:33. Humans have sought deities for centuries. When the search is insincere, the result is invented, fictitious gods. But when one seeks God wholeheartedly, He’s not hard to find because He reveals himself (Psalm 19:1; Jeremiah 29:13; Acts 17:27). The God of Abraham’s descendants is the living God.

Genesis 17:9

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


  • In exchange for the blessings to be accorded, Abraham and his descendants are to keep God’s covenant. This means to submit to Him as their God and obey His commandments. One of the first items requiring obedience is set forth in the next two verses.

Genesis 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.


  • The token of the covenant is the circumcision of each male. This token (symbol) is so important that it is spoken of as if it were the covenant in and of itself: this is my covenant. Circumcision will be the mark of God’s people for generations.
  • When Jesus inaugurates the new covenant, physical circumcision will no longer play a part (1 Corinthians 7:19). But circumcision will still be of significant figurative importance. Circumcision​—​cutting off a small piece of flesh​—​becomes a symbol of putting off the sins of the flesh in the new covenant (Colossians 2:11–13). This circumcision is not done with hands; thus it is a spiritual event. Colossians 2:12 connects it with baptism, a physical act and yet one in which God is working spiritually as well: “wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God.”

Genesis 17:11

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


  • Circumcision, in a sense, is a Type of the Cross; blood is shed and separation is made.

Genesis 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.


  • Circumcision is to be done on the eighth day after a male child is born in the covenant family (compare Leviticus 12:3; Philippians 3:5). This will become part of a ceremony that includes bestowing a name on the child (compare Luke 1:59; 2:21). The law applies both to natural-born sons and sons not of thy seed (see also Genesis 17:27; Exodus 12:48).

Genesis 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.


  • The sign of the covenant is on the physical bodies of the covenant people, specifically on the sex organ of the males. One might wonder how a mark in a part of the body that is kept covered (1 Corinthians 12:23) can be a symbol of anything. Symbols are meant to be seen. In this case, the symbol of the covenant is not to be seen by others, but is a reminder to the covenant-keeper himself. As he dedicates the most personal part of his body to the Lord, so also he dedicates his whole life. And through marriage and marital relations, the wife of the covenant keeper is included in this sacred covenant.

Genesis 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.


  • Disobedience to the covenant leads to exclusion from the covenant community. There is a play on words here. To circumcise someone is to cut off a small piece of flesh; refusal to submit to the procedure results in the man’s being cut off from his people.
  • It is not clear what that penalty involves, whether capital punishment or banishment, or whether it is done by God or by a human agent. When Moses started toward Egypt in obedience to God’s call, “the Lord met him, and sought to kill him”; Moses’ wife quickly circumcised their son, and the Lord “let him go” (Exodus 4:24–26). This may suggest that it is God who cuts off the one who fails to keep the covenant. However, no deaths are noted when the entire nation of Israel later fails to circumcise the next generation until after crossing the Jordan (Joshua 5:2–8). Apparently the cutting off of the covenant breaker is to be a human responsibility.

Genesis 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.


  • Abraham’s wife, Sarai, has not been mentioned in any previous communications from God regarding Abraham’s having a son, so this section of Scripture is a first in that regard (see v. 16, next). Just before that happens, she is mentioned as another person whose name is being changed.
  • This time, however, there is no difference in meaning: both Sarah and Sarai mean “princess.” An example of this meaning is found in 1 Kings 11: 3, where it is given in the plural form as “princesses.” Some suggest that the minor change in the name may be a difference in dialect. The unchanged meaning fits Sarah’s forthcoming status, as verse 16 reveals.

Genesis 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.


  • Sarah is to be the mother of the special son promised to Abraham. For this to happen at her advanced age (see v. 17, next), she will need a blessing from the Lord, and that is what He provides. The blessing for Abraham and Sarah reaches into the future and includes kings and royalty among their descendants.
  • Thus it is quite appropriate for Sarah’s changed name still to mean “princess.” The fulfillment for this aspect of the promise begins when Saul becomes Israel’s first genuine king more than 1,000 years later. The final king in the long line is Jesus Christ, the “King of kings” (Revelation 17: 14).

Genesis 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?


  • Abraham’s reaction is to fall to the ground in laughter. Some have said that this reflects skepticism, similar to Sarah’s in Genesis 18. This negative view doesn’t fit the man who looked at the stars of the heavens and believed God (Genesis 15: 6).
  • We conclude that Abraham combines an attitude of worship with laughter that results from an inner joy (compare Romans 4: 19– 21). When Abraham looks ahead, he realizes that at the time of the birth he will be 100 years old and Sarah will be 90 (compare Genesis 17: 1, 24). These facts cause him to ask himself the two questions we see here.
  • The implications are staggering, and Abraham knows that the promised outcome is beyond what is considered normal. Genesis 17: 19 (not in today’s text) should also be mentioned, for there God informs Abraham that the name of the son is to be Isaac. The name means “he laughs,” and it points to the laughter here and to what occurs in the next section of our study.

Genesis 17:18

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


  • Abraham asked the Lord that Ishmael might have some place, and not be completely left out.

Genesis 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.


  • The name Isaac means “laughter”.
  • The Covenant is to be established with Isaac and not Ishmael. This completely shoots down the contention of the Muslims that Ishmael was the chosen one, unless you don’t believe the Bible. Through Isaac the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, would ultimately come.

ISHMAEL’S INHERITANCE

God holds to the promise that He has made.

Genesis 17:20-27 KJV

[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.

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

[22] And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.

[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.

[24] And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, 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] In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.

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

Genesis 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.


  • The Lord would bless Ishmael, but not as it regards the Covenant.
  • The blessing here pronounced was not because of Ishmael, but because of Abraham, and Abraham alone.

Genesis 17:21

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


  • So now they know when the child will be born.

Genesis 17:22

And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.


  • The Lord
  • Communion with the Lord is the most profitable exercise there is.

Genesis 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.


  • The obedience of Abraham in circumcising the entirety of his house, servants and all, should be a lesson to us.

Genesis 17:24

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


  • Circumcision is the badge of the covenant which God has made with Abraham. Someone will ask, “Why was Ishmael included?” Hasn’t God promised that Ishmael is going to be a great nation also? He is included in it in that sense, but he is not the one whom God had promised to Abraham at the beginning. He is not to be the father of the nation that God will use and the nation through which the Messiah will come.

Genesis 17:25

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


  • Even though Ishmael was circumcised, he who was born after the flesh was by his natural birth a rebel, even though he may enter in an outward covenant.

Genesis 17:26

In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.


  • Two men were circumcised; by that rite both men entered the Covenant; however, only one of the men, Abraham, was saved.

Genesis 17:27

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


  • This one Passage tells us that every single man in the house of Abraham was saved, whether servants, slaves, or family, that is, if they believed. The Epistles to the Romans, to the Galatians, and to the Colossians teach that Christians are circumcised in the Cross of Christ, baptized into the Death of Christ, and raised in the Resurrection of Christ, all of which circumcision was a Type.

 

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