17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old [the Bible tell us nothing about what happened between the time Abraham was 86 and 99 years old], the LORD appeared [a theophany (“appearance of God”); purpose of theophany was for God to reveal His character, message, or plans] to him and said, “I am God Almighty [translates Heb. name “El Shaddai” and means the “God who is sufficient”; emphasizes God’s power]; walk [live in dependence on God; live in a manner pleasing to God] before me and be blameless [to be completely devoted to the Lord; moral purity (not perfection); cf. Gen. 6:9].
17:2 I will confirm [by restating covenant promises and designating covenant sign] my [covenant was God’s initiative] covenant between me and you and [note that God would do what seemed impossible…] will greatly increase your numbers.”
17:3 Abram fell facedown [position of humility indicates that Abram did not see himself as an equal partner in covenant; indicates Abram’s surrender to God’s will], and God said to him,
17:4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations [people groups (other than Israel); cf. Gen. 12:2; Rom. 4:6-9,17-18].
17:5 No longer will you be called Abram [means “exalted father”]; your name will be Abraham [means “father of many”], for I have made you a father of many nations [Gal. 3:7].
Note: How can you enable God to bless other nations through you?
17:6 I will [a promise] make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings [e.g. Midianiates (Gen. 25:2-4), Ishmaelites (Gen. 25:12-18), Edomites (Gen. 36:40) all traced their lineage back to Abraham; read genealogy of Jesus in Matt. 1:1-17] will come from you.
17:7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting [would last beyond Abraham’s lifetime] covenant between me and you and your descendants [covenant would extend beyond Abraham] after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants [both physical and spiritual descendants] after you.
17:8 The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God [and thus the only God they are to worship].”
17:9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.
17:10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised [God designated circumcision as the sign of the covenant with Abraham].
17:11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.
17:12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old [cf. Gen. 21:4; Lk. 2:21] must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring.
17:13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.
17:14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
17:15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai [Abraham’s wife (and half-sister); Sarai was a barren woman] your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah [name means “princess”; Sarah would be a mother].
17:16 I will bless [by giving her the ability to conceive and bear a son] her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations [cf. 17:4]; kings of peoples will come from her [cf. 17:6].”
17:17 Abraham fell facedown [cf. 17:3]; he laughed [suggests a lapse of faith; some believe Abraham laughed with wonder and joy; cf. Gen. 18:12 re: Sarah’s laughter] and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old [Abraham mistakenly thought that his age would be an obstacle to God’s plan]? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety [cf. Gen. 21:1-7]?”
Note: In what circumstances have you wondered how God would fulfill His plans?
17:18 And Abraham said [offered God an alternative] to God, “If only Ishmael [name means “God hears”; cf. Gen. 16:10-12] might live under your blessing!”
17:19 Then God said, “Yes, but [God rejected Abraham’s suggestion] your wife Sarah will bear you a son [cf. Gen. 18:14], and you will call him Isaac [name means “he laughs” (and would serve as a reminder of his miraculous birth)]. I will establish my covenant with him [Isaac; cf. Gen. 26:4; Rom. 9:8] as an everlasting covenant for his descendants [e.g., Jacob, Joseph, David, Jesus Christ] after him.
17:20 And as for Ishmael [13 years old at this time; Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born (Gen. 16:16)], I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation [cf. Gen. 25:12-18; 1 Chron. 1:29-31; many of Ishmael’s descendants today are followers of Mohammad].
Note: What does God’s blessing of Ishmael tell us about His care for those outside the nation of Israel?
17:21 But my covenant I will [a promise] establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year [God gave a specific time for the birth of Isaac; cf. Gen. 21:5].”
17:22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.