Abraham and Circumcision (Genesis 17)

Abraham Study Guide (Week 7)


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. (Genesis 17:5)

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. (Genesis 17:7)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christs, then you are Abrahams offspring, heirs to promise. (Galatians 3:28-29)


Thus far, we have witnessed eleven years in the life of Abram since he first began his walk of faith with God. Abram has stood in the presence of kings, receiving and declining their gifts, and he has also defeated kings in war. He has shown astounding faith in God, and he has expressed utter faithlessness. Chapter 16 saw Abram’s biggest failure yet. Impatient from still not having a child, Sarai told Abram to impregnate her servant, Hagar, in Sarai’s stead. This defiling of their marriage wreaked havoc in the lives of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar, as each of them sinned against one another. All the while, God showed great grace to Hagar, promising to bless her and her child, Ishmael.

In this chapter, we learn that thirteen more years has passed, and Abram has apparently accepted Ishmael as his offspring. God, however, speaks to Abram once again. First, God further expounds upon His covenant with Abram and his offspring. In doing so, God clarifies that Ishmael is not the offspring that God promised to Abram; rather, Sarai would give Abram a son. Second, God symbolically changes the names of Abram and Sarai to reflect His renewed covenant. Third, God commands Abram to circumcise himself and the men of his household as a sign of God’s covenant with him, leaving Abram with a physical reminder of God’s promise to him.

Significant in this section of Scripture is God’s promise to bless and keep covenant with all of Abraham’s descendants. In the third chapter of Galatians, Paul explains that Jesus is the ultimate offspring of Abraham, the woman’s seed (from Genesis 3:15) who would crush the serpent’s head and reverse the curse of sin. Thus, because Jesus is God’s remedy to the problem of sin, in Christ we are called offspring of Abraham. When we have faith in Jesus (Abraham’s promised offspring), we become Abraham’s descendants and heirs to blessings that God gave to him.

Read verses 1-8 and discuss the following.

  1. God appears to Abram and commands him to walk blamelessly before Him. Why does our way of living concern God? Are we able to live a completely blameless life that God demands?
  2. In establishing His covenant with Abram, God gives him a new name. What is the significance of this act?

Read verses 9-14 and discuss the following.

  1. God orders Abraham to be circumcised as a sign (or a reminder) of their covenant. In the first century, the Apostle Paul debated against some people who claimed that circumcision was necessary for salvation. Why is circumcision unnecessary for salvation? What are some modern equivalents of the circumcision issue?

Read verses 15-21 and discuss the following.

  1. Though Abraham already had a son through Hagar, God specifically says that Sarai (now Sarah) will bear him a son. God promises to bless Ishmael but to establish His eternal covenant with Isaac. What does this say about God’s sovereignty and the plans of men?

Read verses 22-27 and discuss the following.

  1. “That very day Abraham” and all the men of his house were circumcised. In doing this, Abraham obeyed the LORD. What are some forms of obedience that Jesus asks of us today?


  • Consider God’s command for Abraham to walk blamelessly before Him and your own obedience to the LORD’s commands. Repent of any sin, and ask for grace to walk faithfully and obediently with Christ.
  • Pray in thanks to God for His loving covenant with you through Christ.

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