God’s contract with new-name Abraham
God's part of the deal1 Abram was 99 years old when the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty. Stay close to me. Don’t cause any trouble; be a man of integrity. 2 I’m drawing up a contract between me and you. You’re going to get one huge family out of this, with more descendants than anyone could ever count.”
3 Abram dropped to the ground, face to the dirt. God said, 4 “Here’s my part in this contract. I’m going to make you the father of many nations. 5 I’m changing your name, too. We’re dropping Abram. From now on you’re Abraham. I picked that name because you’re going to be the father of many nations. 6 I’m going to make you fertile. Out of you, I’ll grow nations of people—kings included. 7 I’m making this contract not only with you, but with your descendants as well. To all of you, I will be your God forever. So this contract starts here and ends never. 8 You’re an immigrant in this land of Canaan. But I’m giving every bit of this land to you and your descendants. This will be a family-owned land forever. I’ll be God to your family.”
Abraham's part of the deal: circumcision9 Then God said to Abraham, “Here’s your part of the contract—the responsibilities I’m requiring of you and your descendants in every generation. 10 These are the terms for you and your family throughout the generations. Circumcise every male. 11 Cut off the foreskin. That’s how you’ll sign this contract. 12 Throughout the generations, whenever a boy is born in your family you must circumcise him when he is eight days old. The same goes for any slaves born in your household and under your authority, even if they are foreigners you bought. 13 Circumcise the boy of every slave and of every servant you bought who is born in your household. This way, your bodies will carry your signature of the contract, which is everlasting. 14 If anyone refuses to get circumcised, he is in breach of contract and is no longer one of my people.”
15 God told Abraham, “Don’t call your wife Sarai anymore. Call her Sarah. 16 “I’m going to bless her and make good things happen in her life. For starters, you’re going to have a son with her. She will be the mother of kings and nations.”
17 Abraham fell on his face again. This time he was laughing. He tried to hide it while he was bowed low and thinking to himself, “How on earth can a 100-year-old man and a 90-year-old woman make a baby?” 18 Composing himself, Abraham said to God, “My prayer is that Ishmael will stay close to you and be rewarded for it.”
19 “You misunderstand,” God said. “Sarah will have your son. You’ll call him Isaac. I’m making my contract through you with Isaac. It’s his descendants that I’m writing into this everlasting contract. 20 Don’t worry about Ishmael. I hear you. I’ll take care of him and make good things happen for him, too. I’ll make sure he has a big family. He’ll become the father of a dozen princes whose families will grow into a great nation. 21 But my contract extends to only Isaac and his descendants. He’ll be born about this time next year.” 22 When God finished talking, he left.
Abraham cuts on the dotted line23 That very day, Abraham circumcised every male in his household, including the slaves born there and the servants he had bought. 24 Abraham was 99 when he was circumcised. 25 His son Ishmael was 13. 26 Abraham and Ishmael were circumcised on the same day. 27 All the men of Abraham’s household were circumcised, too. That includes the slaves born there and slaves bought later.
El-Shaddai in Hebrew.
Hebrew for “Honored Father.”
Hebrew for “Father of Many.”
Now Israel and Palestinian territories.
Hebrew version of Aramaic “Sarai.” Both names mean “princess.” Aramaic was a language spoken in what is now southern Iraq, where Abraham and Sarah grew up.
Hebrew: “he laughs.”
When Abraham made a contract agreement with God—agreeing to obey God in exchange for incredible blessings such as a huge family along with the land of Canaan, now Israel and Palestinian Territories—Abraham did not need to sign on some dotted line. He needed to cut on the dotted line, carefully. He had to circumcise himself, and promise that all his male descendants would be circumcised on the eighth day after their birth. No one really knows why God chose circumcision. But there are plenty of guesses out there. What are some of the guesses you’ve heard, and which guess makes most sense to you?
God promised Abraham, “I’m giving every bit of this land to you and your descendants. This will be a family-owned land forever” (17:8). Bible experts debate whether or not “forever” means forever. For one thing, Abraham’s descendants did not always live up to their end of the bargain; many of them worshiped idols. Do you think God intended for only people of the Jewish race to live in what is now Israel?
Because of the promises God made to Abraham, many people still think of the Jews as the Chosen People. Do you think Jews today are still more Chosen than Christians, Muslims, or anyone else? Are Jews God’s favorites?
People in ancient times occasionally got their name changed for one reason or another. If you have read or heard any teaching about this, could you tell us some of the reasons people got their names changed?
God told Abraham, “I’m changing your name….We’re dropping Abram [Hebrew: “honored father”]. From now on you’re Abraham [Hebrew: “father of many”]. I picked that name because you’re going to be the father of many nations.” What do you think the value was in changing the name of a 99-year-old man?
Does it seem odd to you that after some 30 years of God telling Abraham he would have a lot of children that Abraham laughs when God tells him that Sarah will have his child? “Abraham fell on his face again. This time he was laughing” (17:17).
LIFE APPLICATION. It’s pretty unusual for someone to have a formal agreement with God, as Abraham did. Imagine for a moment that you could make a deal with God the way God made a deal with Abraham. What would you ask of God and what would you promise him in return?
LIFE APPLICATION. If the Genesis writer got the numbers right—and some scholars say they doubt the writer did—God did a remarkable thing in allowing a 100-year-old man and a 90-year-old woman to have a son. We may not be able to match that level of remarkability, but God has done some remarkable things for us, too. Can you think of any at the moment?