Genesis Chapter 17

It seems like forever since I was reading this book of scripture. My family has officially moved into our new home, after several weeks of working on it, and now life is getting back to normal again. As a reminder of the last chapter I studied, Hagar had given birth to Ishmael, the son of Abram, who was 86 at the time. This chapter begins:

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.
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.

Thirteen years after Ishmael was born, the Lord, Jesus Christ, appears to Abram and commands him to walk before him and be perfect. When I think of walking before the Lord, I think it means walking in faith before the blessings of the Lord are received. The footnote for the word perfect references integrity and walking in truth at all times. If we are honestly obeying God’s commands, we walk in faith, truth and integrity. When we knowingly sin, we cannot have integrity and truth in our hearts. The Lord has shown us the way to live and if we can walk before Him, just as Abram was commanded to do, we will not go astray from that which is perfect and true.

In the Joseph Smith Translation of this chapter we read the following:

3 And it came to pass, that Abram fell on his face, and called upon the name of the Lord.
4 And God talked with him, saying, My people have gone astray from my precepts, and have not kept mine ordinances, which I gave unto their fathers;
5 And they have not observed mine anointing, and the burial, or baptism wherewith I commanded them;
6 But have turned from the commandment, and taken unto themselves the washing of children, and the blood of sprinkling;
7 And have said that the blood of the righteous Abel was shed for sins; and have not known wherein they are accountable before me.

Abram prayed to the Lord and his prayer was answered. The Lord told Abram that the people had fallen away from Him and had no longer been baptized as they had been commanded. The people had started to pervert the righteous ways of the Lord and were no longer understanding the reasons for the commandments they had been given. But Abram was recognized for his righteousness and his desire to follow the commandments of God. The Lord has already made promises to Abram several times before this, which are related to his seed. Here is where the covenant is officially made and Abram is given the name of Abraham. If Abraham and his seed would walk in the Lord’s way and become perfect through Him, they would inherit the promised land forever. Abraham was promised to have his seed multiplied and that he would be the father of nations and kings. This covenant and promise is what we know as the Abrahamic Covenant. We know that his seed was multiplied, or rather that he was fruitful, because the twelve tribes of Israel came from his line and the seed of Abraham can be found all over the world today because of the scattering promised by the Lord. In addition, the seed of Abraham grows every time someone chooses to come unto Christ and be baptized, even if they are not a literal descendant of Abraham. I believe that the time will come, when the righteous and covenanted descendants of Abraham, will receive their inheritance of the promised land and it will be theirs for eternity.

Verse 7, also references some verses from the Joseph Smith Translation of this chapter, which read as follows:

11 And I will establish a covenant of circumcision with thee, and it shall be my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations; that thou mayest know for ever that children are not accountable before me until they are eight years old.
12 And thou shalt observe to keep all my covenants wherein I covenanted with thy fathers; and thou shalt keep the commandments which I have given thee with mine own mouth, and I will be a God unto thee and thy seed after thee.

The covenant was established, or rather the physical ordinance related to this covenant was circumcision, and it was made known that children would not be held accountable until they were eight. This is something that is not a common understanding among Christians, and may possibly be only recognized as true doctrine in the LDS church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). We believe that children are still not to be held accountable until the age of eight, and therefore are made perfect in Christ through the atonement, without the need for repentance. This is why we believe that children do not need to be baptized until they have become accountable and are eight years old.

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.

The ordinance of circumcision was established for every male who was eight days old who was a part of the family of Abraham, or the family of children of God. This was a part of the law preceding the law of Jesus Christ. When Christ was crucified, the law was fulfilled and as I understand it, this token of the covenant was no longer commanded by God. In Moroni 8:8 we read, “Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me.” Those who are uncircumcised today, are not breaking any covenants with God.

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.
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.

Abraham’s wife was also to be called a new name, Sarah. Then she was blessed and told that she would have a son, even though she had been barren thus far. By the wording here, Abraham seemed a bit shocked by this because of their age, but the Joseph Smith Translation of the word says that Abraham fell upon his face, and rejoiced. Being a man of God, I think this sounds much more fitting for our understanding. This makes the thoughts of Abraham seem less like questioning the words of the Lord, and more like being amazed at the possibility. God confirmed that she would indeed have a son, when Abraham was a hundred years old, and the son’s name would be Isaac. This was probably an amazing thing to reveal to Sarah, who had wanted to be a mother and was not able to be. I have witnessed the heartache that comes to those who want to be mothers who cannot. I am sure this was an overwhelming blessing, even in her older age. Her son, Isaac, would be blessed with an everlasting covenant for him and his seed.

It sounds to me like Abraham wished that Ishmael, his first son by Hagar, would be blessed by God. Ishmael was also blessed to be the father of many, but he would not be the bearer of the covenant with God. The Abrahamic covenant was not passed on to Ishmael, but we learn later in the scriptures that Ishmael did become the father of twelve sons and of many nations.

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.

Abraham immediately followed the commandments of the Lord and required that all the males in his household be circumcised. One of the many good examples set by Abraham, is that we should follow the commandments of God as soon as we have knowledge of them. If we procrastinate, it becomes increasingly difficult to follow His ways and we allow Satan the ability to place distractions in our path, which draw us away from the things that are righteous and good. I know that we can receive the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. I know that we need to follow God’s commandments in order to receive these blessings and I look forward to the day when all the blessings will be given to the righteous and covenant people of God. I hope that I will be among those people in that day.

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About My Scripture Study Buddy

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.
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