Genesis 17:1 Thirteen years had gone by since Ishmael was born when the Lord appeared to Abraham.
Genesis 17:2 God is establishing a conditional covenant, unlike the unconditional one in chapter 15. To receive the blessings of this covenant, the people would benefit only if they walked before God and were blameless.
Genesis 17:5-8 The Lord changed Abram’s (Exalted Father) name to Abraham (Father of a multitude of nations). God’s covenant with Abraham anticipates the reestablishment of the creation mandate (i.e., Abraham is “another Adam,” a covenant representative). Through this covenant the negative effects of the fall will ultimately be reversed. (Through Jesus Christ).
Genesis 17:10-11 God now declares how to be included in the covenant; all male children had to be circumcised as a sign that they are in the covenant. Circumcision, which involves cutting off the foreskin, creates a mark that would not normally be visible to others. The nature of the sign suggests that it was intended to focus attention on the importance of Abraham’s offspring, the royal line through which blessing would come.
Notes: The symbolism of circumcision had to do with the need to cut away sin and be cleansed. It was the male organ that most clearly demonstrated the depth of depravity because it carried the seed that produced depraved sinners. Thus, circumcision symbolized the need for a profoundly deep cleansing to reverse the effects of depravity.
Genesis 17:12-13 Circumcision was to be performed ceremonially on the 8th day. This also included people not born in Abraham’s house, but bought as a possession.
Notes: If not born in Abraham’s house, then not a Jew (which means all non-Jews – Gentiles) and they are included because they are bought into the covenant. This is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus who purchased (bought) our (Gentiles included) salvation (The ultimate blessing of this covenant) by His blood.
Genesis 17:14 A male who was not circumcised was not considered in the covenant and would be excluded from the benefits and blessings of the covenant.
Genesis 17:15 The Lord changed Sarai’s (my princess) name to Sarah (princess). God took away the limiting personal pronoun “my,” to stress the fact that she would mother nations and kings.
Genesis 17:16 The Lord for the first time specifically declares that Sarah will actually have a male child. The Lord further mentions that this child will also be great and become nations and kings shall come forth from him.
Genesis 17:17 Abraham laughed either out of sheer wonder that the Lord would perform this miracle on a man and woman passed their child bearing age or he simply didn’t believe God had the power to change Sarah’s barrenness.
Genesis 17:18 “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” It appears that Abraham either, realizing that this new son would be the heir chosen by God, expressed his concerns for his thirteen year old son that he loved dearly and had been grooming to be his heir with an attempt to convince God to let the heir be Ishmael, or because of his disbelief in God’s promise of a son through Sarah, reminded God that Ishmael is to be the heir.
Genesis 17:19 God says “No” to Abraham’s request. The heir is determined by God’s will, not Abraham’s. God also for the first time name’s the child. His name would be Isaac, which means “he laughs” a reminder to Abraham of his initial reaction to God’s promise.
Genesis 17:20 God heard Abraham’s cry for his son, Ishmael, and out of compassion grants Ishmael, though not the heir, blessings also. The Lord repeats the promises given to Hagar by the Lord’s Angel. The Lord also expounds on the promise that Ishmael will father 12 princes. These 12 sons would father nations. The Arab people today, the ones who constantly harass Israel are said to come from the line of Ishmael.
Notes: Little did Abraham and Sarah know at the time that their decision to take things into their own hands by having Ishmael by Hagar would cause future harassment by the offspring of Ishmael (Arabs) to Ishmael’s half-brother and chosen heir, Isaac (Jews).
Genesis 17:21 To further remove any doubt about this son to be born to Sarah, the Lord tells Abraham that the child would be born in a year’s time.
Genesis 17:22-23 Abraham circumcised himself and every male in his camp. Going forward, all new children born would be done on the 8th day.
Notes: Though Ishmael is not Abraham’s heir (The Godly line to the Messiah), he is also included in the covenant and has them same opportunity to receive the blessings as anyone else.