0 Circumcision: God's everlasting covenant (Genesis 17-18)

Episode 4b: Circumcision: God's everlasting covenant

(Genesis 17-18)

Circumcision: God's everlasting covenant

17 1 When Abraham was ninety years old, God said to him,

I'm God Almighty. Walk before me and be perfect.

2 I'll make a covenant with you, and I'll make sure you have lots of descendants.

3 And Abraham fell on his face.

God continued, saying,

5 No one will call you Abram anymore. Your name will be Abraham, because I've made you a father of many nations.

8 I'll give your descendants the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession. And I'll be their God.

9 You and your descendants will keep my covenant.

10 This is my covenant: Every male will be circumcised.

11 You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin.

12 When a baby boy is eight days old, he shall be circumcised, including the slave that is born in your house, or is bought with money, or is a stranger.

13 My covenant will be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

14 An uncircumcised male must be cut off from his people.

15 Your wife won't be called Sarai anymore, but Sarah.

16 I'll bless her and you will make her pregnant and have a son with her.

Abraham laughs at God

17 Abraham fell down laughing, and said to himself,

Will Sarah and I have a child when I'm 100 and she's 90 years old?

19 God said to Abraham,

Sarah will have a son, and you will call him Isaac. I'll establish my everlasting covenant with him and his descendants.

20 I've blessed Ishmael and will make him have lots of children. Twelve of his sons will be princes and from him I'll make a great nation.

21 But my covenant will be with Isaac. Sarah will deliver him next year at this time.

22 Then God stopped talking and went up.

Abraham, Ishmael, and male slaves are circumcised

23-26 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he circumcised himself, along with his thirteen-year-old son, Ishmael, and all of his slaves -- all in one day.

Circumcision of Abraham, Jean de Sy, Paris ca. 1355-1357

Abraham feeds God and two men

18 1-2 God appeared to Abraham as he sat at his tent door. 3-4 When Abraham looked up he saw three men standing in front of him. He said to them,

Wash your feet and rest yourselves under the tree. I'll get some bread while you comfort your hearts. After that, you can go.

5 They said to him, "Okay."

6 Abraham ran to Sarah and said to her, "Bake some cakes."

7 Then he fetched a calf, killed and prepared it.

8 Abraham fed his guests butter, milk, and the calf that he had prepared.

Fragment of the mosaic with Abraham and Sarah at the Oak of Mamre (basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy).

Sarah laughs at God

9-10 One of them said to Abraham, "I'll return sometime, and Sarah will have a son."

12 Sarah heard it and laughed to herself, saying, "Am I, an old woman, going to have pleasure with my old husband?"

13 God said to Abraham,

Why did Sarah laugh?

14 Is anything too hard for the Lord?

I'll return and she will have a son."

15 Sarah said, "I didn't laugh."

God said, "Yes you did."

God wonders if he should tell Abraham about Sodom

16 Abraham's visitors left towards Sodom, and Abraham went with them along the way.

17 God said to himself, "Should I hide from Abraham the thing that I plan to do?"

20 Then he said to Abraham,

The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and their sin is very grievous.

21 I'll go down and see if things down there are as bad as I've heard. If they are, I'll find out.

22 And God, his companions, and Abraham continued to walk toward Sodom.

Abraham tries to talk God out of it

23 Abraham came close to God and said,

Will you kill the righteous with the wicked?

24 What if there are fifty righteous people in Sodom? Will you kill everyone including the fifty righteous? 25 Shouldn't the judge of all the earth do right?

26 God said, "If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I'll spare the city for their sakes."

27-28 Abraham said, "I'm just dust and ashes, but what if there are forty-five righteous people?"

God said, "If I find forty-five, I won't destroy it."

29-32 Abraham repeated the same question, with forty, thirty, twenty, and ten. Each time God said he wouldn't kill everyone if he could find that many righteous people.

33 Then God went his way, and Abraham went home.

A few more words about this episode

No one will call you Abram anymore. (17:5)
God changed Abraham's name from Abram to Abraham here. But we've been calling Abraham Abraham throughout.
Your wife won't be called Sarai anymore, but Sarah. (17:5)
Likewise for the Sarai/Sarah thing.
Abraham fed his guests butter, milk, and the calf (18:8)
Not a very Kosher meal to feed God and his angel friends. (Wikipedia: Milk and meat in Jewish law)
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