Sunday School Lesson -Sunday, September 10, 2017 – Circumcision
To follow along, visit your local Christian bookstore, and ask for the Bible Expositor and Illuminator
Time: 2066 B.C. Place: Probably Mamre
Golden Text: “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 (Genesis 17:1)
Abraham was the forefather of both the Jews and the Arabs. He was originally called Abram and left Ur in ancient Sumeria (Mesopotamia) to travel to Haran in Syria. He eventually migrated to Canaan where God promised him that his descendants would ultimately dwell. He lived to be a 175 years old. God called Abram to separate from his kindred to go into the land that the Lord would direct him. God promised Abram He would make him of a great nation.
Ten years had passed since God first made Abram a promise of a child, Abram suggested he should adopt his steward but God refuses the offer, and clearly promises that Abram will have a child of his own that he produced. Sarai and Abram took matters into their own hands; Sarai suggested Abram obtain a child through her handmaid, Hagar. Abram did as Sarai suggested and he and Hagar produced Ishmael at the age of 86.
Thirteen years later God appeared to Abram and made a covenant, the covenant God made with Abraham is a foundational covenant for the Jewish people and the sign of that covenant was circumcision.
Thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael when Abraham was ninety-nine years old God appeared to him with a command and unconditional covenant. The act of circumcision ratified the covenant between God and Abraham. He complied with God’s instructions for every male among his people.
In response to Abraham’s obedience, God bestowed upon him a blessing that we still witness today.
Lesson Outline: I. Covenantal Declaration – Genesis 17:1-6
Genesis 17:1 – And when Abraham 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. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when the Lord appeared to him, thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael. Ishmael was the son of an Egyptian slave presented to Abraham by Pharaoh when he and Sarah were in Egypt. Sarah was originally called Sarai before God changed her name to Sarah. Her inability to produce an heir was the major factor in her convincing Abraham to have a child by Hagar, her handmaid. Probably from Abraham’s perspective, God waited a long time to fulfill His promise. Abraham was 75 years old when he came to the land of Canaan. At the age of 86 he became the father of Ishmael, then 13 more years passed without a son being born to Sarah. One year shy of one hundred and still had only one teenage son by his servant Hagar God appeared to him and identified Himself as Almighty God. God used this title twice with the patriarch to emphasize His ability to carry out His promise. God calls Abraham to walk before Him and be blameless, he was to conduct his life as an open display of faithfulness to the Lord.
Genesis 17:2 – And I will make my covenant between me and thee and will multiply thee exceedingly. God’s promise to Abraham, if he walked before Him and be perfect He would make a covenant between Himself and Abraham and would multiply his number. God reiterated what He had told Abram at the time He first called Abram to leave Ur, God assured Abraham that they were in covenant relationship and that the promises made earlier would be fulfilled. God identified three specific provisions in His covenant (1) God promised four times to multiply Abraham’s descendants (2) Part of this covenant involved a change of Abram’s name to Abraham (3) God’s covenant with Abraham included the promise to give him and his descendants all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession.
Genesis 17:3 – And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying. Abram fell on his face before God and God talked with him. The Bible gives references to people falling before someone considered their superior. Knowing that this was the Lord since he heard His voice before, Abram willingly bowed before the Almighty.
Genesis 17:4 – As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. God instructed Abram, as for His promise, His covenant would be with Abram and He was making him the father of many nations. Abram’s principal descendants are the Israelites who are the centerpiece of Biblical history and are the line from which the Savior Jesus comes from. Abram is also the father of other nations, he is the father of Ishmael and the Arabs people, as well as a number of other people groups from Keturah, ‘s a concubine. Abraham also has children of the New Testament as well as today’s believers (And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise – Galatians 4:29).
Genesis 17:5 – 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. This name change is significant; Abram means “Exalted Father”, “Abraham means “Father of Many”, a direct reflection of his new role. This would be fulfilled through the descendants of his sons Ishmael and Isaac along with the children of Keturah.
Genesis 17:6 – And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. God’s promise was to make Abram fruitful, and He would make a nation of him as well as kings shall birth in his lineage, which our Lord and Saviour came. God was making a covenant or contract between Himself and Abraham. The terms were simple, Abraham would obey God and circumcise all the males in his household; God’s part was to give Abraham heirs, property, power, and wealth. When we as believers become a part of God’s covenant family, the blessings we receive far outweigh what we must give up.
Lesson Outline: II. Covenantal Duration – Genesis 17:7-8
Genesis 17:7 – 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. The Abrahamic covenant is the foundation upon which all later divine covenants with God’s people are based. Everlasting means the covenant would be to Abraham’s descendants forever. “To be a God to thee”, God pledged His ongoing relationship with the people of Abraham. This was later celebrated in the creed of Israel, the great Shema (Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture – Psalm 100:3).
Genesis 17:8 – 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. The promise clearly included the Israelites people and the land which was Canaan He was giving them. Even though God removed Israel more than once from the land, He promised them ultimate possession of Canaan. Four times God promised to multiply Abraham’s descendants. God changes Abram’s name to reflect what He was going to do with him, and with the promise of land forever confirms that God has a future for Israel, separate from the church when His chosen people will fully possess the land that God promised to them. God never makes a promise and not keep it.
Lesson Outline: III. Covenantal Demands – Genesis 17:9-14
Genesis 17:9 – And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. God made this covenant not only with Abraham but also with his descendants in succeeding generation. He made the same promise in earlier in verse 7 “I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generation for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee”. After clearly advising Abraham of the benefits of the covenant between them, God went on to inform Abram what was his responsibilities were. God promises are manifested through our obedience, His promises come with an “IF”
Genesis 17:10 -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. The sign of the Abrahamic covenant was that every male child would be circumcised. This physical procedure was to be a reminder to Abraham and his descendants of the eternal covenant God had made with His people to multiply the nation and to give them land forever. Through circumcision, a person became a member of Israel’s community and received the right to participate in public worship.
Genesis 17:11 – And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a token f the covenant betwixt me and you. Circumcision was not limited to the natural-born males of the family. Slaves and aliens who were a part of the household were also included in the practice. God’s intent was that all Abraham’s male descendants would bear the mark of this covenant in their bodies perpetually. God gave circumcision as a physical sign of the covenant He made with Abraham and his descendants after him. The new covenant that Jesus instituted superseded the old covenant’s ritual requirements.
Genesis 17:12 – 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. Just as the promise of the land was an “everlasting possession so was circumcision part of the everlasting covenant God was making with Abraham and his seed.
Genesis 17:13 – He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. An eight-day old male and his immune system would be strong enough for the operation but he would be too young to remember the pain. Studies now show us that the eighth day is the optimum time for this procedure due to the presence of vitamin K in adequate quantities to protect from excessive bleeding. God created the human body, He knows what would have happened if the child was circumcised earlier than eight days.
Genesis 17:14 – 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. Any man who did not accept circumcision would be cut off from the community. He would be cut off from his people and his family was guilty of breaking the covenant God established. Circumcision was to be a reminder to every Jewish male that God, not man would raise up this promised seed. The crucial thing to possess is spiritual circumcision, the fleshly ritual has no bearing on salvation. In the future, circumcision would take a much deeper meaning just as a surgical procedure that would be in the heart. The circumcised heart would be a sign of someone who is totally devoted to God (And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all they souls, that thou mayest live – Deuteronomy 30:6). Circumcision became a Jewish law for salvation whereas when Jesus died for the remission of sin; salvation come through faith in Jesus Christ, and Him alone. There is no other name that one can be saved but through the name of Jesus (Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved – Acts 4:12). God wants our heart to be circumcised when the heart is circumcised the thoughts will be godly, when the heart is circumcised the soul will follow the instructions of God’s written Word.