Genesis (Part 71)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis 17:22-27

22 When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. 23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old 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 That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. 27 And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.


Verse 22:

“talking” = דָבַר dâbar, daw-bar’; a primitive root; perhaps properly, to arrange; but used figuratively (of words), to speak; rarely (in a destructive sense) to subdue:—answer, appoint, bid, command, commune, declare, destroy, give, name, promise, pronounce, rehearse, say, speak, be spokesman, subdue, talk, teach, tell, think, use (entreaties), utter, × well, × work.

“God” = אֱלֹהִים ʼĕlôhîym, el-o-heem’; plural of H433; gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative:—angels, × exceeding, God (gods) (-dess, -ly), × (very) great, judges, × mighty.

“went up” = עָלָה ʻâlâh, aw-law’; a primitive root; to ascend, intransitively (be high) or actively (mount); used in a great variety of senses, primary and secondary, literal and figurative:—arise (up), (cause to) ascend up, at once, break (the day) (up), bring (up), (cause to) burn, carry up, cast up, shew, climb (up), (cause to, make to) come (up), cut off, dawn, depart, exalt, excel, fall, fetch up, get up, (make to) go (away, up); grow (over) increase, lay, leap, levy, lift (self) up, light, (make) up, × mention, mount up, offer, make to pay, perfect, prefer, put (on), raise, recover, restore, (make to) rise (up), scale, set (up), shoot forth (up), (begin to) spring (up), stir up, take away (up), work.

In verse 23, Abraham immediately goes about doing what God commanded. Abraham and every male member of his house are circumcised – “that very day.”

עֶצֶם ʻetsem, eh’tsem; from H6105; a bone (as strong); by extension, the body; figuratively, the substance, i.e. (as pronoun) selfsame:—body, bone, × life, (self-) same, strength, × very.

יוֹם yôwm, yome; from an unused root meaning to be hot; a day (as the warm hours), whether literal (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or figurative (a space of time defined by an associated term), (often used adverb):—age, always, chronicals, continually(-ance), daily, ((birth-), each, to) day, (now a, two) days (agone), elder, × end, evening, (for) ever(-lasting, -more), × full, life, as (so) long as (… live), (even) now, old, outlived, perpetually, presently, remaineth, × required, season, × since, space, then, (process of) time, as at other times, in trouble, weather, (as) when, (a, the, within a) while (that), × whole ( age), (full) year(-ly), younger.

From David Guzik’s Commentary:

a. And circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very same day, as God had said to him: Abraham’s belief in the covenant was proved by his obedience to the command. What we really believe will show in our actions.

b. That very same day Abraham was circumcised: Abraham’s obedience was complete (every male among the men of Abraham’s house), it was prompt (that very same day), and it was daring (to virtually incapacitate all his fighting men at the same time).

i. Abraham didn’t need to pray about this. He didn’t need to grow or transition into this. God said it, and he did it. This is a wonderful example of obedience from a great man of faith.

Abraham’s obedience was 1)complete, 2) prompt, and 3) daring.

Note: For any of you that have read through Genesis 34, you may remember the story of the rape of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah, by Shechem, the son of Hamor, the Hivite and the revenge that followed. Subsequent to the rape, Shechem asked his father Hamor to arrange for his marriage to Dinah. Hamor asks Jacob and his sons. The sons of Jacob tell Hamor that they will only agree on the condition that he and all of his people are first circumcised. Hamor and Shechem convince everyone in the city to get circumcised. Then…

25Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male.

As we thus see… incapacitating your fighting men all at one time was not a small act of faith.

Note on this section of verses and the origins of circumcision from The Pulpit Commentary:

In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.Verses 26, 27. – In the self-same day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, wore circumcised with him. The usual charges of needless repetition which are preferred against the closing verses of this chapter may be disposed of by observing that Ver. 23 intimates that the sacrament of circumcision was administered to the patriarch and his household on the very day that God had enjoined it, i.e. without delay; that Vers. 24, 25 declare the respective ages of Abraham and Ishmael when they received the Divinely-appointed rite; and that Vers. 26, 27 state the fact that the entire household of the patriarch was circumcised simultaneously with himself.

THE ORIGIN OF CIRCUMCISION. The determination of this question does not appear of paramount importance, yet the ascertained results may be briefly indicated.

(1) According to Herodotus (2. 104) circumcision was observed as a custom of primitive antiquity among the Colchiaus, Ethiopians, and Egyptians, by the last of whom it was communicated to the Syrians of Palestine and the Phoenicians. It is, however, uncertain Whether among the Egyptians the practice was universal, as Philo and Herodotus assert, or limited to the priesthood, as Origen believed; and equally doubtful whether the Egyptians themselves may not have adopted it from the Hebrews in the time of Joseph, instead of from the Ethiopians, as appears to be the judgment of Kalisch. Against the idea that circumcision was a national and universal observance among the Egyptians in the time of Abraham, it has been urged that the male servants of the patriarch, some of whom were Egyptians (Genesis 12:16), were not circumcised till Abraham was commanded to perform the rite; that Ishmael, the son of an Egyptian mother, remained uncircumcised till the same time; and that the daughter of Pharaoh recognized Moses as a Hebrew child, which, it is supposed, she could not have done had circumcision been generally practiced among her own people. On the other hand, it is contended that the absence of details as to how the rite should be performed seems to imply that already circumcision was familiar to Abraham; and by some modern Egyptologists it is asserted that an examination of ancient mummies and sculptures, in which circumcision is a distinctive mark between the Egyptians and their enemies, shows that the ceremony must have been in use not among the priests only, but throughout the nation generally so early as the time of the fourth dynasty, i.e. , or considerably earlier than the time of Abraham. Still

(2) though it should be held as indubitably established that circumcision was a prevalent custom among the Egyptians in the time of Abraham, it would not follow that the Hebrews adopted it from them. On the contrary, the Biblical narrative expressly mentions that its observance by the patriarch and- his household was due to a Divine command, and was connected with a religious significance which was altogether foreign to the Egyptians and others by whom that rite was practiced. Among the reasons for its adoption by the heathen nations of antiquity have been assigned, among the Ethiopians, a prophylactic design to ward off certain painful, and often incurable, disorders; among the Egyptians, a regard to cleanliness; and perhaps among the priesthood of the latter country a semi-religious idea (the deification of the generative powers) was associated with a practice which was commonly regarded as enhancing productivity; but the import of the ceremony as enjoined upon the father of the faithful was as widely as possible removed from every one of these ideas, being connected with spiritual conceptions of which the heathen world was entirely ignorant. That a heathen custom should have been adopted by Jehovah and elevated to the rank and connected with the spiritual significance of a religious sign will not occur as a difficulty to those who remember that the rainbow, a well-known natural phenomenon, was selected as the sign for Noah’s covenant, and that Christian baptism is a similar transformation of a previously existing ceremony by which Gentile proselytes were admitted to the Hebrew Church.

It is a testament to the respect for Abraham by his people that they agreed without hesitation. It is hard not to imagine their reaction to the command.

We’re doing what?

The text emphasizes that everything happened “that very day.” Complete, immediate, daring obedience.