Nipissing University  -- History 2055 -- Ancient Civilizations

Reading for October 30, 2000

Abraham's Covenant

Introduction (Muhlberger):

The entire Bible, Hebrew and Christian, can be seen as a series of covenants or agreements between God and his people.   One of the most important covenants was that between God and Abram or Abraham.  It is still given great, though differing, importance, by Jews, Christians and Muslims.   The following is from the first book of the Old Testament, Genesis, chapter 17.

Who is the covenant between?   What exactly are the terms of the covenant -- what does God promise and what does he require?   Who seems to be excluded?   What can be deduced about the nature of God from this text?


Genesis, Chapter 17


     1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, "I am God Almighty;
     walk before me, and be blameless. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you
     exceedingly." 3 Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4 "Behold, my covenant is with you, and you
     shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be
     Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will
     make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you
     and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to
     your descendants after you. 8 And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your
     sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."

     9 And God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you
     throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your
     descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of
     your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He that is eight days old among you
     shall be circumcised; every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house, or bought with your
     money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he that is born in your house and he that is bought
     with your money, shall be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any
     uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has
     broken my covenant."

     15 And God said to Abraham, "As for Sar'ai your wife, you shall not call her name Sar'ai, but Sarah shall be her
     name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her; I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of
     nations; kings of peoples shall come from her." 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself,
     "Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" 18
     And Abraham said to God, "O that Ish'mael might live in thy sight!" 19 God said, "No, but Sarah your wife shall
     bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant
     for his descendants after him. 20 As for Ish'mael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him and make him fruitful
     and multiply him exceedingly; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But I
     will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year."

     22 When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. 23 Then Abraham took Ish'mael his son
     and all the slaves 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 Ish'mael his son was thirteen years old
     when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 That very day Abraham and his son Ish'mael 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.