Genesis Chapter 17 Questions and Answers

In Genesis chapter 17, we see why God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and that the Jewish rite of circumcision symbolizes God's covenant with His chosen people.

About these Answers

Day One

1.  Review the text of Genesis chapter 17.  How many times does the text say “as for” and then someone’s name follows?  For example, “as for John. . .”

There are four “as for somebody” statements, three times in most translations.  They provide the details regarding the responsibilities of the parties to the covenant.  The following four verses contain the “as for somebody” statements:

  • verse 4
  • verse 9
  • verse 15
  • verse 20

Some translations don't have the “as for” text in verse 4.  For example, the English Standard Version has three, not four occurrences.

2.  Who's the person in the “as for” statements you identified above?  Which of them is required or commanded to do something by another in these “as for” statements?

  • verse 4:   God
  • verse 9:   Abraham
  • verse 15: Sarah
  • verse 20: Ismael

In verse 9, Abraham is required to circumcise all the males to serve as a sign of the covenant between God and his family.

God states that He will do many things but no one commands Him - He simply does them as He sees fit or as He promises.

Day Two

3. Identify the ages of Abraham, Sarah, and Ishmael at the time God spoke to Abraham from your review of chapter 17. 

  • According to verse 24, Abraham was 99 after God spoke to him.  It’s assumed that his reference to being 100 in verse 17 was a case of him looking forward to the timing of the birth of the promised son.
  • Abraham reveals in verse 17 that he is 10 years older than Sarah. Therefore, if according to verse 24 Abraham was 99 at the time, then Sarah would have been 89.
  • According to verse 25, Ishmael was 13 after God spoke to Abraham. 

4.  Review the text of Chapter 17.  How many times does God state to Abraham “I will” followed by a promise?  Cite the verses.  Include verses with multiple occurrences of the verb “will” but only one occurrence of the subject “I”.

God tells Abraham that He will do something 17 times in Genesis Chapter 17.  Here are the nine verses where they occur:

Verses and the Number of Occurrences (from the Holman Christian Standard translation of the Bible)

Twice in verse 2:

  • I will establish My covenant between Me and you 
  • I will multiply you greatly

Once in verse 5:

  • I will make you the father of many nations

Twice in verse 6:

  • I will make you extremely fruitful and 
  • (the I is implied) will make nations and kings come from you

Once in verse 7:

  • I will keep My covenant between Me and you

Twice in verse 8:

  • I will give the land where you are residing 
  • I will be their God

Three times in verse 16:

  • I will bless her
  • I will give you a son by her
  • I will bless her

Once in verse 19:

  • I will confirm My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant 

Four times in verse 20:

  • I will certainly bless him
  • I will make him fruitful 
  • (the I is implied) will multiply him greatly
  • I will make him into a great nation

Once in verse 21:

  • I will confirm My covenant with Isaac

Day Three

5.  What are the blessings or promises of God to Abraham, Sarah, and Ishmael in chapter 17?

Ten Blessings or Promises to Abraham

  1. verse 2 - I will establish my covenant with you 
  2. verse 2 - I will multiply you greatly
  3. verse 4 - you will become the father of many nations
  4. verse 5 - I will make you the father of many nations
  5. verse 6 - I will make you extremely fruitful
  6. verse 6 - I will make nations and kings come from you
  7. verse 7 - I will keep my covenant between me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you
  8. verse 8 - I will give you and your future offspring the land where you are residing, all the land of Canaan, as an eternal possession
  9. verse 8 - I will be their God (i.e. Abraham’s future offspring)
  10. verse 16 - I will give you a son by Sarah 

Three Blessings or Promises to Sarah

  1. verse 16 - I will bless her
  2. verse 16 - I will bless her and she will produce nations
  3. verse 16 - kings of peoples will come from her

Four Blessings or Promises to Ishmael

  1. verse 20 - I will certainly bless him
  2. verse 20 - I will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly
  3. verse 20 - He will father 12 tribal leaders
  4. verse 20 - I will make him into a great nation

Sarah is blessed by having a son although God says he will give Abraham a son in verse 16, Sarah will be blessed also.  The blessings or promises are repeated for Abraham (verses 4 and 5) and Sarah (verse 16) but not for Ishmael (verse 20).  All three are given the promise that a nation will come from them. In the case of Ishmael a great nation but in the case of Abraham and Sarah multiple nations are promised.

6.  In this chapter of Genesis, we see God giving names to Abraham, his wife Sarah, and his son Issac.  God had previously given Hagar the name of her son Ishmael (16:11).  Abraham accepted this and named his first son accordingly (16:15).  Ismael means "God hears".  Abraham means "Father of a multitude".  Sarah means "princess".  Isaac means "he laughs".

When God gave these names to them, can you imagine the reaction of the hundreds of servants (Genesis 14:14) in Abraham's household?  Here was a man who's almost 100 years old telling his servants that from now on they were to call him the Father of Multitudes!  And then he tells his servants to call his barren and aged wife Princess!   

How do you think they may have reacted when Abraham announced their new names?  How do you think that may have reacted when Sarah became pregnant and gave birth?  

Of course the servants would have obeyed because after all, they were servants.  But it's likely they must have talked amongst themselves or smirked when the new names were announced.  However, when Sarah became pregnant and the Isaac was born, they must only have been able to be greatly amazed.  The 90 year old Princess gave birth to a son!  

They must have only been able to give credit to God and believe that only He could have predicted and caused the miracle birth.  Abraham must have gained even greater respect from his servants after the miracle of the promised son.  

Day Four

7. Read Romans chapter 4, verses 13 through 25.  How does this passage help us understand the relationship between Genesis 15:6 and

chapter 17?  Also, how does it explain how Abraham is related to Christians today?

The Bible explains in Genesis 15 that Abraham was childless and complained to God that he had no children (Genesis 15:2).  God responded to tell Abraham that he would have a child, and specifically an heir and therefore a son (Genesis 15:4).  But God doesn't stop there.  He goes beyond this promise of a son to repeat His earlier promise (Genesis 13:16) that Abraham's offspring would be too numerous to count (Genesis 17:5). So in Genesis 15:6 we see that Abraham believed God's intention and ability to fulfill His promise despite Abraham and Sarah's advanced ages.  

Despite his lapse of judgement in having a son with Hagar (Genesis 16), the Lord appears to Abraham and reaffirms His promise that he will have a son.  Not only that he will be the father but that Sarah will be a mother (Genesis 17:16).  Only the Lord can make it possible for a 90 year old woman to have a son with a 100 year old father.

Romans 4 helps explain the faith of Abraham.  He believed:

  • in God, who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist. (Romans 4:17, HCSB) 
  • hoping against hope, so that he became the father of many nations according to what had been spoken: So will your descendants be. (Romans 4:18, HCSB)  

We learn from Romans that Abraham believed that he and Sarah were dead in the sense of reproductive ability because of their ages.  But we see also that Abraham believed that God but that what God had promised He was able to do (Romans 4:19-20).  Because of his faith in God's promise to bring to life what is dead, Abraham is called the father of us all in God's sight (Romans 4:16-17).

Like Abraham, to become a Christian one must have faith in God's intention and ability to provide life.  Only God can bring to life a man, woman, or child who is destined to die an eternal death.  Only through faith like our father Abraham can we enjoy the miracle of being born again by the power of God.  Like Abraham, we can only become righteous by our faith in God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead (Romans 4:20-25).

8.  When God had previously spoken to Abraham, He had promised him that He would:

  • make him into a great nation (12:2)
  • give his offspring the land of the Canaanites (12:7)
  • make his offspring like the dust of the earth so that no one could count them (13:16)
  • allow him to be the father of a son or heir (15:4)  
  • make his offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky (15:5)

In verse 6 of Genesis 15, the Bible tells us that Abraham believed God regarding His promise.  Since the time Abraham left his father’s house at age 75, to the time of this covenant promise in Genesis chapter 17 when Abraham is the age of 99, Abraham believed God.

But in chapter 16 we see that after about ten years of waiting for the promised offspring, Abraham gives in to his wife’s scheme to provide an heir.  He has a son by her slave Hagar.  

Then it’s likely that Abraham thought for the previous 13 years before God speaks to him in chapter 17 that Ishmael would be his heir.  So after waiting without very specific details for twenty five years, God fulfilled His promise to Abram, but only on His terms.   

What about you? Have you waited or been waiting for a long time for a blessing from God?  How long have you waited and how has it affected your relationship with God or your faith in Him?

Your Answer Here

Day Five

9.  In the verses cited in the previous question, God revealed many things to Abraham about his offspring.  He also told Abramham in chapter 15 that He would rescue his offspring from enslavement and oppression (15:13-14).  Then, in chapter 17 God tells Abraham other things He had not previously disclosed about his offspring.  What are they?

God reveals the following to Abraham about his offspring:

  • his descendants would be kings (Genesis 17:6)
  • he would have a son who would also have a son (Genesis 17:19)
  • God would confirm His covenant with his son as an everlasting covenant (Genesis 17:19)
  • Ishmael would be blessed, fruitful, greatly multiplied, the father of 12 tribal leaders, and a great nation (Genesis 17:20)

10.  Answer the following questions regarding circumcision in this chapter.  

  • Who commanded it to be done?
  • Who was commanded to be circumcised?
  • When was the person to be circumcised?
  • What was the penalty for not being circumcised?
  • Why was the command given for circumcision?

God commanded (verse 10) that Abraham and his offspring (verses 10-11) and all his servants (verses 12-13) be circumcised on the eighth day (verse 12).  If someone was not circumcised he would be cut off from his people (verse 14).  The commandment was given as a sign of the eternal covenant between God and Abraham (verses 10, 11, and 13).

Circumcision was a visible but private reminder of the covenant.  Henry M. Morris points out in his commentary The Genesis Record, that the:

  • emphasis of the covenant was on the promised seed and the abundant offspring of Abraham
  • cutting around or circumcision of the channel for the seed (the male organ) is a picture of "God's protective and productive will"
  • circumcision was primarily a sign to the one circumcised, his parents, and his wife

On this last point Morris observes:

"It was not a sign to be shown to people in general, but was uniquely personal.  

To his parents it would confirm that they had been faithful in transmitting the seed to the son with whom God had blessed their union, and they were trying to follow God's will in training him.  

To his wife, it would give assurance that he indeed was a descendant of Abraham, to whom she could joyfully submit in the marriage relation, in faith that God would bless their home and their children.  

To the man himself, it would be a daily testimony that he and his family were consecrated to the God of Abraham and that they shared in his calling and ministry to the world."

Morris also points out that circumcision was a call for Abraham and his household to be separate from the sexual deviancy of the world around them.  They had a choice as Victor Hamilton points out in his commentary, The Book of Genesis, "be cut or be cut off"

We pray these Genesis Chapter 17 questions and answers have been a blessing to you.

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