Genesis 17:9
And God said to Abraham, You shall keep my covenant therefore, you, and your seed after you in their generations.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
17:7-14 The covenant of grace is from everlasting in the counsels of it, and to everlasting in the consequences of it. The token of the covenant was circumcision. It is here said to be the covenant which Abraham and his seed must keep. Those who will have the Lord to be to them a God, must resolve to be to him a people. Not only Abraham and Isaac, and his posterity by Isaac, were to be circumcised, but also Ishmael and the bond-servants. It sealed not only the covenant of the land of Canaan to Isaac's posterity, but of heaven, through Christ, to the whole church of God. The outward sign is for the visible church; the inward seal of the Spirit is peculiar to those whom God knows to be believers, and he alone can know them. The religious observance of this institution was required, under a very severe penalty. It is dangerous to make light of Divine institutions, and to live in the neglect of them. The covenant in question was one that involved great blessings for the world in all future ages. Even the blessedness of Abraham himself, and all the rewards conferred upon him, were for Christ's sake. Abraham was justified, as we have seen, not by his own righteousness, but by faith in the promised Messiah.The sign of the covenant. "And thou." The other party to the covenant now learns his obligation. "Every male of you shall be circumcised." Circumcision, as the rainbow, might have been in existence before it was adopted as the token of a covenant. The sign of the covenant with Noah was a purely natural phenomenon, and therefore entirely independent of man. That of the Abrahamic covenant was an artificial process, and therefore, though prescribed by God, was dependent on the voluntary agency of man. The former marked the sovereignty of God in ratifying the covenant and insuring its fulfillment, notwithstanding the mutability of man; the latter indicates the responsibility of man, the trust he places in the word of promise, and the assent he gives to the terms of the divine mercy. As the former covenant conveys a common natural blessing to all mankind and contemplates a common spiritual blessing, so the latter conveys a special spiritual blessing and contemplates its universal acceptance. The rainbow was the appropriate natural emblem of preservation from a flood; and the removal of the foreskin was the fit symbol of that removal of the old man and renewal of nature, which qualified Abraham to be the parent of a holy seed. And as the former sign foreshadows an incorruptible inheritance, so the latter prepares the way for a holy seed, by which the holiness and the heritage will at length be universally extended.

It is worthy of remark that in circumcision, after Abraham himself, the parent is the voluntary imponent, and the child merely the passive recipient of the sign of the covenant. Hereby is taught the lesson of parental responsibility and parental hope. This is the first formal step in a godly education, in which the parent acknowledges his obligation to perform all the rest. It is also, on the command of God, the formal admission of the believing parents' offspring into the privileges of the covenant, and therefore cheers the heart of the parent in entering upon the parental task. This admission cannot be reversed but by the deliberate rebellion of the child.

Still further, the sign of the covenant is to be applied to every male in the household of Abraham. This indicates that the servant or serf stands in the relation of a child to his master or owner, who is therefore accountable for the soul of his serf, as for that of his son. It points out the applicability of the covenant to others, as well as the children of Abraham, and therefore its capability of universal extension when the fulness of time should come. It also intimates the very plain but very often forgotten truth, that our obligation to obey God is not cancelled by our unwillingness. The serf is bound to have his child circumcised as long as God requires it, though he may be unwilling to comply with the divine commandments.

8. I will give unto thee … the land—It had been previously promised to Abraham and his posterity (Ge 15:18). Here it is promised as an "everlasting possession," and was, therefore, a type of heaven, "the better country" (Heb 11:16). The agreement is mutual: my part was expressed before; now follows thy part, and the condition to which my promise and blessing is annexed. And God said unto Abraham, thou shalt keep my covenant therefore,.... Observe the sign or token of it, circumcision, in the manner after related:

thou, and thy seed after thee, in their generations; in successive ages until the Messiah come, the end of the law for righteousness.

And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9–14. Circumcision the Token of the Covenant

9. thou shalt keep] “Keep” in the sense of “observe”: the reverse is to “break” (Genesis 17:14) the covenant. Notice the sing, “thou,” and the plur. “ye shall keep” in Genesis 17:10; cf. the interchange of plur. and sing. in Genesis 17:11-13.Verse 9. - And God said unto Abraham, Thou - literally, and thou, the other party to the covenant, the antithesis to I (ver. 4) - shalt keep my covenant - literally, my covenant thou shalt keep - therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. The covenant had been made with Abram for at least fourteen years, and yet Abram remained without any visible sign of its accomplishment, and was merely pointed in faith to the inviolable character of the promise of God. Jehovah now appeared to Him again, when he was ninety-nine years old, twenty-four years after his migration, and thirteen after the birth of Ishmael, to give effect to the covenant and prepare for its execution. Having come down to Abram in a visible form (Genesis 17:22), He said to him, "I am El Shaddai (almighty God): walk before Me and be blameless." At the establishment of the covenant, God had manifested Himself to him as Jehovah (Genesis 15:7); here Jehovah describes Himself as El Shaddai, God the Mighty One. שׁדּי: from שׁדד to be strong, with the substantive termination ai, like חגּי the festal, ישׁישׁי the old man, סיני the thorn-grown, etc. This name is not to be regarded as identical with Elohim, that is to say, with God as Creator and Preserver of the world, although in simple narrative Elohim is used for El Shaddai, which is only employed in the more elevated and solemn style of writing. It belonged to the sphere of salvation, forming one element in the manifestation of Jehovah, and describing Jehovah, the covenant God, as possessing the power to realize His promises, even when the order of nature presented no prospect of their fulfilment, and the powers of nature were insufficient to secure it. The name which Jehovah thus gave to Himself was to be a pledge, that in spite of "his own body now dead," and "the deadness of Sarah's womb" (Romans 4:19), God could and would give him the promised innumerable posterity. On the other hand, God required this of Abram, "Walk before Me (cf. Genesis 5:22) and be blameless" (Genesis 6:9). "Just as righteousness received in faith was necessary for the establishment of the covenant, so a blameless walk before God was required for the maintenance and confirmation of the covenant." This introduction is followed by a more definite account of the new revelation; first of the promise involved in the new name of God (Genesis 17:2-8), and then of the obligation imposed upon Abram (Genesis 17:9-14). "I will give My covenant," says the Almighty, "between Me and thee, and multiply thee exceedingly." בּרית נתן signifies, not to make a covenant, but to give, to put, i.e., to realize, to set in operation the things promised in the covenant - equivalent to setting up the covenant (cf. Genesis 17:7 and Genesis 9:12 with Genesis 9:9). This promise Abram appropriated to himself by falling upon his face in worship, upon which God still further expounded the nature of the covenant about to be executed.
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