Abraham And Ishmael are Circumcised

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Up to this point, Abraham had assumed that his descendants would come through Ishmael. When God told him that his wife Sarah would bear him a son, Abraham laughed. Abraham laughed because to him it seemed impossible for a barren 90-year old woman to give birth to a son.

Abraham’s lack of faith is evident by his request that God’s promises be fulfilled through Ishmael. Abraham’s desire that Ishmael would be the heir: “O that Ishmael might live before Thee!” (vv. 17- 18). God makes it clear that it is Isaac and not Ishmael that will be the son of promise (v. 19).

God assures Abraham that Ishmael will not be forgotten, but that he will have many descendants and become a mighty nation (v. 20). God has kept His word as the Arab world today stretches from the Atlantic seaboard to the Persian Gulf. This geographical area embraces some seventeen of the most strategically placed and economically wealthy countries in the world. The problem is that they don’t know God. The Arabs are one of the most deadly and militant groups the world has ever known. Our news media today is constantly reporting about the Arab’s spreading terrorism around the world.

Having received God’s word about Isaac, Abraham immediately obeyed God’s command in that he was circumcised at the age of 99, a reflection of his faith (vv. 21-27). He also had Ishmael circumcised at the age of 13, but Ishmael was a rebel from birth; circumcision did nothing to change his heart.


Religious rituals do nothing to change my heart. Righteousness must come from God working within me, I must never even think that my faithful attendance in church or having my Quiet-time every day has anything to do with my eternal salvation.

Genesis 17:17-27 (English Standard Version)

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?" And Abraham said to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before you!" 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 offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year." When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. 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. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

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