Saturday, October 30, 2010

Renewing the Covenant: God's Part (Genesis 17: 1-8)

God renews his covenant with Abram.  At first, I wondered why God had to do that, but then I realized that thirteen years have passed since the events of Genesis 16.  Abram is now 99 years old, and his son Ishmael is quite a young man in his own right.  In the past, Abram's lack of faith in God's provision of an heir led him to agree to seek to obtain a son through Sarah's maidservant, Hagar.  It is time to make a new beginning, to reconfirm the covenant.  The former covenant still stands -- Israel is still promised the land -- but this expanded covenant is a little different.  In the first place, it is not a royal grant, like the other covenant in Genesis 15.  It is more of a suzerain-vassal type of covenant, as explained in this post .  Under this type of covenant, the relationship is like a king to his subject.  The king would pledge to be his sovereign and protect the subject, who in return was expected to display absolute loyalty and obedience. There were conditions placed upon this relationship, which each side was expected to fulfill.

God repeats his promise to greatly increase Abram's descendants (v.2).  Then God begins to explain the terms of the covenant.  First, God outlines his own provisions for Abram:

You will be the father of many nations. (v.3)

Your name will be changed from Abram ("Exalted Father" -- probably in reference to God) to Abraham ("father of many"). (v.5)

God promised to make Abraham very fruitful, a father of many nations, and said that kings would come from him. (v.6)

God would establish His covenant with Abraham and with his descendants.  It would be an everlasting covenant. (v.7)

The whole land of Canaan would be given to Abraham and his descendants as an "everlasting possession". (v.8)

"I will be their God." (v.8)


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