You will recall that Abram now has a son, Ishmael by Hagar, Sarai’s maid.
I’m sure even Abram, now ninety-nine would be nursing no doubt that Ishmael was the “chosen one”, but as events later showed as recorded in the Bible, YAHWEH wasn’t done with him as regards giving him that one and only seed via Sarai.
Something significant happened though that I’d like to draw your attention to, for YAHWEH appeared to Abram at this time with the following words:
“I am the Almighty YAHWEH (as. we’ll find severally in the Bible, what you might call HIS signature to authenticate his promise/agreement to man, in this case Abram); walk before me (like in HIS presence), and be thou perfect (a pointer that YAHWEH’s promises also comes with demands, something you don’t get to hear these days with preachers wanting us to believe that YAHWEH’s promises are without conditions).”
Furthermore, YAHWEH tells Abram that,
“….I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly (now, that’s some promise to a man who with his wife had remained ‘Childless’, save for Ishmael, Abram’s son from Sarai’s maid)”
“…..thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee (today we have many nations claiming descent from Abraham, many more also ‘by grace’, also many religions in what’s today termed the Abrahamic religions)”
Interestingly, for a man many considered infertile (before Ishmael came along), with a wife the world has given up hope on as “barren”, YAHWEH then says;
“….I will make you exceeding fruitful (Sarai who’d by now should be well into menopause, will have to conceive and carry the baby to term for this to come to pass), and I will make nations (like all the Arab nations claiming descent from Abraham, and Israel amongst others) of thee, and kings (now so numerous to mention) shall come out of thee”
YAHWEH also promised Abraham that he will establish the covenant/agreement he made with him, with his seed after him in generations to come, stating that he will give unto him and his seed the land where currently he is a stranger, “all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their Mighty One”.
Herein lies the spiritual basis of Jewish claim to the land of Israel. It’s why after several deportations and exilings over several millennia, their root was never detached from the homeland, like a child whose umbilical cord was never cut from the mother after birth (a condition whose incompatibility with life equals the doggedness with which Jews have continued to pursue the agenda to return home, against all odds even in the most impossible of circumstances). I stand to be corrected, but no race or peoples have continued to remain attached to source and origin as the Jews have done over centuries and millennia, not even in our day where the world has become a global village where people hardly live and die in the same region as the one they were Born in.
YAHWEH sealed these promises to Abraham and his seed with a covenant, urging him (as well as his seed) to keep it. This covenant involved the circumcision of every male child of the Hebrew and it was proclaimed in these words,
“…ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.”
This practice is still very much observed amongst Jews to this day, though opposition to it remains rife in Europe where some countries have outlawed it, even amongst Jewish populations. Some cultures in Africa also observe the rites of male circumcision. While some tribes in South Africa circumcise their males as they are about to make the transition into manhood (which is facing wide criticism for recent cases of deaths from uncontrolled bleeding post-operation, and infections following the use of unsterile instruments and materials), the Igbo in Nigeria circumcise their boys on the eighth day after birth (quite similar to what is obtainable amongst the Jews as we shall soon come to see). Egyptian hieroglyphics also suggest that the practice of male circumcision may have also been rampant in ancient Egypt, though the males in the picture appear to be fully grown adults.
Medically, several advantages have been associated with male circumcision, and they include:
– reduces the risk of developing a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), such as a bladder infection.
– may reduce the risk of getting some types ofsexually transmitted infections, such as HIV (recently males of the Luo ethnic group in Kenya, were encouraged to undergo circumcision as a means to curbing the growing HIV transmission rate) and genital herpes.
– Circumcision may reduce the risk of female partners developing some types of sexually transmitted infections, such as Bacterial Vaginosis and Trichomoniasis.
– and it may also reduce the risk of developing Cancer of the Penis.
Unfortunately, there still remains the scourge of Female Genital Mutilation, FGM which most people would conveniently refer to as “Female Circumcision”, practiced in most parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This act is unbiblical and though efforts to curb the trend continues to receive world wide attention, the fact that the act has now been driven underground in most countries associated with it, means that many young girls continue to be clandestinely misused in this way. I will let this issue rest for now so as not to derail too far from the subject matter.
And so YAHWEH instructs Abraham that,
“….he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed…..and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant”
Furthermore, “….the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant”. So ultimately, the SEAL of the covenant YAHWEH made with Abraham was male circumcision.
YAHWEH didn’t stop with blessing Abraham alone but went further to include Sarai saying;
“…as for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her (Sarai was past child-bearing age at ninety years): yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations: kings of people shall be of her.”
Like any “right thinking” man would, Abraham found this greatly amusing and he didn’t hide his amusement, seeing that he was nearing a hundred and Sarah was ninety.
Abraham’s attempt to make YAHWEH recognize Ishmael as the Heir (via the “bird in hand philosophy) met with stiff resistance, but to calm Abraham’s nerves, HE informed him that he’d already blessed Ishmael. HE was quick to reiterate however, that HIS covenant will be established with a yet to be born Isaac (whose name is associated with laughter), “which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time next year.”
It speaks to Abraham’s clout and standing amongst the people he led, that the males humbly submitted themselves to be circumcised though they were already men. Interestingly, the children of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob will employ male circumcision as a tool of war. Abraham was already ninety-nine, while Ishmael was thirteen when they were circumcised amongst other males.
….and that was how YAHWEH sealed his covenant with Abraham and his seed forever, and as usual in his now very characteristic manner, Abraham never questioned YAHWEH’s reason and/or reasoning, even when he was going to procure the covenant on behalf of his children with so much pain!
* Genesis Chapter 17 Verses 1-27, King James Version (With The Holy Name Restored)