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The Covenant of Circumcision between El Shaddai and Abraham

In Genesis 17:1 the Bible first records God revealing Himself as El Shaddai to Abraham.

Almighty God who is “More Than Enough” confirmed His covenant.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Genesis 17:1-2

The Septuagint and other early translations usually translate “El Shaddai”as “God Almighty.” Shaddai is connected to shadayim, the Hebrew word for “breasts.” El points to the power of God Himself. Shaddai signifies the One who nourishes, supplies, and satisfies. In several instances in the Torah the name El Shaddai is connected with fruitfulness. El Shaddai is a name that means God is “The All-Sufficient One” and that God is “More Than Enough.” Our God is capable of meeting all our needs.

So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Genesis 15:9-10

The LORD had already cut a blood covenant with Abram promising that Abram would have a son coming from his own body and numerous descendents. But Sarai, who was barren, had grown impatient and gave her handmaid Hagar to her husband in an attempt to build a family through her servant. In confirming His covenant, God continues in the progressive revelation of His divine character and power as well as clarifies the terms of the agreement.

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.” Genesis 17:3-6

Abram prostrated himself before the LORD. This act is one of humility and reverence. The worshipper drops to his knees, falls forward onto his elbows, and bends his face forward until his forehead touches the ground.

Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:9-10

John the Revelator after he fell at the feet of an angel was commanded not to worship anyone but God.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. Exodus 20:4-6

A slave can bow before his master, and a commoner can bow before his king. These are forms of respect and honor given by a person of lower estate to a person of higher authority. But bowing before a carved or graven image – a statue carved from wood or chiseled from stone – breaks the 2nd commandment. The act of bending your knees before a statute in reverence is idolatry and provokes God to jealousy.

God changed Abram’s name which means, “Exalted Father,” and gave him the name, Abraham which means “Father of Many.” He would be the patriarch of numerous natural children through both Ishmael (the Arabic tribes), as well as through Isaac (the tribes of Israel).

“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” Genesis 17:7-8

The Hebrew word – ~’lw{[ (owlam) which is translated as, “everlasting” means that the covenant between the LORD and Abraham’s descendants is forever and always. This covenant’s existence is continuous and perpetual, having an unending future because it is eternal. The land of the promise – the whole land of Canaan – is to be an everlasting possession as well.

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” Genesis 17:9-14

The “brit milah” or “bris miloh” (covenant of circumcision) is performed on the eighth day. It is a blood covenant and the Hebrew word “brit” literally means “to cut.” A variety of modern-day studies suggest that circumcision is linked with decreased risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

But why did the LORD command that circumcision be performed on the eighth day? Vitamin K is responsible for the production (by the liver) of the element known as prothrombin. If vitamin K is deficient, there will be a prothrombin deficiency and hemorrhaging may occur. Oddly, it is only on the fifth through the seventh days of the newborn male’s life that vitamin K (produced by bacteria in the intestinal tract) is present in adequate quantities. Vitamin K, coupled with prothrombin, causes blood coagulation. On the eighth day, the amount of prothrombin present actually is elevated above one-hundred percent of normal—and is the only day in the male’s life in which this will be the case under normal conditions. If surgery is to be performed, day eight is the perfect day to do it. Vitamin K and prothrombin levels are at their peak.

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. Romans 4:11-12

Abraham is not only the father of many natural children, but also the father of many spiritual children who by faith have undergone the circumcision of their hearts.

God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Genesis 17:15-16

Sarai is the fourth woman mentioned by name in the Bible, and the first woman named who is in the line of Seth. The name Sarah comes from the Hebrew verb sarar meaning – to rule, reign, to be princely or govern. The feminine derivation, sara is identical to the name Sarah, and is used for royal ladies of the court. “Sarai” means “my princess”, but “Sarah” means simply “Princess”, indicating that she will be exalted, not only by her husband but by all nations.

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Genesis 17:17-18

Abraham’s laughter was a reaction of his delight. Abraham believed that he and his wife Sarah would be blessed with a son in spite of their advanced ages. The covenant was to be established and passed on to the next generation through this miraculous conception. Abraham may have come to the realization that Ishmael was not the son of the promise. Concerned that Ishmael might be forsaken, Abraham petitions God seeking a blessing for Ishmael.

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. Hebrews 11:10-12

Abraham believed that God was able and faithful to fulfill His promise. Abraham did not focus on his impossible circumstances but upon a God through whom all things are possible. Therefore Abraham was to be blessed with descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky (the spiritual seed of Abraham) and as countless as the sand on the seashore (the natural descendants of Abraham).

Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.” Genesis 17:19

God told Abraham to give the son that Sarah will bear the name, “Isaac.” The name Isaac which originates from the Hebrew word, “Yitschaq” means, “He laughs.” The son that Abraham and Sarah will conceive was to be named Isaac. This name was chosen because Abraham laughed with joy that a son would be born to him when was hundred years old and his wife was ninety. To dispel any doubt in Abraham’s mind that the son of the promise will be Isaac and not Ishmael, God reiterates His statement to Abraham that Sarah will bear him a son. God confirms that it will be through Isaac and his descendants that the covenant will be established and not through Ishmael.

And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. Genesis 17:20

God response to the plea of Abraham on behalf of Ishmael is, “I have heard you.” The name Ishmael means, “God hears.” The opening phrase of Genesis 17:20 can be literally translated, “And as for God hears, I have heard you.”

Ishmael is given a physical blessing. He is promised to become the father of 12 tribes and the patriarch of a great nation. But Ishmael does not partake of the Abrahamic covenant which includes the “Promised Land,” nor is he in the line of the promised Messiah.

“But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him. Genesis 17:21-22

In repeating His statement, the LORD emphasizes the fact that the covenant will be established with Isaac. The LORD clearly states that as for Ishmael, he will be fruitful – BUT my covenant I will establish with Isaac.

So why then is there any doubt that the Jews and not the Arabs have the right to the land of Israel? Why does the Quartet – The European Union, The United Nations, Russia and the United States insist that the Jews must give up so-called occupied territories for the promise of peace with their enemies who have vowed their annihilation?

The Koran (Qur’an) states:

“The Prophet Ishmael (Isma’il) “was a Messenger and a Prophet;” he was the son of Abraham and Hagar, Abraham’s second wife. When Abraham was young he received a “dream” from God in which he was “slaughtering” Ishmael. Although this was extremely difficult for Abraham to do, he proceeded anyway into the desert to sacrifice Ishmael. When Abraham told his son what God planned, Ishmael offered himself willingly saying, “Father, do what thou art commanded; thou wilt find me, if Allah please, steadfast.” But God made Abraham’s knife dull like wax and Abraham was unable to shed Ishmael’s blood. God saw both Abraham’s tears and his devotion and, therefore, God caused a ram to appear for Abraham to sacrifice instead of Ishmael.”

This claim in the Koran that it was Ishmael that was to be sacrificed is totally contradictory to the account in Genesis 22 where Isaac pre-figures Messiah and was bound on an altar. According to the account in Hebrews 11:19: “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” Note that the New Testament is in agreement with the account in Genesis that it was Isaac and not Ishmael offered up by Abraham.

The Koran was written in the late 7th century, while most of the Torah was written 3,000 years ago. The Books of Moses pre-date the Koran by 17 centuries. Muslims claim that the Bible has been corrupted. But the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written 900 years before the Koran, confirms that the Hebrew Scriptures have remained virtually intact.

The Koran also claims that:

“When Ishmael grew older God called on Abraham and his son to go to Mecca and rebuild the mosque (Ka’ba) there. The original shrine, built by Adam, was displaced during the flood. Upon its completion, Ishmael “settled in [the] barren valley near Thy Sacred House” of Mecca with his mother; there he married. Ishmael’s progeny became known as the Quraysh, the direct ancestors of Muhammad. Ishmael was the first Prophet to write and preach of the one true God – to “perform Prayer with due observance”– in Arabic; he is the “father of all the Arabs.”

Muhammad is the father of all Arabs. The Muslims deny the divine right of the covenant people of God – the children of Israel – to live in the Promised Land, because they replaced the true son of the promise – Isaac – with Ishmael.

Today’s world leaders, spiritually blind and desiring Arab oil, are more than willing to appease the Muslim world by demonizing Jews as occupiers and oppressors rather than the rightful heirs to the land of Israel. The Quartet is pressuring Israel to, “Give up land for peace.” After Israel gave the Gaza Strip over to the Palestinians, instead of peace, Israel received periodic rocket attacks. Land for peace also means that the Golan Heights will go back to Syria. The hostility, the ongoing bombardments, the shooting and the terror the entire Jordan Valley lived under for 19 years will start all over again. In return for piece of paper that has no meaning to the Arabs (they have not honored on one clause of the Oslo Accords and the Road Map to Peace), the nation of Israel is to go back to the pre-1967 borders. The true purpose of a “land for peace” agreement is to render the land of Israel as virtually indefensible.

On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that same day. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him. Genesis 17:23-27

Jews are circumcised on the eighth day according to the Abrahamic Covenant. Isaac was circumcised on the 8th day. This commandment is reiterated in Leviticus 12:1-3:

The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised.

Of all of the Torah’s 613 commandments, the “brit milah” (the Covenant of Circumcision) is probably the one most universally observed. Even the most secular of Jews, who observe no other part of Torah, are almost always circumcised. The commandment is binding upon both the father of the child and the child himself. Jews are circumcised on the 8th day as a sign of the covenant between the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants.

On the other hand, Ishmael was circumcised when he was thirteen.

According to the Qur’an, there is not an obligation on parents to circumcise their children. Unlike the Jewish tradition, in Islam circumcision is not a symbol of Allah’s covenant with humans. But the prophet Mohammed is reported to have stated that “Circumcision is a sunnah (customary or traditional) for the men.”

Islamic sources do not fix a particular time for circumcision. It depends on family, region and country. A majority of Ulema (Muslim legal scholars) however take the view that parents should get their child circumcised before the age of ten. The preferred age is usually seven although some Muslims are circumcised as early as on the seventh day after birth and as late as at the commencement of puberty.

By their own admission and according to the Qur’an, circumcision is not a symbol of a covenant for Muslims. They are not in covenant relationship with the Almighty – the Creator of heaven and earth. The descendants of Ishmael covet was rightfully belongs to the descendants of Isaac and are willing to rob, kill and destroy to get it. But one day, the prophetic name Isaac – He laughs – will find its ultimate fulfillment as recorded in Psalm 2 and verses 1-6:

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”