King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Genesis 17

God renews the covenant with Abram. (1-6) Circumcision instituted. (7-14) Sarai’s name changed, Isaac promised. (15-22) Abraham and his family are circumcised. (23-27)

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God renews the covenant with Abram

1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,

4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

5 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.

6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

Circumcision instituted

7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.

8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.

12 And 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.

13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

14 And 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.

Sarai’s name changed, Isaac promised

15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.

16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.

17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?

18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!

19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.

20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.

21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.

22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.

Abraham and his family are circumcised

23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.

24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.

27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Walk, &c. by assiduous meditation and advancement in virtue. This apparition was to inform Abram, that the promised seed should be born of Sarai. H.

Ver. 4. I am unchangeable, and faithful to my promises, the only God. D. — Nations. Jews, Saracens or Arabs, Idumeans, and, by faith, of all nations who shall believe in Christ, the King of kings. C. — The true Church will never then be reduced to a few unknown believers, as the Donatists and Protestants assert. W.

Ver. 5. Abraham. Abram, in the Hebrew, signifies a high father; but Abraham, the father of the multitude: Sarai signifies my Lady, but Sara absolutely Lady. Ch. — God thus receives them, as it were, into his own family. C.

Ver. 7. Perpetual; that shall last as long as they remain obedient. M. v. 9.

Ver. 11. You shall, either by yourselves, or by the ministry of others, with respect to infants. That part of the body was chosen, because the effects of sin first appeared there; and because a part of the Hebrews’ creed was, that Christ should be born of the family of Abraham. — A sign that Abraham had agreed to the covenant with God, and to be a memorial of his faith and justice, Rom. iv. 2.; to distinguish also the faithful from infidels; to purge away original sin in male children, eight days old; and to be a figure of baptism. M. T. — God always appoints some sign of his covenants, as Jesus Christ instituted the holy sacrament of his body and blood, under exterior appearances, to assure us of his new alliance with Christians. C. — The sacraments of the old law caused grace, only by means of faith in the Redeemer, of which they were signs. S. Aug. de Nupt. ii. c. ult. In this sense, the holy fathers assert, that circumcision remitted original sin to those who could receive it; though some think, it was only a bare sign or distinctive mark of the Jews. C. — It is far beneath our baptism, which is more easy, general and efficacious; as the Christian sacraments are not like those of Moses, weak and needy elements. Gal. iv. 9. S. Aug. ep. 158, ad Jan. Ps. 73, &c. W.

Ver. 12. Days, when he will be able to bear the pain without danger. This might be deferred for a just reason, as it was in the desert. Jos. v. 6. In this case people might be saved, as younger children and all females might, by the application of the remedies used in the law of nature, sacrifice, the faith of parents, &c. M. — Of your stock, and, being arrived at years of discretion, is desirous of enjoying your privileges. Some think, that slaves had no choice left; but servants, and people who had a mind to live in the country, were not bound to submit to this rite against their will. It is even more probable, that none were under this obligation, except Abraham and his posterity by Isaac. His other children adopted it in part, but not with the exactitude of the Jews. C.

Ver. 14. Circumcised. Sept. adds, “on the eighth day,” with the Sam. and many Latin copies. C. — Destroyed, &c. lose the privileges of the Hebrews, or be put to death, when he grows up and does not supply this defect. S. Aug. reading on the eighth day, concluded that as a child of that age, could not, with reason, be put to death for an offense, in which he could have no share, the destruction here threatened is that of the soul, for transgression, in Adam, the original covenant, and dying in that state unclean, must be excluded from heaven, as people are now who die unbaptized. This difficult passage may, however, be explained as if the threat regarded the negligent parents. “He who shall not circumcise…shall be destroyed.” Syr. or, as the Heb. may be rendered, “the male that doth not,” &c.; in which case, he becomes guilty of a transgression, when he is arrived at the years sufficient to understand his duty, and does not fulfil it. W.

Ver. 15. Sara, princess of all the nations of the faithful, not simply of one family. M.

Ver. 16. Bless, and enable her to have a son, who shall also have many children. — Whom. This is referred to Sara, in Heb. and Chal.; but to Isaac, in the Syriac. The blessing, at any rate, reverts to the mother; who was a figure of the blessed Virgin, and of the Church; both persecuted with their children; both, in the end, triumphant. Gal. iv. 23. C.

Ver. 17. Laughed for joy and admiration at such unexpected news. “He rejoiced,” says the Chal.: the faith of Abraham is never called into question. Rom. iv. 19.

Ver. 18. Before thee, under thy protection, and in a virtuous manner. M. — He seems to be satisfied, though Go should not bless him with any more children, provided this one may live worthy of God. H.

Ver. 19. Isaac, “laughter,” alluding to the exultation of Abraham, more than to the laughter of Sara, which deserved some reprehension. G. xxi. 6.

Ver. 20. Nation of Arabs, who are still divided into twelve tribes. See G. xxv. 13. C.

Ver. 23. His house. All wee kept in such good order by their master, that none was found unwilling to submit, if indeed it was left to their choice. H. — Abraham loses no time in complying with God’s commands. M.

Ver. 25. Full thirteen, or beginning his fourteenth year, at which age the Arabs and Mahometans still generally circumcise; but without any order from God. C.