Chapter 17 begins with the next time God talks to Abram. The last we heard of Abram, Ishmael had just been born. Abram was 86 then. He is now 99 years old. It has been 13 years and Ishmael is a teenager. There still are no other children. The last time God had spoken to Abram was to establish the covenant, more than 13 years previously, for it was after that that Ishmael was born. That 13+ year gap leaves us with an interesting dilemma regarding what happens next. When God talks to Abram (in verse 2) God says He will nathan His covenant with Abram. The King James translates this word as 'make' while the NIV translates it as 'confirm.' Here we have a radical difference! Is this a new covenant or a confirmation of the previous one? The word 'nathan' can go either way or a number of other ways. It has a multitude of uses and applications. But Bible is to explain Bible. And, again, it does. If we go to Romans 4, in the New Testament, we will find Paul gives us the answer very specifically: 3. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." ...9. Is this blessedness only for the circumcised or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised The faith that was credited to him as righteousness was the faith exhibited in chapter 15, when God told him to go outside and 'tell' or 'recount' the stars (please see the study on chapter 15 for a further explanation of this). Therefore, circumcision was NOT a new covenant, but the confirmation of the one before. This is one of the relatively few cases where the NIV text has the better translation, I think. God then promises Abram that he will be the father of many nations, and it is at this point that God Himself changes Abram's name to Abraham, which reflects the fact that he will be the father of many nations. "Abram" means "exalted father" while "Abraham" means "father of many." Again God says Abraham will be very fruitful, but this time He adds something -- this covenant will be an everlasting covenant and not just between God and Abraham, but between God and Abraham's descendants. And again God promises the land to Abraham's descendants. It is only after all that, that God then tells Abraham what his part in the covenant is to be, as well as all the males in his household and all the male children born there: circumcision. We know now that circumcision was to represent a spiritual truth, which Paul explains so clearly in the New Testament. But Abraham had no way of knowing this! He only knew he had to obey. Before God is finished talking to Abraham, though, He adds even one more thing: Sarah, which is the new name God has given Sarai, will indeed bear a son to Abraham, and through this line nations and kings will come. At this we read that Abraham "fell facedown; he laughed..." He was 99; he would be 100 before any child was born even if it was conceived immediately. And Sarah! She would be 90! So Abraham asks God to have Ishmael live under His blessing. Abraham's belief has just been stretched to the breaking point. Ishmael is his son and that's going to be it. God says yes, He will bless Ishmael and make a great nation out of him, but it is through Sarah that He intends something far more special. In a year, Sarah will be a mother of her own son, and God has told Abraham the name of the son will be Isaac, which means "He laughs." Thus Isaac will be a constant reminder to Abraham that he laughed at God's promise! Remember now that Abraham is 99. He has been told to be circumcised. Ishmael is in for it, too. So is every man there. That would give most people a LONG pause! But Abraham DOES believe and obey God, and we read that on that VERY day Abraham, Ishmael, and EVERY male in that household was circumcised. Now stop for a moment. This is a culture where war is constant somewhere or another! The men in Abraham's household were his soldiers and servants! And for a couple of days they couldn't even walk, let alone fight! THAT's trusting God!