Genesis 17:15-17 Meaning and Commentary

By Faith Way

Genesis 17:15-17

Genesis 17:15-17 Meaning and Commentary

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 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.” 17 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?”

Genesis 17:15-17 Meaning

Genesis 17:15-17 Meaning and Commentary

In Genesis 17:15-17, the passage describes an interaction between God and Abram (later known as Abraham) where God reaffirms His covenant with Abram and Sarai (later known as Sarah). The passage holds significant meaning within the context of the Abrahamic covenant and the promise of descendants.

Firstly, in verse 15, God changes Sarai’s name to Sarah, signifying a shift in her identity and purpose. This change represents a transformation from “princess” to “mother of nations,” indicating that she will become the mother of many nations and that kings will come from her lineage. This alteration in name symbolizes a divine intervention and a redefinition of her role in the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Moving on to verses 16 and 17, we see Abraham’s reaction to God’s promise of a son through Sarah. At this point, Abraham is 99 years old, and Sarah is 90, making the idea of them having a child seem impossible by natural means. Abraham falls facedown and laughs, thinking to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” This reaction reflects both disbelief and amusement at the seemingly improbable nature of God’s promise.

The significance of this passage lies in the themes of faith, divine intervention, and the fulfillment of God’s promises. Despite their advanced age and the apparent impossibility of conceiving a child, God assures Abraham and Sarah of His plan to bless them with a son. This serves as a testament to the power and faithfulness of God, emphasizing that His promises are not bound by human limitations or circumstances.

Furthermore, the passage underscores the importance of trust and obedience in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. It highlights the human tendency to doubt, yet it also showcases God’s ability to work beyond human understanding and bring about His plans in unexpected ways. Ultimately, this passage foreshadows the birth of Isaac, who becomes a pivotal figure in the continuation of God’s covenant with Abraham and the eventual fulfillment of God’s promises to him.

Genesis 17:15-17 carries profound meaning as it portrays the transformative power of God, the testing of faith, and the assurance of His unwavering commitment to His covenant. It serves as a reminder that God’s plans transcend human limitations and that His promises are always fulfilled, even when circumstances appear impossible.

himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”


Genesis 17:15-17 Meaning and Commentary
  1. Introduction
    • Brief overview of Genesis 17:15-17
    • Explanation of the importance of studying this passage
  2. The Covenant of Circumcision

    • Symbolism of circumcision
    • The significance of this covenant for the Israelite people
    • Comparison to other covenants in the Bible
  3. The Promise of a Son and a Nation

    • Background information on Abraham and Sarah’s situation
    • The meaning behind God’s promise
    • The fulfillment of this promise in future generations
  4. Doubts and Questions

    • Examining Abraham’s doubts and questions
    • Sarah’s doubtful reaction
    • Lessons we can learn from their responses
  5. Conclusion

    • Recap of the key points in Genesis 17:15-17
    • The relevance of this passage in our modern lives
    • Final thoughts and reflections

The Covenant of Circumcision

Genesis 17:15-17 Meaning and Commentary

In Genesis 17:15-17, God speaks to Abraham and establishes a covenant with him, promising to make him the father of many nations. But before making this promise, God instructs Abraham to circumcise himself, his household, and all of his male descendants as a sign of this covenant. This act of circumcision holds great symbolism and importance in both the biblical and cultural contexts.

Genesis 17-15-17 Meaning and Commentary
Genesis 17-15-17 Meaning and Commentary

Symbolism of Circumcision

The physical act of circumcision involves the removal of the foreskin of the penis. While it may seem like a simple procedure, the symbolism behind it is rich and profound. In the Old Testament, circumcision was seen as a symbol of purification and consecration to God. It was also a sign of belonging to the covenant community of Israel. Through this physical sign, the Israelites were reminded of their commitment to follow God’s laws and live a life that was set apart for Him.

Furthermore, circumcision also symbolizes the cutting away of sin and impurity. In Deuteronomy 10:16, it says, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.” This verse highlights the spiritual significance of circumcision. It is not just about the physical act, but also about the state of one’s heart. By removing the foreskin, which is considered unclean, one is also symbolically removing the impurities of their heart and committing themselves to God.

The Significance of this Covenant for the Israelite People

To understand the significance of this covenant, we must first understand the cultural context of the Israelite people. At that time, circumcision was already a common practice among other cultures. However, what made this covenant unique was its connection to the promise of descendants and land. By circumcising themselves and their descendants, the Israelites were acknowledging their place in God’s plan and their role as His chosen people.

This covenant also served as a reminder of God’s faithfulness and promises. Every time an Israelite saw the physical mark of circumcision, they would be reminded of God’s promise to make them a great nation and bless them. This was especially important during difficult times, as it would serve as a source of encouragement and hope.

Comparison to Other Covenants in the Bible

In addition to the covenant of circumcision, there are other covenants mentioned in the Bible, such as the covenant with Noah and the covenant with Moses. Each of these covenants has its own significance and purpose, but they all point towards God’s ultimate plan of salvation for His people.

The covenant with Noah, which is mentioned in Genesis 9, promised that God would never again destroy the earth with a flood. This covenant serves as a reminder of God’s mercy and His promise to always provide a way out for His people.

The covenant with Moses, on the other hand, is more detailed and complex. In Exodus 19-24, God establishes a covenant with the Israelites, giving them the Ten Commandments and numerous laws and regulations that would govern their lives. This covenant highlights the importance of obedience and holiness in the lives of God’s people.

Despite their differences, all these covenants ultimately point towards the ultimate covenant of salvation through Jesus Christ, who fulfilled all the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament. As Christians, we are now a part of this new covenant, sealed by the blood of Jesus, and no longer bound by the laws and rituals of the Old Testament.

The Promise of a Son and a Nation

Genesis 17:15-17 Meaning and Commentary

One of the most significant aspects of Genesis 17:15-17 is the promise that God makes to Abraham and Sarah. At this point in their lives, both Abraham and Sarah were advanced in age and had been unable to conceive a child. However, God promises them not only a son but also descendants who will become a great nation. This promise holds great meaning and commentary, not just for Abraham and Sarah, but for future generations as well.

Background Information on Abraham and Sarah’s Situation

Before God made this promise, Abraham and Sarah had already been waiting for a child for many years. In fact, in Genesis 16, we see that they even tried to take matters into their own hands by having Abraham father a child with Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar. However, this was not part of God’s plan, and He makes it clear to Abraham that his son will come through Sarah.

In their old age, it may have seemed impossible for Abraham and Sarah to have a child. But God’s promise goes beyond human understanding and capabilities. It shows His power and sovereignty over all things, including the natural limitations of age and biology.

The Meaning Behind God’s Promise

The promise of a son and a nation is a recurring theme throughout the Bible. In Genesis 12, God first promises Abraham that he will become the father of many nations. And in Genesis 15, God reiterates this promise, telling Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky.

This promise holds great significance because it points towards the fulfillment of God’s ultimate plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. Throughout the Old Testament, we see how God works through specific bloodlines and generations to bring about the birth of Jesus, who will ultimately save humanity from sin and death. By promising Abraham a son and descendants, God is setting the stage for this grand plan of redemption.

The Fulfillment of this Promise in Future Generations

As Christians, we are now a part of the fulfillment of this promise. Through our faith in Jesus, we are counted as descendants of Abraham and heirs to the promise (Galatians 3:29). We are also a part of the great nation that God promised to make out of Abraham’s descendants.

Furthermore, God’s promise of a son also points towards the birth of Jesus, who is often referred to as the “Son of David” and the “Son of Abraham”. In Matthew 1:1, it says, “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham.” This shows how Jesus is a direct descendant of both Abraham and David, fulfilling the promise of a son and a nation.

Doubts and Questions

While the promise of a son and descendants may have been a great blessing for Abraham and Sarah, it also brought about doubts and questions. In Genesis 17:17, we see that Abraham laughs at the idea of having a child at such an old age, and Sarah also has her own doubts when she hears the news. Their reaction may seem disrespectful or ungrateful, but in reality, it showcases their very human emotions and struggles.

Examining Abraham’s Doubts and Questions

At first glance, it may seem surprising that Abraham, who is known as a man of great faith, would doubt God’s promise.

However, it is important to remember that Abraham was only human and subject to the same fears and doubts that we all face. He was approximately 99 years old at this point, and the idea of having a child at that age may have seemed impossible to him.

But despite his doubts, Abraham still believed in God’s promise. In Romans 4:18-21, it says, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him… Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.”

Sarah’s Doubtful Reaction

Similarly, Sarah’s reaction to the promise of a son may also seem surprising. After all, she had been longing for a child for many years. However, her advanced age and her past failures may have led her to question whether this promise was truly from God.

In Genesis 18:12, Sarah even laughs when she hears the news, saying, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” This shows her disbelief and doubt in God’s ability to fulfill His promise. Despite this, however, God remains faithful, and Sarah eventually gives birth to a son, Isaac, just as He had promised.

Lessons We Can Learn from Their Responses

Abraham and Sarah’s reactions to God’s promise of a son and descendants teach us valuable lessons about faith and trust.

It reminds us that even those who are considered pillars of faith can still struggle and have doubts. But what sets them apart is their willingness to still believe and trust in God despite their human weaknesses.

Their story also serves as a reminder that God’s plans and promises may seem impossible or unlikely to us, but nothing is impossible for Him.

As it says in Luke 1:37, “For no word from God will ever fail.” By believing in His promises and having faith in His plans, we can find strength and hope even amid doubts and uncertainties.


Genesis 17:15-17 holds great meaning and commentary for believers today. Through the covenant of circumcision, we are reminded of our commitment to God and His plan of salvation.

The promise of a son and descendants shows God’s faithfulness and sovereignty over all things, while the doubts and questions of Abraham and Sarah remind us that even the most faithful can struggle at times.

This passage serves as a powerful reminder of the relevance and impact of the Bible in our modern lives. Let us always strive to understand its deeper meaning and significance, so that we may continue to grow in our faith and relationship with God.

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