Genesis xvii.

Notes & 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. (Haydock)

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

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. (Challoner) — God thus receives them as it were into his own family. (Calmet)

Ver. 7. Perpetual; that shall last as long as they remain obedient. (Menochius) (Ver. 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, Romans 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. (Menochius) (Tirinus) — 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. (Calmet) — The sacraments of the old law caused grace, only by means of faith in the Redeemer, of which they were signs. (St. Augustine, de Nupt. ii. chap. ult.[last chap.]) 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. (Calmet) — 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. (Galatians iv. 9; St. Augustine ep. 158, ad Jan.; Psalm 73, &c.) (Worthington)

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, Josue 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. (Menochius) — 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. (Calmet)

Ver. 14. Circumcised. Septuagint adds, “on the eighth day,” with the Samaritan and many Latin copies. (Calmet) — Destroyed, &c. lose the privileges of the Hebrews, or be put to death, when he grows up and does not supply this defect. St. Augustine 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 transgressing, 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.” Syriac, or, as the Hebrew 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. (Worthington)

Ver. 15. Sara, princess of all the nations of the faithful, not simply of one family. (Menochius)

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

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

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

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

Ver. 20. Nation of Arabs, who are still divided into twelve tribes. See chap. xxv. 13. (Calmet)

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

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. (Calmet)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

The Covenant of Circumcision.

1 And after he began to be ninety and nine years old, the Lord appeared to him: and said unto him: I am the Almighty God: walk before me, and be perfect.

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

3 Abram fell flat on his face.

4 And God said to him: I am, and my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

5 Neither shall thy name be called any more Abram: but thou shalt be called Abraham: because I have made thee a father of many nations.

6 And I will make thee increase exceedingly, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and between thy seed after thee in their generations, by a perpetual covenant: to be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee.

8 And I will give to thee, and to thy seed, the land of thy sojournment, all the land of Chanaan, for a perpetual possession, and I will be their God.

9 Again God said to Abraham: *And thou therefore shalt keep my covenant, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

10 This is my covenant which you shall observe between me and you, and thy seed after thee: All the male-kind of you shall be circumcised.

11 And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, that it may be for a *sign of the covenant between me and you.

12 An infant of eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man-child in your generations: he that is born in the house, as well as the bought servant, shall be circumcised, and whosoever is not of your stock:

13 And my covenant shall be in your flesh for a perpetual covenant.

14 The male whose flesh of his foreskin shall not be circumcised, that soul shall be destroyed out of his people: because he hath broken my covenant.

15 God said also to Abraham: Sarai thy wife thou shalt not call Sarai, but Sara.

16 And I will bless her, and of her I will give thee a son, whom I will bless, and he shall become nations, and kings of people shall spring from him.

17 Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, saying in his heart: Shall a son, thinkest thou, be born to him that is a hundred years old? and shall Sara that is ninety years old bring forth?

18 And he said to God: O that Ismael may live before thee.

19 And God said to Abraham: *Sara thy wife shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name Isaac, and I will establish my covenant with him for a perpetual covenant, and with his seed after him.

20 And as for Ismael I have also heard thee. Behold, I will bless him, and increase, and multiply him exceedingly: he shall beget twelve chiefs, and I will make him a great nation.

21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sara shall bring forth to thee at this time in the next year.

22 And when he had left off speaking with him, God went up from Abraham.

23 And Abraham took Ismael his son, and all that were born in his house: and all whom he had bought, every male among the men of his house: and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskin forthwith the very same day, as God had commanded him.

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

25 And Ismael his son was full thirteen years old at the time of his circumcision.

26 The self-same day was Abraham circumcised and Ismael his son.

27 And all the men of his house, as well they that were born in his house, as the bought servants and strangers. were circumcised with him.



9: Acts vii. 8.

11: Romans iv. 11.; Leviticus xii. 3.; Luke ii. 21.

19: Genesis xviii. 10. and xxi. 2.