Circumcision in the Center

Genesis 17 contains another interesting and important chiasm surrounding the covenant circumcision, which was given to Abraham just before Isaac was born:

– When Abram was ninety-nine years old (1)
— the LORD appeared to Abram (1)
— that I may make my covenant between me and you (2)
—- Then Abram fell on his face (3)
—– you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. (4)
—— your name shall be Abraham (5)
——- Every male among you shall be circumcised. (10)
—— As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah (15)
—– she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her. (16)
—- Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed (17)
— I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. (19)
— God went up from Abraham.(22)
– Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised (24)

There are a number of different patterns different writers have pointed out in this passage –but the important point is that in each of them, circumcision is given the weight and focus of the passage. It’s clearly a crucial piece to understanding God’s covenant with Abraham, and the centrality of circumcision within that covenant structure.


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