Rembrant_-_Copy_of_1646_Circumcision
“So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant.” Genesis 17:13

Here are a few questions about the Uniform Series text for this coming Sunday (Genesis 17:1-14) that we might want to consider in class: In v 5, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham. (God also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah in v 15). What does it mean that God makes this change in Abram/Abraham’s name? What does it say about God? What does it say about the relationship between God and Abram/Abraham (Sarai/Sarah)? If we think about who normally gives people their names, does it make a difference in our answer here? What difference? God outlines a number of benefits of the covenant God is establishing with Abraham (see vv 6-8). Does Abraham go along with this covenant with God “because of” those benefits? What are the benefits? Which seems to be the greatest benefit? Why? What if the only benefit of the covenant were that God would be Abraham’s and his descendants’ God? Would the covenant be equally attractive? Why? God identifies circumcision as the sign of the covenant with Abraham. How would we describe this particular sign? That is, does this seem easy or difficult, simple or complicated, permanent or impermanent, personal or impersonal, …? In light of those characteristics of the sign, do we have some ideas about what this sign means? What are they? In v 13, Abraham’s slaves are explicitly required to participate in the signification of the covenant. What are our responses to this requirement? Does this mean that slaves are included in the “people” and the covenant relationship? Or not? Why, or why not? If we say “included,” what are the implications of this inclusion for the relationship between Abraham and his slaves? Why? It might go without saying that women cannot participate in the sign of the covenant given in this text. What implications might that have? What does it say about the relationship of God to Abraham and Abraham’s male descendents? About God and God’s relationship to Abraham’s female descendants? Why? Would we prefer a sign that could be worn or performed by both men and women? Why or why not? What does that say about us?”

In v 5, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham. (God also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah in v 15). What does it mean that God makes this change in Abram/Abraham’s name? What does it say about God? What does it say about the relationship between God and Abram/Abraham (Sarai/Sarah)? If we think about who normally gives people their names, does it make a difference in our answer here? What difference?

God outlines a number of benefits of the covenant God is establishing with Abraham (see vv 6-8). Does Abraham go along with this covenant with God “because of” those benefits? What are the benefits? Which seems to be the greatest benefit? Why? What if the only benefit of the covenant were that God would be Abraham’s and his descendants’ God? Would the covenant be equally attractive? Why?

God identifies circumcision as the sign of the covenant with Abraham. How would we describe this particular sign? That is, does this seem easy or difficult, simple or complicated, permanent or impermanent, personal or impersonal, …? In light of those characteristics of the sign, do we have some ideas about what this sign means? What are they?

In v 13, Abraham’s slaves are explicitly required to participate in the signification of the covenant. What are our responses to this requirement? Does this mean that slaves are included in the “people” and the covenant relationship? Or not? Why, or why not? If we say “included,” what are the implications of this inclusion for the relationship between Abraham and his slaves? Why?

It might go without saying that women cannot participate in the sign of the covenant given in this text. What implications might that have? What does it say about the relationship of God to Abraham and Abraham’s male descendents? About God and God’s relationship to Abraham’s female descendants? Why? Would we prefer a sign that could be worn or performed by both men and women? Why or why not? What does that say about us?

Last week we looked at the covenant between God and Noah – and Noah’s descendants, including, as we normally read that story, all humanity today. How does the covenant with Abraham resemble that covenant? How does it differ from it? What do we make of those similarities and differences – that is, what do they tell us about the nature of covenants, the purpose(s) of the two covenants, and so on? Why?

[edited 2.12.18 to remove broken links]