The Old Testament Lesson for the second Sunday of Lent in Series B comes from the first book of the Torah, Genesis. The text is Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 and is the establishment of the Covenant with Abram/Abraham which is marked by the Sacrament of Circumcision—although the actual verses dealing with circumcision have been left out of the pericope. This is unfortunate because the cutting of the Covenant (ברית כרת) (ber-eeth kaw-rath) includes the mark of the Covenant in the flesh—circumcision and, “...he who is not cut is cut off from the Covenant” (see verse 14).

The text does contain the account of the name changes which take place at this time and these are significant as well. Generally, people focus on what the new names mean; Abram to Abraham (Father of a many nations) and Sarai to Sarah (both mean “princess”). It may very well be more productive to focus on the reality these name changes go along with, the new identity which comes from being a member/child of the Covenant. This reality is seen throughout the Old and the New Testament. When Jacob wrestles with the LORD at Peniel he is given a new name to remind him of his new identity. He is no longer Jacob, the deceiver, the heel-grabber, now he is Israel, the one for whom the LORD contends. In the New Testament, when Saul has his bright light experience on the road to Damascus he is blinded until the Sacrament of Baptism when he receives his new name, Paul. Thus, the Church has traditionally understood Baptism as a naming Sacrament. It reminds us of our new baptismal identity. It tells us who we are and whose we are.

The Church has traditionally understood Baptism as a naming Sacrament. It reminds us of our new baptismal identity.

Saint Paul tells us the Sacrament of Circumcision is replaced by the Sacrament of Baptism in Colossians 2. He also notes the similarities and differences in the two. Both are signs of entry points into the Covenant which God established with His people.

17:1 בֶּן־תִּשְׁעִים שָׁנָה וְתֵשַׁע שָׁנִים (ben-tish-Im sha-Nah ve-Te-sha sha-Nim) “a son of ninety-nine years”
תָמִים (ta-Mim) “blameless; complete; whole; innocent” Previously, this word has only been used in reference to Noah. Later, this word is used to describe the proper sacrifices to be offered to the LORD. Also, it is the idea of something being without blemish or spot. In this context it does not mean Abram was or could be without sin. It simply says he will walk/should walk by faith.

17:2 וְאֶתְּנָה (ve-et-te-Nah) root: נתן (naw-than) Qal Imperfect: “to give; make”
בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ (bei-Ni u-vei-Ne-cha) “between me and between you”

17:3 וַיִּפֹּל (vai-yip-Pol) root: נפל (naw-fal) Qal Imperfect: “to fall”

17:4 הֲמוֹן (ha-Mon) “multitude; crowd” Used here for a crowd of nations (also verse 5).

17:5 Note the connection here of the name change as an indication of the covenantal identity.

17:6 וְהִפְרֵתִי (ve-hif-re-Ti) root: פרה (paw-raw) Hiphil Perfect: “to make fruitful; cause to be fruitful” The causing agent in this is the LORD.
יֵצֵאוּ (ye-Tze-u) root: יצא (yaw-tsaw) “to come forth; come out”

17:7 וַהֲקִמֹתִי (va-ha-ki-mo-Ti) root: קום (koom) Hiphil Perfect: “to raise; establish; raise up” This is used in a causative sense.
זַרְעֲךָ (zar-a-Cha) “your seed; your offspring”
לִבְרִית עוֹלָם (liv-Rit o-Lam) “for an everlasting covenant”

17:15 Once again, note the name change associated with the Covenant.

17:16 וּבֵרַכְתִּי (u-ve-rach-Ti) root: ברך (baw-rak) Piel Perfect: “to bless”
וְהָיְתָה (ve-ha-ye-Tah) root: היה (haw-yaw) Qal Perfect: “to be; become”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16.

Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Lectionary Podcast- Dr. Walter Maier III of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16.