Genesis 17: The Abrahamic Covenant

Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide, (2002), 25–26


In Genesis 17, God blessed Abraham once again and gave him further promises concerning the blessings he and his posterity would receive. Like He does with us, the Lord gave Abraham promises and blessings step by step, a little more each time. All of the promises, blessings, and covenants given to Abraham, grouped together, are called the “Abrahamic covenant.” In summarizing the promises of the Abrahamic covenant, Elder Russell M. Nelson said:“The covenant … is of transcendent significance. It contained several promises:“Abraham’s posterity would be numerous, entitled to eternal increase and to bear the priesthood;“He would become a father of many nations;“Christ and kings would come through Abraham’s lineage;“Certain lands would be inherited;“All nations of the earth would be blessed by his seed;“That covenant would be everlasting—even through ‘a thousand generations’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 42; or Ensign, May 1995, 33).Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained how blessings were added upon Abraham:“Abraham first received the gospel by baptism (which is the covenant of salvation); then he had conferred upon him the higher priesthood, and he entered into celestial marriage (which is the covenant of exaltation), gaining assurance thereby that he would have eternal increase; finally he received a promise that all of these blessings would be offered to all of his mortal posterity. (Abra. 2:6–11; D. & C. 132:29–50.) …“… Those portions of it which pertain to personal exaltation and eternal increase are renewed with each member of the house of Israel who enters the order of celestial marriage” (Mormon Doctrine, 13).Because all Church members are the posterity of Abraham through the covenant, we should carefully consider the covenants the Lord made with Abraham and see how they apply to us.

Understanding the Scriptures

Genesis 17

Multiply thee exceedingly (v. 2)Give you many descendants 
Exceedingly fruitful (v. 6)Many descendants 
Make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee (v. 6)Nations and kings will be some of your descendants 
Betwixt (v. 11)Between 
Bear (v. 17)Have a child 
Left off (v. 22)Quit 

Genesis 17:9–14—Circumcision

The token or sign of the covenant God made with Abraham was circumcision. Circumcision symbolized cleanliness before God and was also a symbolic reminder of the promises the Lord made to Abraham regarding his posterity. You may read more about circumcision in your Bible Dictionary (p. 646). Circumcision is not required today.

Studying the Scriptures

Do activities A–C as you study Genesis 17.

Activity A iconIdentify the Elements of the Covenant

A covenant is an agreement between two parties where both parties promise to do certain things. In a gospel covenant, God always sets the terms, or what must be done and received as part of the covenant, and man agrees to obey those terms.

  1. 1.

    What did the Lord ask Abraham to do in receiving this covenant? (see vv. 1, 10).

  2. 2.

    What did the Lord promise Abraham? (see vv. 2–8, 15–19). Make sure you read all of the Joseph Smith Translation references for these verses in your footnotes or in the appendix in your Bible, and include them as part of the list.

  3. 3.

    Read Genesis 12:1–3; 13:14–16; 15:1–7; Abraham 1:18–19; 2:9–11. Add the promises given to the list you began above.

Activity B iconOrganize the Elements

The Abrahamic Covenant

Land

Posterity

Priesthood and gospel

Salvation

There are four basic categories of blessings in the Abrahamic covenant: land, posterity, priesthood and gospel, and salvation. Take the list you made in activity A and organize the promises by category. If you feel a blessing applies to more than one category, list it under all applicable categories.

Activity C iconWhat’s in a Name?

Notice that Abraham’s and Sarah’s names were changed as part of the covenant (see Genesis 17:4–8, 15–16).

  1. 1.

    How would you feel receiving a name like the one Sarah received? Why? (see footnote 15a).

  2. 2.

    In what way was Sarah’s name an additional testimony of the promises of God? Whom is she a princess to, and what does that teach us about what she can become?

  3. 3.

    Because members of the Church are the children of Abraham and Sarah, what can we learn about ourselves from the names God gave to this great couple?

  4. 4.

    In what ways does receiving a name have a part in the covenants we enter into today with the Lord to become His people? (see 2 Nephi 31:13, 17–20; Mosiah 18:8–10; Moroni 4:1–3).

  5. 5.

    What is the new name we receive when we are baptized and partake of the sacrament? What do you think is the significance of taking that name upon us?