What does Genesis 17:11 mean?
ESV: You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.
NIV: You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.
NASB: And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.
CSB: You must circumcise the flesh of your foreskin to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and you.
NLT: You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you.
KJV: And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
Verse Commentary:
God has made sweeping covenant promises to Abraham and to every generation of Abraham's descendants. Now God describes one thing He will require from Abraham and his offspring as a symbol of this covenant: circumcision. Every male, including Abraham, will need to be circumcised by cutting off the foreskin. This was to be a sign of the covenant God was making between Himself and Abraham. Circumcision may already have been practiced in the world at this time by specific tribes and nations, but it was far from universal. Abraham had never been circumcised, so it is likely it was not practiced by his family or the people of Mesopotamia.

In this instance, the ritual of circumcision presents several important symbols of our relationship to God. The process involves a circle, a common symbol of eternity and continuity. Through this circle, the next generation would pass via reproduction. It involves the "setting aside" or removal of a naturally-born part of the person. It creates a permanent change in the person making that commitment. It's an outward, visible representation of a spiritual covenant.

No matter who else in the world did or did not practice circumcision at that time, God made abundantly clear to Abraham that circumcision would become a sign of this covenant between God and Abraham. It would also be a sign for all those who would come from him. The following verses reveal that God's requirements about the practice would be very specific.
Verse Context:
Genesis 17:1–14 describes God's appearance to a 99-year-old Abram. Again God confirms His expansive covenant promises: to make Abram a father of nations and to give to him and his offspring the land of Canaan. At this time, God even changes Abram's name to Abraham to mark the occasion. This time, though, the repetition of the promise comes with God's requirements for Abraham: walk with me, be blameless, and circumcise yourself and every male of your household from now through every generation in the future.
Chapter Summary:
God appears to Abram once more in Genesis 17, but this instance is very different from prior meetings. God reconfirms His promises to make Abram a father of nations and to give to him and his descendants the land of Canaan. This time, though, God changes Abram's name to Abraham and gives him a requirement to circumcise himself and every male in his household forever. He also changes Sarai's name to Sarah. God announces that Abraham and Sarah will have a son, after all. His 13-year old son Ishmael will be blessed, but this new son, Isaac, to be born within the year, will be the one to whom God's covenant promises will pass.
Chapter Context:
Genesis 17 records the details of God's appearance to Abram, now 99. Thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael to Sarah's servant Hagar, God arrives to change Abram's name to Abraham, to confirm the covenant promises, and to command Abraham. He is to circumcise every male in his household as a sign of the covenant. Then the big news: within a year, Abraham's wife—now renamed Sarah—would bear Abraham a son. This long-awaited son would be the one through whom God would keep all of His promises to Abraham.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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