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Genesis 17:27 NASB

27 All the men of his household, who were born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

What does the above text mean by bought with money from a foreigner?

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Exodus 12:44 elaborates the phrase in question as, עֶבֶד אִישׁ מִקְנַת־כָּסֶף (eved ish miknat-kesef), “a slave, a man purchase of money.” Abraham was to circumcise both his own offspring (e.g., Ishmael, Isaac) as well as the slaves that he purchased from foreigners.1


Footnotes

1 cf. Lev. 25:44

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Technically, Gen 17 is what is known as the "Covenant" provisions. The Abrahamic Covenant is stated in two places, Gen 15 & 17, 13 years apart (and repeated in Gen 18:9-15, 22:15-18 without using the word “covenant” nor formal sacrifices) and consisted of the following:

Gen 15

  • God promises Abram a biological son
  • God promises Abram uncountable descendants
  • God promises Abram’s descendants the land of Canaan, “from the wadi of Egypt to the great river Euphrates”.
  • God promises to return Abram’s descendants to Canaan after Egyptian slavery of 400 years
  • God promises to punish the Egyptians
  • God promises great possessions to Abram’s descendants when they leave Egypt
  • The covenant was initiated and signified by a ceremony (significant to the culture of Abraham) of cutting several animals in half and God passing between the halves, and (and so solemnly promising) to keep the provisions of the covenant.

This ceremony of cutting sacrificed animals in half is a direct allusion of the word “berith” (= “covenant”), meaning, “to cut”. That this covenant was a covenant of grace is confirmed by Gen 15:6, “Abram believed the LORD and he credited it to him as righteousness”. (See also Rom 4:3, Gal 3:6, James 2:23.)

Gen 17, 18:9-15

  • God promises a biological son by Sarah, viz. Isaac
  • God promises to greatly increase Abram’s numbers
  • God promises Abram that he would be the father of many nations
  • God promises Abraham the land of Canaan
  • God promises that Ishmael would also be fruitful
  • Abraham and his descendants must promise to be faithful to God
  • The covenant is signified by the token/sign (Heb: “oth”, Gen 17:11, Rom 4:11) of circumcision (= circular cut) and a change of name from Abram to Abraham.

Thus, the instruction in Gen 17:27 is to bring all of Abraham's household under provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant, including people born in the household and those slaves purchased from others.

For some further information about this see, Deuteronomy 23:3 Why was Ruth's descendants allowed in the Temple

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