He gave him the covenant of circumcision - That is, he instituted the rite of circumcision, as a sign of that covenant which he had made with him and his posterity. See Genesis 17:10, etc.
And so Abraham begat Isaac - Και οὑτως, And thus, in this covenant, he begat Isaac; and as a proof that he was born under this covenant, was a true son of Abraham and inheritor of the promises, he circumcised him the eighth day; and this rite being observed in the family of Isaac, Jacob and his twelve sons were born under the covenant; and thus their descendants, the twelve tribes, being born under the same covenant, and practising the same rite, were, by the ordinance of Gods legal inheritors of the promised land, and all the secular and spiritual advantages connected with it.
And he gave him - That is, God appointed or commanded this, Genesis 17:9-13.
The covenant - The word “covenant” denotes properly “a compact or agreement between two or more persons,” usually attended with seals, pledges, or sanctions. In Genesis 17:7, and elsewhere, it is said that God would establish his “covenant” with Abraham; that is, he made him certain definite promises, attended with pledges and seals, etc. The idea of a strict “compact” or “agreement” between God and man, as between “equal parties”; is not found in the Bible. The word is commonly used, as here, to denote “a promise on the part of God,” attended with pledges, and demanding, on the part of man, in order to avail himself of its benefits, a specified course of conduct. The “covenant” is therefore another name for denoting two things on the part of God:
(1)A “command,” which man is not at liberty to reject, as he would be if it were a literal covenant; and,
(2)A “promise,” which is to be fulfilled only on the condition of obedience. The covenant with Abraham was simply a “promise” to give him the land, and to make him a great nation, etc. It was never proposed to Abraham with the supposition that he was at liberty to reject it, or to refuse to comply with its conditions. Circumcision was appointed as the mark or indication that Abraham and those thus designated were the persons included in the gracious purpose and promise. It served to separate them as a special people; a people whose unique characteristic it was that they obeyed and served the God who had made the promise to Abraham. The phrase “covenant of circumcision” means, therefore, the covenant or promise which God made to Abraham, of which circumcision was the distinguishing “mark” or “sign.”
The twelve patriarchs - The word “patriarch” properly denotes “the father and ruler of a family.” But it is commonly applied, by way of eminence, to “the progenitors” of the Jewish race, particularly to “the twelve sons of Jacob.” See the notes on Acts 2:29.
In how wide contrast to the life of Abraham was that of Lot! Once they had been companions, worshiping at one altar, dwelling side by side in their pilgrim tents; but how widely separated now! Lot had chosen Sodom for its pleasure and profit. Leaving Abraham's altar and its daily sacrifice to the living God, he had permitted his children to mingle with a corrupt and idolatrous people; yet he had retained in his heart the fear of God, for he is declared in the Scriptures to have been a “just” man; his righteous soul was vexed with the vile conversation that greeted his ears daily and the violence and crime he was powerless to prevent. He was saved at last as “a brand plucked out of the fire” (Zechariah 3:2), yet stripped of his possessions, bereaved of his wife and children, dwelling in caves, like the wild beasts, covered with infamy in his old age; and he gave to the world, not a race of righteous men, but two idolatrous nations, at enmity with God and warring upon His people, until, their cup of iniquity being full, they were appointed to destruction. How terrible were the results that followed one unwise step! PP 168.1
Says the wise man, “Labor not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.” “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.” Proverbs 23:4; 15:27. And the apostle Paul declares, “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” 1 Timothy 6:9. PP 168.2
When Lot entered Sodom he fully intended to keep himself free from iniquity and to command his household after him. But he signally failed. The corrupting influences about him had an effect upon his own faith, and his children's connection with the inhabitants of Sodom bound up his interest in a measure with theirs. The result is before us. PP 168.3Read in context »
This chapter is based on Acts 17:1-10.
After leaving Philippi, Paul and Silas made their way to Thessalonica. Here they were given the privilege of addressing large congregations in the Jewish synagogue. Their appearance bore evidence of the shameful treatment they had recently received, and necessitated an explanation of what had taken place. This they made without exalting themselves, but magnified the One who had wrought their deliverance. AA 221.1Read in context »
As Stephen stood face to face with his judges to answer to the charge of blasphemy, a holy radiance shone upon his countenance, and “all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” Many who beheld this light trembled and veiled their faces, but the stubborn unbelief and prejudice of the rulers did not waver. AA 99.1
When Stephen was questioned as to the truth of the charges against him, he began his defense in a clear, thrilling voice, which rang through the council hall. In words that held the assembly spellbound, he proceeded to rehearse the history of the chosen people of God. He showed a thorough knowledge of the Jewish economy and the spiritual interpretation of it now made manifest through Christ. He repeated the words of Moses that foretold of the Messiah: “A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear.” He made plain his own loyalty to God and to the Jewish faith, while he showed that the law in which the Jews trusted for salvation had not been able to save Israel from idolatry. He connected Jesus Christ with all the Jewish history. He referred to the building of the temple by Solomon, and to the words of both Solomon and Isaiah: “Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool: what house will ye build Me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of My rest? Hath not My hand made all these things?” AA 99.2
When Stephen reached this point, there was a tumult among the people. When he connected Christ with the prophecies and spoke as he did of the temple, the priest, pretending to be horror-stricken, rent his robe. To Stephen this act was a signal that his voice would soon be silenced forever. He saw the resistance that met his words and knew that he was giving his last testimony. Although in the midst of his sermon, he abruptly concluded it. AA 100.1Read in context »