Understanding the Old Testament

That same day Abraham was circumcised and his son Ishmael. Genesis 17:26

We want to take a little time and focus on some facts that will help us to understand some of the Old Testament and shed light on events going on today. It seems that Israel is always in a struggle or dispute with someone. Other people claim the land of Palestine and the feud seems to go on year after year. Some of the hostility and fighting that occurs today (in and around Jerusalem) is partly because of what happened thousands of years ago.

In Genesis 17, God appeared to Abraham and made a covenant with him; the sign of that covenant (agreement) was circumcision. This happened when Ishmael was 13 years old. Abraham obeyed God and circumcised all the men in his household, including Ishmael. This was the beginning of the Jewish people who would later be called the Israelites. To get the weight of this we must remember two things.

1-Ishmael was the firstborn and entitled to all the blessings thereof.

2-He was also circumcised into the covenant God had made with Abraham. This made him a part of God’s chosen people, if he lived in faith and obedience to His commands. Another thing that is interesting is the fact that Ishmael had 12 sons just like the 12 sons of Jacob (Israel). Jacob’s sons were also referred to as the 12 tribes of Israel, Genesis 49:28 is one example.

Some of the descendants of Ishmael believe that he was the son of promise, the one to receive God’s blessing and favor; this would probably include much of the land of Palestine (Canaan). From the human viewpoint, this would seem to make sense. From a logical point of view, that would seem to fit. But here is the problem, there is no record that Ishmael walked with God. But instead, God chose the Godly line of Isaac and blessed his seed.

We can see the importance or value of being “the seed of Abraham” in the New Testament. In John 8:32, the Pharisees said to Jesus, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.” In verse 39 they say, “Abraham is our father.” Then in John 8:4, they claim God’s covenant with Abraham, “we have one Father ­ God.” In verse 53, they again claim Abraham as their father. The covenantal relationship with God through Abraham, was very, very important.

Let’s go a step further, it would seem that all the sons of Keturah could also claim that covenantal relationship with God and His blessing. Abraham being the man of faith that he was, most likely circumcised his six sons into the covenant. But once again, it appears that their children chose not to walk with God. God sovereignly chose to call Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and make their seed into a peculiar people for His honor and glory.

Whenever the Jewish people rejected Christ, God then extended his covenant to all the Gentiles; in a much broader sense than in the Old Testament. Now anyone who receives Christ by faith, as their Lord and Savior, is a child of Abraham in a spiritual sense. The door into God’s sheepfold is open to all who will enter.

In Luke 22:19-20 Jesus said, “This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.” We are no longer under the old covenant that God made with Abraham, but are under a covenant of grace. Are you a part of it? Are you a spiritual child of Abraham? Comments or questions, contact me at: thoughtsonword@gmail.com


Lyndon Stimeling, of Richfield, has been writing about faith and family for many years. He has self-published three books, “Common Thoughts on The Word” in 2016 and “Eye of a Needle” in 2017 and “Common Thoughts on The Word II” in 2019. He has also had articles published in The Coming Home Journal and local newspapers and has written a children’s book.


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