For the people who follow Judaism, Genesis 17 I would imagine is very important. In this new chapter a lot happens. God decides to rename a few people, probably to keep things consistent further on in the book. Abram and Sarai get a great new makeover and emerge as Abraham and Sarah. This happened while Abraham was 99 years old. Obviously a late bloomer. God also said that this time next year, Sarah will bear you a son and this guy will be important. As an aside, the best thing about the OT is that the characters do tend to get a bit lippy with God. Abraham says something like “seriously, a woman of 90 and a man of 100 will have a child”. None of that silly unquestioning obedience here.
Oh yeah, and God said that every male over the age of 8 days should be circumcised. And they were. Ouch. In exchange for the foreskin, Sarah gets to be a 90-year-old mother and Abraham a 100-year-old father. You would have thought they’d be content with a restful old age, but they were obviously made of hardier stock back then.
Genesis 18 is mostly a bit of banter between God and Abraham and Sarah about the fact that Sarah is well beyond child-bearing age. God says He will do it because he’s awesome, which seems fair enough. Then God says he’s off to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah unless he can find 50 good people there. Abraham argues again – this bit is pretty good actually – Abraham says “what if you only find 45, will you destroy the city for want of 5 people?” God, being reasonable here, agrees that 45 is a good number and will spare the city if 45 good people can be found. Actually, here’s the exchange, and I like it:
18:20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
18:21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
18:22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
18:23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
18:24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
18:25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
18:26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
18:27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD, which am but dust and ashes:
18:28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
18:29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake.
18:30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.
18:31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake.
18:32 And he said, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.
18:33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.
Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I get the idea that God actually likes Abraham. From the lines between them it seems as though God and Abraham are old friends. They bargain and they chat. From memory (and, I’m sure, later reading) I get the impression that everyone else is pretty much treated as a tool: God needs something doing and he taps up a nearby person. But here there seems to be a real relationship.
I think we can stop here. Aside from the circumcision thing, these last 2 chapters were pretty well written and had real people in them. Anyway, Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot and Lot’s wife are in the next bit and they deserve their own title. Genesis 19, soon.