There is a principle and pattern contained in Genesis 17:12 that we need to be aware of: it wasn’t just those from Abraham‘s gene pool who could join this covenant. Here, the home-born slave or purchased slave of a Hebrew — that is a foreigner — could be included in the covenant by being circumcised. Understand, by Law, a purchased slave became a family member. They had almost all of the rights of a family member.
Therefore, a baby born to a purchased slave also became a family member. This treatment of slaves is so foreign to the usual image we have of what slavery amounted to among the Hebrews.
Generally, the foreign slaves of Hebrews were not mistreated — they were family! The concept of slave ownership among Hebrews is very close to our modern concept of adoption. And, don‘t confuse slave ownership to indentured servitude. Being a bond-servant — someone who is your servant for a period while they repay a debt owed to you — didn‘t qualify that person to be a family member. Only a purchased slave was a family member. It is kind of reversed from what might seem logical to us.
So, very early on the idea that genetics — blood lines — wasn‘t the sole determining factor for membership in the holy community. Beginning with Abraham, a foreigner who was willing to follow the Hebrew ways and the Hebrew God could be given full citizenship as a Hebrew, and with it all the covenant rights that any natural born Hebrew would have. This is the same principle that we, as Gentiles, rely on when we are grafted into the covenants given to Abraham, Moses, and Jesus — covenants presented to Israel, and no one else.
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