Chat with us, powered by LiveChat CIRCUMCISION God chose circumcision as the sign of a - Study Help


God chose circumcision as the sign of a covenant that focuses on descendants. God has promised to make Abraham and his descendants into a great nation and to use them to redeem the Gentile nations. Circumcision was God?s signature of the flesh; it would identify Abraham and his decendents as God?s own people and remind them to live in faithfulness to the covenant. We call this the Abrahamic Covenant. Although circumcision was applied to adult males when they joined the covenant community, it was usually performed on infants, who received God?s promises and membership in the covenant community through their parents. Faith was required in order to receive God?s blessings, however, as can be seen in the differentiation between Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, and Joseph and his brothers. Non-Israelites could also obligate themselves to Israel?s covenant; circumcision marked their inclusion into the worshipping community. Circumcision would help Israel recognize and remember that they must lay aside natural impurity. God?s people had to be loyal to the covenant, to the family, and to their own marriages. Intermarriage with uncircumcised people who were not of the covenant was a violation of the covenant. Any man who refused to be circumcised (physically cut in this symbolic way) would be cut off from the covenant people because of his disobedience to God?s command.

Genesis 17:10-14 ?This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.?

These verses introduce circumcision as God?s appointed sign of the covenant. Circumcision is not a Hebrew invention. It was used in Egypt from very early periods as an act of ritual purity (apparently a requirement for men who would work in an Egyptian temple). Some tomb scenes from as early as the Old Kingdom depict the practice. Circumcision, which involves cutting off the foreskin of the penis, creates a mark that would not normally be visible to others. The nature of the sign suggests that it was intended to focus attention on the importance of the Abraham?s offspring, the royal line through which blessing would come.

In the following verses, though they are repetitive in referencing circumcision, underline the fact that Abraham conscientiously fulfilled God?s instructions to him.

Genesis 17:23-27 ?And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him. And Abraham?was?ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son?was?thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him?.

Genesis 21:4 ?And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him?. In the fulfillment of God?s promise, Sarah bears Abraham a son, who is named Issac. In due course Issac is confirmed as Abraham?s heir, when God instructs Abraham to send Hagar and Ismael away. Issac is circumcised by Abraham in fulfillment of God?s instructions.

As a precondition for marriage between Dinah and Shechem, her brothers request that the men of Shechem become circumcised. While Jacob?s sons are right to insist that circumcision is necessary in order for both groups to become one people, their intentions, as revealed in subsequent events, is otherwise as seen in Genesis 34:24 ?And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city?.

The events in verse of Exodus 4: 25 ?Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast?it?at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband?art?thou to me?, are significant not only for what they tell but also for what they show. Moses is held responsible for the provisions of the covenant with Abraham that require him to circumcised his sons. Failure to be circumcised may lead to being cut off. Moses? failure to circumcise his son could have led to his death, had it not been for his wife?s action.

In Exodus 12:44 ?But every man?s slave purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat of it?, we see the statues related to the Passover were necessary in light of the mixed multitude of people that went out of Egypt with Israel. Participation in the feasts that would be formative for Israel?s life in the land required that a person be identified as part of the Lord?s people by letting all his males be circumcised. In the New Testament church, there is a parallel in that baptism (sign of membership in God?s people) would ordinarily precede participating in the Lord?s Supper. Simiarly here, circumcision is required prior to eating the Passover as seen in Exodus 12: 48 ?And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the?LORD,?let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.

The mention of offspring recalls Genesis 17, where God instituted circumcision as his covenant sign for Abraham and his decendents. Deuteronomy 10:16 ?Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn? explicitly recognizes Israel?s need to change its heart. Here, circumcision symbolizes removing the stubbornness that prevents the heart from properly loving God.

Exodus 6:12

And Moses spake before the?LORD,?saying, Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who?am?of uncircumcised lips?

Deuteronomy 30:6

And the?LORD?thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the?LORD?thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

Joshua 5:4-8

This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way after they came out of Egypt. For all the people who came out were circumcised, but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt had not been circumcised. For the sons of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, that is, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished because they did not listen to the voice of the Lord, to whom the Lord had sworn that He would not let them see the land which the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. Their children whom He raised up in their place, Joshua circumcised; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them along the way. Now when they had finished circumcising all the nation, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed.

Joshua 5:2-9

At that time the?Lord?told Joshua, ?Make flint knives and circumcise this second generation of Israelites.? So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the entire male population of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. Joshua had to circumcised them because all the men who were old enough to fight in battle when they left Egypt had died in the wilderness. Those who left Egypt had all been circumcised, but none of those born after the Exodus, during the years in the wilderness, had been circumcised. The Israelites had traveled in the wilderness for forty years until all the men who were old enough to fight in battle when they left Egypt had died. For they had disobeyed the Lord, and the Lord vowed he would not let them enter the land he had sworn to give us ? a land flowing with milk and honey. So Joshua circumcised their sons ? those who had grown up to take their father?s places ? for they had not been circumcised on the way to the Promised Land. After all the males had been circumcised, they rested in the camp until they were healed. Then the Lord said to Joshua, ?Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt.? So that place has been called Gilgal to this day.

Judges 14:3

Then his father and his mother said to him, ?Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?? But Samson said to his father, ?Get her for me, for she looks good to me.?

Jeremiah 9:25-26

Behold, the days are coming,? declares the Lord, ?that I will punish all who are circumcised and yet uncircumcised? Egypt and Judah, and Edom and the sons of Ammon, and Moab and all those inhabiting the desert who clip the hair on their temples; for all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart.?

Jeremiah 4:4

?Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.?

Jeremiah 6:10

To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear?is?uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the?LORD?is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.

Jeremiah 9:25-26

?Behold, the days are coming, declares the?Lord, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh? Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.?

New Testament

Circumcision is a symbol of separation from the world, of purity, and of loyalty to the covenant. It provides the powerful metaphor of ?circumcision of the heart,? which designates a heart that is committed to God and is inwardly set apart to God, rather than being stubbornly resistant. Circumcision of the heart evidences salvation and fellowship with God.

When Jesus Christ established God?s new covenant, he fulfilled the requirements of the old covenant. It is not necessary for Gentile believers to be circumcised, since they are incorporated into the people of God through faith in Christ. One must turn in confidence to God and his promises, lay aside natural strength and the customs of the world, and live a new life by faith.

Luke 2:21

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Acts 15:5-29

But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, ?It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.? The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, ?Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. …

Romans 2:25-29

For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Romans 4:11

He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,

Romans 3:30

Since God is one?who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

Romans 4:9

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.

Romans 15:8

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,

1 Corinthians 7:19

For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.

Galatians 5:2-11

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. …

Galatians 6:15

For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

Colossians 2:11-12

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

?Unlike the Noahic covenant with its rainbow sign, which depends totally on God to fulfill its blessings, the Abrahamic covenant with its circumcision sign depends on active faith obedience of the human partner to initiate the sign that activates its blessing. Without the sign a male forfeits his right to belong to the covenant community under God?s blessings. That sign of identification in the flesh has been replaced in the church by baptism for both men and women. Circumcision in the Old Testament and baptism in the New Testament are signs and seals of justification by faith that precedes them, and both represent the inward work of the Spirit to circumcise the heart and to place us in Christ?s crucified and resurrected body. Abraham kept the covenant sign and secured the covenant blesssings for his decendents. Neither circumcision nor baptism justifies; they signify justification and acknowledgement of Abraham?s God, who raises the righteous through faith in his promise? (Waltke/Yu, pg 320).

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