The word circumcision literally means "cutting around" and is the Jewish rite of initiation. The distinguishing mark of membership in the chosen nation of Yahweh, the certificate of spiritual descent from Abraham and of the right to share in the benefits of the Covenant he had made with God. Everyone not so circumcised was to be cut off from his people as having broken the covenant. Circumcision was used as a symbol of purity of heart. Circumcision was a rite not restricted to the Jews, and practiced for all sorts of reasons, religious and non-religious by many peoples. But to the Jews it was entirely religious, it was the consecration to God of man's greatest power by which he shares with God in the generation of new life.

The child was circumcised on the 8th day after birth. The operation might be done by any Israelite, if necessary by women, but never a Gentile. It was to Abraham that the commandment of circumcision was given.

 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. Genesis 17:10-14

Done preferably by the father and usually at home, at this occasion the infant was officially given his name. Circumcision was not limited to Jews but was applied to any Gentile brought into the house of Israel by purchase. Immediately, the covenant blessing promised to the Jews was made available to the Gentiles.

On why the male organ? There may be no clear answer to that. There may be an answer to that in Jewish tradition but the bible makes no reference to that part of the body chosen. It was done for purity and cleanliness and the eighth day represents a new beginning. Most of the doctors that do it today, do it for reasons of cleanliness and maybe God wanted it done for that reason but that does not explain why He would not have done it right the first time. The primary reason was to make the Jewish nation a separate and obedient people. As Christians, baptism serves the same purpose and we are to circumcise our hearts, the Israelites were also told to circumcise their hearts. Remember also that it is of course only the males that have to do this. If it were another part of the body, there would be no clear difference as to male and female. Sin is supposed to enter into humanity through the seed of man. What other bloody rite could have been imagined that would have sent fear into the hearts of men and the proof of obedience except a symbol of his manhood.

Christians dealt with the issue of circumcision early on. In the early church, a party became known as the Circumcision Party; enter the Gentile Cornelius. At first, since all Christians were Jews, they had been circumcised already and viewed Christianity as an extension of Judaism, thereby believing circumcision to be an obligation never to be revoked. Thus for a Gentile to be converted he must be circumcised and then placed under the law of Moses. With a letter in his pocket freeing Gentile believers from the Jewish rite of circumcision, Paul nonetheless circumcised Timothy. Why? He was a half Jew whose pagan father apparently forbade the ceremony. To bring him on without it would offend the Jews that Paul wanted to reach. Out of expediency Paul performed the minor surgery for practical reasons only, not to fulfill the law. He was not bound by his own rules but bent when circumstances justified it. With Titus it was different, he was wholly Gentile, to them it meant that faith in Christ wasn't enough for salvation.

Christians are said to be circumcised in Christ through the heart. "Circumcise, therefore the foreskins of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked." Circumcision of the body alone, when it is not accompanied by a full-hearted and consuming love of God, is an outward sign not matched by its corresponding inward reality. That makes it of no avail, it is a form without content. Behold the days come, that I will punish all them.. circumcised with the uncircumcised... all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart. Real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not physical. His praise is not from men but from God. Rend your hearts and not your garments. In Him also you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting of the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. Buried with Him in baptism.

What we are trying to do here is become one with the love and unity that God would expect of us. For some, this is not possible for it takes denying ourselves and coming into that humility as Christians circumcised in the heart must have and what must happen before we are truly in the fellowship of God. To judge and condemn our brothers and sisters because they do not agree with the narrow minded bias of others is to fall into condemnation ourselves. It is a tragic circumstance. Those of this heartfelt circumcision may see right through it but love oftentimes blinds us to the faults of others, we become justly tolerant and that leads to us being very vulnerable to attack.

Circumcision described:
Gen 17:11; Ex 4:25

Enforced by the law:
Lev 12:3; Jn 7:22

Covenant of circumcision:
Acts 7:8

Circumcision in the flesh:
Eph 2:11

Phil 3:2

A painful and bloody rite:
Ex 4:26; Josh 5:8

Promises to Abraham previous to:
Rom 4:9,13

A seal of the covenant:
Gen 17:11; Rom 4:11

Introductory Jewish ordinances:
Gal 5:3

Outward sign of:
Rom 2:28

Inward grace:
Rom 2:29

Necessary to enjoying the privileges of the Jewish State:
Ex 12:48; Ezek 44:7

On males home-born and bought
Gen 17:12,13

On the eighth day:
Gen 17:12; Lev 12:3

Even on the sabbath day:
Jn 7:22,23

With knives of flint:
Ex 4:25; Josh 5:3

By the heads of families:
Gen 17:23; Ex 4:25

By persons in authority:
Josh 5:3

In the presence of the family:
Lk 1:58-61

Accompanied with naming the child:
Gen 21:3,4; Lk 1:59; 2:21

First performed on Abraham and his family:
Gen 17:24-27

Not performed in the wilderness:
Josh 5:5

Performed by Joshua at Gilgal:
Josh 5:2,7

Punishment for neglecting:
Gen 17:14; Ex 4:24,26

Without faith, vain:
Rom 3:30; Gal 5:6

Without obedience, vain:
Rom 2:25; 1Cor 7:19

Denominated by:
Acts 10:45; Gal 2:9

Held it unlawful to intermarry with those not of the:
Gen 34:14; Jud 14:3

Held no intercourse with those not of the:
Acts 10:28; 11:3; Gal 2:12

Despised as unclean those not of the:
1Sam 14:6; 17:26; Mt 15:26,27; Eph 2:11,15

Sometimes performed on slain enemies:
1Sam 18:25-27; 2Sam 3:14

Abolished by the gospel:
Eph 2:11,15; Col 3:11

Performed on Timothy as a matter or expediency because of the Jews:
Acts 16:3

Necessity of, denied by Paul:
Gal 2:3-5

Necessity of, asserted by false teachers:
Acts 15:24; Gal 6:12; Ti 1:10

Trusting to, a denial of Christ:
Gal 3:3,4; 5:3,4

Paul denounced for opposing:
Acts 21:21

Saints the true spiritual:
Phil 3:3; Col 2:11

Readiness to hear and obey:
Jer 6:10

Purity of heart:
Dt 10:16; 30:6

Purity of speech:
Ex 6:12

Institution of:
Gen 17:10-14; Lev 12:3; Jn 7:22; Acts 7:8; Rom 4:11

A seal of righteousness:
Rom 2:25-29; 4:11

Performed on all males on the eighth day:
Gen 17:12,13; Lev 12:3; Phil 3:5

Rite of, observed on the Sabbath:
Jn 7:23

A prerequisite of the privileges of the passover:
Ex 12:48

Child named at the time of:
Gen 21:3,4; Lk 1:59; 2:21

Neglect of, punished:
Gen 17:14; Ex 4:24

Josh 5:7

Covenant promises of:
Gen 17:4-14; Acts 7:8; Rom 3:1; 4:11; 9:7-13; Gal 5:3

Necessity of, falsely taught by Judaizing Christians:
Acts 15:1

Paul's argument against the continuance of:
Rom 2:25,28; Gal 6:13

Characterized by Paul as a yoke:
Acts 15:10

Acts 15:5-29; Rom 3:30; 4:9-11; 1Cor 7:18,19; Gal 2:3,4; 5:2-11; 6:12; Eph 2:11,15; Col 2:11; 3:11

Gen 17:23-27; 21:3,4

Gen 34:24

Ex 4:25

Israelites at Gilgal:
Josh 5:2-9

John the Baptist:
Lk 1:59

Lk 2:21

Phil 3:5

Acts 16:3

Ex 6:12; Dt 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; 6:10; 9:26; Rom 2:28,29; 15:8; Phil 3:3; Col 2:11; 3:11

A designation of the Jews:
Acts 10:45; 11:2; Gal 2:9; Eph 2:11; Col 4:11; Ti 1:10

A designation of Christians:
Phil 3:3

[291, 318, 324, 378, Genesis 17:10-14, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Romans, Colossians, BD]

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