ESV - 23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him.
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If we start at Genesis 17:1 and read forward we see that God made a covenant not only with Abraham but also with his seed. Biblical usage of the word when referring to man's "seed" is used of both descendants and/or sperm, depending upon the context. Considering the male genitalia is used to transfer seed, I suppose it is logical in the mind of God that this body part would bear the token of His covenant with the Jews. Health may have been a secondary benefit. In Genesis 24:2 and again in 47:29, Abraham and then later Jacob required their trustees to place a hand under their thigh as a token of the trustee's solemn oath in fulfilling the promise. Biblical usage of thigh is: I.thigh, side, loin, base A.thigh i.outside of thigh (where sword was worn) ii.loins (as the seat of procreative power) B.side (flank) (of object) C.base I am prone to believe the trustees were literally swearing on the seed and/or source. Galatians 3:16 "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ."
To understand the significance of the sign of circumcision we need to understand what comes before it in Scripture. Overall, the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is about God's answer to our need for a Savior in the person and work of Jesus. In Genesis we learn that we were created in the image of God (especially designed to glorify Him by reflecting many aspects of His nature (Gen 1:27)) for the purpose of enjoying Him. Just thee chapters into Genesis, however, man rebels against his good God (Gen 3), plunging his whole race into darkness and depravity (Rom 5:12-14). The Bible teaches that as a result of that fall into sin, all of Adam's progeny inherits a sinful nature (Rom 1:21-23). That is why we sin—we have inherited unbelieving hearts that desire to do wrong and not right (Gen 8:21). In spite of this infinitely offensive fall into sin, God displays His great grace and mercy right at the outset of man's rebellion by promising a Savior—One who would be born of the seed of woman, and who would come to crush the serpent's head, though His heel would be bruised in the process (Gen 3:15). Circumcision, the sign of the covenant between Abraham and God, served as a reminder of man's fall into sin and His need to be cleansed of that sin. One reason the sign is in the reproductive organ is because that is the means by which the sin nature is passed on to successive generations. Another significant thing to note is that circumcision is the sign of the old covenant. The Law of the old covenant is good and righteous and holy (Rom 7:12), but it cannot produce salvation because man, being inherently sinful, cannot meet its righteous demands (Rom 4:15, 7:7-25; 8:6-8). The Law was given to measure (not exhaustively, but truly) the holiness of God. It was intended to be a mirror by which we see that we cannot live up to God's righteous demands, and that if He doesn't act to save us, we will suffer the punishment that justice demands (Rom 7). Far from securing man's salvation, the old covenant exposed our sin, but did not offer a solution for the sinful heart behind those attitudes and behaviors (Rom 8:3). This external nature of the old covenant is reflected in the external nature of circumcision, being a sign in the flesh. The new covenant, on the other hand offers a new and better circumcision—the circumcision we need if the root problem is to be addressed—a circumcision of the heart (Rom 2:25-29)! The need for this better circumcision was alluded to and called for in the old testament (Deut 10:16; Jer 4:4), and God's gracious gift of it was promised (Deut 30:6; Ezk 36; Jer 31:31-40). In the new covenant, God circumcises our hearts, taking away our hearts of stone and giving us hearts of flesh (Ezk 36:26); writing His Law on our hearts so that we begin to love what He loves and hate what He hates (Jer 31:33-34). As our sin nature is cut away (circumcised) from our heart in new covenant salvation, we enter into a peaceful relationship with God. No longer is God's Law saying go right when our whole being desires to go left, but we receive and begin to grow in the unspeakable blessing of a new nature that inherently desires to go right where God says to go right. God literally changes us from the inside out by the circumcision of the new covenant! Our greatest desire becomes obedience to God! This new covenant was enacted through Jesus' blood on the cross. The Old Testament shows our desperate need for new hearts—circumcision of the flesh. The New Testament shows God's answer to that need in sending His Son to die for guilty sinners and rise again, so that all who will repent and believe this gospel will receive forgiveness of sins, and a new heart that loves righteousness—circumcision of the heart (Col 2:11-14)!
The followings are my personal understanding about circumcision 1. 'Male' represents the whole family in Hebrew culture a) If father believes, this means that his whole family believes b) Wives always follow husband's faith: wife belongs to husband. c) Children always follow parents' faith; children obey their parents. 2. Male Reproductive Organ symbolize 'life' [new life; descendants] a) Cutting the foreskin symbolizes death/your descendant's death. b) Circumcision is the sign that you trust in God. No circumcision means you do not trust God. Circumcision means you trust God until death. 3. Circumcision vs. Baptism: Parallel of two [Col 2:11-12] a) Both of them are the Sign of the Covenant. Cicumcision is the sign of Old Covenant. Baptism is the sign of New Covenant. b) Both of them symbolize the faith until death. Circumcision symbolize trust in God until death. Baptisim symbolize death, burial and resurrection in Christ. [Rom 6:3-5] Baptism acknowledges our faith in Christ publicly. c) Circumcision/Baptism are the sign, not the way of Salvation Circumcision does not save us: Baptism does not save us Just like Israel should get circumcision, Believers in Christ should get baptism
My understanding is that the circumcision performed in biblical times was not as radical as what is performed on poor males today. As a physician, I know of no reason why the total removal of the foreskin and frenulum should be done. The foreskin is rich in Meissner corpuscles which are touch receptors placed by God for pleasure. Circumcision is nothing short of genital mutilation and should be stopped.
Though the covenant was with a man, it is representational of mankind, or humanity. We must remember back in the day, the standing of the woman in society was virtually non existent. The act of circumcision is the removal of the foreskin or flesh of the male organ and is symbolic of no longer being in the flesh, or world, because of being in covenant with God. I can not think of any other location on the male body where there is such an anomaly as foreskin. I think there is also some meaning in the name "fore", as in "before" and "after". One other thing that comes to mind, in modern times, more often than not gentile males are circumcised, primarily for reasons of sanitation. So it would seem that "worldly" thinking associates removing the foreskin with being sanitary. You have to wonder, its no stretch to associate the world with being unsanitary. One other comment, it is interesting in Gen 3:15 when God is giving it to Satan, he promises to put enmity between the serpent's seed and "hers". Then take a look at Luke 1:35, it is not Abraham's seed that impregnates Mary is it? Ole God is a pretty smart Fellow.
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