Circumcision

(Gen 15:1) After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

(Gen 15:5) And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
(Gen 15:6) And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

(Gen 15:18) In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:

Abraham was no more than 86 years old when this covenant was made, for he did not have any descendants at that time (Gen 15:3) and he was 86 years old when Ishmael was born (Gen 16:16). It follows that there is an interval of about 13 years or more between the covenant of Gen 15:18 and the time of Gen 17:1, for in Gen 17:1 we read that "Abram was ninety years old and nine".

(Gen 17:1) And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
(Gen 17:2) And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

In verse 2, literally, "I will make" is "I will give". It is not the same word as in Gen 15:18, in which God "made" not "gave" the covenant. Then, the statement "I will give my covenant" would be interpreted as the Lord saying that he would do his part of the covenant. God's part in the covenant was about the fulfillment of the promises that he made. We can infer that Abraham's part was "walk before me, and be thou perfect" (Gen 17:1). The message to Abraham was that if he did his part, God would do his own also.

(Gen 17:7) And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.

If we interpret "thy seed" as Christ, the verse refers to everyone in the body of Christ, that is, the believers before Christ came, as well as the believers after Christ came.

(Gen 17:8) And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

Christ will return with all his saints. At that time the first part of Gen 17:8 will be fulfilled.

(Gen 17:9) And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
(Gen 17:10) 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.
(Gen 17:11) And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.

Verse 10 ends the description of the covenant with the words "This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee". Note that the Lord did not give Abraham commandments to keep as part of this covenant, but he simply said "walk before me, and be thou perfect". The covenant required complete submission to the Lord, not an agreement to obey a number of rules. The implication was that if the Lord would reveal his ways or his will in any matter, a person in this covenant would be willing to submit.

We read "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." Note that the word translated "man child" means "male". The manner in which the text is phrased suggests that the statements "Every male among you shall be circumcised" and "And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin" are not describing the same thing. Indeed, the Scripture indicates clearly that outward circumcision alone was not sufficient to please the Lord. He was looking for a circumcision of the heart (Lev 26:41, Deu 30:6, Jer 4:4, Jer 9:26). Then, it would appear that the circumcision of the heart is mentioned in "Every male among you shall be circumcised", while verse 11 introduces the circumcision of the flesh as a sign of the covenant. One who would not circumcise the flesh was to be "cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant" (Ge 17:14). Such a person would break the covenant because he would refuse to do something that the Lord said that should be done. The circumcision of the flesh was not part of the covenant, but was given after the covenant, as a sign. On the other hand, submission to God was part of the covenant. Therefore, anyone who would rebel would break the covenant. The Lord gave the circumcision of the flesh for that time. We no longer see it required in the New Testament (1Co 7:18-19, Col 3:11). "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God" (1Co 7:19). While circumcision of the flesh was not part of the covenant with Abraham and is no longer required, submission to God, which was part of the covenant, remains. An interesting observation is that in Hebrew the word for "male" is spelled like the verb "to remember". According to Strong's Dictionary, the word for "male" properly means "remembered". Interpreted this way, the statement "Every male among you shall be circumcised" can be understood as saying "Everyone among you who is remembered shall be circumcised". Associating those who are remembered with those who are saved and interpreting circumcision as the circumcision of the heart, this passage would remind us that everyone who is saved (male or female) must be inwardly changed, that is, he must have the heart circumcised (Col 2:11). In the Old Testament we read

(Deu 10:16) Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.

One who is not stiffnecked (one who has submitted himself to God) is circumcised in heart.

(Rom 2:29) ... circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter ...

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