Daily Word

Covenant of Circumcision | Genesis 17:9-14

9 God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, including a slave who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants.

13 A slave who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall certainly be circumcised; so My covenant shall be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant. 14 But as for an uncircumcised male, one who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

Genesis 17:9-14 (NASB) 

And another thing…

The Lord has just changed Abram’s name to Abraham and re-stated the promise of many descendents (yesterday). Now He seeks to institute a new covenant with Abraham and his descendents and seal it with a sign. He chooses the sign of circumcision – a physical sign that reminds them of the promise and the obligations to uphold it; a way to distinguish them from all other peoples.

Circumcision

God institutes this new covenant with a sign of circumcision. What do we know about it?

  • For all generations. This is not just for the people with Abraham now, but for all future generations. Remember that the son of promise has not been born yet at this point.
  • It is done on a part of the body associated with reproduction – maybe as a constant reminder to keep this through all generations.
  • Eight day old sons shall receive it. In a baby, I’ve heard blood has peak coagulation ability at 8 days so the wound will heal faster. This article is somewhat related.
  • Everyone in the household, including slaves, gets circumcised. 
  • Those not circumcised were to be cut off (I think there’s a pun to add emphasis) from the nation of Israel.

Circumcision of Christians

So what about today? Should Christians be circumcised? No and yes. We are not under the OT law (Acts 15; Galatians 5:1–11; 6:11–16; and Colossians 2:8–12, Romans 4:9-12), but a law of grace so this doesn’t apply. Even though Paul had Timothy, who had a Greek father, circumcised (Galatians 2:1–3), it was not for salvation, but for effectiveness in reaching Jews.

But Christians (male and female) should be circumcised…in the heart. Colossians 2:8–12 (ESV) says, “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”. Romans 2:29 also addresses this. Many (especially Western) Christians have their sons circumcised out of custom. Even more, some denominations consider infant baptism a replacement for or addition to circumcision. (Read more here). One thing we need to be clear on: circumcision (or baptism) does not save. For more, click here

Circumcision of Jewish Christ followers

How about Jews who accept Christ? This passage (v 12-13) and others instruct that the rite is to be kept by all Jews through all generations. But we need to again be clear that circumcision does not save. “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 2:28-29) “Physical circumcision was a sign of Israel’s covenant with God; circumcision of the heart, therefore, would indicate Israel’s being set apart to love God fully, inside and out.” (gotquestions.org)

RЯeflection

  • Let’s consider for ourselves. Are we striving to have a circumcised heart, one that is set apart for God?
Newborn baby boy in basket. Image from Pxfuel.com

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