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Easton's Bible Dictionary


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        cutting around. This rite, practised before, as some think, by
        divers races, was appointed by God to be the special badge of
        his chosen people, an abiding sign of their consecration to him.
        It was established as a national ordinance (Gen. 17:10, 11). In
        compliance with the divine command, Abraham, though ninety-nine
        years of age, was circumcised on the same day with Ishmael, who
        was thirteen years old (17:24-27). Slaves, whether home-born or
        purchased, were circumcised (17:12, 13); and all foreigners must
        have their males circumcised before they could enjoy the
        privileges of Jewish citizenship (Ex. 12:48). During the journey
        through the wilderness, the practice of circumcision fell into
        disuse, but was resumed by the command of Joshua before they
        entered the Promised Land (Josh. 5:2-9). It was observed always
        afterwards among the tribes of israel, although it is not
        expressly mentioned from the time of the settlement in Canaan
        till the time of Christ, about 1,450 years. The Jews prided
        themselves in the possession of this covenant distinction (Judg.
        14:3; 15:18; 1 Sam. 14:6; 17:26; 2 Sam. 1:20; Ezek. 31:18).
        As a rite of the church it ceased when the New Testament times
        began (Gal. 6:15; Col. 3:11). Some Jewish Christians sought to
        impose it, however, on the Gentile converts; but this the
        apostles resolutely resisted (Acts 15:1; Gal. 6:12). Our Lord
        was circumcised, for it "became him to fulfil all
        righteousness," as of the seed of Abraham, according to the
        flesh; and Paul "took and circumcised" Timothy (Acts 16:3), to
        avoid giving offence to the Jews. It would render Timothy's
        labors more acceptable to the Jews. But Paul would by no means
        consent to the demand that Titus should be circumcised (Gal.
        2:3-5). The great point for which he contended was the free
        admission of uncircumcised Gentiles into the church. He
        contended successfully in behalf of Titus, even in Jerusalem.
        In the Old Testament a spiritual idea is attached to
        circumcision. It was the symbol of purity (Isa. 52:1). We read
        of uncircumcised lips (Ex. 6:12, 30), ears (Jer. 6:10), hearts
        (Lev. 26:41). The fruit of a tree that is unclean is spoken of
        as uncircumcised (Lev. 19:23).
        It was a sign and seal of the covenant of grace as well as of
        the national covenant between God and the Hebrews. (1.) It
        sealed the promises made to Abraham, which related to the
        commonwealth of Israel, national promises. (2.) But the promises
        made to Abraham included the promise of redemption (Gal. 3:14),
        a promise which has come upon us. The covenant with Abraham was
        a dispensation or a specific form of the covenant of grace, and
        circumcision was a sign and seal of that covenant. It had a
        spiritual meaning. It signified purification of the heart,
        inward circumcision effected by the Spirit (Deut. 10:16; 30:6;
        Ezek. 44:7; Acts 7:51; Rom. 2:28; Col. 2:11). Circumcision as a
        symbol shadowing forth sanctification by the Holy Spirit has now
        given way to the symbol of baptism (q.v.). But the truth
        embodied in both ordinances is ever the same, the removal of
        sin, the sanctifying effects of grace in the heart.
        Under the Jewish dispensation, church and state were
        identical. No one could be a member of the one without also
        being a member of the other. Circumcision was a sign and seal of
        membership in both. Every circumcised person bore thereby
        evidence that he was one of the chosen people, a member of the
        church of God as it then existed, and consequently also a member
        of the Jewish commonwealth.

Related Bible History

Bibliography Information
Easton, Matthew George. M.A., D.D., "Biblical Meaning for 'Circumcision' Eastons Bible Dictionary". - Eastons; 1897.

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