Ark of the Covenant - Bible History Online
Bible History Online

Sub Categories

Back to Categories

August 3    Scripture

More Bible History
Manners & Customs : Circumcision
Circumcision in the ancient Biblical world

Circumcised on the 8th Day JEWISH RITES AND OFFERINGS AT BIRTH OF A CHILD Jewish boys were circumcised eight days after birth. The one who Circumcised the child spoke the following words: "Blessed be the LORD our GOD, who has sanctified us by His precepts, and given us circumcision." Then the father of the boy would go on with these words: "Who has sanctified us by His precepts, and has granted us to introduce our child into the covenant of Abraham our father." Because it was said that GOD changed the names of Abraham and Sarah, at the time He gave the covenant of circumcision, therefore they would name the boy on the day he was circumcised. After doing this they had a family meal.5 The rite of circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. GOD had said to Abraham, "This is my covenant, which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee" (Genesis 17:10). JESUS was circumcised the eighth day after birth and he was named "JESUS" at that time (Luke 2:21). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Circumcision in Easton's Bible Dictionary 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 labours 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.

Circumcision in Fausset's Bible Dictionary The cutting off all round of the foreskin (the projecting skin in the male member, the emblem of corruption, Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4) of males, appointed by God as token of His covenant with Abraham and his seed (Genesis 17:10-14). The usage prevailed, according to Herodotus (2:104, section 36-37), among the Egyptians, Ethiopians, and Syrians. But his statement may refer only to the Egyptian priests, and those initiated in the mysteries. The Jews alone of the inhabitants of the Syrian region were circumcised. So, circumcision kept them distinct from uncircumcised Canaanite pagan around. If the rite existed before Abraham it was then first sanctioned as a token of God's covenant with Abraham and his seed, and particular directions given by God as to the time of its being performed, the eighth day, even though it were a sabbath (John 7:22-23), and the persons to be circumcised, every male, every slave, and (at the Exodus it was added) every male foreigner before he could partake of the Passover (Genesis 17:12-13; Exodus 12:48). So, the rainbow existed before the flood, but in Genesis 9:13-17 first was made token of the covenant. The testimony of the Egyptian sculptures, mummies, and hieroglyphics, is very doubtful as to the pre-Abrahamic antiquity of circumcision. (See note Genesis 17, Speaker's Commentary.) The Hamite races of Israel, akin to the Egyptians, as (Judges 14:3) the Philistines and Canaanites (the Hivites, Genesis 34), were certainly not circumcised. The Egyptian priests probably adopted the rite when Joseph was their governor and married to the daughter of the priest of On. The Israelites by the rite, which was associated with the idea of purity, were marked as a whole "kingdom of priests" (Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 7:6-7). In Jeremiah 9:25, "I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised: Egypt, and Judah, and Edom," two classes seem distinguished: Israel circumcised in flesh, but uncircumcised in heart; and the Gentile nations uncircumcised both in flesh and heart. Hyrcanus first compelled the Edomites to be circumcised (Josephus, Ant. 13:9, section 1; compare Ezekiel 31:18). Its significance is, the cutting the outside flesh of the organ of generation denotes corruption as inherent in us from birth, and transmitted by our parents, and symbolizes our severance from nature's defilement to a state of consecrated fellowship with God. Jehovah consecrated the nation to Himself; and whatsoever male was not circumcised on the eighth day was liable to be "cut off." Moses had neglected to circumcise his son, owing to Zipporah's repugnance to it, as a rite not generally adopted in the East, even by the descendants of Abraham and Keturah, the Midianites. Therefore he was attacked by some sudden seizure in the resting place for the night, which he and his wife were divinely admonished arose from the neglect. She took a sharp stone or flint (compare margin Joshua 5:2; Joshua 5:8), the implement sanctioned by patriarchal usage as more sacred than metal (as was the Egyptian usage also in preparing mummies), and cut off her son's foreskin, and cast it at Moses' feet, saying, "a bloody husband art thou to me," i.e., by this blood of my child I have recovered...

Circumcision in Naves Topical Bible Institution of Ge 17:10-14; Le 12:3; Joh 7:22; Ac 7:8; Ro 4:11 -A seal of righteousness Ro 2:25-29; 4:11 -Performed on all males on the eighth day Ge 17:12,13; Le 12:3; Php 3:5 -Rite of, observed on the Sabbath Joh 7:23 -A prerequisite of the privileges of the passover Ex 12:48 -Child named at the time of Ge 21:3,4; Lu 1:59; 2:21 -Neglect of, punished Ge 17:14; Ex 4:24 -Neglected Jos 5:7 -Covenant promises of Ge 17:4-14; Ac 7:8; Ro 3:1; 4:11; 9:7-13; Ga 5:3 -Necessity of, falsely taught by Judaizing Christians Ac 15:1 -Paul's argument against the continuance of Ro 2:25,28; Ga 6:13 -Characterized by Paul as a yoke Ac 15:10 -Abrogated Ac 15:5-29; Ro 3:30; 4:9-11; 1Co 7:18,19; Ga 2:3,4; 5:2-11; 6:12; Eph 2:11,15; Col 2:11; 3:11 -INSTANCES OF Abraham Ge 17:23-27; 21:3,4 Shechemites Ge 34:24 Moses Ex 4:25 Israelites at Gilgal Jos 5:2-9 John the Baptist Lu 1:59 Jesus Lu 2:21 Paul Php 3:5 Timothy Ac 16:3 -FIGURATIVE Ex 6:12; De 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; 6:10; 9:26; Ro 2:28,29; 15:8; Php 3:3; Col 2:11; 3:11 A designation of the Jews Ac 10:45; 11:2; Ga 2:9; Eph 2:11; Col 4:11; Tit 1:10 A designation of Christians Php 3:3

Circumcision in Smiths Bible Dictionary was peculiarly, though not exclusively, a Jewish rite. It was enjoined upon Abraham, the father of the nation, by God, at the institution and as the token of the covenant, which assured to him and his descendants the promise of the Messiah. Gen. 17. It was thus made a necessary condition of Jewish nationality. Every male child was to be circumcised when eight days old, Le 12:3 on pain of death. The biblical notice of the rite describes it as distinctively Jewish; so that in the New Testament "the circumcision" and "the uncircumcision" are frequently used as synonyms for the Jews and the Gentiles. The rite has been found to prevail extensively in both ancient and modern times. Though Mohammed did not enjoin circumcision in the Koran, he was circumcised himself, according to the custom of his country; and circumcision is now as common among the Mohammedans as among the Jews. The process of restoring a circumcised person to his natural condition by a surgical operation was sometimes undergone. Some of the Jews in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, wishing to assimilate themselves to the heathen around them, "made themselves uncircumcised." Against having recourse to this practice, from an excessive anti-Judaistic tendency, St. Paul cautions the Corinthians. 1Co 7:18

Circumcision in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE sur-kum-sizh'-un (mul, muloth; peritome): The removal of the foreskin is a custom that has prevailed, and prevails, among many races in different parts of the world--in America, Africa and Australia. It was in vogue among the western Semites--Hebrews, Arabians, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Egyptians, but was unknown among the Semites of the Euphrates. In Canaan the Philistines were an exception, for the term "uncircumcised" is constantly used in connection with them. Generally speaking, the rite of circumcision was a precondition of the enjoyment of certain political and religious privileges (Ex 12:48; Ezek 44:9); and in view of the fact that in the ancient world religion played such an important role in life, it may be assumed that circumcision, like many other strange customs whose original significance is no longer known, originated in connection with religion. Before enumerating the different theories which have been advanced with regard to the origin and original significance of circumcision, it may be of advantage to consider some of the principal references to the rite in the Old Testament. 1. Circumcision in the Old Testament: In the account of the institution of the covenant between Yahweh and Abraham which Priestly Code (P) gives (Gen 17), circumcision is looked upon as the ratification of the agreement. Yahweh undertook to be the God of Abraham and of his descendants. Abraham was to be the father of a multitude of nations and the founder of a line of kings. He and his descendants were to inherit Canaan. The agreement thus formed was permanent; Abraham's posterity should come within the scope of it. But it was necessary to inclusion in the covenant that every male child should be circumcised on the 8th day. A foreigner who had attached himself as a slave to a Hebrew household had to undergo the rite--the punishment for its non-fulfilment being death or perhaps excommunication. According to Ex 12:48 (also P) no stranger could take part in the celebration of the Passover unless he had been circumcised. In the Book of Josh (5:2-9) we read that the Israelites were circumcised at Gilgal ("Rolling"), and thus the "reproach of Egypt" was "rolled away." Apparently circumcision in the case of the Hebrews was prohibited during the Egyptian period--circumcision being a distinctive mark of the ruling race. It is noticeable that flint knives were used for the purpose. This use of an obsolete instrument is one of many proofs of conservatism in religion. According to the strange and obscure account of the circumcision by Zipporah of her eldest son (Ex 4:25) the performance of the rite in the case of the son apparently possesses a vicarious value, for thereby Moses becomes a "bridegroom of blood." The marriage bond is ratified by the rite of blood (see 4 below). But it is possible that the author's meaning is that owing to the fact that Moses had not been circumcised (the "reproach of Egypt") he was not fit to enter the matrimonial estate (see 3 below). 2. Theories of Origin: The different theories with regard to the origin of circumcision may be arranged under four heads: (1) Herodotus (ii.37), in dealing with circumcision among the Egyptians, suggests that it was a sanitary operation. But all suggestions of a secular, i.e. non-religious, origin to the rite, fail to do justice to the place and importance of religion in the life of primitive man. (2) It was a tribal mark. Tattooed marks frequently answered the purpose, although they may have been originally...

Circumcision Scripture - Acts 10:45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Circumcision Scripture - Acts 7:8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so [Abraham] begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac [begat] Jacob; and Jacob [begat] the twelve patriarchs.

Circumcision Scripture - Ephesians 2:11 Wherefore remember, that ye [being] in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

Circumcision Scripture - Galatians 2:7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as [the gospel] of the circumcision [was] unto Peter;

Circumcision Scripture - Galatians 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we [should go] unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

Circumcision Scripture - John 7:22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.

Circumcision Scripture - John 7:23 If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?

Circumcision Scripture - Romans 2:26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

Circumcision Scripture - Romans 3:30 Seeing [it is] one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

Circumcision Scripture - Romans 4:11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which [he had yet] being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: