Genesis 17, Circumcision

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Helen, Jun 16, 2002.

  1. Helen

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    Chapter 17 begins with the next time God talks to Abram. The last we heard of Abram, Ishmael had just been born. Abram was 86 then. He is now 99 years old. It has been 13 years and Ishmael is a teenager. There still are no other children. The last time God had spoken to Abram was to establish the covenant, more than 13 years previously, for it was after that that Ishmael was born.

    That 13+ year gap leaves us with an interesting dilemma regarding what happens next. When God talks to Abram (in verse 2) God says He will nathan His covenant with Abram. The King James translates this word as 'make' while the NIV translates it as 'confirm.' Here we have a radical difference! Is this a new covenant or a confirmation of the previous one? The word 'nathan' can go either way or a number of other ways. It has a multitude of uses and applications.

    But Bible is to explain Bible. And, again, it does. If we go to Romans 4, in the New Testament, we will find Paul gives us the answer very specifically:

    3. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

    ...9. Is this blessedness only for the circumcised or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised


    The faith that was credited to him as righteousness was the faith exhibited in chapter 15, when God told him to go outside and 'tell' or 'recount' the stars (please see the study on chapter 15 for a further explanation of this). Therefore, circumcision was NOT a new covenant, but the confirmation of the one before. This is one of the relatively few cases where the NIV text has the better translation, I think.

    God then promises Abram that he will be the father of many nations, and it is at this point that God Himself changes Abram's name to Abraham, which reflects the fact that he will be the father of many nations. "Abram" means "exalted father" while "Abraham" means "father of many."

    Again God says Abraham will be very fruitful, but this time He adds something -- this covenant will be an everlasting covenant and not just between God and Abraham, but between God and Abraham's descendants. And again God promises the land to Abraham's descendants.

    It is only after all that, that God then tells Abraham what his part in the covenant is to be, as well as all the males in his household and all the male children born there: circumcision. We know now that circumcision was to represent a spiritual truth, which Paul explains so clearly in the New Testament. But Abraham had no way of knowing this! He only knew he had to obey.

    Before God is finished talking to Abraham, though, He adds even one more thing: Sarah, which is the new name God has given Sarai, will indeed bear a son to Abraham, and through this line nations and kings will come.

    At this we read that Abraham "fell facedown; he laughed..." He was 99; he would be 100 before any child was born even if it was conceived immediately. And Sarah! She would be 90!

    So Abraham asks God to have Ishmael live under His blessing. Abraham's belief has just been stretched to the breaking point. Ishmael is his son and that's going to be it.

    God says yes, He will bless Ishmael and make a great nation out of him, but it is through Sarah that He intends something far more special. In a year, Sarah will be a mother of her own son, and God has told Abraham the name of the son will be Isaac, which means "He laughs." Thus Isaac will be a constant reminder to Abraham that he laughed at God's promise!

    Remember now that Abraham is 99. He has been told to be circumcised. Ishmael is in for it, too. So is every man there. That would give most people a LONG pause!

    But Abraham DOES believe and obey God, and we read that on that VERY day Abraham, Ishmael, and EVERY male in that household was circumcised.

    Now stop for a moment. This is a culture where war is constant somewhere or another! The men in Abraham's household were his soldiers and servants! And for a couple of days they couldn't even walk, let alone fight!

    THAT's trusting God!
     
  2. tyndale1946

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    Helen where in the Bible is the practice of circumcision passed from the Jewish race down to the Gentiles? I don't remember mine I was a baby at the time... Brother Glen :eek:
     
  3. Helen

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    It was NEVER passed on to the Gentiles as a religious or spiritual rite. In fact, Paul specifically argued against that. Below are the New Testament references, at least in part, where Paul discusses it. Today, in the non-Jewish West (it is still done by Jews of all kinds, I believe), it is done

    1. For reasons of cleanliness with little boys (point of fact: one of my sons who is adopted was not circumcised and as he learned to shower himself he would ignore that area and consequently got infections two or three times which not only had to be taken care of with medicine, but by the daily pulling back of the foreskin over the inflamed tissue, which was very painful for him! So health reasons are a valid reason in my opinion!)

    2. Because Daddy is circumcised

    3. The mistaken belief that somehow it makes a child more godly, or that God approves.

    Hope that helps a little.

    Whoops, forgot the references (this is an edit!)

    Romans 2:25- 3:1
    Romans 3:30-31
    Romans 4:9-12

    1 Corinthians 7:18-19

    Galatians 2:3
    Galatians 2:11-14
    Galatians 5:2-12
    Galatians 6:12-15

    Ephesians 2:11-18

    Philippians 3:2-3

    Colossians 2:11-12
    Colossians 3:11

    [ June 16, 2002, 12:35 PM: Message edited by: Helen ]
     
  4. Me2

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    Ive always paralleled circumcision with the physical act of Baptism. One in which a more personal reflection of agreement between god and the believer. neither action caused salvation but only created a personal "reflection", or memory in time.
    Words or promises are confusing. possible even to the point of being forgotten. Physical Action creates a stamp in real time. A positive action to coincide with a promise of words.

    Thinking that this action only referred to males. could there be a female "reflection"?

    Could the new testament action on a females part be one of submission of husbands. ultimately being the process of childbirth.

    How About a female perspective ?

    [ June 16, 2002, 01:01 PM: Message edited by: Me2 ]
     
  5. Helen

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    I think I understand what you are getting at here, but I also think there may be a problem. Jesus told us to baptize, but nowhere mentions circumcision except in passing in John 7:22-23. There Jesus refers to it as part of the law, which is different from either baptism or communion. And, as shown above, Paul is very definite about the non-necessity of circumcision.

    So the first thing to note is that, apart from anything we may feel or think about either circumcision or communion, the Bible makes a definite distinction in terms of the meaning of each.

    I think you have a very good point here. This is what both public baptism and communion do, though, even apart from their spiritual significance.

    Circumcision is part of the covenant established for Abraham and his physical descendants. The Israeli culture was God-ordained and patriarchal. The woman was under her father's (or elder brother's, or kinsman redeemer's, if father was dead) authority and protection until marriage, at which point she came under her husband's authority and protection. Therefore she was covered by the covenant whether married or single.

    But circumcision is not only limited to males, by virtue of what it is, but in terms of biblical religious meaning, also limited to Jews!

    It is in the New Testament, with the establishment by Jesus of His church, that the two public symbols which are applicable to all men and all women who are His are given: baptism and communion. Here there is no male/female distinction and circumcision, as Paul stated, is of the heart -- which also makes it just as applicable to females as to males.

    Hope that helps a little.
     
  6. tyndale1946

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    Helen what parallel is there between the circumcision of the flesh and the circumcision mentioned in Romans 2:25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

    26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

    27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

    28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

    29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

    Is the circumcision of the flesh that pertained to natural Israel a parallel to the circumcision of the heart pertaining to spiritual Israel?... Brother Glen [​IMG]
     
  7. Helen

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    :D :D :D

    It's allegorical!

    :D :D :D

    A little more explanation: you will find that almost everything in the physical world is something God uses to explain a spiritual truth. And life REALLY gets interesting when you start looking at your own daily world that way!

    But biblically, for instance, you know a lot of the pictures: the Ark is a 'type' of Christ; Egypt is a 'type' of sin, etc. etc. So also, the physical circumcision being the human half of the Covenant is a picture of the circumcision of the heart which is the human half of the Covenant in Christ, if you would like to think of it as that.
     
  8. tyndale1946

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    Helen said:
    Hey I'm an allegorical believer but you kind of lost me on that one. Please elaborate a little more please... Brother Glen :confused:
     
  9. Helen

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    I'm extending the picture Moishe Rosen presented from the Jewish perspective. He showed that the covenant with Abraham was a blood covenant on the part of both sides: circumcision for man and the cross for God.

    Since circumcision of the flesh is said by Paul to be representative of circumcision of the heart, then what is the other half of THIS covenant? And what covenant are we talking about?

    God's covenant with Noah was a promise to all the earth not to inundate the entire thing with floodwaters again. That was a one-sided covenant. It didn't matter what Noah or anyone else did, the promise would stand.

    With Abraham it was different. God promised the Messiah from his line, that his descendants would get their own extensive territory, and that many nations would come from him. But Abraham had to do something, too -- he had to undergo circumcision. So Abraham's obedience to God's command was his half of the covenant.

    In the same way, we cannot expect to get God's wonderful promises to us if we do not obey as well. What must we obey? We must submit to His hand. As a newborn baby is circumcised by someone else, rabbi or father with the Jews, so, when we are born again of the Lord, we must also totally submit to Him. And part of that submission involves having any hardness of heart stripped away in a spiritual circumcision. And it can hurt. It is extremely humbling and one does feel a bit crippled if one has been sort of living with those grudges and such quite comfortably.

    And just as Abraham was told by God that he MUST keep God's covenant, so must we. It's not a choice thing. We can be early or late in that total submission, but the later we are the more we will be disciplined by the Lord. He has not lost one and one of us is not on the schedule to be first! Each of us WILL be conformed to the image of Christ once we are His, and that's that! There will be no halfway Christians in heaven.

    [ June 17, 2002, 01:09 AM: Message edited by: Helen ]
     
  10. Clint Kritzer

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