Why Did They Circumcise in the Bible?
There are two explanations for why the Israelites circumcised their male children. One is that the practice was a sign of filthy sin; the other is that it was a national identification and covenant symbol. Let’s look at both of them and decide for ourselves.
It was a sign of filthy sin
In the Old Testament, the circumcision of Jews was considered a necessary part of salvation, and the act of circumcision was seen as an effective sign of the promise of salvation. However, in the New Testament, circumcision of Gentiles became obsolete, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurred on uncircumcised people. It also fulfilled prophecies of Joel and Ezekiel, which predicted that the Spirit would come on all flesh. With divine grace, circumcision achieved its spiritual significance, and the rite became obsolete.
Several rabbinic and Christian texts have attributed the concept of circumcision to a rabbinic tradition. Philo, for example, associates circumcision with a purification rite. Herodotus, on the other hand, does not associate circumcision with cleansing.
Another explanation of circumcision in the Bible is that it is a symbol of the seed of Abraham. In Genesis, God promises that through the seed of this man, “all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” Abraham was a chosen person by God, and God made him a sign of His promise to bless all his descendants.
Paul also warns Christians who regarded circumcision as a spiritual virtue. Paul calls this practice “concision,” and calls those who practice it “another gospel.” This is another example of the ramifications circumcision has had on the New Testament church.
In the Bible, a literal circumcision of the heart is the result of a deep conviction of sin. It is a sign of repentance from the past and a step towards redemption. The Bible also says that a person who fails to circumcise his heart is likely to live a sinful life.
The apostle Paul corrects this error by explaining that circumcision in the Old Testament is of no value in the light of the New Testament. In the New Testament, Christians are considered to be a new creation, meaning that we have been reborn in Christ. Therefore, a physical circumcision is not an indication of filthy sin. It is not a necessary sign of salvation.
A Christian’s freedom from circumcision is a sign of freedom from the Law and the yoke of slavery. Hence, the Old Testament warns Christians against being bound to any yokes of slavery.
It was a symbol of covenant
The act of circumcision was a symbol of covenant between God and the Jewish people. It was performed on male children to mark their belonging to the people of God and to follow the regulations of the covenant. However, circumcision was not always practiced in Jewish history. It was probably neglected during the time of the nation’s wandering in the wilderness. However, when the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they circumcised all their children.
In the bible, circumcision was often used as a metaphor for covenant commitment. In Deuteronomy 10:16, God instructs the Israelites to “circumcise their hearts,” and in Deuteronomy 30:6, he reiterates this command. In Leviticus, circumcision is also associated with covenant holiness.
In the bible, circumcision symbolized God’s covenant with Abraham. The covenant promises were made to Abraham, and through him, they were transferred to the descendants of Abraham. Despite being a symbol of covenant, Christians do not practice circumcision today. Genesis 17:13-14 states that the act of circumcision signifies the everlasting covenant between God and Abraham.
Historically, the Hebrew nation took great pride in their circumcision. It made them think of themselves as spiritually superior. They presumed that circumcision was proof that they were right with God. People who were uncircumcised were considered outside God’s love circle. This, however, was not God’s intention. Ultimately, this covenantal love symbol morphed into a symbol of sin.
Both baptism and circumcision are sacraments. While circumcision had religious significance, baptism is more profound. The latter serves as a symbol for faith and love for God. Christians are no longer required to undergo circumcision, but are required to present their children for baptism.
In the bible, circumcision was a symbolic act of covenant. The Hebrews believed that males who were circumcised were part of the covenant people of God. In addition, non-Jews could become Jewish by believing that they received the sign of circumcision. For example, the ancient Israelites did not circumcise their male children during their time in the desert, but did so when they entered the promised land.
Although circumcision was an outward ritual, the act also signified a deeper inner circumcision. Paul teaches about this in Romans 2 and Colossians 2.
It was a symbol of national identity
Circumcision had religious and national significance in Biblical times. The Hebrews and the Western Semites were particularly proud of being circumcised, and their neighbors referred to them as “uncircumcised” or “unclean.” It is thought that circumcision was a symbol of covenant between God and the Hebrews, sealing national promises to Abraham. The Bible is rich with references to the significance of circumcision.
God set apart the people of Israel to be His royal descendants. This symbolic act signified that God had chosen them for a great destiny as kings and nations. Circumcision was also meant to symbolize the covenant of faith between God and Abraham. The symbolism of circumcision reflected God’s preference for obedience and purity.
The Biblical authors also knew that circumcision was practiced by other nations. The book of Jeremiah lists some of the nations of Israel that had circumcised males. These nations included the Ammonites, the Moabites, and the Philistines. The Philistines migrated from the western part of the region. It was common to refer to Philistines as “uncircumcised” as a derogatory term.
Today, circumcision is widely practiced as a religious act, but the modern practice is not the same as it was in the Bible. It is often performed to show national identity and ethnic affinity. It also signifies a commitment to God, and can be a powerful symbol in the Christian faith.
The Bible has also a connection between circumcision and the new birth. The apostle Paul explained that the act of circumcision was an expression of purity. Paul stated that the act of circumcision “put off our sinful nature.” That is why he also related circumcision with the concept of the new man. The New Testament makes clear that circumcision is important in the development of the new man.
Paul, a trained Jew, and an authority on the Law of Moses, understood circumcision as a symbol of national identity. His discussions on Deuteronomy 30 also stressed that a holy people is a covenant with God. The physical circumcision would signify Israel’s covenant with God, while circumcision of the heart would indicate a person’s desire to serve God completely.