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Circumcision more then any other factor has been identified with the Jew down through the pages of human history. The very first natural Jew to be circumcised was the father of all Jews - Father Abraham. It has been an unbroken testimony of Jewishness to this very day. It has identified, and set apart the Jew as a special people. Here is the first Biblical record of God talking to Abraham about circumcision.



Gen 17:10-14

10This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

11And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.

12And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.

13He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

14And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

KJV



Circumcision was a responsibility placed on the family. The Jew whether living in the promised land, the wilderness, or some Gentile nation was commanded to keep circumcision within the "house" as a never ending sign of the covenant relationship God offered to them. To disobey, was to be excommunicated from everything Jewish.



I found it very enlightening to study Old Testament circumcision. Something of interest is the inference that must be made about the very first circumcision commanded by God. It is within the context of Judaism, yet it involves for the most part Gentiles? It is at the very dawn, and a foundational step leading to the nation of Israel. Leading to the family (household) of God!



Gen 17:23-18:1

23And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.

24And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

25And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

26In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.

27And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.

KJV



The first recorded circumcision in the Bible when Abraham was ninty nine years old included Abraham, then Ishmael, and then all the male non-seed men of Abraham's household whom were mostly bought out from the nekar or bad Gentiles. Issac was not to be born for another year.



Gen 21:3-5

3And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.

4And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him.

5And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.

KJV



It is very clear from the beginning that circumcision saved no one, as baptism today saves no one. Ishmael was probably the very first non-natural seed male to be circumcised, yet he clearly is rejected by God.



Gal 4:28-5:1

28Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

29But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

30Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.

31So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

KJV



The animosity of the first ever circumcised male in a Jewish context is evident even today with the Arab hatred for the Jew. Ishmael rejected Abraham's God, and his example has forever marked his seed with the same hatred even now almost 2000 years after Paul said the same thing to the Gallatin Christians of his day. God for His part ordered him "cast out" 2000 years before Paul's day. Ishmael was "cut off," and found that even circumcision could not make him acceptable to God. There was something else of which circumcision was only a sign. Something I will deal with shortly.



Besides Ishmael, there were other non-seed Gentiles who were circumcised that day. How many may surprise you?



Gen 14:14

14And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.

KJV



In the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Salem's High Priest Melchizedek Abraham already had three hundred and eighteen men who would be part of this first circumcision. The number by Genesis 17 can only be assumed as great. This was all the men of Abraham's household not just the younger armed trained ones that were to be circumcised.



There is something about circumcision that God made very clear from the very beginning. When circumcision was administered as a symbol of the covenant God made with Abraham whether applied to the Gentile stranger or the natural born seed, it needed a response from the individual heart to have any real spiritual meaning.



Deut 10:16-17

16Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.

17For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:

KJV



Deut 30:6

6And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

KJV



Lev 26:40-42

40If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me;

41And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:

42Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.

KJV



Rom 2:29

29But 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.

KJV



The outward circumcision was to symbolize an inward circumcision that could only be preformed and seen by God. The parallels to New Testament baptism in this context should not be overlooked. It is possible for a Christian to be baptized without ever having been saved in the first place. It is also possible for a saved Christian to be baptized, and then backslide dragging others into great abomination. God has outward expectations, but only He knows the truth about the individual heart. So also, was it true for the Old Testament circumcised Jew or Gentile stranger. Only God sees the heart, and knows the truth of who will spend eternity in heaven or hell. God never keeps this great truth to Himself until judgment day, but freely confirms through His Spirit to the humbled individual that God's grace has been applied.



Rom 8:16

16The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

KJV

 

When Abraham was ninety nine years old he conducted the first circumcision service among all the males of his household. It was in obedience to the covenant promise God gave to him personally. What the heart condition was among all those who participated that day only God and the individual knew. We know what Abraham's heart was, and we know what Ishmael's heart was. I will assume the best for those hundreds of Gentile strangers who willingly followed Abraham in this unusual act of submission to God. The promise was applied by God, and the foundation was set for the nation Israel. In time, the Church which was built on the foundation of the twelve Jewish Apostles became primarily a Gentile phenomenon. The nation of Israel was founded on a mostly Gentile stranger foundation, but became a primarily natural seed phenomenon. Both conditions were directed by God.



Interesting to me was that the beginning of the first Jewish dispensation of which the vast majority of the Bible is allotted, is founded with so many Gentiles. My thoughts are that through time the free will of the Gentile opted out where the natural seed Jew opted in. The very reverse happens in the Church age. I think those first Gentiles became part of Abraham's household more because they sought the same God of righteousness that he did. It was a righteousness unattainable by the best of human effort, but by faith it could be miraculously applied by God.



Gen 15:6

6And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

KJV



Rom 4:1-3

4:1What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?

2For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

3For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

KJV



Gal 3:6-9

6Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

7Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

8And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

9So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

KJV

 

I believe this was the prevailing attitude among those Gentiles at that first circumcision. I do not believe that God just excluded the Gentile from Genesis 12 until Pentecost as I do not believe God excludes the Jew from becoming a Christian today. Both groups had to practice the same separation from the world. Those servants of Abraham followed him out of paganism into a whole new culture. They all, including Abraham, separated from the pagan world of their day, and by faith sought true righteousness. What joy that the God of grace was there to circumcise their hearts by promise just as He administers that same grace today by the same promise in the finished work of Christ. Today those same Gentiles have watched the promise unfold in Jesus Christ. Their faith has been fulfilled because of Calvary. God has won the victory through the Jewish soon coming King.



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Edited by DDSrail September 4, 1999

 

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