"God said to Abraham,
"As for you, you are to keep my covenant, you and your descendants after
you, generation after generation. Here is my covenant, which you are to
keep, between me and you, along with your descendants after you: every male
among you is to be circumcised. You are to be circumcised in the flesh of
your foreskin; this will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.
Generation after generation, every male among you who is eight days old is
to be circumcised, including slaves born within your household and those
bought from a foreigner not descended from you."
God again promised that Sarah,
Abraham's wife, would bear a son at age 90 and that the covenant would be
established with him.
your wife will bear you a son, and you are to call him Isaac (laughter).
I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his
descendants after him. But as for Ishmael, I have heard you. I have
blessed him. I will make him fruitful and give him many descendants.
He will father twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But I
will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this
time next year."
So Abraham circumcised himself at
age 99 and Ishmael who was 13 years of age, and all other male slaves
his household. A year later, we read in Genesis 21:4 that Abraham
circumcised his son Isaac on the eighth day after his birth, and Abraham was
100 years old.
The commandment of circumcision
on the eighth day is still practiced within Judaism, regardless of a Sabbath
or Yom Kippur (John 7:22-23). Why? To
fulfill God's covenant and promise to Abraham.
It should be noted that Muslims
also practice male circumcision when a boy is usually around 10-12 years of
age. Their circumcision is not done as a sign of God's Abrahamic covenant
that was later reiterated with Isaac and Jacob, but rather for hygiene
mentions five natural things that
one does: removing
pubic hair, circumcision, trimming a mustache, removing underarm hair, and
cutting of nails.
There are also some cultures that practice female circumcision which is not commanded anywhere
in the Bible and often results in
Circumcision of the Heart
circumcision has been an important religious practice for Jewish males in
acknowledging God's covenant with Abraham.
The Israelites, and servants and
foreigners among them, were commanded by God to be circumcised before eating
the Passover lamb and leaving Egypt (Exodus 12:40-51). Again,
after 40 years of wandering in the Sinai wilderness,
instructed the Israelite males to be circumcised before entering the Land of
Canaan (Joshua 5:2-7).
Yeshua (Jesus) was
circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21) and was presented by his
parents at the Temple, a month after birth fulfilling the rite of
HaBen - "Redemption of the First Born" (Luke 2:23) thus
(Exodus 13:2; Numbers 18:15). Circumcision is mentioned numerous
times in the
took enough pleasure in your ancestors
to love them and
choose their descendants after them,
above all peoples, as he still does today.
circumcise the foreskin of your heart;
and do not be
stiff-necked any longer."
"People of Judah
and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
yourselves for Adonai, remove the
your heart. Otherwise my fury will
lash out like
fire, burning so hot that no one can
because of how evil your actions are."
God wants a relationship
with his people Israel and it is described as circumcision of the heart,
meaning, the people receive a spiritual heart of love, devotion and obedience towards God.
There were times when the
Children of Israel were close and faithful to God, and times when they
were not. Not unlike many of us today.
New Testament Teaching on
circumcision is indeed of value if you do what Torah says. But if you are a
transgressor of Torah, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore,
if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the Torah, won't
his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? Indeed, the man who is
physically uncircumcised but obeys the Torah will stand as a judgment on you
who have had a circumcision and have Torah written out but violate it.
For the real Jew is not merely Jewish outwardly: true circumcision is not
only external and physical. On the contrary, the real Jew is one inwardly;
and true circumcision is of the heart, spiritual not literal; so that his
praise comes not from other people but from God."
are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins
are covered over; Blessed is the man whose sin Adonai will not reckon
against his account. Now is
this blessing for the circumcised only? Or is it
also for the uncircumcised? For we say
that Abraham's trust was credited to his
account as righteousness; but what
state was he in when it was so credited,
circumcision or uncircumcision? Not in
circumcision, but in uncircumcision. In fact,
he received circumcision as a sign, as a seal
of the righteousness he had been credited
with on the ground of the trust he had
while he was still uncircumcised. This
happened so that he could be the father of every uncircumcised person
who trusts and thus has righteousness credited to him, and at the same
time be the
father of every circumcised person who not
only has had a circumcision, but also
follows in the footsteps of the trust which
Abraham our Father had when he
was still uncircumcised.
already circumcised when he was called?
Then he should
not try to remove the marks of his circumcision.
uncircumcised when he was called?
He should not
circumcised means nothing,
uncircumcised means nothing;
what does mean
something is keeping God's commandments."
What is rabbi Shaul (Paul)
saying here? If you are a Jewish believer in Yeshua, then do not try
to remove the signs of your Jewishness by living like the non-Jews.
And if you are a non-Jewish follower of Yeshua, then you do not need to become
Jewish to be obedient to God.
But rather, it is more important that both should obey the
commandments of God and walk in faith. James 2:23-24 states
"Abraham had faith
in God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness. He was even
called God's friend. You see that a person is declared righteous because of
actions and not because of faith alone."
And Abraham's faith in God began
before he was physically circumcised. It is circumcision of the heart
and obedience that are important to God.
former state, you Gentiles by birth,
are called the Uncircumcised by those who,
of an operation on their flesh,
are called the
Circumcised) at that time had no Messiah.
estranged from the national life of Israel.
foreigners to the covenants embodying God's promise.
You were in this
world without hope and without God.
But now, you who
were once far off have been brought
near through the
shedding of the Messiah's blood...
So then, you are no
longer foreigners and strangers.
On the contrary, you
are fellow-citizens with God's people
and members of God's
Rabbi Shaul (Paul) speaks
of the non-Jewish believers being grafted into the Jewish
olive tree in greater detail in Romans chapter 11. There should be
nothing replacement about being grafted into the House of Israel. Yeshua,
referring to the non-Jews in John 10:16 stated,
"Also I have other
sheep which are not from this pen; I need to bring them, and they will hear
my voice; and there will be on flock, one shepherd."
Yeshua was referring to the
prophectic words found in Isaiah 56:8 which state,
"Adonai Elohim says,
he who gathers Israel's exiles; 'There are yet others
I will gather, besides
those gathered already.'"
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the foreigners joining themselves to Adonai and the
people of Israel; observing the biblical Sabbaths; holding fast to God's
covenant; going to God's holy mountain; and praying in God's house of prayer for all
the nations. It also speaks about those who put their faith in the God of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob; who love the God of Israel and the people of Israel; and
who embrace the Messiah of Israel. One people, one God, one Messiah,
and the "one new man" expression spoken about in the New Testament.
The Jerusalem Council
Acts chapter 15 records a special
council that was convened in Jerusalem by the Messianic Jews to discuss and
determine if the non-Jewish people coming to faith in Yeshua the messiah needed to be
circumcised according to the laws of Moses. Some of the Pharisees who
had become believers in Yeshua raised the issue.
Kefa (Peter), Shaul
(Paul) and Bar Nabba (Barnabas) shared
how the non-Jews were placing their faith and trust in Yeshua and how the
non-Jews were filled with the Holy Spirit. Yaakov (James) then
spoke up and reminded the brethren that the phenomenon was a
fulfillment of prophecy, and he proceeded to quote Amos 9:11-12
"When that day
comes, I will raise up the fallen tabernacle (sukkah) of David. I
will close up its gaps, raise up its ruins and rebuild it as it used to be,
so that Israel can possess what is left of Edom and of all the nations
bearing my name," says Adonai, who is doing this."
Having shared his thoughts about
the many non-Jews accepting Yeshua, Yaakov (James) stated his opinion
that physical circumcision would be an obstacle for non-Jews coming to
faith. And after much study and discussion, it was decided that the only initial
requirements for non-Jews to join the messianic Jewish sect would to
abstain from things polluted or sacrificed to idols, from sexual
fornication, from blood, and things strangled.
Yaakov (James) went on to
say that writings of Moses were read in the synagogues on every Sabbath,
suggesting that the non-Jews attending the Shabbat services would hear
the Torah and learn what God's instruction was for them, and allow God's Holy
Spirit to bring them further understanding.
What the Jerusalem Council
decided was this - for the non-Jews it is more important to be circumcised
in one's heart, than to be physically circumcised. Note that the
Jerusalem Council did not abolish Torah observance for the Jews who believed
It is interesting to note that
2000 years ago the issue facing Messianic Jewish believers was this: "What
do we do with all the non-Jews who are accepting Yeshua?" Now, 2000
years later, the question non-Jewish believers are asking is just the opposite: "What do
we do with all the Jews who are accepting Yeshua and want to continue living as Jews?" How ironic.
A Circumcision that Counts
"Adonai your God
will bring you back into the land
possessed, and you will possess it;
he will make you
prosper there, and you will become
even more numerous than your ancestors.
your God will circumcise
your hearts and the
hearts of your children,
so that you will love Adonai your God with all your heart
and all your being, and thus you
Adonai your God will put all these curses on
enemies, on those who hated and persecuted you;
but you will return
and pay attention to what Adonai says
and obey all his commandments
that I am giving you today."
The promises God made concerning
Israel remain, and those who hate and persecute Israel will reap God's
judgment, because they are not fighting against Israel, but against the God
God calls Israel the pupil of His eye (Zechariah 2:8).
God has preserved the people of Israel and will continue to do so, for the
sake of His Holy Name, as the prophet
Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37.
Calling Abraham our father is
about maintaining a faith relationship with the God of Abraham. It is
about being a part of the Kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of this
world. It is about knowing God the Father through the earthly ministry
of His Son - Yeshua. It is about allowing God to circumcise our hearts
- our innermost being, which is more important to Him than just having
outward physical circumcision.
When Yeshua's followers asked to
see God the Father, Yeshua responded that if they had seen him - Yeshua, they had
seen the Father - because he was sent to do God the Father's will. So
to understand God, one must become acquainted with His Son who came and
lived among us. Yeshua demonstrated what circumcision and the
Abrahamic covenant are all about.
Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in
Jacob who turn from rebellion.'
Adonai, 'And as for me,' says Adonai,
'this is my
covenant with them: my Spirit,
who rests on
you, and my words which I put in your mouth
will not depart
from your mouth or from the mouth of your children,
or from the
mouth of your children's children,
now or ever,'
Our Father Abraham's Faith
Abraham obeyed, after being called to go
out to a place
which God would give him as a possession;
indeed, he went
out without knowing where he was going.
By faith, he
lived as a temporary resident in the
Land of the
promise, as if it were not his,
staying in tents
with Isaac and Jacob,
who were to
receive what was promised along with him.
He was looking
forward to a city with permanent foundations,
of which the
architect and builder is God. By trusting,
potency to father a child, even when he was
past the age for
it, as was Sarah herself;
regarded the One who had made the
trustworthy. Therefore this one man,
virtually dead, fathered descendants as
numerous as the
stars in the sky, and as countless
as the grains of
the sand on the seashore."