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Circumcision

The Bible

Bible Usage:

Dictionaries:

  • Included in Eastons: Yes
  • Included in Hitchcocks: No
  • Included in Naves: Yes
  • Included in Smiths: Yes
  • Included in Websters: No
  • Included in Strongs: Yes
  • Included in Thayers: Yes
  • Included in BDB: Yes

Strongs Concordance:

 

Easton's Bible Dictionary
Circumcision

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 (Genesis 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 (Exodus 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 (Joshua 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 (Judges 14:3; 15:18; 1 Samuel 14:6; 17:26; 2 Samuel 1:20; Ezekiel 31:18).

As a rite of the church it ceased when the New Testament times began (Galatians 6:15; Colossians 3:11). Some Jewish Christians sought to impose it, however, on the Gentile converts; but this the apostles resolutely resisted (Acts 15:1; Galatians 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 (Galatians 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 (Isaiah 52:1). We read of uncircumcised lips (Exodus 6:12, 30), ears (Jeremiah 6:10), hearts (Leviticus 26:41). The fruit of a tree that is unclean is spoken of as uncircumcised (Leviticus 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 (Galatians 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 (Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Ezekiel 44:7; Acts 7:51; Romans 2:28; Colossians 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.


Naves Topical Index
Circumcision

Institution of
Genesis 17:10-14; Leviticus 12:3; John 7:22; Acts 7:8; Romans 4:11

A seal of righteousness
Romans 2:25-29; Romans 4:11

Performed on all males on the eighth day
Genesis 17:12-13; Leviticus 12:3; Philippians 3:5

Rite of, observed on the Sabbath
John 7:23

A prerequisite of the privileges of the Passover
Exodus 12:48

Child named at the time of
Genesis 21:3-4; Luke 1:59; Luke 2:21

Neglect of, punished
Genesis 17:14; Exodus 4:24

Neglected
Joshua 5:7

Covenant promises of
Genesis 17:4-14; Acts 7:8; Romans 3:1; Romans 4:11; Romans 9:7-13; Galatians 5:3

Necessity of, falsely taught by Judaizing Christians
Acts 15:1

Paul's argument against the continuance of
Romans 2:25; Romans 2:28; Galatians 6:13

Characterized by Paul as a yoke
Acts 15:10

Abrogated
Acts 15:5-29; Romans 3:30; Romans 4:9-11; 1 Corinthians 7:18-19; Galatians 2:3-4; Galatians 5:2-11; Galatians 6:12; Ephesians 2:11; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:11; Colossians 3:11

Instances of:

Abraham
Genesis 17:23-27; Genesis 21:3-4

Shechemites
Genesis 34:24

Moses
Exodus 4:25

Israelites at Gilgal
Joshua 5:2-9

John the Baptist
Luke 1:59

Jesus
Luke 2:21

Paul
Philippians 3:5

Timothy
Acts 16:3

Figurative
Exodus 6:12; Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 6:10; Jeremiah 9:26; Romans 2:28-29; Romans 15:8; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11; Colossians 3:11

A designation of the Jews
Acts 10:45; Acts 11:2; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 2:11; Colossians 4:11; Titus 1:10

A designation of Christians
Philippians 3:3


Smith's Bible Dictionary
Circumcision

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, (Leviticus 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. (1 Corinthians 7:18)