A close examination of the book of Genesis, for example, reveals that fleshly circumcision was not a legal requirement of the original contract made with Abram (Abraham) in the Abrahamic Covenants of Promise.
Abraham Blessed Before Fleshly Circumcision
Before the token of fleshly circumcision was used by Abraham and his household (which did not come into effect until Genesis 17), we read in Genesis 12:
And Yahweh had said to Abram, Go out from your land, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation. And I will bless you and make your name great; and you will be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and curse the one despising you. And in you all families of the earth shall be blessed. (Gen. 12:1-3)
These things were given to Abraham while he was yet uncircumcised in the flesh. Again, in Genesis 12, it reports:
And Abram passed through the land as far as the place of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And Yahweh appeared to Abram and said. “I will give this land to your seed.” And he built an altar there to Yahweh. (Gen. 12:6-7)
The promise of land, therefore, occurred prior to Abram’s being circumcised in the flesh. Genesis, 13 states:
Yahweh said to Abram, Now lift up your eyes and look northward and southward and eastward and westward from the place where you are. For all the land which you see I will give to you, and to your seed forever. And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can count the dust of the earth, then your seed also will be counted. (Gen. 13:14-17)
Once more, we observe that these things were given to Abraham while he was uncircumcised in the flesh. Then, in Genesis 15, we read that Yahweh would be a great reward to Abraham because Abraham “trusted Yahweh and it was counted to him for צדקה (tsadoqah; righteousness = justification),” (Gen. 15:1-6) i.e., he was justified to receive the eternal inheritance while he was still uncircumcised in the flesh. The events continue with the words of Yahweh:
And he said to him, I am Yahweh who caused you to come out of Aur of the Kasadim (Ur of the Chaldees), to give you this land, to inherit it. (Gen 15:7)
The covenant of inheritance is at this very time confirmed with Abraham, promising that he and his seed (the messiah; Gal. 3:15-16) would receive the inheritance of the land from the Nile to the Euphrates (Gen. 15:12-20). This covenant assures to us eternal life (by owning the land eternally) and a resurrection from the dead (for no one can inherit unless he is alive).
Covenant Confirmed Before Fleshly Circumcision
Importantly, this covenant was confirmed while Abraham was still uncircumcised in the flesh. This passage also confirms that the land was already promised to Abraham as an inheritance and he was justified by trust in that covenant at least 14 years before undergoing fleshly circumcision, Abraham’s being circumcised when he was 99 years old.
The evidence proves that fleshly circumcision was not a requirement for Abraham in the Abrahamic Covenants of Promise. If fleshly circumcision had been required, Abraham would have been circumcised in the flesh at the age of 75, prior to Yahweh making any Covenants of Promise with him and before he would have been allowed to enter the Promised Land .
Yet Yahweh did make this agreement with Abraham some 24 years prior to commanding his circumcision in the flesh. (Gen. 12:1-4) The resolution to our problem, therefore, is that there are two separate forms of circumcision listed in Genesis 17:9-15. The important verse reads:
This is my covenant which you shall keep, between me and you and your seed after you: (1) EVERY MALE AMONG YOU SHALL BE CIRCUMCISED. AND (i.e., besides this) (2) YOU SHALL CIRCUMCISE THE FORESKIN OF YOUR FLESH, and it shall be a token of the covenant between you and me. And every male among you shall be circumcised the eighth day for your generations born within your house or bought with money of any stranger, which is not from your seed. (Gen. 17:10-11)
What many have failed to notice is that two different circumcisions are mentioned!
1. Circumcision of the covenant.
2. Circumcision of the foreskin of the flesh, which is only a token of the covenant.
The covenant of circumcision is circumcision of the heart (innermost self), which is promised in the Abrahamic Covenants of Promise (see Deut. 30:6; Jer. 4:4; Rom. 2:28-29; Phil. 3:2-11; Col. 2:11) Circumcision of the innermost self refers to the removal of sin.
Remember, as of yet, Abraham has not received even one of the promises (Heb. 11:13). Therefore,the first circumcision, which is eternal, cannot refer to any fleshly circumcision which is merely a token of the true circumcision of the heart or innermost self. Saul reports:
For it is not he that is outwardly a Judahite, neither that which is outwardly in circumcision of the flesh; but he that is hiddenly a Judahite, and circumcision is of the innermost self, in ruach, not in letter (the written Torah of Moses); of whom the praise is not of men but of Yahweh. (Rom. 2:28-29)
Let us elaborate further to make the scriptural point of two separate circumcisions crystal clear. In Genesis 17:10-11, the mention of the token of fleshly circumcision follows the word “ו (AND).” It is made a separate item from the covenant of circumcision which is listed first.
This second circumcision was in the flesh and only a token. This token is not a condition of the covenant; it is merely a sign of an agreement, as a wedding ring is a token of a marriage.
Abraham’s fleshly circumcision was a token of his trust in this promised future covenant of eternal circumcision (see Rom. 4:11). The act of fleshly circumcision was performed out of obedience. It was never a condition for the original promised eternal inheritance, for which Abraham was already justified by trust.
Not Justified By Tokens
We are not justified by tokens but by the conditions laid out in the Abrahamic Covenants of Promise (Torah of Trust) itself. Further, the token of fleshly circumcision for Abraham continued only for “your (Abraham’s) generations born in your house.” The token would not apply to later generations born outside the household of Abraham.
Next, as we have already said, when Abraham was circumcised of the flesh it was not done to abide by any statutes or torath (laws); rather it was followed under the guidance to “obey the voice of Yahweh.” (Gen. 26:5)
As an example, just because the messiah obeyed Yahweh and went out into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days does not mean that it is a requirement that we must all do likewise. Yet, if Yahweh personally commands us to go into the wilderness and fast, we must obey his voice. Therefore, Abraham’s fleshly circumcision was not a condition of the eternal covenant (i.e., a matter of statute or commandment) but rather a matter of Abraham obeying Yahweh’s voice.
For those who insist that Scriptures command that all men must be fleshy circumcised today in order to partake of the Passover must consider the following vital points:
• All males were to be fleshly circumcised in order to partake of the Passover of the Exodus. (Exod. 12:48) This occurred prior to the Torah of Moses.
• Later and after the Passover of the Exodus, the Israelites were commanded in Leviticus for all males eight days old to be fleshy circumcised. (Lev. 12:3) This occurred under the Torah of Moses.
• What transpires next is a perceived anomaly because of the seemingly lack of importance of fleshly circumcision as demonstrated by Yahweh delaying fleshly circumcision of the Israelites for 40 years during the wilderness sojourn after the Exodus and while under the Torah of Moses.
Though all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people that were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised. (Jos. 5:5)
One could try to argue that, since the male Israelites were not circumcised of the flesh while in the wilderness, the Passover could not be kept. This would mean that for 40 years the Israelites had disobeyed the command of Yahweh to keep the Passover, this despite the fact that Moses, Aaron, and Yahu Yahweh were guiding and instructing the Israelites in the wilderness!
• The truth of the matter is that the Israelites, which included all the uncircumcised males, did in fact observe the Passover while in the wilderness for 40 years!
And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, that they should keep the passover. AND THEY KEPT THE PASSOVER on the fourteenth day of the first month at even IN THE WILDERNESS IN SINAI: according to all that Yahweh commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel. (Num. 9:4-5)
But then one may also argue that if the Israelites were keeping Passover while being uncircumcised then they were in direct rebellion and disobedience to Yahweh. This would in fact stretch credulity in that, as mentioned before, Moses, Aaron, and Yahu Yahweh were dwelling with the Israelites to guide and instruct them what to do.
The key to understanding this seeming anomaly is all about the timing as given in Scriptures. In order to grasp the solution we will proceed to review several scriptural concepts and passages.
We will continue our investigation regarding “Circumcision & Passover” in our final installment titled Circumcision & Passover – Pt 3.
We will then provide the conclusion of the matter as derived from Scriptures.