Circumcision was a visible sign,
easily seen in everyday life.
People are often shocked at the thought of seeing naked males in public — as though the very idea is repulsive!
Not so for Israel.
God decided to use a reproductive organ as a visible symbol to the rest of the world — to demonstrate a covenant promise.
How? Through the sign of circumcision.
To put it directly, a penis is a functional tool designed for planting seed. In Genesis, we learn that God hand-shaped every part of the human anatomy. He made a point to instruct Adam that an essential purpose for humanity is to “be fruitful and fill the earth.”
In fact, many of our familiar words originate from that purpose, like our words for “husband” and “wife.” They mean “farmer” and “vineyard.” However, it wasn’t just vegetables and fruit that God wanted when he told the naked Adam and Eve to reproduce a multitude.
It’s Ok to Talk About It
Sexuality doesn’t have to be odd or squeamish. When we strip bare and accept our naked bodies as normal, it helps us understand this function as a part – but not the whole – reason for our nudity.
And in His wisdom, God crafted the penis with a covering. The removal of that covering, or foreskin, makes the penis even more visible and prominent in its purpose.
In Genesis 17, God informed Abraham:
This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant.
God’s plan was to present his covenantal promise to the world by thrusting the circumcised penis out into the light of day.
What is the sign of circumcision?
Circumcision is the permanent removal of the hood-like flap of skin from the head of a male’s penis. In order to participate in important Jewish legal and religious activities, Israel’s men had to be circumcised.
It doesn’t really cross our minds today, but how would others know that Jewish men were circumcised, unless they saw the visible difference?
You see, circumcision was a major part of Jewish identity! The nation had a holy contract with God Almighty – cut into their very reproductive organs!
Some biblical scholars believe this was how Joseph confirmed to his brothers that He was a Hebrew when he was prefect of uncircumcised Egypt.
Then Joseph cried out, ‘Make everyone go out from me.’ So, no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.Genesis 45
Gymnasium = Naked Place
Hundreds of years later, the Greek King Antiochus ruled over occupied Israel and ordered the people to exercise naked in the gymnasiums with their non-Jewish counterparts.
The Greeks, however, were offended when they saw the Jewish boys’ circumcised penises.
The young Jewish athletes tried to disguise their circumcisions, but this caused much cultural anger.
Because it was part of their contract with God, Rabbis developed a more thorough form of circumcision and made it almost impossible for de-circumcision.
After this, the Greek government cracked down hard, ordering Jewish women not to allow their baby boys to be circumcised. Disobedience resulted in a torturous death.
Nonetheless, the Jewish community resisted and continued their practice.
It Was a Matter of Identity
Even though God made this covenant in the flesh with Abraham, He had another idea in mind. The outward cutting is a representation of the inward. God is looking for a people whose hearts are turned to Him.
In Deuteronomy 10:16, He instructs the people, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.”
Physical nakedness helps us remember this covenant.
When you see a circumcised penis, instead of shrinking back, think of the beauty of its purpose and of God’s promise.