Why did God choose circumcision as the sign for his covenant?

When I was about 15 I watched a funny satyrical twist on Robin Hood called “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” by Mel Brooks a famous Jewish writer and comedian.  As in most of his movies Mel Brooks had a cameo appearance, this time playing the roll of “Rabbi Tuckman” replacing the well-known role of Friar Tuck.  In his role Rabbi Tuck came around peddling circumcision to Robin Hood and his merry men (in tights).  The result led to another hilarious decent into Mel Brooks hilarity that you can read here.  The scene certainly would leave most wondering, “what was God thinking when he came up with the covenant sign of circumcision?”

Circumcision may or may not have had religious or hygiene significance before the time of the Covenant with Abraham, but neither past religions significance or hygiene are the significance here.

Circumcision has to do with a uniting of the spiritual and the physical.  In other words, what is said must also be done.  Circumcision was dramatic, but it created a radical sense of belonging.  “Circumcision announces that Israelites belong only to this community and only to this God.”  Circumcision is weighty, it represents a radical committed faith.  Furthermore, it speaks to something deeper.  Throughout scripture, and culminating in Romans 2:29, we see that Circumcision is more than just the outward, it deals with the inward.  The phrase ‘circumcision of the heart’ speaks to a deeper connection then just a physical sign.  It represents a “yielding [of] affections and will to [God].”

Quotes from Walter Bruggemann’s Interpretation commentary on Genesis, page 155.

Every other year it seems that medical professionals offer different recommendations about circumcision, but God's intent was deeper than hygiene.

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4 Responses to “Why did God choose circumcision as the sign for his covenant?”

  1. Damaris Says:

    Honestly I think this doesn’t answer my question WHY God wanted this…
    I accept that if God says so we do so, also without understanding WHY.
    You relate the circumcision to the circumcision of the heart – so the circumcision is kind of a symbol for the circumcision of the heart – but why didn’t God choose a sign that both, men and women, can carry? I believe you will answer because in the society at that time men were the important one.
    Then I would say, but it wasn’t the society that chose a symbol, it was God who thinks from the beginning that men and women are equal… why didn’t he choose a sign for both,
    Well – you will say – because he did so ;o)))
    So I have to ask God in heaven ;o)))

  2. Evan Says:

    Honestly circumcision is a very unusual practice and seems very barbaric. But it’s the only physical mark that I can think of a man can impose on himself that doesn’t physical damage or limit any bodily function (if done properly). Nor does it leave any man made scars (like tattoos). Yet it’s permanent and actually provides health benefits to the person undergoing the procedure.

    Also, it’s a physical mark that can be easily be hiding and not openly revealed.

    It’s also a sign of faith when a man entrusts the most important piece of “equipment” that identifies his manhood to God and the community/leader that is entrusted to properly execute the dangerous procedure.

    It required a great deal of trust and faith between the community (Parents, child, Priest) and God.

    Let’s put it this way, there where no local anesthetics applied, nor was a sharp surgical knife used back them.

  3. Simon Says:

    I always thought so that it would be more aerodynamic for greater efficiencies. But seriously, I think for the guy, one of greatest miracles we can be a part of is the creation of life, and that would be the point of which God reminds us that we are His new creation.
    Damaris, you ask a good question with why not a sign for women? Well, to my creation point, I think women are already sanctified with being able to carry life and since you have to go through birth pangs, it seems only fair that men have their share. : ) Kidding aside, to me there is a special role for women (e.g. 1Tim2:15). In their role, women are already sanctified because of their reproductive role in procreation. It’s not a good answer, but in Jewish tradition if the mother is Jewish, so is the child. Not so with the husband if I’m not mistaken. Further research should be done on this, and maybe a Rabbi is better suited to answer this for us.

  4. Evan Says:

    The man and the woman is another discussion of it’s own. The same question why was ADAM created first? why did JESUS come as a man?

    The reality is that role of man was greatly different especially pre-Jesus crucifixion. It was a man dominated society and part of it was because of our sin but part of it was purposefully planned by God to serve a greater purpose. Once Christ came, this changed drastically. Christ equalized the genders hence no physical circumcision was also need but a spiritual one that’s is equally applicable to both.

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