“Unless ye be circumcised, ye cannot be saved”

“Unless ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved,” Acts 15:1. Not only is this relevant to Abraham and Isaac, and his posterity by Isaac, were to be circumcised, but also Ishmael and the bond-servants.

“And the uncircumcised manchild whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken My covenant,” Genesis 17:14

Genesis 17

10 This is My covenant which ye shall keep between Me and you and thy seed after thee: every manchild among you shall be circumcised. — it is here said to be the covenant which Abraham and his seed must keep, as a copy or counterpart. It is considered a sign and seal, (Romans 4:11);

— an obligation upon Abraham and his seed which was their part of the covenant, not only to the duty of accepting the covenant, and putting away the corruption of the flesh, which were primarily signified by circumcision, but in general to the observation of all God’s commands.

11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant between Me and you. — not only Abraham and Isaac, and his posterity by Isaac, were to be circumcised, but also Ishmael and the bond-servants.

— it is worthy of remark that in circumcision, after Abraham himself, the parent is the voluntary imponent, and the child merely the passive recipient of the sign of the covenant. It shall be a token of the covenant, i.e. a sign, evidence, and assurance, both of the blessing promised by that God who appointed this ordinance, and of man’s obligation to the duties required, which is signified by his acceptance of and submission to this ordinance. 

12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every manchild in your generations, he that is born in the house or bought with money from any stranger who is not of thy seed. — the time of circumcision is the eighth day. Seven is the number of perfection. Seven days are therefore regarded as a type of perfectage and individuality. At this stage, accordingly, the sign of sanctification is made on the child, betokening the consecration of the heart to God, when its rational powers have come into noticeable activity;

— to be “cut off from his people” is to be excluded from any part in the covenant; and for an Israelite, is certainly worse than a Gentile or an alien. 

13 He that is born in thy house and he that is bought with thy money must be circumcised; and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. — just as between God and Noah in Genesis 9:12-16 regarding the rainbow: my covenant with you shall be an everlasting covenant.

14 And the uncircumcised manchild whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken My covenant.” — “shall be cut off from his people” Jewish commentators generally consider that this penalty consisted in the offender being left to the direct interposition of God, who would punish him with childlessness and premature death (Talmud: Tract Yebam, 55);

— most Christian commentators suppose that the offender was to be put to death by the civil magistrate; as, for instance, the killing of a a sacrifice anywhere, except at the door of the tabernacle (Leviticus 17:4), and the eating of blood (Leviticus 17:9; Leviticus 17:14), are to be thus similarily dealt with, while blasphemy and murder are to be punished with death (Leviticus 24:16-17).

Joshua 5

1 And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites who were on the side of the Jordan westward and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel until we had passed over, that their heart melted; neither was there spirit in them any more because of the children of Israel.

At that time the Lord said unto Joshua, “Make thee sharp knives and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.” — “again the second time” this does not mean that those very persons who had before been circumcised should be circumcised again, but that the rite or custom of circumcising, which had been disused in the wilderness for some years, should be again practised.

And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins [or, Gibeahhaaraloth]. — Joshua circumcised the children of Israel; that is, he caused them to be circumcised, namely, such of them as were uncircumcised.

And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people who came out of Egypt who were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way after they came out of Egypt. — all the people that came out of Egypt that were males, even all the men of war; meaning such that were twenty years old, and upwards: died in the wilderness in a course of forty years;

— as they journeyed through the wilderness; this is to be understood with an exception of Joshua, Caleb, Eleazar, & etc but then there was a large number who were under twenty years of age, that came out of Egypt, and were still living.

Now all the people who came out were circumcised; but all the people who were born in the wilderness on the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised. — “all that came out of Egypt were circumcised,” this does not say when and where they were circumcised; but maybe during the horrors of the plagues (before the last plague of firstborn death) in Egypt, the Israelites saw that the first step toward liberty, as Moses would have told them, is the need to be circumcised;

— Exodus 4, Zipporah, wife of Moses, was inspired and took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son, otherwise he might had died of being the firstborn like the Egyptians if he had not been circumcised (Exodus 4);

— Exodus 4:24 “the Lord met him and sought to put him to death,” Rashi: on the way, in an inn and sought to put him to death: [i.e., He sought] Moses, because he had neglected to circumcise his son Eliezer. Because he neglected it, he was [to be] punished with death.

— Rashi: This appears in tractate Nedarim (31b). The angel turned into a sort of serpent and swallowed him [Moses] from his head to his thighs, and then [spit him out and] swallowed him from his feet to his private parts. Zipporah therefore understood that it was because of [the failure to perform] the circumcision [that this occurred]. — [from Ned. 32a, Exodus Rabbah 5:5].

— Targum: But it was on the way, in the place of lodging that the angel of the Lord met him, and sought to kill him, because Gershom his son had not been circumcised, inasmuch as Jethro his father-in-law had not permitted him to circumcise him: but Eliezer had been circumcised, by an agreement between them two. And Zipporah took a stone, and circumcised the foreskin of Gershom her son, and brought the severed part to the feet of the angel, the Destroyer, and said, The husband sought to circumcise, but the father-in-law obstructed him; and now let this blood of the circumcision atone for my husband.

— I Chronicles 23:14 Now concerning Moses the man of God, his sons were named of the tribe of Levi. 15 The sons of Moses were Gershom and Eliezer. (Exodus 2:22 Gershom [that is, A stranger there] was born; presumably the firstborn)

For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness till all the people who were men of war, who came out of Egypt, were consumed because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord. Unto these the Lord swore that He would not show them the land which the Lord swore unto their fathers that He would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey. — “because they had not hearkened to the voice of the Lord” they broke the coverant: Genesis 17:12 “he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every manchild in your generations.”

— the onus of responsibilities lies chiefly with the parents, especially with their fathers, that sons should be circumcised, (1) that’s why Moses was threatened with death, (2) that’s why those parents of children borned in the wilderness were not allowed into the Promised Land;

— as reaffirmed at Mount Sinai in Leviticus 12:1-3 “And the Lord spoke unto Moses, ‘If a woman have conceived seed and borne a manchild . . . on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.”

And their children, whom He raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them on the way. — their children; these that Joshua circumcised: God now required this to be done in order to inherit the Promised Land of milk and honey.

And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp till they were whole. — that they abode in their places in the camp till they were whole: till the wound made by circumcision was healed; now as it was on the tenth day they passed over Jordan, and came to Gilgal, where they were circumcised, there were three entire days between that and the fourteenth, when they kept the Passover.

Only Gentiles are exempt:

Acts 15

And certain men who came down from Judea taught the brethren and said, “Unless ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” — at Antioch some maintain that Gentile converts must be circumcised; a mission to Jerusalem about the question was thus sent.

When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. — the Council at Jerusalem, occupied for the Christian theocracy a position similar to that of the Sanhedrim, was the centre of authority and remained so till its fall. The apostles and elders were the recognised leaders of the Church;

— most fake Christians errously say this is “the ceremonial law”” or “the laws of Moses” but it was established way earlier during God’s covernant with Abraham in Genesis 17:10 “This is My covenant which ye shall keep between Me and you and thy seed after thee: every manchild among you shall be circumcised.”

And being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. — they passed through Phenice and Samaria; which both lay between Syria and Judea; and in the latter Philip the evangelist had preached earlier with much success, Acts 8:5.

And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and by the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.

But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees who believed, saying that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses. — besides the covernant between God and Abraham, the Pharisaic teaching concerning the necessity of circumcision was based on such passages as Isaiah 56:6, where the covenant mentioned was held to be that of circumcision. And they supported their position by such passages as Isaiah 52:1, where the uncircumcised are excluded from Jerusalem, the holy city.

And the apostles and the elders came together to consider this matter. — and the apostles and elders came together to consider of this matter; as the apostles commonly resided at Jerusalem, the greater part of them may have come together on this occasion; and the elders likewise, men most respectable for their knowledhe and wisdom, having been chosen to the office of elders from among those on whom the holy spirits descended on the day of Pentecost.

And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up and said unto them, “Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the Word of the Gospel and believe. — after much deliberation, Peter, on behalf of the Council concluded that circumcision were not binding upon the Gentiles, to press the precedent of the case of Cornelius and the analogy of the proselytes of thom they had witnessed. 

And God, who knoweth the hearts, bore them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost even as He did unto us, — God had put the uncircumcised on the same level with the circumcised by giving to them the same gifts of the spirit.

and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. — what was given to the new converts was the same which had been given at the first outpouring of the spirits; and God made no mark of distinction to sever Jews from Gentiles.

10 Now therefore why tempt ye God to put a yoke upon the necks of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? — for forty years the Israelites didn’t circumcise their children, hence they were consumed and not allowed to enter the Promised Land (Joshua 5:6).

11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” — salvation is a gift granted through “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” but to qualify for that gift one has to keep his commandment; “If ye love me, keep my commandments,”John 14:15. “For you have omitted the weightier matters of the law: judgement, mercy and faith. These ought ye to have done and not to leave the others undone,” Matthew 23:23.

12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul as they declared what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. — then all the multitude kept silence, having nothing further to object to what had been advanced; and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, who confirmed Peter’s reasoning, by declaring what miracles God had wrought among the Gentiles.

From the Council in Jerusalem, exemptions from circumcision were given only to the Gentiles, but speaking of the Israelites today, the covenant (Genesis 17:10) between God and Abraham remains, “Unless ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.”

~ by Joel Huan on August 28, 2022.

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