Day 017: Guys, We Need to Talk About Genesis 17:23

“This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭17:10-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭17:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Through the Bible: Genesis 16-18

Since this blog grew out of the Bible reading plan The Bible Recap With Tara-Leigh Cobble, I’m aware that many of the readers of this blog are women.

But I want to talk to the guys. The Bible “He-cappers,” if you will. Ladies, you can listen in, but you have been warned.

Let’s talk about circumcision.

I remember when my sons were circumcised. I remember thinking, “Thank God they won’t remember this. Thank God they won’t remember that it was their dad who helped hold them down while this was done.”

I remember tightening up all my muscles, you know… down there. Flinching and cringing as the deed was done. And I remember my boys wailing, like I prayed they never would again.

They really won’t remember this, right? I wanted to ask.

In today’s Scripture passage, Abraham, at about 98 years old, is commanded by God to be circumcised, along with his 12 year old son Ishmael, and all the male members of his household. And he obeys, that very day.

There’s that tightening up feeling again. Because Ishmael would remember. So would Abraham, and all the other adult males.

I don’t know if there was any precedent anywhere in the culture of the day for circumcision. So I’m trying to imagine Abraham having to explain what circumcision was the way Noah had to explain what an ark was. Or rain, for that matter.

And because I don’t think Abraham necessarily had much knowledge of anatomy and reproductive biology, I have to wonder what his thought process was:

God, You’ve just told me I’m going to father a child with Sarah. And now, You want me to cut off part of what it takes for that to happen? I don’t understand, Lord.

If I was editing the Bible, I think I would have put the verse about “Abraham believing God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6) right after this command was given.

Because it’s one thing to look up at the stars and count them and believe that’s how many offspring you will have. It’s another to hand a knife to a servant and say, “Now let me explain what I need you to do…”

I can’t think of a more visceral, gut-level (literally!) sign of trust and obedience than circumcision. This was Abraham trusting God for his future and his promised family in a way that was contrary to every common-sense, self-preservation instinct Abraham possessed.

But what about us? We aren’t obligated to circumcision. Those of us who are circumcised, it was a choice our parents made for any number of non-religious reasons. Nevertheless, God wants us to trust Him with our most personal, vulnerable, hidden, private self. He says to us, I will protect that. I’ll guard it. But first, I require you to put your entire self in My hands.

You see, God won’t guard what He’s not trusted with. But as Paul teaches us, God is able to keep that which we commit to Him (2 Timothy 1:12). He calls us to give Him our circumcised hearts (Romans 2:29). Today, will you trust Him at the core of who you truly, truly are? Will you risk the exposure? Will you bear the pain of being that open and vulnerable?

God won’t guard what He’s not trusted with. But He will keep that which you commit to Him.

What will it look like in your life to offer God a circumcised heart?





3 responses to “Day 017: Guys, We Need to Talk About Genesis 17:23”

  1. […] When I read about the men of Israel getting circumcised when they entered the Promised Land, I have a strong visceral reaction. Sorry, I can’t help it. Circumcision is about taking what is most personal and private and intimate and making it vulnerable and exposed. And that can be super painful (And yes, we’ve dealt with this before on the blog. See Day 017: Guys, We Need to Talk About Genesis 17:23). […]

  2. […] not nearly as squeamish as we are (or at least as I am) when talking about our private parts (see Day 017: Guys, We Need to Talk About Genesis 17:23). As a result, sometimes we encounter metaphors that will make us cringe a little, like […]

  3. […] (99 years old), Ishmael (13 years old) and all the men of his household. For more on this, see Day 017: Guys, We Need to Talk About Genesis 17:23. Chapter 18 includes the story of the promised birth of Isaac, God’s plans for the […]

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