Did the pre-incarnate Yeshua appear to Abraham? Why circumcision as a sign?

Genesis 17:1, 22, YHVH appears to Abraham and establishes circumcision as a sign of the covenant. 

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, YHVH appeared [VTR/ra’ah meaning “to see, look, behold, show, appear, observe, have vision, present oneself, be seen”] to Abram, and said unto him, I am El Shaddai; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

YHVH proceeds to lay out to Abraham the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant including circumcision and the fact that Sarah would give birth to a son with whom YHVH would also establish his covenant. When YHVH was done Scripture records the following in verse 22,

And [YHVH] left off talking with him, and Elohim went up [VKG/alah, to go up, ascend, climb, depart] from Abraham. (KJV)

And when He had finished speaking with him, God ascended from upon Abraham. (The ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach)

And He ceased speaking with him; and the Glory of the Lord ascended from Abraham. (Targum Jonathan)

And when He had ended to speak with him, the Glory of the Lord ascended up from Abraham. (Targum Onkelos)

And be left off speaking with him, and God went up from Abraham. (LXX)

This text does not state how YHVH appeared or spoke to Abraham, just the fact that he did. According to the Hebrew rules of biblical interpretation (and the rules of common logic when reading anything), a scriptural text is to be taken at its literal or plain (peshat) meaning, unless the text itself suggests an allegorical (drash) or mystical (sod) interpretation. The Talmud (the Jewish Oral Law) states this in Talmud b. Shabbath 63a ( … that a verse cannot depart from its plain meaning”) and Talmud b. Yevamoth 24a (“Although throughout the Torah no text loses its ordinary meaning …”). Therefore, it is evident that YHVH appeared to Abraham in some tangible form with which humans are capable of interacting. If he did so once, we have to ask, cannot he do it again in the Person of Yeshua of Nazereth, the Messiah?

Let’s now note some reasons why YHVH chose circumcision to be the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. Remember, physical circumcision is not passé, but is still a requirement for those desiring to be priests in YHVH’s future (spiritual?) temple (Ezek 44:7, 9):

  • It is a token or sign of spiritual things—a sign which always goes before us. (Gen 17:11)
  • It signifies purification of the heart from all unrighteousness by cutting away a piece of the flesh which would otherwise be a carrier of filth and disease.
  • It is a holy seal of righteousness—the foreskin removed is round like a ring. A ring signifies a bond or union and is worn constantly even as the seal of circumcision is worn constantly.
  • Circumcision occurs at eight days of age. Eight is the number meaning new beginnings. A new heart, a consecration of the person to YHVH; the commencement of a covenant. (Gen 17:12) 
  • The rite of circumcision is painful and humiliating. So is repentance and self denial of which circumcision is a picture.

From the penis flows the seed of life. Circumcision is a sign that the seed should and could be righteous and consecrated to YHVH.

In Romans 4:11, Paul teaches us that circumcision is a sign, mark or token, and a seal (placed on someone) or an impression or stamp made by a signet ring signifying ownership. Circumcision spoke of Abraham’s righteousness and the faith he had in YHVH and YHVH’s “ownership” of Abraham. A modern-day example of this would be the marriage ring. One can be legally married without wearing ring; however, a wedding ring is an outward and visible sign of one marriage covenant. The same is true of circumcision. It’s not a salvational requirement, yet it’s an outward sign of an inward spiritual reality.

The Scriptures make it clear that circumcision is not a requirement for salvation (see Acts 15) or else women couldn’t be saved. Circumcision is, however, an act of obedience that indicates one’s identity with the Abrahamic Covenant model of salvation and with the people of Israel. Additionally, the Torah makes it clear that circumcision is required for all men who desire to take Passover, and those who do not keep the Passover will be cut off from Israel (Exod 12:47–48), although in the New Covenant, circumcision of the heart is now the chief requirement (Rom 2:25–29; Gal 6:15; Col 2:11).

 

What Paul’s view on circumcision?

Acts 16:3, Circumcised him. Evidently circumcision or uncircumcision wasn’t an issue for Paul. He had Timothy, who was half Jewish, circumcised, but not Titus who was non-Jewish (Gal 2:3). Both men were elders and teachers in the assembly of believers. Both men as Torah-obedient individuals would have kept the biblical feasts including the Passover, which in the law of Moses required men to be circumcised. 

To have Timothy, who was half Jewish, circumcised was more expedient for the preaching of gospel to the Jews, so as not to be a stumbling block to the Jews who had a high view of circumcision. This type of circumcision was acceptable, since it was not done as a salvation requirement for Timothy.

Let’s discuss the Torah requirement that all male children be circumcised on the eighth day (Lev 12:2–3)and males keeping Passover be circumcised (Exod 12:48). Is physical circumcision now irrelevant, or was Paul rejecting the Torah on this issue?

First, in Ezekiel’s descriptions of the assumed millennial temple, all those entering in that temple Continue reading


 

Acts 15 Explained—It’s not what you’ve been taught!

Acts 15:1, Custom of Moses. This “custom of Moses” is based on Exodus 12:48, where the law required that all males to be circumcised before being allowed to partake of Passover. In other words, be part of Israel, one had to become circumcised and observe the Passover and all Israel was required to do so (Exod 12:47). Foreigners were forbidden from keeping the Passover (Exod 12:43) until they were circumcised. From this, the Pharisees of the first century got the idea that circumcision is a prerequisite for salvation. In opposition to this false concept, Paul points out in Romans chapter four that Abraham was justified by faith, not by the rite of circumcision. After all, Abraham come into a relationship with YHVH 24 years before being circumcised. Therefore, the custom of circumcision as a prerequisite for inclusion within the nation of Israel was merely a physical requirement to be part of a physical nation. It is, however, not a requirement to be part of the spiritual nation of redeemed Israel or, as Paul calls it, the Israel of God (or Elohim, Gal 6:16), of which the saints are a part. Circumcision wasn’t a requirement for Abraham to be saved, and it isn’t a requirement for us to be saved either, again, as Paul points out in Romans chapter four. The custom of Moses requiring Israelite men to be circumcised was necessary in order to protect the sanctity and integrity of the physical nation of Israel from foreign and pagan influences and was not prior to or subsequent to the physical nation of Israel intended to be a prerequisite for eternal salvation as Paul, again, makes clear in Romans chapter four.

Acts 15:10, Yoke on the neck. Many Christian commentators teach that Peter is making a reference to the Torah when he speaks of a yoke being put around the neck of the people of Israel meaning that Torah-observance was an impossibility. Yet, Moses told the Israelites that Torah-obedience wasn’t impossible (Deut 30:11–14), and that it would be a source of life to them (v. 19), and would be a source of wisdom and Continue reading


 

The Feud Between Moses and Zipporah Over Circumcision Explained

Exodus 4:25, Cut off the foreskin. Presumable, Moses would have already been circumcised by his mother when he was a baby, thus he was consecrated in YHVH’s eyes. However, for Moses to continue forward in his ministry call, it was necessary for him to consecrate his minor sons through the ritual act of circumcision in accordance with the Abrahamic Covenant. What is the lesson in this for us today? Simply this. A servant of YHVH must get his own spiritual house in order before pointing an accusing finger at someone else. If he doesn’t, he will be revealed as an arrogant, two-faced hypocrite thus bringing disrepute to YHVH as a laughing stock of the devil resulting in hindering the advancement of his kingdom. YHVH required this of Moses before confronting Pharaoh accusingly.

The cutting away of the flesh of the foreskin symbolically signifies the death of the carnal man from following idols of the flesh and dying to the lusts. The foreskin being at the forefront or the leading edge of a man’s anatomy represents cutting away the filthy flesh and going forward spiritually in a clean, righteous and sanctified state. One’s willingness to undergo this procedure indicates a willingness go forward as the Creator’s spiritual bondservant.

Zipporah. Why did Moses expect Zipporah to circumcise his sons? This is a question that has puzzled many Bible students over the years. To answer this question, we must understand the role of the mother in ancient Near East culture during Bible times. The mother was the sole manager of the household. Because ancient Israel was a subsistence economy, a household’s resources had to be managed carefully, and this was the woman’s responsibility. She directed the preservation and storage of food and allotted food rations to each family member to assure that everyone in the household was fed and the food lasted until the next harvest cycle. “In the world of ancient Israel, a man’s home was his wife’s castle She had the domestic authority which he did not” (Social World of Ancient Israel, p. 25, by Matthews and Benjamin). The mother’s dominant role over the household including the children perhaps explains why Moses expected Zipporah to circumcise his two sons (Exod 4:25–26). 

For the mother, childbearing and teaching children were synonymous roles. The Book of Proverbs shows the dual role of the mother (Prov 1:8; 6:20; 23:22–25; 31:1–9).

A mother’s intimate bond to her children not only last through pregnancy and infancy, but through the weaning process, which often didn’t occur until the child was four years of age. After teaching them how to walk, talk, dress themselves, she taught the child the domestic skills of gardening, cooking herding, weaving and making pottery (Social World of Ancient Israel, p. 28, by Matthews and Benjamin).


 

The Significance of Circumcision Past and Present

Genesis 17:1, 22, YHVH appears to Abraham and establishes circumcision as a sign of the covenant. 

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, YHVH appeared [Heb. ra’ah meaning “to see, look, behold, show, appear, observe, have vision, present oneself, be seen”] to Abram, and said unto him, I am El Shaddai; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

YHVH proceeds to lay out to Abraham the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant including circumcision and the fact that Sarah would give birth to a son with whom YHVH would also establish his covenant. When YHVH was done Scripture records the following in verse 22,

And [YHVH] left off talking with him, and Elohim went up [Heb. alah, to go up, ascend, climb, depart] from Abraham. (KJV)

And when He had finished speaking with him, God ascended from upon Abraham. (The ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach)

And He ceased speaking with him; and the Glory of the Lord ascended from Abraham. (Targum Jonathan)

And when He had ended to speak with him, the Glory of the Lord ascended up from Abraham. (Targum Onkelos)

And be left off speaking with him, and God went up from Abraham. (LXX)

This text does not state how YHVH appeared or spoke to Abraham, just the fact that he did. According to the Hebrew rules of biblical interpretation (and the rules of common logic when reading anything), a scriptural text is to be taken at its literal or plain (peshat) meaning, unless the text itself suggests an allegorical (drash) or mystical (sod) interpretation. The Talmud (the Jewish Oral Law) states this in Talmud b. Shabbath 63a ( … that a verse cannot depart from its plain meaning”) and Talmud b. Yevamoth 24a (“Although throughout the Torah no text loses its ordinary meaning …”). Therefore, it is evident that YHVH appeared to Abraham in some tangible form with which humans are capable of interacting. If he did so once, we have to ask, cannot he do it again in the Person of Yeshua of Nazereth, the Messiah?

Let’s note some reasons why YHVH chose circumcision to be the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. Remember, physical circumcision is not passé, but is still a requirement for those desiring to be priests in YHVH’s future (spiritual?) temple (Ezek 44:7, 9):

  • It is a token or sign of spiritual things—a sign which always goes before us. (Gen 17:11)
  • It signifies purification of the heart from all unrighteousness by cutting away a piece of the flesh which would otherwise be a carrier of filth and disease.
  • It is a holy seal of righteousness—the foreskin removed is round like a ring. A ring signifies a bond or union and is worn constantly even as the seal of circumcision is worn constantly.
  • Circumcision occurs at eight days of age. Eight is the number meaning new beginnings. A new heart, a consecration of the person to YHVH; the commencement of a covenant. (Gen 17:12) 
  • The rite of circumcision is painful and humiliating. So is repentance and self denial of which circumcision is a picture.
  • From the penis flows the seed of life. Circumcision is a sign that the seed should and could be righteous and consecrated to YHVH.
  • In Romans 4:11, Paul teaches us that circumcision is a sign, mark or token, and a seal (placed on someone) or an impression or stamp made by a signet ring signifying ownership. Circumcision spoke of Abraham’s righteousness and the faith he had in YHVH and YHVH’s “ownership” of Abraham. A modern-day example of this would be the marriage ring. One can be legally married without wearing ring; however, a wedding ring is an outward and visible sign of one marriage covenant. The same is true of circumcision. It’s not a salvational requirement, yet it’s an outward sign of an inward spiritual reality.

The Scriptures make it clear that circumcision is not a requirement for salvation (see Acts 15) or else women couldn’t be saved. Circumcision is, however, an act of obedience that indicates one’s identity with the Abrahamic Covenant model of salvation and with the people of Israel. Additionally, the Torah makes it clear that circumcision is required for all men who desire to take Passover, and those who do not keep the Passover will be cut off from Israel (Exod 12:47–48), although in the New Covenant, circumcision of the heart is now the chief requirement (Rom 2:25–29; Gal 6:15; Col 2:11). 


 

Paul (and the Bible) on Physical and Heart Circumcision

1 Corinthians 7:18, Let him not be circumcised. In this chapter, Paul advises believers to remain in whatever physical state they were spiritually called (verses 20, 24). To the unmarried, remain unmarried (verses 1, 8). To those who are married, remain married (this is Paul’s advice, not YHVH’s, verse 10), even if one is unequally yoked in marriage (verses 12–16). To those who are circumcised, remain in that state and vice versa (verse 18). If called as a slave, remain as one (verses 21–23).

With regard to circumcision, Paul’s advice doesn’t require strict adherence as his circumcision of Timothy shows (Acts 16:1–4). In that case it was more expedient for the preaching of gospel to the Jews that Timothy be circumcised, so as not to be a stumbling block to the Jews who had a high view of circumcision. This type of circumcision was acceptable, since it was not done as a salvation requirement for Timothy.

1 Corinthians 7:19, Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing. What is Paul saying here? Is he confused, or does he have a larger principal in view? Paul’s bottom line in all of his writings is that circumcision is not a salvational requirement. If it were, then, obviously, women could not saved! As we shall see, however, the Scriptures teach that in the future, for those in certain ministry situations, circumcision will be a requirement (Ezek 44:7, 9). To understand the issue, let’s briefly discuss what the Scriptures say about circumcision.

Some will say that circumcision of the heart (Rom 2:29) is a “New Testament” invention that happily has replaced physical circumcision. This is not quite true, for YHVH has desired his people to have circumcised hearts from the time of Moses (Deut 10:16; 30:6) and Jeremiah (Jer 4:4). What’s more, YHVH will require the priests who will serve in his millennial temple (an archetypal model of YHVH’s plan of salvation through Yeshua’s death on the cross) to not only be circumcised in the heart, but in the flesh as well (Ezek 44:7). Not only that, but all those who will enter that sanctuary, both Israelite and non-Israelite, must be circumcised physically and spiritually (Ezek 44:9). 

Physical circumcision is not a requirement for salvation, and Paul teaches that redeemed believers not only can be saved without undergoing the rite of physical circumcision, but that all (including women) are circumcised through Messiah’s circumcision (Col 2:10–13; see also Phil 3:3), even as each person has “died” to sin and has been resurrected to new spiritual life through faith in and identity with his death, burial and resurrection (Rom 6:3–8).

Paul never disparages physical circumcision, except when false teachers make it a requirement for salvation, or when those who are physically circumcised parade it as a mark of spiritual superiority. Paul goes on to say that physical circumcision, however, is a sign, mark or token, and a seal (placed on someone) or an impression or stamp made by a signet ring signifying ownership, something which distinguishes one from others and by which one is known (Rom 4:11). Circumcision was a sign of Abraham’s righteousness and the faith he had in YHVH and a mark of YHVH’s “ownership” of Abraham. Faith precedes circumcision, but when one is circumcised, one commits to walk in the faith and righteousness of Abraham, and to enter into a deeper, more committed and more intimate (covenant-based) walk with YHVH Elohim. Perhaps physical circumcision as a mark of a deeper and more committed relationship with YHVH is the reason it, along with heart circumcision, will be required of all who will be allowed to not only minister in, but also to visit the millennial temple (Ezek 44:7, 9). In the past, the temple represented YHVH’s presence on earth, and it was viewed as a sort “the gateway to heaven.” In ancient times, those who sought the privilege of visiting this special and set-apart spot had to prepare themselves physically and spiritually to approach the Creator. They had to be ritually and spiritually pure, and physical circumcision was an aspect of this. For those of the priesthood who will be ministering in the millennial temple, physical circumcision will still be a requirement to fulfill covenantal, ritual cleansing and the requirements of spiritual types and shadows, for which that institution will be used to teach the unsaved peoples of the earth during the Millennium the truths of YHVH’s plan of salvation as it did in the past. Physical circumcision will be an outward sign that will (literally) go before the priest showing that he has committed himself to putting a way the filth of the world as represented by the foreskin.

Now if one is circumcised and doesn’t follow the Torah, then it’s as if he weren’t circumcised at all (Rom 2:24–29). In YHVH’s spiritual economy from Genesis to Revelation, YHVH always looks primarily at one’s heart attitude rather than at outward show involving religious rites, rituals and ceremonies. However, Yeshua clearly teaches in his Sermon on the Mount that YHVH not only prefers heart, or spirit of the law obedience, but letter of the law obedience also. He desires his people to love him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, which involves both a letter and the spirit of the law obedience. 

While physical circumcision is not a requirement for salvation (much like water baptism), in doing so, one is demonstrating one’s desire to be obedient to all the Word of YHVH including the commands of Torah. Yeshua clearly stated that not one jot or tittle of the Torah has been nullified, and that those who keep all of YHVH’s Torah commands will obtain a higher reward in his eternal kingdom than those who do not (Matt 5:17–19), and they will be able to approach closer to him in his temple in the Millennium.


 

My final word (I think) on circumcision as it relates to Passover

I got this email question from a truth seeker today. It’s one I’ve been asked many times. It’s a hot potato subject, to be sure. Some will read my answer and disagree. That’s fine. Frankly, I don’t really care. I’ve moved on to bigger issues!

After years of deliberation and after taking everything into consideration from Genesis to Revelation on the subject, this is where I’ve landed on the issue of circumcision being a requirement in order to keep Passover properly (i.e. according to the letter of the law of Torah).

First the question, then my answer.

Shalom Pastor Natan,

I’ve been learning to walk in the Torah for a little over a year now. One of the most confusing aspects of it for me has been Galatians. I’ve been listening to your teaching on it as well as Corner Fringe Ministries’ ongoing study, and it’s helped me quite a bit. But you mentioned in Part 1 of your series that you won’t get into the matter of circumcision for Passover. With Passover coming up, I’d really like to know your thoughts on that. I know that circumcision is not necessary for salvation, but it is for keeping Passover (Exodus 12:43-49). Since we are instructed to keep the Passover (1 Corinthians 5:8), should uncircumcised followers of Yeshua abstain from it until they are ready to do that?

Hello S—,

I think you answered your own question. Physical circumcision is not a salvation issue. Yeshua commanded us to keep Passover at his last supper. (“Do this in remembrance of me.”) End of discussion.
Yes, I know what Exod 12:43–48 says about circumcision being a requirement for the Israelite males to properly keep Passover per the Torah, and whoever wasn’t circumcised couldn’t keep Passover and thus would be cut off from Israel. Some well meaning people will disagree with me here. But being cut off from a physical nation for not being circumcised hardly equates with losing one’s salvation because they aren’t physically circumcised when they do Passover. It’s apples and oranges here. To be part of the physical nation of Israel, you had to have the birth certificate, if you will, or the national passport or ID card. That happened to be physical circumcision—at least for the guys. So what was the criteria for women? Good question. How about “your Elohim will be my Elohim and your people will be my people…?” Seemed to have worked for Ruth the Moabitess. After all, she became an ancestor of the Jewish Messiah! (And don’t forget Rahab the harlot of Jericho who also accepted YHVH Elohim, was grafted into the nation of Israel and who is also in the lineage of Yeshua!) She wasn’t physically circumcised, obviously, but she was heart circumcised, to be sure. So heart circumcision is the highest common denominator to be reached for here, not physical circumcision.
So let me get this straight. Physical circumcision for men was  the requirement for Israelite men to be part of Israel, while heart circumcision for Gentile women was their requirement for being part of Israel. What gives here? Obviously, the physical circumcision was the national ID card for a man to be part of the physical nation of Israel. But Moses in three places talked about how YHVH really desired heart circumcision; that was really his highest ideal and criteria for membership in Isreal. This seemed to work for Ruth (and Rahab), and it was obviously acceptable to Elohim. So why not now?
Look, I’m all for physical circumcision. Thankfully, it’s not something I have to worry about. My Hebraic parents took care of that for me when I was eight days old 58 years ago.
There is a blessing for being circumcised physically. If I weren’t already, I’d get it done. It’s pleasing to Elohim and it shows that one is zealous and passionate to obey all of YHVH’s commandments. Besides, your local urologist will do it for just a few hundred dollars and you’ll drive yourself home afterwards and after a week or two you’ll be healed and fine.
Paul was both for and against circumcision. As a requirement for salvation, he was totally against it. As an act of loving obedience, passion and devotion to Elohim, he was for it. It showed that one had a zeal for being part of Israel. What’s wrong with that? We’re now the Israel of Elohim (Gal 6:16). There’s still nothing wrong with being physically circumcised. It must be a good thing, especially now since so many God and Bible hating secular humanistic libtards are against it!
Bottom line: In ancient Israel, and as a requirement for keeping Passover, it was necessary to separate out those who were serious about being a part of the physical nation of Israel. That one act separated the imposters and wolves in sheep’s clothing wannabes from those who were really zealous for Elohim and Torah. After all what imposter would really want to go through the ordeal of circumcision in the days of flint knives and no anesthetic? Let’s get real! For the Israel of the one new man (Eph 2:11–19), the Israel of Elohim (Gal 6:16) we now have confession of sin, repentance, public confession and acceptance of Yeshua and baptism followed by receipt of the Spirit. Cultural and spiritual conditions and contexts have changed from the Passover in Egypt till now.
Does any of this make sense? I hope so.