It’s a delicate subject, circumcision. But there are significant theological implications of the practice. Of course, we know that God commanded His people, Israel, to circumcise their baby boys. The rite was observed when the child was eight days old (Genesis 17:12). God said it was “a sign of the covenant between Me and you.” In most instances, a flint knife was used rather than a metal knife. For the record, flint can be knapped many times sharper than the sharpest surgical steel scalpel, or bronze dagger for that matter. In fact, surgeons even today use these rudimentary blades for the most delicate of surgeries, able to literally slice between cells and nerves. Perhaps that’s why God ordered flint knives to be used: less blood, less pain, and faster healing. But then again, the Great Physician always knows best.
Many neighboring nations also practiced circumcision but for different reasons too numerous and unnecessary to discuss here. It is sufficient to know that God told none except Israel to perform this minor operation as a condition of His choosing them to be His special people.
Other types of circumcision, specifically of ears, lips, hearts, fruits (yes, fruit!), and Christ’s, are also mentioned in Scripture. Applying the same theological reasoning, circumcised ears, lips, and hearts are possessed by those who hear and obey God’s call to faith in Him. Uncircumcised ears, lips, and hearts refer to those whose lives are still covered with sin. Regarding the meaning of Christ’s non-physical circumcision, it’s best to let God’s Word speak for itself: In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ. (Colossians 2:11)
Physical circumcision on the eighth day had great significance. It began a new cycle in the life of an infant who had lived seven full, complete days. Seven is a significant number, too, especially in the counting of time. It was an unfortunate number of days for King David and Bathsheba, who lost their ill-conceived baby boy on the seventh day. His was an unconsummated life cut short because of his dad’s sin. Speaking of cutting, father David didn’t even get a chance to circumcise his son on the eighth day, an act that would have inaugurated the child into God’s fold of chosen people. In the day, that hurt more than cutting off the foreskin.
On the other hand, an eight day length of time was special for the disciple Thomas (John 20:26). For seven of those days, Thomas wandered around doubting the report of the resurrection of Jesus (earlier, Thomas already doubted the Way, as reported in John 14:5). But on the eighth day, the Savior appeared to him; and on that day Thomas confessed Jesus is Lord. He was circumcised without hands by the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Indeed, the old things of Thomas passed away and an entirely new way of life – eternal life – began for him (II Corinthians 5:17).
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
God’s Word is truly sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword… and flint scalpels.