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(Read Part 19)


We are considering God’s covenant promises to Abram, which began the dispensation of promise in Genesis 12:1-3:

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

These promises are reaffirmed by a covenant of land in Genesis 17. But we also find something more there.

We see another fundamental revelation, and that has to do with circumcision. This is another major issue that carries over beyond this dispensation of promise. We find information about it here in Genesis 17:9-14, which tells us that the Abrahamic Covenant was to be symbolized by the circumcision of the Jew:

And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

This appears to be something that is fundamental to being in a right relationship to God—at least for the Jewish people. God has promised in a covenant to give the land of Israel to the descendants of Abraham, and the sign of that covenant is the circumcision of the male. That is something that is supposed to take place for an everlasting covenant.

Those words really mean something! Some Bible teachers take it to mean just a really long time. But what does everlasting mean in John 3:16? That we should live a very long life? Of course not! We take that word everlasting there at face value, and I believe that we need to do the same here in Genesis.

What would happen to a Jew who did not practice circumcision? That person could not be in a right relationship with God during this dispensation. We see an illustration of this when Moses had not circumcised his own sons, and God threatened to kill him.

We read of that incident in Exodus 4:24-26:

Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, “You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.” So He let him alone. At that time she said, “You are a bridegroom of blood”—because of the circumcision. (NASB)

God was telling Moses that He was not going to deliver Israel unless Moses fulfilled his part of the obligations of the covenant. During this particular dispensation, if you wanted to be right with God (as a child of Abraham), you had to circumcise the males. This was fundamental.

What carries over from this dispensation?

What from this dispensation is fundamental for all time? I believe that certainly the promise of Genesis 12:3 is in this category:

And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Yet, as we read that verse we are left asking the question—how are we to bless Abraham, who has been dead for centuries?

We find a passage that illustrates the answer to this question in Genesis 27:29, where we see Jacob (Abraham’s grandson) receiving Abraham’s promise for himself.

Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.

Here the promise to Abraham has been reiterated as a promise to Jacob. But what happens after even Jacob is also dead?

In Numbers 24:9, during the dispensation of the law, the blessings and cursings of the Abrahamic Covenant are repeated again. These are the words of Balaam, who was attempting to curse Israel—and would end up dying because of it (cf. Josh. 13:22). But notice what he said here about the nation of Israel:

He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee.

Thee here in this verse refers to the nation of Israel as a whole. Therefore, we can see that the promise given to Abram is passed down to Jacob (who became known as Israel), and in Balaam it is passed on to the whole nation of Israel. If we want to have a Biblical worldview, we have to say that God has a special place for the Jewish nation, and He blesses those who bless them, and He curses those who curse them.

Circumcision for the Jew also does not go away after this dispensation of promise.

In our age, in order to be saved, “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28). Read Acts 15 and the entire book of Galatians and you will surely see this truth. You do not need to be circumcised in order to be saved.

However, the Jewish people were told that their males were to be circumcised as a sign of the everlasting covenant of the land. The Jewish person is still to carry out this sign of the covenant.

In our church, we do not baptize babies, but many churches do. When you ask them for a Biblical basis for doing so, they will point to circumcision, and say that baptism is the sign of the new covenant, just as circumcision was the sign of the old covenant. And since they circumcised babies as the sign of the old covenant, so the sign of the new covenant should be carried out to babies as well. Of course, not all of the details fit together in this way—such as the fact that only male babies were circumcised.

But in addition, this line of thinking completely sets aside the old covenant made with Israel. This is bad theology, and it breeds anti-Semitism. We see this borne out, for instance, in the church groups that are involved in boycotts against Israel.

The covenant of the land was signed by circumcision. If circumcision is past, what does that say about the land? It says that the whole covenant is gone.

I think that circumcision for the Jew is something that carries forward.

Do you wonder how Ishmael fits into all of this? We will pick up there next time by considering that question.

May the Lord bless you until then—and thank you for joining us for Bible study this week!

Editor’s Note: This blog was compiled with the assistance of Paul J. Scharf,
editor in chief of Dispensational Publishing House,
and is taken from the video that you can watch in its entirety below.

(Read Part 21)

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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.

Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
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