What is circumcision in the Bible: A biblical study on the meaning and practice of circumcision

Published On: 27 de December de 2023Categories: Bible Study

Circumcision is an important theme in the Bible and has been practiced for many centuries. In this biblical study, we will explore what circumcision is, how it was done among the Jews and its meaning in the Old Testament.

What is circumcision?

Circumcision is a surgical procedure that involves removing the foreskin, the skin that covers the glans of the penis. This practice is carried out in different cultures and religions, but in the Bible, circumcision has a special meaning for the Jewish people.

Circumcision is considered a sign of the covenant between God and the people of Israel. It was instituted by God as a commandment to Abraham and his descendants, as a sign of God’s promise to bless them and make them a great nation.

“For your part,” God said to Abraham, “keep my covenant, both you and your future descendants.

This is my covenant with you and your descendants, a covenant that must be kept: All males among you will be circumcised in the flesh.

You will have to make this mark, which will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.

From your generation onwards, every boy eight days old among you must be circumcised, both those born in your house and those bought from foreigners and who are not your descendants.

Whether born in your home or purchased, you will have to be circumcised. My covenant, marked on your body, will be an everlasting covenant.

Any male who is uncircumcised, who has not been circumcised, will be cut off from among his people; broke my covenant.”Genesis 17:9-14

Furthermore, circumcision was also a symbol of purification and separation from the pagan world. By submitting to circumcision, the Jews showed their commitment to follow God’s law and be a separate people for Him.

How was circumcision performed among the Jews?

Circumcision was performed on male babies on the eighth day of life. The procedure was performed by a mohel, a person trained to perform circumcision according to Jewish tradition.

A mohel was a highly respected professional in Jewish tradition who specialized in the practice of ritual circumcision. This skilled expert played a crucial role in the community, being assigned to perform circumcision on male babies in accordance with Jewish religious traditions. In addition to his surgical skills, a mohel also carried the responsibility of preserving the spiritual integrity of the ritual, ensuring that the ceremony was performed with reverence and respect for the precepts established in the covenant between God and the people of Israel.

The mohel used a special knife to cut the foreskin, removing it completely. After circumcision, the baby was considered part of the Jewish people and was given a Hebrew name.

Circumcision was an important event in a Jew’s life, celebrated with a special ceremony known as brit milah. In this ceremony, the child was presented to the community and received blessings from parents and guests.

Circumcision in the Old Testament

Circumcision is mentioned several times in the Old Testament as a sign of the covenant between God and the people of Israel. In Genesis 17:10-14, God establishes circumcision as a sign of the eternal covenant with Abraham and his descendants.

God said to Abraham:“Este é o meu pacto, que guardareis entre mim e vós e a tua descendência: Que todo macho entre vós será circuncidado” (Gênesis 17:10). Essa aliança foi renovada com Moisés e com os israelitas no deserto.

Circumcision in the Old Testament was a visible sign of the Jewish people’s identity and their relationship with God. It was a constant reminder that they were a separate people and that they had a special responsibility before God.

Although circumcision was an important commandment in the law of Moses, the New Testament teaches us that physical circumcision is no longer necessary for Christians. Instead, the focus is on the circumcision of the heart, that is, on inner transformation and commitment to God.

Circumcision in the New Testament

Circumcision in the New Testament is often discussed in the context of the change brought about by the message of Jesus Christ. In several passages, such as Galatians 5:6, Paul highlights the importance of faith working through love, in contrast to the practice of circumcision as a means of justification. He argues that in Christ what matters is a new creation, not circumcision or uncircumcision. This perspective highlights spiritual transformation and acceptance through faith in Jesus rather than relying on ancient ritual practices.

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value; but rather faith that works through love. Galatians 5:6

Circumcision is addressed more symbolically in Colossians 2:11-12, where Paul describes believers as being circumcised “with the circumcision done without hands.” Here the emphasis is on the inner spiritual experience, indicating that in Christ believers experience an inner purification that goes beyond the physical practice of circumcision. It is a change of heart, carried out by God, that transcends external traditions.

In Romans 2:29, Paul expands this concept even further by speaking of the true circumcision of the heart, performed by the Spirit, and not by the letter of the law. He highlights that being a true Jew is not just an external issue, but involves an internal transformation, a relationship with God that goes beyond ceremonial practices. Thus, circumcision in the New Testament is reinterpreted as a spiritual symbol of commitment and inner faith in God.

Ultimately, the New Testament offers a view of circumcision that goes beyond the physical and ceremonial aspect, emphasizing the importance of faith, inner transformation, and personal relationship with God through the work of Jesus Christ.


Circumcision is a significant theme in the Bible, representing the covenant between God and the Jewish people. It was performed as a sign of identity, purification and commitment to God. Although physical circumcision is no longer mandatory for Christians, the principle behind it “the circumcision of the heart” remains relevant. We must seek inner transformation and a sincere commitment to God.

May we understand the deeper meaning of circumcision and apply its principles to our spiritual lives, seeking an intimate relationship with God and a genuine commitment to Him.

May the circumcision of the heart be a reality in our lives, so that we can live according to God’s purposes and experience the fullness of His grace and love.

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Written by : Ministério Veredas Do IDE

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