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Daily manna from the Torah by Dr Ketriel Blad

Lech Lechah 3-7

Go for you

Genesis 17:7-27

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you... Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."

Gen. 17:7, 14 ESV

Is the covenant of circumcision still in effect?

A later covenant cannot revoke a previous one. The Eternal cannot change His covenants, nor change His mind, nor can He revoke any of His words. But He can indeed, fulfill His part in the covenants and His words in many different ways.

The covenant of the circumcision in the flesh was established between the Eternal and Avraham and his physical offspring for all generations. It is an eternal covenant. This means that all male children – in the flesh – of Avraham have the obligation of circumcising their foreskin in order to remain inside the covenant. A descendant of Avraham that is not circumcised on the eighth day of birth, or later, loses his right to belong to the people of Israel, the Jewish people. 

According to Jewish law, one has to be born of a Jewish mother in order to be accepted as Jewish. That is to say, that if someone doesn't have a Jewish mother, he is not obliged to be circumcised in the flesh.

Circumcision in the flesh is a visible sign that speaks of another circumcision, the one of the heart. Circumcision of the heart already existed in the times of Moshe (Moses), as it is written in Deuteronomy 10:16: "Therefore, circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stiff-necked." (MKJV) The Eternal requires from His people, not only the circumcision of the flesh but also the one of the heart. But it is very important to understand that invisible things do not cancel visible things and vice versa. These realities exist in both worlds at the same time; one speaks of the other and they are connected to each other.

In other words, if a Jewish man experiences circumcision in his heart, that does not revoke his circumcision in the flesh nor take away the responsibility of circumcising his sons on the eighth day of their birth. On the other hand, a circumcised Jew – in the flesh – is not complete until he has circumcised his heart; because his circumcision in the flesh does not exempt him from the responsibility of circumcising his heart.  

Now, in the Messiah there is a more powerful circumcision of the heart than the one Moshe rabenu – our teacher – speaks of. What he speaks of is something we can do. How? By taking away from our hearts anything that could make them insensitive to spiritual matters. An uncircumcised heart is one that is insensitive to the spiritual world. A circumcised heart, on the other hand, is one that not only obeys the commandments of the Eternal but that does it sincerely, with joy and love. A circumcised heart listens to the voice of the Spirit.

In the circumcision in the Messiah something more profound takes place in the heart of men. Part of the yetser harah – the evil inclination which Paul calls "the flesh" – is eliminated, as it is written in Colossians 2:11 "In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Messiah" (ESV revised). 

However, not all flesh is eliminated in the circumcision of the Messiah because one who has experienced the new birth in the Messiah still has yetser harah (the flesh), but the dominating power of that sinful nature is broken. One who is in the Messiah is not a slave of sin anymore. He can dominate his instincts and inclinations much more powerfully than one who is not in the Messiah.

This fact is the result of the renewed covenant in the Messiah as we can see in Ezekiel 36:26-27: "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." (ESV) and Jeremiah 31:33: "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (ESV)

If one says that the circumcision of the flesh for those born to a Jewish mother is not necessary if they have experienced the circumcision of the Messiah, he is denying what is established in the covenant of circumcision between the Eternal and Avraham and his offspring forever. We can't mix the different kinds of circumcisions and say that if we have one we don't need the other. That would be a great deviation from the truth and would make the Eternal seem unfaithful and His name would be blemished.

The one who is not born of a Jewish mother has no obligation of circumcising the flesh of his foreskin. A gentile who has experienced circumcision in the Messiah has no obligation of circumcising his flesh. When the messianic kingdom comes, the yetser harah – the flesh – will be eliminated. But before that, we will still have to cope with the internal struggle.

Dear disciple: Learn the lesson between material and spiritual. One does not cancel the other; on the contrary, they complement each other. They can coexist in perfect harmony and they actually should. In this way, a unity between the inferior and superior worlds is created, and that is the purpose of creation.

May the Eternal give you His grace to be able to live in the power of the renewed covenant in the Messiah and have victory over sin.

Shabbat shalom,


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