We continue with Mr.Aaron's book:
THE PHALLIC COVENANT
"Circumcision" is the name of that operation by which the
skin that covers the head of the penis is cut away. In the Bible
- at least in the Old Testament - it was considered a life and
death matter! The very first book of the Bible tells us that if a
male does not have this skin "cut off" that he, himself, "shall
be cut off from his people"! (Genesis 17:14).
It all started, Biblically speaking, when a ninety-nine year
old man circumcised himself - and then his son and slaves:
And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in
his house, and all that were bought with his money, every
male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the
flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day ... and Abraham
was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised
Since Abraham had 318 servants "born in his own house" (see
Genesis 14:14), plus those he "bought," this must have been quite
an occasion, involving hundreds of men, boys, and male babies
Special mention is made of the circumcision of Abraham's
Ishmael who "was thirteen years old" (Genesis 17:25). Arabs,
claiming descent from Ishmael, continue to circumcise their males
at age thirteen. Though it is a traumatic and painful rite,
especially at this age, these circumcisions have long been times
for celebration and dancing among the peasants of Palestine.
During the ceremony, young people sing over and over:
We will protect you
From him who cuts (enda-I-Katta)
We will protect you.
Cut, O Cutter!
Yet hurt not [names of those to be circumcised].
Cut, O Cutter!
Beware of the reed (ala-I-Kasab)
Oh my darling,
Beware of the reed!
Three different instruments are pictured here through which
the foreskin can be pulled, thus protecting the head of the penis
from the cutting knife during circumcision.
Though most of us know about ancient circumcision because of
Abraham, circumcision did not begin with him. When he was told to
circumcise himself and the other males, he did not say:
"Circumcise? What's that?" Evidently he knew of the practice; it
had been around a long time. But he adopted it as a covenant sign
between him and Yahweh. Rabbi Brasch, a noted Australian writer,
Circumcision is known to have have been practiced from
prehistoric times.... custom extends all over the world and
is definitely not exclusively Jewish....There is ample
evidence to prove that circumcision did not originate in any
one specific country and thence spread elsewhere. On the
contrary, it is known to have been practiced by aboriginal
people in almost every continent.
The accompanying illustration, from an Egyptian monument,
shows circumcision being practiced before the time of Abraham, in
about 2300 B.C. According to Herodotus, circumcision was
practiced from the remotest period among the Egyptians. The
Canaanites, among whom Abraham wandered, alleged that
circumcision began when the god Al, in a fit of anger, cut off
his own inflamed foreskin, and forced his allies to do likewise.
Because Abraham was told to circumcise each male on the
eighth day of the infant's life (Genesis 17:12), some believe
that circumcision was originally intended as a blood sacrifice, a
purification rite, for the male infant who had been exposed to
his mother's uncleanness through birth. Since this uncleanness
was believed to last seven days, the eighth day would be the
appropriate time for such a rite. "If a woman hath conceived
seed, and born a man child, then she shall be unclean seven days
... and in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be
circumcised" (Leviticus 12:1-4).
(Actually it is now scientifically known that vitamin K - the
blood clotting vitamin - is the highest it will ever be in the
male, at the 8th day of age - Keith Hunt)
Others believe that circumcision may have been an outgrowth
of an earlier custom of offering firstborn sons as human
A somewhat obscure passage is quoted: "The firstborn of thy
sons shalt thou give unto me. Likewise shalt thou do with thine
oxen; and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on
the eighth day thou shalt give it me" (Exodus 22:29,30). Since in
actual practice it was circumcision that occurred on the eighth
day, perhaps a portion of the son - the skin removed by
circumcision - came to be counted for the whole.
(In God's plan with Israel, I doubt the above suggestion is
correct - Keith Hunt)
Among primitive people, it was widely believed that by
offering to a deity a portion of a crop, the entire crop would be
blessed. By offering a part of the herd as a sacrifice, the
entire herd would be increased. So by offering a portion of skin
from the organ of reproduction, a large number of descendants
could be obtained. In this case, circumcision would have been a
fertility rite. That the Biblical commandment regarding
circumcision was linked with fertility is evident from the
context: "I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will
multiply thee exceedingly ... my covenant is with thee, and thou
shalt be a father of many nations .... This is my covenant, which
ye shall keep .... Every man child among you shall be
circumcised" (Genesis 17:1-10).
Following Abraham's circumcision, the Lord (Yahweh) appeared
to him as "he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day"
(Genesis 18:1). The Bible does not explain why Abraham was
sitting in the tent door, but an explanation is supplied by the
book of Jasher: "And in the third day" - after his circumcision -
"Abraham went out of his tent and sat at the door to enjoy the
heat of the sun, during the pain of his flesh. And the Lord
appeared to him in the plain of Mature..." (Jasher 18:3,4).
Having been circumcised three days before, he was probably
letting the sun get to his wound to help heal the frayed edges of
The soreness of the third day after circumcision is
emphasized in one of the early Bible stories that tells how the
men of an entire town fell victims to murder! The story begins
when Shechem fell in love with Dinah, Jacob's daughter. "He took
her, and lay with her, and defiled her" (Genesis 34:2). Though
he planned to marry the girl, her brothers accused him of dealing
with their sister "as with an harlot" (verse 31). According to
Talmudic interpretations, this wording indicates he had
intercourse with her naturally and unnaturally: in vagina and
When Shechem and his father Harrier suggested that marriages
be made between their people and those of Jacob's family, "the
sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor deceitfully ... and they
said unto them .... If ye will be as we be, that every male of
you be circumcised; then will we give our daughters unto you, and
will take your daughters to us" (Genesis 34:13-16). Having agreed
to be circumcised, "it came to pass on the third day, when they
were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi,
Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city
boldly, and slew all the males" (Genesis 34:25,26). They then
took their possessions, cattle, and wives! It was such a dirty
trick, even Jacob (who had pulled some fast ones himself!) told
his sons: "Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the
inhabitants of the land" (verse 30).
Since Israelites considered circumcision as a most sacred
act, to use it deceitfully seems especially repugnant. To make a
comparison - because water baptism in the New Testament replaced
the fleshly circumcision (Colossians 2:11,12) - this would be
like a couple preachers coming to town, convincing several
hundred people to follow the Lord in water baptism (immersion),
and then drown them all! Well, that's one way to keep them from
According to the book of Jasher, for what its worth, there
were 645 men and 246 boys who were circumcised (Jasher 31:4). Are
we to conclude that 891 males were so sore from being circumcised
that two men could kill every one of them? Even though pain and
swelling follows adult circumcision, how bad could the pain be to
keep these men from fighting for their lives? What were all the
women doing? Did wives, mothers, and others just stand there and
watch while two Israelites killed all their men? Some think the
writer's purpose was to emphasize how painful it was to be
Circumcision has resulted in times of persecution against
the Jews and, at other times, persecution by Jews. When they
gained political leverage through Esther's marriage to a heathen
king, "the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the
sword, and slaughter, and destruction, and did what they would
unto those that hated them" (Esther 9:5). In these circumstances,
"many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the
Jews fell upon them" (Esther 8:17). The meaning is, as the
Septuagint makes clear, many were circumcised for fear of the
Jews. At another period, when the Jews had reduced the Idumeans
to slaves, Jewish rites such as circumcision were forced on them
(I Maccabees 5:3; 2 Maccabees 10:15-23).
On the other hand, in 168 B.C., when the Greeks had control
of Jerusalem, Antiochus IV made circumcision punishable by death.
To the Greeks, exposing that portion of the penis which would
normally only be seen during erection, was considered indecent.
They had no great aversion to nudity otherwise, and were known to
commonly exercise in the nude. The very word "gymnasium," which
we derive from the Greeks, means a place of nude exercise. Such a
gym was built at Jerusalem and Jews who took part in the nude
sports activities felt self-conscious because of their
circumcised penises. Thus we read in the Apocrypha: "And they
built a place of exercise in Jerusalem according to the laws of
the Gentiles; and they made themselves uncircumcised"
(1 Maccabees 1:15,16). Becoming "uncircumcised" was attempted by
"epispasm," a process of gradually stretching the skin. In modern
times, it is possible (though seldom done), to surgically replace
the skin removed by circumcision.
After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., Vespasian instituted
a law requiring every circumcised Jew to pay a special tax. In
Rome, a Jewish man might be stopped on the street and compelled
to show the mark of his circumcision - sometimes experiencing the
indignity of having his genitals handled and ridiculed by Roman
soldiers - and made to pay the tax. Very possibly such
examinations accompanied the decree which forced all Jews to
leave Rome (Acts 18:2).
One of the strangest passages in the Bible regarding
circumcn involved Moses and his family. Having received a
commission from the Lord to go to Egypt and free the Hebrews from
slavery, on the way there, the Lord (Yahweh) tried to kill him -
because his son was not circumcised!
And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met
him, and sought to kill him. Then Zippomh took a sharp
stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at
his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.
So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou at,
because of the circumcision (Exodus 4:24-26).
According to the Biblical information, Moses had been
married for nearly forty years. His son could have been in his
thirties. But whether child or adult, in the stress of the
moment, Zipporah zipped into action. She grabbed the skin of her
son's penis, pulled it forward past the head, and cut it off.
This being accomplished, she threw the bloody skin at the feet of
Moses. Some believe she threw the skin at Moses' genitals, "feet"
sometimes being used euphemistically for this area. Though she
was obviously upset at Moses - calling him "a bloody husband" -
her actions kept him from being killed.
Why had this particular son, Gershom, not been circumcised?
Again, the book of Jasher offers an explanation:
Moses had hearkened to the words of his father-in-law which
he had spoken to him, not to circumcise his fast born
son.... And Zipporah saw the angel of the Lord ... and
hastened and took of the sharp rock stones that were there,
and she circumcised her son, and delivered her husband and
her son from the hand of the angel of the Lord (Jasper
About forty years later, what may have been the largest mass
circumcising event in history occurred:
And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the
children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins ... all the
people that came out of Egypt ... were circumcised: but all
the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as
they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised
The ages of those circumcised ranged from as old as forty on
down to tiny babies - thousands in number. Little privacy
was possible for this mass circumcising - it may have even been a
Today pieces of skin removed by circumcision are sometimes
used for skin grafts. But at the time of Joshua, they were piled
up on the desert floor and the area came to be known as "the hill
of foreskins." One writer estimates their weight would have been
about two tons - so many were the foreskins piled up there!
It was an old custom to bury a soldier's sword or weapon
with him (Ezekiel 32:27). According to the Septuagint version of
Joshua 24:31, the flint knives Joshua used to circumcise were
buried with him. Joshua had become famous as a circumciser.
The accompanying sixteenth century drawing portrays the
circumcision of Jesus as mentioned in Luke 1:59: "On the eighth
day they came to circumcise the child." What became of the
foreskin after this? It was probably discarded. But centuries
later, when the use of relics became very popular within the
Roman Catholic church, certain monks at Charroux claimed
they had in their possession the very piece of skin cut from the
penis of Jesus! As proof of it genuineness, they said it still
yielded drops of blood on occasions! Other churches that claimed
to possess the "holy prepuce" included one at Coulombs, another
in Puy, and still another in Rome.
The following words of Montaigne describing a Jewish
circumcision ceremony he witnessed, will give some idea of the
...the child being now ready, with its head toward the
godfather, the operator, seizing the member, draws the
foreskin toward him with one hand, while with the fingers of
the other he pushes back the glans; he then places a silver
instrument, which fixes the skin, and which at the same time
holds back the glans so that the knife may not cut it. The
foreskin is then cut off...The operator then tears with his
nails the skin which lies on the glans, which he turns back
over the body of the member .... No sooner is the glans
uncovered than the operator takes a mouthful of wine; he
then places the glans in his mouth and sucks the blood out
of it; this he repeats three runes .... He covers up all the
wound, the parts being then done up in expressly-cut
Sucking the bleeding penis, the part of the ceremony called
the "mezizah," has been defended by rabbis over the centuries,
including the celebrated Mainonides. But in the nineteenth
century, after a number of infants in Vienna died of syphilis,
presumably contracted from a mohel (circumciser), the mezizah was
abandoned in many communities. And though an original Jewish
document says, "The Compassionate One will bless him who
circumcises the foreskin, and him who uncovers the glans, and him
who sucks up the blood of the circumcision," the American
translation has generalized the last clause as: "him who fulfills
every part of the precept." Today only the most strict Jewish
groups insist on the mezizah.
It has been said that only the sabbath was considered more
important to the Jews than circumcision. Nevertheless, if the
eighth day of a male infant's life fell on the sabbath, the work
of circumcision was done anyhow! (John 7:22,23). So, in this
case, even the sabbath had to take a back seat to the grand rite
According to Jewish laws, only after two sons in a family
died from being circumcised (being bleeders) was the third son
considered exempt from having the operation. Even dead people
were circumcised; that is, the operation was performed on males
that died before the eighth day.
Since uncircumcised persons were forbidden by Jewish law to
enter the inner court of the temple (Ezekiel 44:9), a warning in
large gold letters read: LET NO UNCIRCUMCISED PERSON ENTER HERE.
When some of the Jews thought Paul had brought an uncircumcised
man into the temple, they tried to kill him! (See Acts 21:27-31).
This is how seriously they regarded circumcision.
People who were uncircumcised were looked on with disgust.
In describing Goliath, it was not enough for David to simply call
him a Philistine. He was termed "this uncircumcised Philistine"
(1 Samuel 17:26,36). When Samson wanted to marry a Philistine
girl, his parents asked why he would "take a wife of the
uncircumcised Philistines" (Judges 14:3). We can't help but
notice it was not a question of whether the woman had character
or was kind and good. The point of contention was that the men of
her tribe were uncircumcised! To them, this said so much.
Today religious groups may be distinguished by such tags as
"Baptists" or "Methodists," "Pentecostals" or "Presbyterians,"
"Protestants" or "Catholics," based on doctrinal differences. But
from the Jewish point of view, cutting off a piece of skin from
the penis was such an issue, they designated entire segments of
the population by the terms "the Circumcision" and "the
Uncircumcision" (Ephesians 2:11). Things that were considered
inferior were tagged "uncircumcised"! - things like the lips of
one who could not speak well (Exodus 6:12), uncircumcised hearts
(Leviticus 26:41), uncircumcised ears (Jeremiah 6:10) and even
uncircumcised fruit! "And when ye shall come into the land, and
shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall
count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised" - for three years
Because the members of the early church had their roots in
Judaism, it was difficult for some of them to accept the idea of
Peter ministering to Gentiles. Notice their wording: "Thou
wentest into men uncircumcised and did eat with them" (Acts
11:3)! Imagine people acting like it was the end of the world
because a man with a bit less skin on his penis ate with men who
had a bit more!
Some within the church contended: "Except ye be circumcised
after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). A
church council was called to debate the issue. Their consensus
was that those already circumcised did not need to become
uncircumcised; but to make circumcision a requirement for others
was regarded as an unnecessary and fruitless burden.
Circumcision was not totally abandoned, however, for in the
very next chapter (Acts 16), Paul took Timothy "and circumcised
him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they
knew all that his father was a Greek" (Acts 16:3). Such was done,
not because the gospel required it, but from a situational
viewpoint. On the other hand, Titus, a Greek, was not
circumcised, even though he also worked with Paul for a period of
time (Galatians 2:3).
It seems strange that some listening to Timothy, Titus, or
some other minister, would be preoccupied with the question of
whether this one or that one had been circumcised. A modern
congregation might be more concerned about the shortness of the
pastor's sermon, than the shortness of the skin on his penis!
Some feel the practice of circumcision promoted a fetish
curiosity between males that were circumcised and those who were
uncircumcised - and among the circumcised for such minute details
as how large the scar was on one cut short or how much flap
remained on one more loosely cut. According to a rabbinical
legend, it was while David looked at the scar of his circumcision
that he received inspiration to write Psalm 12. But one reads
this psalm and fails to find any connection whatsoever.. No doubt
such ideas must be classed with the "Jewish fables" mentioned by
Paul (Titus 1:14).
Circumcision has now become somewhat routine and does not
necessarily identify one race or religion. It is certainly not a
necessary operation in most cases, and there are arguments
presented pro and con within the medical community. Without the
extra skin, some claim the head of the penis can come into more
direct contact with the vagina during intercourse. Others say the
removal of this protective skin decreases sensitivity. Some feel
this loss of sensitivity helps discourage masturbation or allows
prolonged intercourse. Nevertheless, entirely separate from any
religious significance, a large percentage of American males are
circumcised. In a Masters and Johnson survey, out of 300 male
volunteers for sexual observation at their clinic, all but 35 had
Because words like "circumcise," "circumcision," and
"uncircumcision" repeatedly appear in the Bible - well over 100
reference - questions sometimes surface in Sunday School classes.
I once heard a woman ask a teacher: "Brother, I keep reading this
word 'circumcision' in the Bible. What does it mean?" The
teacher, perhaps somewhat embarrassed, replied that it was a
physical operation, but that now God operates in the Spirit. On
another occasion a lady Sunday School teacher said that the skin
on a little baby's penis is soft when it is cut off, so God wants
us to be tender and soft spiritually.
Though Paul had been circumcised as an infant of eight days
(Philippians 3:5), he concluded that "circumcision is nothing,
and uncircumcision is nothing" (1 Corinthians 7:19); that the
attitude of a man's heart is what counts with God. He warned the
Philippians: "Beware of the concision. For we are the
circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in
Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" - the fleshly
rite of circumcision (Philippians 3:2,3). When Paul used the word
"concision" he was speaking ironically, for the word means
mutilation (Strong's Concordance, 2699). He was calling those
Jewish legalists "mutilators"!
In his letter to the Galatians he went further. Some had
insisted that the Galatians be circumcised and had made quite an
issue of it. Paul's plainness of speech would shock most
congregations today. After pointing out that in Jesus Christ
"neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision," he
blurts out: "I would they were even cut off which trouble you"
The Good News Bible correctly conveys the meaning intended
by Paul: "I wish that the people who are upsetting you would go
all the way; let them go on and castrate themselves!" The Greek
word used here means "to cut off the privy parts" (Strong's
Concordance, 609). In other words, if cutting off a little bit is
so great, Paul argued, why don't they just cut if all off! It was
very strong satire to make his point: removing skin does not
When Paul spoke of castration, it was only to make a point,
and a strong point it was, for making men into eunuchs was a
brutal and savage operation. In his book "Sex and Sex Worship,"
Wall describes the operation in Africa:
A captured Negro male is stripped of clothing, the penis and
scrotum are firmly grasped and pulled away from the body,
then wholly cut off with a long sharp knife. The bleeding is
stopped with a sponge attached to the end of a stick, the
sponge having been dipped into boiling oil. The hands of the
boy are tied behind him and he is placed in a pit filled
with sand up to his shoulders. A large gaping sore that does
not heal kindly results and only one out of four survives
the brutal operation.
Eunuchs were used all over the world in such places as
Assyria, Persia, India, China, and Rome. Among the Greeks,
Herodotus mentions Panionius who made his living by capturing and
castrating boys, then selling them for high prices in Ephesus and
Sardis. The Bible mentions an Ethiopian eunuch of "great
authority" who was converted by Phillip (Acts 8:27). Eunuchs also
served in Israel. King Zedekiah had an Ethiopian eunuch by the
name of Ebedmelech, "one of the eunuchs in the king's house"
(Jeremiah 38:7). Eunuchs threw Jezebel from a window to her death
at the order of Jehu (2 Kings 9:32). Josephus mentions eunuchs
who served in Herod's courts. Jesus also mentioned eunuchs
Almost everyone has heard about Daniel being thrown into the
lion's den - and of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were
thrown into the fiery furnace - but many are not aware that all
of these young men were eunuchs. They had been captured,
castrated, and taken to Babylon where they were placed under the
authority of Ashpenaz, who was in charge of the king's eunuchs
(Daniel 1:3-7). Here they were forced to serve in the palace at
Babylon, fulfilling a prophecy given by Isaiah many years before:
"Thy sons shall they take away; and they shall he eunuchs in the
palace of the king of Babylon" (Isaiah 39:6,7).
An alternative to having eunuchs guard the harem, was that
absurd invention known as the chastity belt or girdle which
could be locked. A sixteenth century drawing given here shows an
unfaithful wife taking money from her husband and giving it to
her lover who already has a key to the girdle! If in fact a
chastity girdle had any serious or practical value at all, it
would have been to prevent rape. In Spain it was in use up to the
Jesus once spoke of some "which have made themselves eunuchs
for the kingdom of heaven's sake" (Matthew 19:12). It is doubtful
that this was intended in a literal way. According to Josephus,
the Jewish people did not practice castration on man or beast.
Nevertheless, as time went on there were some within the church
who castrated themselves, the most outstanding example being the
church father Origen. Influenced by Origen, the Valerians, a
religious sect, not only considered this mutilation a religious
obligation for themselves, but sought, by fair means or foul, to
impose it on all who came within their
In ancient Greek mythology, Cronus castrated his father Uranus
and through the help of the Titans made himself sovereign of the
world. He married his sister Rhea, by whom he fathered several
famous gods, including Hades, god of the underworld. "Hades,"
consequently, became the Greek word to designate the realm of the
dead. It is translated "hell" ten times in the New Testament and
one time "grave."
In the sixteenth century, choir boys were castrated so that
their boyish, high-pitched voices would not change upon reaching
manhood. Known as the castrati, they were about 200 in number and
sang in Roman church choirs, including the Sistine Chapel. The
practice continued for nearly two centuries until outlawed by
Though disputed by the Roman Catholic church today, for
centuries it was believed (even by some of the popes) that a
woman posing as a man had once become pope: Pope Joan. To insure
this did not happen again, there was a time when each newly
elected pope was checked to make sure his testicles were intact.
Seated on a marble throne with a hole in the seat, the Cardinals
looked from beneath. Finding that they had indeed elected a man -
and with testicles intact - they pronounced: "Testiculas habet et
In order for a man to serve in the Jewish priesthood,
testicles had to be intact and he was not to be deformed in any
way: He that hath a "blemish ... a blind man, or a lame, or he
that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous [deformed] ...
broken-footed, or broken-handed; or crook-backed, or a dwarf, or
that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurby, or scabbed, or
hath his stones broken" was not allowed to offer the sacred bread
According to Jewish interpretation, there are 120 blemishes
that disqualify a priest - eight in the head, two in the neck,
nine in the ears, five in the brows, seven in the eyelids,
nineteen in the eyes, and "sixteen in the secrets. " We might
sooner understand why a dwarf or one with open sores might be
rejected - such things being visible. Nevertheless, taboos
involving the sexual area, usually covered and unseen, are in
definite evidence on the list!
In one place the Bible says: "He that is wounded in the
stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into
the congregation of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 23:1). In another
place the tone is entirely different: "For thus saith the Lord
unto the eunuchs ... unto them will I give in mine house and
within my walls a place and a name ... that shall not be cut off
Apparently the prohibition in the first instance was linked
with idolatrous worship, as when priests of Cybele, during wild
and frenzied dances, castrated themselves, throwing their
genitals upon the altar of the goddess. Such were not to be a
part of the congregation of Israel. But others, such as Daniel,
who were made eunuchs against their wills, fell into a different
category altogether. Using a play on words, Isaiah assured them,
though they were eunuchs - had been cut off sexually - they would
have a place in God's house and a name "that shall not he cut
To be continued with "Marriage, Morals, and Manners."
Entered on this Website July 2007