Biblical Imagery is used by the Biblical authors to explain higher spiritual realities. The higher spiritual realities are invisible and immaterial. This is how we learn to think spiritually. The sources of the images used by the Biblical authors come from four primary sources: (1) God’s creation, (2) Judaism, (3) human experiences, and (4) apocalyptic images. Occasionally, there is some overlap of the sources of the images. The images are often vivid and appeal to the reader’s five senses. Further, the images often create a picture in the reader’s or listener’s mind. The emotional edge associated with the images is designed to penetrate the inherent hardness of the human heart. “Circumcision” is an example of Biblical Imagery that has its roots in Judaism.
Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin of the male phallus shortly after birth. The procedure was required by Jewish tradition and law. The Jewish tradition began with Abraham. When Abraham was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to Abraham to enter into covenant with him. The Lord said to Abraham, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless” (Gen. 17:1). The Hebrew verb hālaḵ is defined as “to walk.” The Hebrew noun pānîm is defined as “face or presence.” The Hebrew adjective tāmîm is defined as “whole or complete.” In other words, Abraham was commanded to live in fellowship with God and be whole. (God’s command did not contemplate that Abraham was going to suddenly be sinless.) It was at this time that the Lord commanded that Abraham and his male descendants should be circumcised as a sign of the Covenant (Gen. 17:10-11).
God directed that the circumcision should occur on the eighth day after the child’s birth (Gen. 17:12). The eighth day symbolized a new creation. From the beginning, circumcision always symbolized something more than tribal identity or aesthetics. As Moses explained, Israel was required “to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Duet. 10:12). The descendants of Abraham were required to follow in the steps of Abraham. Circumcision was a visible reminder of the believer’s call to obedience. Later, to the Israelites, Moses commanded, “So circumcise your heart and do not stiffen your neck any longer” (Deut. 10:16). Most of the Israelites (like us Christians) never measured up to Abraham. Living in fellowship with God is what is missing from the lives of most humans.
In Deuteronomy, Chapter 30, we learn that as we humans seek to be obedient to the Lord, “the Lord, your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, so that you may live” (Deut. 30:6). Our free wills are at issue, but the Lord will help us in our endeavor to be an obedient and faithful servant. Additionally, at Jeremiah 4:4, we read, “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord and remove the foreskins of your hearts.”
As noted above, physical circumcision was meant to be a sign of God’s Covenant with Abraham. As noted in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, God’s Covenant or agreement with Abraham followed the similar pattern of a “suzerainty” or “vassal” treaty. Under such circumstances, covenants were offered by a superior power (or kingdom) to the weaker power (or kingdom). The superior party provided certain benefits or blessings to the inferior party, and the inferior party was placed under various obligations. “[T]he suzerainty treaty provided a monarchical picture in which God became Israel’s sovereign and Israel became [God’s] servant.” In the case of the Covenant between God and Abraham, God commanded Abraham to “walk before Me and be blameless” (Gen. 17:1). In return, God promised to exceedingly bless Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 17:6-7). As stated above, God’s Covenant required physical circumcision for Abraham and his descendants, which served as an outward sign of the Covenant (Gen. 17:11).
After the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have a New Covenant and a new way of being. In Scripture, we read,
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from people, but from God.
We Christians are still required to be circumcised, but our circumcision is by the Spirit, in Christ, and not of the flesh. Physical circumcision is a personal choice, but we still have the obligation to “put off the flesh.” Our personal desires and appetites must be subservient to God’s will. We are still under the Old Testament obligation to circumcise our hearts. We are still obligated to “follow in the steps of faith of our father Abraham” (Rom. 4:12). The Apostle Paul wrote, “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is keeping the commandments of God” (1 Cor. 7:19). At Galatians 5:6, Paul wrote, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision or uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.”
At Galatians 6:15, Paul wrote, “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” We should ask ourselves, “How are we Christians a new creation?” At Philippians 3:3, we read that “we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God, and take pride in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh.” We Christians are a new type of human when we walk by the Spirit, wherein the Word is a light to our feet, trusting in Christ Jesus, while having no confidence in our fleshly capacity. In Christ, we are “circumcised with a circumcision performed without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2: 11). In Christ, we are a new type of human with a new way of being.
 “H1980 – hālaḵ – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 25 Oct, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h1980/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “H6440 – pānîm – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 25 Oct, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h6440/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “H8549 – tāmîm – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 25 Oct, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h8549/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “Covenant” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Volume One: A-D, Gen. Editor Geoffrey W. Bromiley, et al., William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988, pp. 790-791.