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A God Of Foreskins

A God Of Foreskins
by Dave E. Matson


Yahweh is a god who is deeply obsessed with foreskins. At least that was true for the first two thousand years or so after Abraham. In the New Testament God, changed his mind, according to Paul. Maybe God was just out-voted in one of those early church councils. Suddenly, foreskins were no longer a hot topic, at least for those pagans converting to that odd, Jewish sect, which later took the name of "Christianity."


Greek culture, which had swept the ancient world by way of Alexander the Great, viewed circumcision as a mutilation of the body's perfect form, and no self-respecting pagan was about to submit to that rite. Thus, Paul had to change God's rules or forget about converting the multitudes of Greek-influenced pagans. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul makes his case--and stirs up a hornet's nest whose details are not given to us.


Clearly, the matter of foreskins was serious business in the Old Testament:

God said to Abraham, "You also must agree to keep the covenant with me, both you and your descendants in future generations. You and your descendants must all agree to circumcise every male among you. From now on you must circumcise every baby boy when he is eight days old, including slaves born in your homes and slaves bought from foreigners. This will show that there is a covenant between you and me. Each one must be circumcised, and this will be a physical sign to show that my covenant with you is everlasting. Any male who has not been circumcised will no longer be considered one of my people, because he has not kept the covenant with me."
(Genesis 17:9-14 Today's English Version)

The Egyptians were way ahead of God. Many of them were doing the foreskin thing as far back as 4000 BC, but that didn't improve their standing with God. Edomites, Ammonites, and Moabites later adopted the practice. It seems that a lot of people were sporting the mark of God's covenant! Couldn't God have chosen a rite that was a little more exclusive? Had God given the matter any thought?


Before Yahweh changed his mind, he was deadly serious about circumcision:

At a camping place on the way to Egypt, the LORD met Moses and tried to kill him. Then Zipporah, his wife, took a sharp stone, cut off the foreskin of her son, and touched Moses' feet with it. Because of the rite of circumcision she said to Moses, "You are a husband of blood to me." And so the LORD spared Moses' life.
(Exodus 4:24-26 Today's English Version)

That occurred after Yahweh had patiently explained to Moses everything he needed to do when he reached Egypt. Funny, that Yahweh didn't also tell Moses that his son needed to be circumcised. On their way to Egypt, however, Yahweh comes within a hair's breadth of terminating Moses' career over that little misunderstanding. Zipporah does save the day by performing the circumcision rite on Moses' son.


The working brain is not impressed by a god who is subject to such violent and unpredictable mood swings, whose actions are so poorly thought out. This god, for the sake of a foreskin, comes very close to pitching his own plans by killing Moses!


This obsession God has with circumcision is entirely beneath the dignity of an infinite being, but not unlike the views of primitive societies. Primitive societies often mutilate parts of the body to set themselves apart from others. One tribal group will insert increasingly large lip plugs until the lower lip is stretched around a considerable-sized disk. Another tribal group will do the same with their ear lobes. Various tattoos and scar patterns are popular in many places. Still another tribe will cram as many metal rings around the necks of their women as they can, to the point of elongating their necks. (The Guinness World of Records museum in Las Vegas has a model of the woman who holds the record in this last category.)


Circumcision may be more practical than lip plugs, but the working brain does not distinguish between a god obsessed with circumcision and a god obsessed with lip plugs. They are equally silly. How silly to think that a man needs to be circumcised to seal a covenant. How silly to think that a god's memory needs jogging to identify his people. How silly this whole business! Such a requirement is the work of man, not God.


It was once thought, in our western society, that circumcision had medical benefits. However, the old claims have fallen with further research, including the theory about cervical cancer. Today there is no excuse for the operation except as a religious rite.


Larue, Gerald Ph.D. 1993. "Honey, They Cut The Kid!" in The Book Your Church Doesn't Want You To Read, edited by Tim C. Leedom; Kendall /Hunt Publishing Company, Kerper Boulevard P.O. Box 539, Dubuque, Iowa 52004-0539; p.350-354


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