Chapter 11:

Circumcision and the Passover

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This study shows how the Torah and the Prophets both require all native-born males in Israel to be physically circumcised. Those who join themselves to the nation of Israel may join in the Sabbath in an uncircumcised state, but they may not partake of the Passover without first having become physically circumcised.

In Hebrew, a covenant is called a brit (בְּרִית). Strong’s Concordance refers to it as a compact (i.e., a promise) that is made due to a cutting (i.e., a sacrifice).

OT:1285 beriyth (ber-eeth’); from OT:1262 (in the sense of cutting [like OT:1254]); a compact (because made by passing between pieces of flesh): -confederacy, [con-] feder [-ate], covenant, league.

When we look up the reference at OT:1262, we see that it refers to a selection being made.

OT:1262 barah (baw-raw’); a primitive root; to select; also (as denominative from OT:1250) to feed; also (as equivalent to OT:1305) to render clear (Ecclesiastes 3:18).

As we continue looking up the references, we see that this selection refers to a winnowing process in which one or a few are selected from among many.

OT:1250 bar (bawr); or bar (bar); from OT:1305 (in the sense of winnowing); grain of any kind (even while standing in the field); by extens. the open country.

When Yahweh cuts a covenant with us, He is selecting us from among many possible candidates. And when He has made His selection, He establishes or confirms His covenant with some kind of a sacrifice that involves cutting (and hence, blood). An example of this is how Yahweh cut a covenant with Avram (Abram), even when he was still in an uncircumcised state.

B’reisheet (Genesis) 15:8-14
8 And he said, “Yahweh Elohim, how shall I know that I will inherit it?”
9 So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.
11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Avram drove them away.
12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Avram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.
13 Then He said to Avram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.
14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”

Yahweh made this covenant with Avram before the covenant of circumcision in Genesis 17; and when he again chose Avram, this time he was to make the cutting in his own flesh, shedding his own blood.

B’reisheet (Genesis) 17:5-14
5 “No longer shall your name be called Avram, but your name shall be Avraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.
6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.
7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be Elohim to you and your descendants after you.
8 Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their Elohim.”
9 And Elohim said to Avraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.
10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised;
11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.
12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.
13 He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

In Hebraic thought, covenants are huge. When one does not uphold his part in a covenant, he is worthy of death. This may be why Yahweh even sought to kill Avram’s descendant Moshe (Moses), when he had not circumcised his son Gershom (as his forefather Avraham had promised).

Shemote (Exodus) 4:24-26
24 And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that Yahweh met him and sought to kill him.
25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!”
26 So He let him go. Then she said, “You are a husband of blood!” — because of the circumcision.

In Exodus 12, Yahweh instructed Moshe how the first Passover was to be done. In this instruction He tells the Israelites that no uncircumcised person should partake of the Passover meal. Also, no one who was not part of Israel should eat of it.

Shemote (Exodus) 12:43-49
43 And Yahweh said to Moshe and Aharon, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it.
44 But every man’s servant who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then he may eat it.
45 A sojourner and a hired servant shall not eat it.
46 In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones.
47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it.
48 And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to Yahweh, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.
49 One torah shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.”

The Passover (Pesach) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) are two very different feasts. While Sukkot is an open feast (in which we encourage the nations of the world to join us), the Pesach is closed, and only Israelites may eat of it. No hired servant or sojourner may partake of the Pesach, but only those who actively seek to serve Yahweh.

Romim (Romans) 3:28
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the Torah.

A man is justified by faith, apart from the works of the Torah. However, in order to partake of any covenant, there must be a cutting in flesh, accompanied by the shedding of blood. Exodus 12:48 (above) tells us that before we can participate in the Pesach, all males in our household must be physically circumcised, with the cutting and the shedding of blood being made in our own flesh. Without this physical cutting in our own flesh, the covenant of circumcision is not established.

In Deuteronomy 12, Yahweh says how He wants things done when we live in the land of Israel.

Deuteronomy 12:1
12 “These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which Yahweh Elohim of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the soil.”
(1) אֵלֶּה הַחֻקִּים וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְרוּן לַעֲשׂוֹת בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נָתַן יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֶיךָ לְךָ לְרִשְׁתָּהּ | כָּל הַיָּמִים אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם חַיִּים עַל הָאֲדָמָה

In chapter 16, He tells us that we are not to hold the Passover in the same manner as we did in Egypt, but that we are to go to the place where Yahweh chooses to place His name, and offer the sacrifice there.

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:1-7
1 “Observe the month of the aviv, and keep the Passover to Yahweh your Elohim, for in the month of aviv Yahweh your Elohim brought you out of Egypt by night.
2 Therefore you shall sacrifice the Passover to Yahweh your Elohim, from the flock and the herd, in the place where Yahweh chooses to put His name.
3 You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.
4 And no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the meat which you sacrifice the first day at twilight remain overnight until morning.
5 “You may not sacrifice the Passover within any of your gates which Yahweh your Elohim gives you;
6 but at the place where Yahweh your Elohim chooses to make His name abide, there you shall sacrifice the Passover at twilight, at the going down of the sun, at the time you came out of Egypt.
7 And you shall roast and eat it in the place which Yahweh your Elohim chooses, and in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents.”

In “About Sacrifices” (in Nazarene Scripture Studies, Volume 1) we show that Jerusalem is the place where Yahweh most recently chose to place His name. He chosen Jerusalem once more (in 1948), and He will choose Jerusalem yet again, in the future. However, we cannot make the Pesach sacrifices there at the moment, because there is no standing temple, and no cleansed Levitical priesthood. Yet still we will see that before our males can partake of the Pesach, they must be physically circumcised, even in the dispersion.

Some say Yeshua’s sacrifice did away with the need for physical circumcision. However, this contradicts Yeshua’s own words in Matthew 5:17-18, where He tells us not to think He came to abolish the Torah.

Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:17-19
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Torah till all is fulfilled.
19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

In verse 18, Yeshua tells us that He has not come to do away with even the smallest thing about the Torah; and the covenant of circumcision is far from the smallest thing.

The second witness is Ezekiel’s prophesy that when the temple is rebuilt, no one who is uncircumcised in heart or in flesh may enter Yahweh’s sanctuary.

Yehezqel (Ezekiel) 44:6-9
6 “Now say to the rebellious, to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says Yahweh Elohim: “O house of Israel, let Us have no more of all your abominations.
7 When you brought in foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary to defile it — My house — and when you offered My food, the fat and the blood, then they broke My covenant because of all your abominations.
8 And you have not kept charge of My set apart things, but you have set others to keep charge of My sanctuary for you.”’”
9 Thus says Yahweh Elohim: “No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart or uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter My sanctuary, including any foreigner who is among the children of Israel.”

If Yeshua tells us not to think that He has done away with any part of the Torah, and if Ezekiel tells us that no one will enter Yahweh’s temple if he is not physically circumcised, then clearly, the torah of circumcision has not been done away with. Therefore, all Israelite males should be eager to take part in this covenant, so they can uphold their part of the covenant.

Some men are circumcised as infants, while others are not. When those who are not already circumcised get saved, some of them are eager to get circumcised, while others are (perhaps understandably) not eager. However, Exodus 12:48-49 is clear that all of the males in a man’s house must be physically circumcised before they can partake of the Pesach.

Shemote (Exodus) 12:48-49
48 “And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to Yahweh, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.
49 One torah shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.”

In the Nazarene Israel study, and in “Unity through Acts 15” (in Nazarene Scripture Studies, Volume 1), we show that those who are already filled with Yahweh’s Spirit can enter the assemblies on Shabbat in a physically uncircumcised state so long as they willingly abstain from four death-penalty offenses in Torah:

  1. Idolatry
  2. Sexual immorality (including wrongful divorce)
  3. Strangled meats
  4. Blood

The assemblies, then, serve as a form of outreach in the dispersion. If those who already have Yahweh’s Spirit want to come for Sabbath fellowship, they can. However, they may not partake of the Pesach until after all of the males in a household are circumcised.

If this seems challenging, we need to remember that the standards are higher in the land. In the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, when our Jewish brethren came back to the land, they had to put away any wives and children who refused to keep the whole Torah. This was very tragic, and terribly sad.

Ezra 10:2-8
2 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, “We have trespassed against our Elohim, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this.
3 Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our Elohim to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our Elohim; and let it be done according to the Torah.
4 Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it.”
5 Then Ezra arose, and made the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear an oath that they would do according to this word. So they swore an oath.
6 Then Ezra rose up from before the house of Elohim, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came there, he ate no bread and drank no water, for he mourned because of the guilt of those from the captivity.
7 And they issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the descendants of the captivity, that they must gather at Jerusalem,
8 and that whoever would not come within three days, according to the instructions of the leaders and elders, all his property would be confiscated, and he himself would be separated from the assembly of those from the captivity.

It may be very emotional to us, but Yahweh wants us to keep His land pure. He wants us not to be in any kind of a covenant with anyone who is not in the faith, and this desire takes on urgency when we live in His land. He tells us that if we marry the wrong kind of people, our children will forget to worship Him, and His anger will be aroused to destroy us suddenly.

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 7:1-4
7 “When Yahweh your Elohim brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you,
2 and when Yahweh your Elohim delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.
3 Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son.
4 For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other elohim (gods); so the anger of Yahweh will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.”

To be clear, the dispersion is a confusing situation. It can happen that we may find ourselves yoked together with a non-believer. Shaul (Paul) tells us that in his (non-binding) opinion, so long as we live outside the land of Israel, we should not feel compelled to divorce the non-believer. Rather, if the non-believer is pleased to dwell with us, it would be better for us to remain together with them, in an effort to get them saved. Yet clearly, the spouse and children should not partake of the Pesach until after they are saved, and all of the males in the household are circumcised.

Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 7:12-16
12 But to the rest I, not Yahweh, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.
13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.
14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But Elohim has called us to peace.
16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

Yet as important as it is for us to perform outreach in the dispersion, it is even more important that uphold the standards Yahweh sets in His Torah. Some say Shaul may not have upheld these standards, in that Corinth was a mixed congregation, and Shaul did not say anything about the requirement of physical circumcision for holding the feast.

Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 5:6-8
6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Messiah, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Others suggest that Shaul would not have felt the need to mention physical circumcision, since it was already understood by the congregational leadership in Corinth (and therefore did not bear repeating). Yet regardless of whatever Shaul either may or may not have done in the past, we are required to obey Yahweh’s Torah.

When Shaul came up to Jerusalem in Acts 21, it is clear that Ya’akov (James) wanted Shaul to clear up any and all confusion about his beliefs regarding the need for physical circumcision. Note specifically verse 21, in which Ya’akov complains that some were saying that Shaul was teaching against physical circumcision. To remedy this situation, Ya’akov told Shaul to pay the animal sacrifices of four other men (apart from himself) who were also separating their Nazirite vows.

Ma’asei (Acts) 21:17-24
17 And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.
18 On the following day Shaul went in with us to Ya’akov, and all the elders were present.
19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which Elohim had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
20 And when they heard it, they glorified Yahweh. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Torah;
21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moshe, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.
22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come.
23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a (Nazirite) vow.
24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the Torah.”

Some believe Shaul really did preach against physical circumcision, and Ya’akov was correcting him in Acts 21. Others believe that Shaul did not really preach against physical circumcision, but that his letters were easily misunderstood, as Kepha (Peter) also says.

Kepha Bet (2 Peter) 3:15-17
15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Adon is salvation — as also our beloved brother Shaul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked….

We tend to believe the latter; but whatever the case, it is clear that when Yahweh finally brings the house of Israel back to the land of Israel, all males will have to be physically circumcised, so we can perform the Pesach in Yahweh’s temple, according to His Torah.

Yehezqel (Ezekiel) 44:6-9
6 “Now say to the rebellious, to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says Yahweh Elohim: “O house of Israel, let Us have no more of all your abominations.
7 When you brought in foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary to defile it — My house — and when you offered My food, the fat and the blood, then they broke My covenant because of all your abominations.
8 And you have not kept charge of My set apart things, but you have set others to keep charge of My sanctuary for you.”
9 Thus says Yahweh Elohim: “No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart or uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter My sanctuary, including any foreigner who is among the children of Israel.”’”

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