Why Circumcision? Isn’t it such a dreadful thing to do to oneself. Imagine you’re a lonesome shepherd in the middle of nowhere. No doctors around, no knowledge that there once would be doctors. How could someone possibly do this to himself?
There certainly was what we would call a risk of infection with circumcision. In those days, thousands of years before antibiotics, infection frequently was a death sentence. There were no scalpels either. Genesis does not tell us what tool Abraham used to do the operation; however Zipporah, the woman of Moses, used a sharp stone in Ex. 4: 25. No anaesthetic either, imagine the pain! So, why circumcision?
Did you know, Not Even the Bible Claims Genesis to be True? Prov. 25: 2 says, ‘[It is] the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings [is] to search out a matter.’ What did Moses get for his year 12 physics and maths? What would have been the point of telling him of the Big Bang Theory? The creation story was just something that a bunch of uneducated runaway slaves could understand.
Uneducated!? Actually, they were better educated than the people in Genesis, the first people on earth. Obviously, the first people on earth did not even know how women become pregnant. How could they have known? At some stage though, they found out. Greetings from Paradise explains in the chapter on the Original Sin the consequences of this knowledge.
that men make women pregnant was only a small first step towards today’s knowledge.
The Ancients didn’t have microscopes. They had no idea that there are millions of sperm cells in an ejaculation. As a matter of fact, they didn’t even know that there are cells. Most likely they connected this new knowledge to other knowledge they already had. They knew that inside a bird’s egg there is some gooey substance. This gooey substance is quite similar to the substance which comes out of the penis. Today we know there are significant differences, but how would the Ancients have known? We can only demonstrate these differences with microscopes and advanced modern methods of chemistry! A superficial examination, as the Ancients would have done, of these substances would not show much difference.
So the Ancients probably thought that the gooey substance from the penis is an early form of the complete child. They thought the child grows from this gooey substance from the penis alone; just like a bird chick grows from the gooey substance inside an egg. For the baby to develop, this gooey substance must be properly inserted into a woman! That’s why women were seen as empty vessels! This was not contempt against women, this was an early stage of science!
This also explains the death penalty for male homosexuality in Lev. 20: 13. You have to take proper care of your offspring or seed, as the Ancients called it. If you insert it into a man, the poor baby dies! The Ancients saw it as murder! The Bible does not forbid female homosexuality!
But why circumcision?
Could it be that the Ancients thought it improves fertility? Abraham was the one who heard God’s command to circumcise himself, his sons and even his slaves (Gen. 17: 12)! Up to that verse God promised Abraham much offspring, even nations in that chapter. But the condition was that Abraham circumcise every male in his tribe. Why circumcision of the slaves? Well, so they would have more children who would help the tribe with labour.
In verse 5 God even changed Abraham’s name. His old name Abram means ‘father of elevation’. The new name Abraham means father of a multitude. So, why circumcision? It was meant to improve fertility.
Then in verse 14 God said, ‘And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.’ Does this mean that Abraham shall kill a boy whose parents had neglected the circumcision? No, this is not a legal law. It is a scientific, a natural law! It is like, ‘Let there be light; and there was light.’ An uncircumcised man will not have as many children as a circumcised one! That’s what this verse means! He and his branch will be cut off the tree of generations! His family will die out!
Why circumcision? How would that help fertility?
Abraham certainly had a problem getting his woman Sarah pregnant. (There are no words for husband and wife in Hebrew. The Hebrew words are woman and usually owner wherever it says husband and wife in English.) Could he have noticed that a substantial part of the ejaculation remained caught in the foreskin after intercourse? Did he think that Sarah did not conceive because too much of the child, of the ejaculation, remained in the foreskin? We know this could not have been the reason. Was Abraham fertile at all?
Wouldn’t the sexist Ancients blame the woman for not conceiving? Well, they did! Gen. 11: 30, ‘But Sarai was barren; she [had] no child.’ Sarai was Sarah’s original name. Sarah means ‘princess’, Sarai ‘my princess’.
In the next chapter,
however, Abram and Sarai went to Canaan. And since there was a famine Abram moved on to Egypt. While approaching Egypt, he asked Sarai to say that she was his sister and not his woman. He feared that the Egyptians would kill him otherwise. Sarai did as Abram had asked her. Now the princess of the Pharaoh commended her to their ruler and she was taken into the Pharaoh’s house.
When the Pharaoh had found out that she had been Abram’s women, he gave her back. He called Abram and said (Gen. 12: 19), ‘Why saidst thou, She [is] my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take [her], and go thy way.’ This is what King James translated. However there is no conjunctive verb form in Ancient Hebrew. There is no way to say, ‘I might have taken ….’ The Hebrew text says, ‘I have taken her ….’ Nine translations at blueletterbible.org rendered the verse, ‘I have taken her to me to wife.’
if the Pharaoh takes a woman for her beauty would he not have sex with her? So it is quite possible that Sarai actually did conceive in Egypt. If this happened, the Bible would not mention it, since it only mentions important people. For example there is a list of patriarchs in Gen. 5. Every Patriarch begot a son, his heir. And it says about everyone of them that he begot sons and daughters. These are not named, since they are not important.
If Sarai did conceive from the Pharaoh, this would have shown Abram, that her childlessness was not her fault. This would have shown Abram that her childlessness was his own fault! There was something wrong with Abram! So, why circumcision? To fix infertility. To ensure the passage of the complete child from the penis into the woman.
But didn’t Abram father Ishmael?
Since Sarai did not conceive, she gave Abram her maid Hagar to be his woman. Now Gen. 16: 4 says, ‘And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived.’ It does not say, he knew her. The chapter ‘The Original Sin’ in Greetings from Paradise explains the expression ‘knowing a woman’. Knowing a woman means to prevent her from having sex with others. The owner probably forced her to wear a head dress and he castrated a couple of men. He would instruct these eunuchs to watch that nobody else would touch her. Then he knew that this woman’s son was his own. So this son would qualify to be his heir. Going in unto a woman on the other hand is just an expression for casual sex. This is what Judah did when he had sex with a prostitute (Gen. 38: 15 to 18).
So Abram went in unto Hagar. But who knows where this maid had been on her daily errands? And what happened at night when she would sleep with the other slaves?
Still, why circumcision? Today we know that circumcision could not possibly help to heal infertility. People can be inflexible, particularly when they do not understand the reasons for rules or laws. Once Abraham agreed to the covenant with God, he was not going to change it. Neither did his sons.
But in spite of the circumcision
Sarai still did not conceive from Abraham. So in Gen. 17: 15 God instructed him, ‘As for Sarai thy woman, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah [shall] her name be.’ So God changed her name from ‘my princess’ to ‘princess.’ Did this have to do with the getting of children? Most Certainly! God continued in verse 16, ‘And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be [a mother] of nations; kings of people shall be of her.’
Kings of people shall be of this princess, not of Abraham! This is very unusual, since the Ancients thought that the ejaculation is an early form of the complete child! Could this just mean that Abraham had given up. Had he realised that he was infertile? Did the name change from ‘my princess’ to princess mean, she should conceive from someone else? She should not be Abraham’s princess anymore?
The next chapter,
Gen. 18 deals with Sarah conceiving. On the surface it is very confusing. It begins, ‘ And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;  And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw [them], he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground.’ Throughout this chapter there seems to be confusion whether Abraham had one visitor, God, or three men.
It might be that there were three men who were called gods. How could men be called gods? The Ancients thought creating life is a divine act. It is the creation of life! Here is what Rabbi Schneerson (1902 – 1994) wrote about sex in ‘Toward a Meaningful Life’ (p. 69) under the heading ‘Why is Sexuality so Powerful?’: ‘Intimacy is also the only experience in life that allows us to become truly G-dlike, in that it empowers husband and wife to create. Nothing else we do as human beings is as G-dlike as creating a new life, which in turn can create other lives, on and on, into eternity. This G-dly nature is what gives sexuality its mystique, it is the one opportunity man has to taste G-d – to think as He thinks, to create as He creates.’
lived in the twentieth century. So the Ancients are even more likely to think creating life is divine! Therefore Ancient People sometimes referred to women as goddesses; for example Homer in the Odyssey called Circe (Od. 10: 136) and Calypso (Od. 7: 246) ‘dread goddesses’. According to Hesiod’s Theogony (1010 to 1019), Odysseus had children with both of them. They were women, not supernatural beings. It is very unlikely that they lived alone on their islands. They must have been the most important people in their societies because they brought forth the most or best new life.
People on these islands might not have known yet how women get pregnant. And it might very well have been Odysseus who brought this knowledge to these islands.
So could it be that Abraham gave up on healing his infertility? Did he hire some human prize stud to inseminate his woman? Was this usual in Ancient times? Was this creator of life, this human god, later confused with God? Is that why it says in verse 1 that the LORD appeared unto him? The Speculations on the Birth of Isaac discuss all this in great detail. Also the chapters ‘In the Beginning’ and ‘The Original Sin’ in Greetings from Paradise explain the scientific attitudes of the Ancients. Greetings from Paradise contains a lot of material which is fundamental to understanding the Ancient Scripture!
Yet the answer to the question, why circumcision, seems to be, to heal infertility!
The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.