God established a special relationship with Abraham as we read in Genesis chapter 17. In doing so, He changes Abram’s name to Abraham and his wife Sarai’s name to Sarah and He establishes the Covenant of Circumcision. In an act of absolute obedience and despite the fact that he was 99 years old, Abraham acts that very same day and has all of the males in his camp, including himself, circumcised. Circumcision was to continue for all males from the time they were born.
Why circumcision as a sign of a covenant relationship with God? The answer may lie in the fact that this commandment from God comes directly after Abraham took his wife’s advice and tried to fulfill God’s promise of a son and heir through Sarah’s servant girl Hagar, which resulted in the birth of Ishmael, the father of the Arab race (chapter 16). Of course God did not need Abraham’s help to fulfill His promise, Sarah gave birth to Isaac thirteen years later. Circumcision may be a symbolic means to perpetually restrain Abraham’s desire to achieve God’s purposes through his own effort (i.e. his “flesh”). God commands Abraham and his descendants to “cut” the very part of his anatomy that Abraham had used to try to fulfil the Genesis 15 promise of a son. So it is a constant reminder that God will fulfill what He has promised without the help of His people however well-meaning they may be.
Circumcision is the cutting away of the male foreskin and as a consequence, it is a very bloody procedure. Newborn babies have a heightened risk of hemorrhaging or continuous bleeding from a cut, especially if they are breastfed. The reason for this condition is that the infant’s intestinal tract has not had time to develop a healthy population of bacteria. There are approximately 500 to 1,000 different species of bacteria (microbiota) that colonise the human gut. They perform a variety of functions which facilitate living, one of which is the production of vitamin K. Vitamin K is involved in the biosynthesis of a group of coagulation factors, which cause the blood to clot. An important one is factor 11, also called prothrombin. This condition is called hemorrhagic disease of the newborn, caused by vitamin K deficiency. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, which is the world’s best-selling medical textbook, states that:
Vitamin K deficiency causes hemorrhagic disease of the newborn, which usually occurs 1 to 7 days postpartum.
As already mentioned, circumcision is a very bloody procedure. And the Bible states that it is to be carried out on the eighth day after birth. This amazing directive is strong evidence for the Divine inspiration of the scriptures.
The reality of hemorrhagic disease is demonstrated by physician Dr Rex Russell. In his book; What the Bible Says About Healthy Living. He writes:
My first surgical case was a newborn male who was scheduled to be circumcised. After finishing the operation, I carefully bandaged the wound. Four hours later, I checked the patient and discovered that the bandage was soaked with blood. We administered vitamin K to help clot the blood, but a slight bleeding persisted for several days before it completely stopped. A specialist checked the boy and found no evidence of hemophilia. No harm was done but the infant began life with an unnecessary risk.
Only very recently, circumcision has been shown to protect men from both bacterial and viral infections. The procedure has worked wonders in Africa, reducing the infection rate of HIV by 60 percent, and New York is considering introducing a trial to promote circumcision among the city’s men. As well, circumcision has been shown to reduce the incidence of urinary tract infections among boys. Brian Morris, Professor of Molecular Medical Sciences at the University of Sydney, is reported as saying that circumcision significantly reduced the incidence of urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted disease:
Between 2 and 5 percent of uncircumcised boys will develop UTIs compared with 0.1 to 0.2 percent in boys who are circumcised.
‘Circumcision cuts cervical cancer rates’ was the headline of a New Scientist article that reported the results of a review of seven studies from five countries on a total of almost 2,000 couples. Among the data supporting the headline was the fact that 20 percent of uncircumcised men and less than 6 percent of circumcised men carried the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is known to cause cervical cancer in woman who had sexual intercourse with infected men. Another report concluded that uncircumcised men are more than 20 times as likely to get cancer of this organ.
In this sin sick world, God’s directives to His people are always for their benefit.
Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, Merck Research Laboratories, 18th Edition, 2006, page 46; merckmanuals.com/professional/print/sec01/ch004/ch004m.html, retrieved June 17, 2011.
 Genesis 17:12; Luke 1:59.
 R. Russell, What the Bible Says About Healthy Living, Candle Books, 1999, page 10.
 New Scientist, April 15, 2007.
 The Weekend Australian, August 25, 2007, page 3.
 New Scientist April 11, 2002.
 The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 2002, 346, pages 1105–1112.
 Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2006, 54 (3), page 369.