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her name fhould be no longer Sarai, but Sarah (P). Here Abraham falling on his face, probably to conceal his laughing, which either the ftrangeness or improbability of what he heard, had forced from him, began to intercede for the life and prefervation of Ifmael, beyond which he thought it unreasonable to afk or wifh for any thing but the Almighty foon affured him, that these great bleffings were not defigned for Ishmael, but for a fon to be born of the hitherto barren Sarah, whom he fhould therefore name Ifaac (Q); that, as to the son of Hagar, he would indeed bless him with a numerous pofterity; but that Ifaac alone, whom Sarah fhould bear. within the year from that very day, was to be intitled to the covenant and promife, that in his feed all nations of the earth fhould be bleffed *.
GOD was no fooner departed, than Abraham took his Year of fon Ifhmael, and all the males in his family, and circum- the flood cised them, as well as himself, without any regard either. 451. Bef. Chr. to his own age, which was almoft one hundred years, or to the tenderness of his fon, who was not above thirteen., 1897. All fubmitted alike to the operation, and to God's com- Abraham mand, on the same day (R); and it was not long before and his fahis mily circumcifed.
x Gen. xvii.
his obedience was rewarded with a feventh and more reAbraham markable vifit from GOD. Abraham, who dwelt ftill at Mamre,
to retract, if not to contradict himfelf, in this very point, when he affirms, that nation practifed it, but what received it first from the Egyptians; and a little after owns, that he did not know which of the two had it first, the Egyptians or Ethiopians,though he is inclined to believe the former (46). As for the reft of the antients, who are on that fide the question, as they have blindly followed Herodotus, all their authority centres in him. However, it is certain, that neither they, nor any other nation we know of, the Jewish excepted, did practise it univerfally. The priests were indeed obliged to be circumcifed, but the rest of the people were left wholly at their liberty. Neither doth it appear, that they practifed it upon a religious account, as the Jews did. Philo (47) has given us the reasons why thofe nations ufed circumcifion; namely, first, in order to avoid a diftemper called a carbuncle, to which they, who were not circumcifed, were often fubject. Secondly, for the fake of cleanliness, by cutting off whatever was apt to harbour any filth; and for this reafon it was, that they shaved their bodies all over. The third is fymbolical, and foreign to our subject. The laft is,
that circumcifion is an help to fertility; and that those who are circumcifed, are apter for procreation than those who are not. Now for the modern, we mean the Chriftian writers; thefe do not indeed affirm absolutely,that Abraham learned it from the Egyptians; but that it is poffible he might have seen it in Egypt, and be fo much taken with it, that GOD, in compaffion to his infirmity, whofe faith could not fuftain itself without fome outward and visible symbol, might fanctify this Egyptian ceremony, by retrenching all that was fuperftitious in it, and give it to him, and his pofterity, as a fenfible token of his alliance with them (48).
Only le Clerc (49) fubjoins an argument, which, in his opinion, turns the scale very much on the Egyptian fide; for, fays he, Abraham's family, at his first coming into Egypt, was fo inconfiderable, and his pofterity afterwards fo hated and defpifed by the Egyptians, that it is by no means probable, that proud nation fhould have received fuch a ceremony from them. But might not this be the very motive that determined them in favour of it? Was it not natural for the Egyptians, no lefs fuperftitious than haughty, to infer, that fince it procured
(46) Idem ibid. c. 104. Vid. Calm, differt. de circumcif. (47) Pb l. de circumcif. pag. 81c. ap. eund. (48) Spenc. de leg. ritual. Jud. Le Clerc in loc. (49) Id. biblioth, an. & mod. par.i. p. 250.
Mamre, was fitting one day at the door of his tent, under a tree, when he beheld, afar off, three men, whom he took
fuch great and valuable bleffings to that defpifed people, it could not fail of proving more fuccessful to them, if once they admitted it amongst them might not Jofeph's time have been a proper crifis to recommend it to them? and were not thofe motives we have mentioned out of Philo, of its being reputed a promoter of fertility, cleanliness, and health, fufficient to recommend it? and, laftly, might not this be the very reafon which made the Egyptian women use it as well as the men? However that be, the notion of the Hebrews having received it from them, feems fo contrary to the design and conduct of GOD to preferve them from the fuperftitions of other nations, that it meets with but few advocates; and, indeed, it seems more reafonable to think, that the Egyptians had it from fome other nation, whether the Arabs (as Bochart thinks, by reafon of the difference there was between the Jewish and Egyp. tian circumcifion), or from any other of their neighbours, or even, that they might stumble upon that ceremony, without knowing, or having it from any, than to fuppofe, that one must have it from the other;
and that therefore the Jews might as well have it from the Egyptians. As for the reason of its being injoined on the eighth day after the child's birth, the best we have met with is that of Cunæus (50); that children were not thought fufficiently clean or perfect, during the firft feven days, being ftill full of the corruption they brought from the womb. And this feems to be the reafon of GoD's ordaining, that no beast that was offered to him, fhould be less than eight days old (51). Circumcifion therefore being a kind of folemn offering of a child to GoD it feems highly reasonable, that the fame law fhould be. obferved in it, as was injoined concerning victims. But, as to the eighth day being chofen rather than any other afterwards, without feeking for myfteries in that number, as fome are fond of doing, it will be fufficient to fay, that the child being reckoned perfect and fit at that age, and there being a neceffity of fixing a day for it, and not to leave it to the choice of the parents, no time could be fitter than that; because the child is then leaft fenfible of the smart, and leaft in danger of being hurt by it.
to be ftrangers; he went to meet them, and in the most civil and refpectful manner invited them to come and
The laft inquiry we need make upon this fubject of circumcifion is, the reafons of its institution: and here we fhall only mention one or two of thofe that are thought moft confiderable. The first is topical; because the heat of the climate required it, for the reafons mentioned above. Secondly, political, in order to diftinguish those who were in the covenant of GOD, from other nations. Thirdly, moral; to imply the circumcifion of the heart, and the mortification of carnal appetites. Fourthly, religious; in that it was, first, the fymbol and feal of the covenant made between GOD and Abraham, and his feed, and figurative of the faith which was to be in CHRIST (52). To these reafons we shall fubjoin one more out of a modern author (53), which the reader will hardly meet with elsewhere: he writes thus: we reckon circumcifion amongst the trials of Abraham's faith. It is eafy to obferve, by very many circumstances of that patriarch's life, that he was defigned as a pattern to all the faithful. The more his faith was tried, the more confpicuous it became; the more difficulties he obferved in the accomplishment of God's promises, the more he fhewed the great idea he had of him that had made
(52) Targ. Onkel, Villet. & al, Teft.
them, by overcoming those obftacles.-Why did not GoD give him Ifaac, till the laws of nature feemed to exclude all hopes of his ever being a father? it was to try his faith.
Why did GoD command him to facrifice that very fon to whom fo many bleffings belonged, but to the fame purpofe? Why did GoD fet fo long an interval between the promise of a son, and the accomplishment of that promife, that Sarah, thinking it impoffible fhe fhould become a mother, did give him her maid Hagar? Why was Ihmael born fo many years before Ifaac, &c. but to make ftill fresh trials of his faith? Why might not then GOD have the fame views in injoining him to be circumcifed? He not only makes him wait for this fon near twenty years, though promised in fo folemn a manner; but, when that time is nearly elapfed, and Abraham thinks himself on the eve of receiving the reward of his faith, GOD croffes his hopes afresh, and commands him to undergo an operation that feemed wholly to put an end to them. Abraham could not but look upon circumcifion as dangerous in that hot country, even to young men, much more to one of his years; and confequently, that it muft put him quite out of condition
(53) Saurin dife, bift. du V.
take a small refreshment with him; and, having obtained their confent, ordered a feaft to be got ready for them. And in this interview it was, that his divine gueft confirm- A fon proed his promife of Sarah's having a fon within the year. mifed to Sarah, who was liftening at the tent-door, and thought Sarah. herself paft child-bearing, burft out into a laughter; and the stranger asked the reafon of it in fuch a ferious tone, as ftruck her with a fright. She would fain have denied it; but it was to no purpose, that she endeavoured to hide any thing from the perfon that spoke to her, who difmiffed her with this gentle reproof, that fhe was highly in the wrong to miftruft what he had faid to her, fince nothing was impoffible with GOD. The three heavenly guefts (for fuch they were) rofe up in order to proceed on their journey, and Abraham courteoufly accompanied them fome part of the way. At length one of them, whom the original calls the LORD (T), as a further mark of his favour,
y Genef. xviii. pass.
of ever being a father. The command of his having the covenant in his flesh, feemed as oppofite to the promife of his having a fon, as that of his facrificing that fon, was to the promife of his being the father of many nations. Not withstanding which, Abraham's faith triumphed over this obftacle alfo, he being fully perfuaded, that GOD could not only renew the ftrength of an old man, but likewife make him fruitful after his having undergone an operation which feemed fo contrary to it. It is to extol this triumph, that the Scripture obferves, he was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcifed; and it was to preferve the memory of it, that GOD injoined that ceremony to all his pofterity, &c. (54).
(54) Gen. xvii. 24.
(T) The name Jehovah 1, by which Mofes calls the ftranger that talked to Abraham, being looked upon by the generality of Jews and Chriftians, to be the incommunicable name of God, it is believed by the far greatest part of the latter, that it was the Son of God who appeared in that form however others, particularly fome modern ones (55), maintain, that it was but an angel, who spoke to him in the perfon of Gon. But it is not probable, either that Mofes fhould call an angel by that name, or that Abraham fhould intercede with him as he doth, when he fays, That be far from thee, to destroy the good with the wicked; Shall not the Judge of the world do right? or laftly, that an angel fhould peremptorily