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17333Re: SSNET: 10: Seedy Covenant

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  • Tony Zbaraschuk
    Jun 7, 2014
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      On Fri, Jun 06, 2014 at 10:32:06AM -0400, Pam Luna wrote:
      > Within this context the quarterly author introduces another
      covenant;
      > that of circumcision.  Can anyone explain to me, Why
      circumcision? 
      > I muse not in disrespect for the Almighty, but this seems to me an
      > unreasonable thing for Him to ask of His people.  What purpose
      does
      > the deed fulfill? 

      Well, there are several purposes.  (Why assume only one?)

      There's a health reason (if you're travelling in lots of areas with
      wind-blown sand, grains that get under the foreskin can be ... very
      problematic, as the British Army found out while fighting in the
      Egyptian desert during World War II).  There are possibly some other
      health reasons involved as well, but I'm not entirely sure I'm
      convinced by them (most of the world seems to have gotten along
      perfectly well without circumcision.)

      The covenant is (partly) about procreation, about children.  So the
      sign of the covenant might be located on the organ of generation,
      as a constant reminder that children and fertililty are gifts of
      God, that the offspring are dedicated to God.  (If you note, a _lot_
      of Genesis is about children, and fertility, and raising them, and
      continuing the covenant from generation to generation.)

      > No one but the man and his wife will (or should)
      > know if he is circumcised, so it can?t be a ?sign? to outsiders
      > identifying him as an Israelite. 

      The knowledge is evident to others as well (the one who does the
      circumcision, for instance; anyone who happens to wander by when
      the man in question is urinating; probably any number of other
      youngsters during the early years).  Plus in a society of people
      who grow up fairly close to each other, whether or not someone has
      gone through an initiation rite is pretty generally known.


      > If there is an allegorical application, I?ve missed it. 

      Allegorical applications tend to be much more evident in hindsight,
      I've found.  (I wouldn't call Jeremiah's "circumcise the foreskins of
      your heart" an allegorical interpretation, really -- it's more of a
      metaphorical insistence by a prophet on the need for a behavior
      change, like Paul's "I have fought the good fight, I have finished
      the race" applies Greco-Roman athletics as an image to help understand
      the Christian life.)

      > The practice is not beautiful (ask any 8-day old baby), it is not
      > ?free? if shed blood was involved, it is painful, and it is not a
      > ?sign? for all to see, as was the ear-piercing of faithful servants
      > (Exodus 21:5, 6).

      The ear-piercing thing is partly a sign on the servant, but it's
      partly also a very common sort of thing in pre-literate societies,
      where important property transactions are formalized in a highly
      visible and memorable manner.  (Compare the rite where someone can
      refuse levirate marriage, but to do so they have to stand there
      and get slapped in the face with a sandal -- it's not so much the
      ear-piercing here, it's that everyone can say "Yes, we remember
      that you stood there and let the guy nail your ear to the door;
      it's very evident that you were willing to let this happen.  Public
      ritual helps ensure that everyone knows and agrees what is going on.
      There are a lot of similar examples in early Roman law, for instance.)



      Tony Zbaraschuk

      --
      Love is a garden that needs regular watering, and weeding,
      but produces all sorts of unexpected delights and surprises.

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