Ask the Pastor: Females & Circumcision in the Bible

One question submitted this week by a congregation member in response to the sermon is:

The Scriptures talk about men being circumcised.  What about the women?

This is a very insightful, thinking question.  I believe Ra McLaughlin from Third Mill answer this better than I could:

When God appointed circumcision as the sign of the covenant in Abraham’s day, circumcision was intended to signify the covenant that existed between God and his people as a whole, not just between God and the individual that was circumcised.

Genesis 17:9-11 indicates that when the males were circumcised, the entire nation was counted as bearing the sign of the covenant. This is a little hard to see in many English translations, but in places like verse 11, the pronoun “you” is plural. This is consistent with the way select groups frequently represented the entire nation throughout the Old Testament. Kings represented the nation in international relations and in dealings with God; priests represented the people before God in the tabernacle and temple; the men that attended the annual festivals represented the whole nation.

Of course, the one who was circumcised was also part of that covenant people, and so the sign did represent his inclusion in God’s covenant people. But circumcision was never reduced to signifying only that person’s membership in the covenant.

Since females were part of the nation, they were counted as bearing the covenant sign through the representation of the circumcised males.