Genesis 17:14
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.
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(14) Shall be cut off from his people.—Jewish commentators generally consider that this penalty consisted in the offender being left to the direct interposition of God, who would punish him with childlessness and premature death (Talmud: Tract Yebam, 55). Most Christian commentators suppose that the offender was to be put to death by the civil magistrate; but this view is untenable. For a distinction is constantly drawn between the penalty of death, and the being “cut off from among the people,” as, for instance, in Leviticus 20. So, too, the killing of a clean beast anywhere, except at the door of the tabernacle (Leviticus 17:4), and the eating of blood (Leviticus 17:9; Leviticus 17:14), are to be thus dealt with, while blasphemy and murder are to be punished with death (Leviticus 24:16-17). Now it became very common to kill clean beasts in all parts of the land, and the eating of blood, though regarded with horror (1Samuel 14:32-34), apparently had no penalty attached to it. The Jewish commentators seem to err only in being too special, and in defining the method in which God would punish. The punishment really seems to have been that of excommunication or outlawry, to which other penalties might have been attached by custom: but the main point was that one uncircumcised (as subsequently one who violated the principles of the Mosaic law) forfeited his privileges as a member of the Jewish nation, could claim no protection from the elders for life and property, and could not take his place at the gate of the city.

17:7-14 The covenant of grace is from everlasting in the counsels of it, and to everlasting in the consequences of it. The token of the covenant was circumcision. It is here said to be the covenant which Abraham and his seed must keep. Those who will have the Lord to be to them a God, must resolve to be to him a people. Not only Abraham and Isaac, and his posterity by Isaac, were to be circumcised, but also Ishmael and the bond-servants. It sealed not only the covenant of the land of Canaan to Isaac's posterity, but of heaven, through Christ, to the whole church of God. The outward sign is for the visible church; the inward seal of the Spirit is peculiar to those whom God knows to be believers, and he alone can know them. The religious observance of this institution was required, under a very severe penalty. It is dangerous to make light of Divine institutions, and to live in the neglect of them. The covenant in question was one that involved great blessings for the world in all future ages. Even the blessedness of Abraham himself, and all the rewards conferred upon him, were for Christ's sake. Abraham was justified, as we have seen, not by his own righteousness, but by faith in the promised Messiah.The time of circumcision is the eighth day. Seven is the number of perfection. Seven days are therefore regarded as a type of perfectage and individuality. At this stage, accordingly, the sign of sanctification is made on the child, betokening the consecration of the heart to God, when its rational powers have come into noticeable activity. To be "cut off from his people" is to be excluded from any part in the covenant, and treated simply as a Gentile or alien, some of whom seem to have dwelt among the Israelites. It was sometimes accompanied with the sentence of death Exodus 31:14; and this shows that it did not of itself imply such a doom. Excommunication, however, for the omission of circumcision, would be extremely rare, as no parent would intentionally neglect the sacred interest of his child. Yet the omission of this rite has not been unprecedented, as the children of Israel did not generally circumcise their children in the wilderness Joshua 5:5.10. Every man child among you shall be circumcised—This was the sign in the Old Testament Church as baptism is in the New, and hence the covenant is called "covenant of circumcision" (Ac 7:8; Ro 4:11). The terms of the covenant were these: on the one hand Abraham and his seed were to observe the right of circumcision; and on the other, God promised, in the event of such observance, to give them Canaan for a perpetual possession, to be a God to him and his posterity, and that in him and his seed all nations should be blessed. And the uncircumcised man-child; or rather, and as for the uncircumcised man-child. So the nominative is put absolutely, as is frequent in the Hebrew tongue.

Whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, or, who shall not circumcise the flesh of his foreskin; for the Hebrew verb may be rendered actively, which seems best here; because the punishment seems more justly to belong to the parent, who was guilty of this neglect; than to the child, who was not capable of this precept, and therefore not guilty of the violation of it. And this may further appear from Exodus 4:24,25, where God seeks to kill, not the child, but the father, Moses, for this sin. And the flesh of the child’s foreskin is rightly called the flesh of his, i.e. the parent’s, foreskin, because the child is a part and the possession of his parent. So that this threatening concerns only grown persons, and of them only such as shall wilfully and unnecessarily neglect this duty; for otherwise it was neglected by the Israelites for forty years together in the wilderness, Joshua 5:7, without any token of God’s displeasure for it.

That soul shall be cut off from his people. This phrase denotes either,

1. An exclusion from fellowship with God’s people, and from all the promises, privileges, and blessings belonging to them, either in this life or that to come. Or rather,

2. An untimely and violent death, as may be gathered from Exodus 31:14, to be inflicted by the magistrate, to whom God committed the execution of this as well as other laws; and in case of his neglect and default, or the secrecy of the fact, by the extraordinary hand of God, who sometimes ascribes this act to himself, as Leviticus 17:10 20:6.

He hath broken my covenant, that sacred bond which tied him and me together; and by his neglect and contempt of the condition required on his part, he hath forfeited the blessing promised on my part.

And the uncircumcised man child, whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised,.... Whose circumcision was neglected by his father, or by his mother, or by the civil magistrate, or by himself; for each of these, according to the Jewish canons, were obliged to see this performed;"the commandment lies upon a father to circumcise his son, and upon a master to circumcise his servants born in his house, or bought with money (m):''and it is elsewhere said (n),"if a father does not circumcise his son, the sanhedrim are bound to circumcise him; and if they do not circumcise him, he is obliged when he is grown up to circumcise himself; and if he does not circumcise himself, he is guilty of cutting off,''as it here follows:

that soul shall be cut off from his people; which Jarchi interprets of his being childless, and dying before his time; and which, according to some in Aben Ezra, is, when a man dies before he is fifty two years of age; and some erroneous persons, as the same writer calls them, thought that if a child died, and was not circumcised, it had no part in the world to come. The simplest and plainest meaning of the phrase seems to be, that such should be cut off, and deprived of all civil and religious privileges with the Israelites in the land of Canaan, and be reckoned as Heathens. Concerning this matter, Maimonides (o) thus writes;"a father or a mother that transgress, and circumcise not, make void the affirmative commandment, but are not guilty of cutting off; for no cutting off depends but upon the uncircumcised person himself; and the sanhedrim are commanded to circumcise a son or a servant in its time, that they may not leave an uncircumcised person in Israel, nor among their servants; if the thing is hid from the sanhedrim, and they do not circumcise him, when he is grown up, he is bound to circumcise himself; and every day that passes over him, after he is grown up, and he does not circumcise himself, lo, he maketh the commandment to cease; but he is not guilty of cutting off until he dies, and he is a presumptuous uncircumcised person;''and so, according to him, this must respect his punishment after death in another world:

he hath broken my covenant; made it null and void, neglecting the token of it, circumcision.

(m) Maimon. ut supra, (Hilchot Milah) c. 1. sect. 1.((n) Schulchan Aruch, ib. c. 361. sect. 1.((o) Maimon. Hilchot. Milah, c. 1. sect. 1, 2.

And the uncircumcised {e} man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

(e) Though women were not circumcised, they still partook of God's promise: for under mankind all was consecrated. Here it is declared, that whoever condemns the sign, also despises the promise.

14. shall be cut off] The penalty of being “cut off” is frequently mentioned in P. It does not appear certain, (1) whether the penalty is to be inflicted by God or by man; (2) whether, if it be the infliction of a judicial punishment by man, it denotes capital punishment, or expulsion from the ranks of the community. The formula has probably been transmitted from a very early period; and the lapse of time led to change in practice. Thus, in Exodus 31:13-14, the penalty of death is inflicted by the people: see Numbers 15:32-36. But, in Leviticus 17:10; Leviticus 20:3, the sentence is pronounced by God, “I will cut him off.”

from his people] Lit. “from his peoples,” a phrase used by P, which seems to denote “father’s kin,” and evidently possessed a special technical meaning of clanship. See note on Genesis 25:8.

Verse 14. - And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people. Ἐξολοθρευθήσεται ἐκ τοῦ γένους αὐτῆς (LXX.), i.e. shall be destroyed from amongst his nation, from among his people (Leviticus 17:4, 10; Numbers 15:30), from Israel (Exodus 12:15; Numbers 19:13), from the congregation of Israel (Exodus 12:19), by the infliction of death at the hands of the congregation, the civil magistrate, or of God (Abarbanel, Gesenius, Clericus, Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Keil, Wordsworth, Alford); or shall be excommunicated from the Church, and no longer reckoned among the people of God (Augustine, Vatablus, Piscator, Willet, Calvin, Knobel, Murphy, Kalisch, Inglis). That excision from one s people was in certain cases followed by the death penalty (Exodus 31:14; Leviticus 18:29; Numbers 15:30) does not prove that the capital infliction was an invariable accompaniment of such sentence (vide Exodus 12:19; Leviticus 7:20, 21; Numbers 19:13). Besides, to suppose that such was its meaning here necessitates the restriction of the punishment to adults, whereas with the alternative signification no such restriction requires to be imposed on the statute. The uncircumcised Hebrew, whether child or adult, forfeited his standing in the congregation, i.e. ceased to be a member of the Hebrew Church. He hath broken my covenant.

CHAPTER 17:15-27 Genesis 17:14On the part of Abraham (ואתּה thou, the antithesis to אני, as for me, Genesis 17:4) God required that he and his descendants in all generations should keep the covenant, and that as a sign he should circumcise himself and every male in his house. המּול Niph. of מוּל, and נמלתּם perf. Niph. for נמלּתם, from מלל equals מוּל. As the sign of the covenant, circumcision is called in Genesis 17:13, "the covenant in the flesh," so far as the nature of the covenant was manifested in the flesh. It was to be extended not only to the seed, the lineal descendants of Abraham, but to all the males in his house, even to every foreign slave not belonging to the seed of Abram, whether born in the house or acquired (i.e., bought) with money, and to the "son of eight days," i.e., the male child eight days old; with the threat that the uncircumcised should be exterminated from his people, because by neglecting circumcision he had broken the covenant with God. The form of speech ההיא הנּפשׁ נכרתה, by which many of the laws are enforced (cf. Exodus 12:15, Exodus 12:19; Leviticus 7:20-21, Leviticus 7:25, etc.), denotes not rejection from the nation, or banishment, but death, whether by a direct judgment from God, an untimely death at the hand of God, or by the punishment of death inflicted by the congregation or the magistrates, and that whether יוּמת מות is added, as in Exodus 31:14, etc., or not. This is very evident from Leviticus 17:9-10, where the extermination to be effected by the authorities is distinguished from that to be executed by God Himself (see my biblische Archologie ii. 153, 1). In this sense we sometimes find, in the place of the earlier expression "from his people," i.e., his nation, such expressions as "from among his people" (Leviticus 17:4, Leviticus 17:10; Numbers 15:30), "from Israel" (Exodus 12:15; Numbers 19:13), "from the congregation of Israel" (Exodus 12:19); and instead of "that soul," in Leviticus 17:4, Leviticus 17:9 (cf. Exodus 30:33, Exodus 30:38), we find "that man."
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