THE COVENANT OF CIRCUMCISION
WITH ABRAHAM AND HIS FLESHLY SEED
There are other covenants made with Abraham which were eventually merged into and became a part of the Mt. Sinai covenant that was made with the fathers in the day when He led them out of the land of Egypt.
About eight years after the original promise of Gen. 12:3, God MADE a covenant with Abram respecting the inheritance of the land of Canaan. He had promised it to him and his seed before (Gen. 12 :7), but now He puts this promise into the form of a covenant ratified upon sacrifice (Gen. 15:9, 10, 17), and so it is said, "In the same day the Lord MADE a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates" (Gen. 15:18; see also Psa. 105:3-12). The International Standard Encyclopedia under article "Brook of Egypt" shows that the river of Egypt is not the Nile, and the map makes clear that the river of Egypt or border of Egypt are one and the same thing.
About sixteen years after this, or twenty-four years from the original gospel promise of Gen. 12:3, God gave Abraham the covenant of CIRCUMCISION (as it is called in Acts 7:8), in which He renewed the promise of multiplying his seed, of giving them the land of Canaan and of being
a God to him, and to his seed after him in their generations, and, as a token of this covenant in their flesh. He commanded that every male among them should be circumcised (Gen. 17:4-15). Genesis 17:10 -- "This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised."
When God proceeded to fulfill the temporal promises of the covenant of CIRCUMCISION to Abraham's fleshly seed, He did it by means of another covenant, even that which He made with the whole nation of Israel when He took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt (Exoc1us 19:3-G; Heb.3:9). This is called "the Old Covenant" (Heb. 8:13) on account of the temporal relation betwixt the Lord and that nation, which is now done away forever. It is called the Law (Heb. 10:l) on account of the Law therein given to them, which was a shadow of good things to come. It is called "the first Testament" (Heb. 9:15) on account of the typical adoption and the temporal inheritance which foreshadowed the spiritual adoption and eternal inheritance of true believers (Eph. 1:5; Acts 25:lS; 1 Peter 1:4). It is evident that this Mt. Sinai covenant and all its typical economy was founded on the temporal promises made to Abraham concerning his fleshly seed in the covenant of Circumcision of Genesis 17; for all the temporal blessings which Israel enjoyed, according to the tenor of the Sinai covenant, are also ascribed to that promise. Their typical relation to God as His people, wherein the very essence of the Mt. Sinai covenant consisted, is originally attributed to that same promise given to Abraham in the covenant of CIRCUMCISION. Deuteronomy 29:13 -- "That he may establish thee today for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." As circumcision belonged to the temporal promise and the fleshly seed (Gen .. 17:4-15), so also it was engrafted into the Mt. Sinai covenant (John.7:22, 23), and hence, to vanish away forever with the covenant itself and all its other typical ordinances.
The gospel covenant of Gen. 12:3 CONFIRMED to Abraham with an oath (Gen. 22:16) regarding his spiritual seed of all nations, is separate, distinct, and altogether different from the promise in covenant MADE with Abraham some eight years later (Gen. 15:18). The covenant MADE with Abraham regarding his fleshly seed of the nation of Israel, with circumcision given as its token some sixteen years later.·(Gen. 17:9-15), is called in Acts 7:8 "the covenant of Circumcision." True the covenant of circumcision is called an "everlasting covenant" in Gen. 17:7, but this is not to be taken as the same with the "everlasting covenant" or Heb. 13:20, which is none other than the New Covenant or Grace. The ordinance of circumcision belonged only to the temporal promise, and the temporal typical relation betwixt God and Abraham's fleshly seed: for though the covenant to which it belonged be called an "everlasting covenant" (Gen. 17:13.), yet this must be understood with the same limitation as the earthly Canaan, promised therein, is called "an everlasting possession" (Gen. 17:8; 48:4); the Aaronical priesthood, "an everlasting priesthood" (Exod. ·40:15); and the yearly typical atonement "an everlasting statue" (Lev. 16:34). These temporal types are called "Everlasting" in relation to the antitype in which this epithet holds true.
The old Jewish Church grew out of the covenant of Circumcision, which was the germ or the Sinai tic covenant that God made with the Israelites when He "took them by the hand to lead them. out of the land of Egypt" (Heb. 8: 9). This covenant, entered into at Mt. Sinai, was to continue in force, and did continue in force, till superseded by another and a "better covenant". It served as a partition wall to separate and keep them distinct from all other nations till Christ the promised Seed should come of them. Galatians 3:19 -- "Wherefore then serveth the Law? It was added because of transgressions, TILL THE SEED SHOULD COME TO WHICH THE PROMISE WAS MADE: and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator." It preserved the nationality of the Jews, while circumcision marked the nationality and indicated a NATURAL RELATIONSHIP to Abraham. This celebrated patriarch was to have a numerous NATURAL seed, to which reference is made in the covenant of Circumcision, and, by virtue of the provisions of the gospel covenant "CONFIRMED" to him concerning the Messiah, he was to have a SPIRITUAL seed also. The DOUBLE significance pertaining to the expression "children" or "seed" of Abraham was very plainly intimated at the beginning, when Jehovah said unto the patriarch, "In blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed AS THE STARS of the heavens and AS THE SAND which is upon the seashore." In the likening of Abraham's seed unto the "stars of heaven" reference is made to his SPIRITUAL Children, who are partakers or the heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1; compare John 8:39; Rom. 4:.12; Gal. 3:9); and in the likening of his seed unto the "sand which is upon the seashore!! reference is made to his NATURAL descendants, who occupied the land of Palestine so long as the Old Covenant continued in effect (Rom. 9: 6-8). Accordingly, when the Seed came (Gal. 4:4), and broke down the middle wall or partition between the Jew and Gentile by His death (Eph. 2:14, 15), circumcision was declared to avail nothing (1 Cor. 7:19), and so was set aside like every other typical institution. It is represented as belonging to the letter and the flesh, as opposed to the spirit (Phil. 3:4, 5; Gal. 6:12, 13).
It was necessary, however, that the temporal promises of the covenant of Circumcision be accomplished to the fleshly seed BEFORE the spiritual blessings of the gospel covenant, for the covenant of Circumcision contained the types, pledges, and guarantee of the certain fulfillment of the Gospel covenant. As He fulfilled the promises or the covenant of Circumcision to the fleshly seed FIRST, so most surely was this the guarantee that: He would fulfill the promises of the Gospel covenant to the spiritual seed of all nations. Thus we may see that there were different covenants made with Abraham, and so the apostle speaks of them in the plural number, calling them the COVENANTS (Rom. 9:4), and the COVENANTS of' promise (Eph. 2:12). The first contained the promise of spiritual blessings in Christ to Abraham's spiritual seed of ALL NATIONS, Jews and Gentiles, as the apostle explains it at large. The other two contained temporal promises to Abraham's fleshly seed, which were literally fulfilled to the nation of Israel, served to keep them distinct from all other nations till Christ should come of them, and at the same time were types and pledges of spiritual blessings to the faithful among them (Rom. 9:6-8).
In summary, the covenant of Circumcision of Genesis 17 incorporated into the Mt. Sinai covenant in subordination to and foreshadowing the Gospel covenant of Genesis 12:3, is CARNAL, NATIONAL, and TEMPORAL, and has forever passed away.