Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Leviticus 12:3

On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Circumcision;   Defilement;   Sanitation;   The Topic Concordance - Uncleanness;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Circumcision;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Circumcision;   Year;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Circumcision;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Jesus Christ;   Woman;   Worship;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Birth;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Unclean and Clean;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Birth;   Clean, Cleanness;   Leprosy;   Leviticus;   Woman;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Circumcision;   Clean and Unclean;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Infancy;   Joseph (2);   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Circumcision;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Children;   Circumcision;   Uncleanness;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Year;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Other Laws;   Law of Moses, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Defile;   Foreskin;   Genesis;   Joseph, Husband of Mary;   Law in the New Testament;   Leviticus;   Number;   Sanctuary;   Uncleanness;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Birth;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Circumcision;   Commandments, the 613;   Jubilees, Book of;   Medicine;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

And in the eighth day - Before this time the child could scarcely be considered as having strength sufficient to bear the operation; after this time it was not necessary to delay it, as the child was not considered to be in covenant with God, and consequently not under the especial protection of the Divine providence and grace, till this rite had been performed. On circumcision see Clarke's note on Genesis 17:10. Circumcision was to every man a constant, evident sign of the covenant into which he had entered with God, and of the moral obligations under which he was thereby laid. It was also a means of purity, and was especially necessary among a people naturally incontinent, and in a climate not peculiarly favorable to chastity. This is a light in which this subject should ever be viewed, and in which we see the reasonableness, propriety, expediency, and moral tendency of the ceremony.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/leviticus-12.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

On circumcision, see Genesis 17:5 note.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/leviticus-12.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Leviticus 12:3". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/leviticus-12.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Or the foreskin of his flesh, that is, of the man child born according to the law, Genesis 17:12 and this seems to furnish out a reason why a male child was not circumcised before the eighth day, and why it was then, because before that its mother was in her separation and uncleanness, and then was freed from it; and so the Targum of Jonathan. The circumcision of a male child on the eighth day was religiously observed, and even was not omitted on account of the sabbath, when the eighth day happened to be on that; see Gill on John 7:22, John 7:23. It is an observation of Aben Ezra on this place, that the wise men say "in the day", and not in the night, lo, he that is born half an hour before the setting of the sun is circumcised after six days and a half, for the day of the law is not from time to time.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/leviticus-12.html. 1999.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

The Jews were careful to observe this eighth day, Genesis 17:11-12.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/leviticus-12.html. 1828.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Leviticus 12:3 And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.

Ver. 3. And in the eighth day.] {See Trapp on "Genesis 17:13"} {See Trapp on "Genesis 17:14"}

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:3". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/leviticus-12.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Which law is here repeated, because the woman’s uncleanness lasting for seven days, was one, though not the only, reason why the child’s circumcision was put off till the eighth day.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Leviticus 12:3". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/leviticus-12.html. 1685.

Expositor's Bible Commentary

THE ORDINANCE OF CIRCUMCISION

Leviticus 12:3

"And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised."

Although the rite of circumcision here receives a new and special sanction, it had been appointed long before by God as the sign of His covenant with Abraham. {Genesis 17:10-14} Nor was circumcision, probably, even then a new thing. That the ancient Egyptians practised it is well known; so also did the Arabs and Phoenicians; in fact, the custom has been very extensively observed, not only by nations with whom the Israelites came in contact, but by others who have not had, in historic times, connection with any civilised peoples; as, for example, the Congo negroes, and certain Indian tribes in South America.

The fundamental idea connected with circumcision, by most of the peoples who have practised it, appears to have been physical purification; indeed, the Arabs call it by the name tatur, which has this precise meaning. And it deserves to be noticed that for this idea regarding circumcision there is so much reason in fact, that high medical authorities have attributed to it a real hygienic value, especially in warm climates.

No one need feel any difficulty in supposing that this common conception attached to the rite also in the minds of the Hebrews. Rather all the more fitting it was, if there was a basis in fact for this familiar opinion, that God should thus have taken a ceremony already known to the surrounding peoples, and in itself of a wholesome physical effect, and constituted it for Abraham and his seed a symbol of an analogous spiritual fact; namely, the purification of sin at its fountainhead, the cleansing of the evil nature with which we all are born. It should be plain enough that it makes nothing against this as the true interpretation of the rite, even if that be granted which some have claimed, that it has had, in some instances, a connection with the phallic worship so common in the East, or that it has been regarded by some as a sacrificial ceremony. Only the more noteworthy would it thus appear that the Hebrews should have held strictly to that view of its significance which had a solid basis in physical fact, -a fact, moreover, which made it a peculiarly fitting symbol of the spiritual grace which the Biblical writers connect with it. For that it was so regarded by them will not be disputed. In this very book {Leviticus 26:41} we read of an "uncircumcised heart"; as also in Deuteronomy, the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and other books of Scripture.

All this, as intimating the signification of circumcision as here enjoined, is further established by the New Testament references. Of these the most formal is perhaps that in Colossians 2:10-11, where we read that believers in Christ, in virtue of their union with Him in whom the unclean nature has been made clean, are said to be "circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ"; so that Paul elsewhere writes to the Philippians: {Philippians 3:3} "We are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."

And that God, in selecting this ancient rite to be the sign of His covenant in the flesh of Abraham and his seed, {Genesis 17:13} had regard to the deep spiritual meaning which it could so naturally carry is explicitly declared by the Apostle Paul, {Romans 4:11} who tells us that this sign of circumcision was "a seal of the righteousness of faith," even the righteousness and the faith concerning which, in the previous context, he was arguing; and which are still, for all men, the one, the ground, and the other, the condition, of salvation. It is truly strange that, in the presence of these plain words of the Apostle, any should still cling to the idea that circumcision had reference only to the covenant with Israel as a nation, and not, above all, to this profound spiritual truth which is basic to salvation, whether for the Jew or for the Gentile.

And so, when the Hebrew infant was circumcised, it signified for him and for his parents these spiritual realities. It was an outward sign and seal of the covenant of God with Abraham and with his seed, to be a God to him and to his seed after him; and it signified further that this covenant of God was to be carried out and made effectual only through the putting away of the flesh, the corrupt nature with which we are born, and of all that belongs to it, in order that, thus circumcised with the circumcision of the heart, every child of Abraham might indeed be an Israelite in whom there should be no guile.

And the law commands, in accord with the original command to Abraham, that the circumcision should take place on the eighth day. This is the more noticeable, that among other nations which practised, or still practise, the rite, the time is different. The Egyptians, for example, circumcised their sons between the sixth and tenth years, and the modern Mohammedans between the twelfth and fourteenth year. What is the significance of this eighth day?

In the first place, it is easy to see that we have in this direction a provision of God’s mercy; for if delayed beyond infancy or early childhood, as among many other peoples, the operation is much more serious, and may even involve some danger; while in so early infancy it is comparatively trifling, and attended with no risk.

Further, by the administration of circumcision at the very opening of life, it is suggested that in the Divine ideal the grace which was signified thereby, of the cleansing of nature, was to be bestowed upon the child, not first at a late period of life, but from its very beginning, thus anticipating the earliest awakening of the principle of inborn sin. It was thus signified that before ever the child knew, or could know, the grace that was seeking to save him, he was to be taken into covenant relation with God. So even under the strange form of this ordinance we discover the same mind that was in Him who said concerning infant children: {Luke 18:16} "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." Thus we may well recollect, in passing, that, although the law has passed away in the Levitical form, the mind of the Lawgiver concerning the little children of His people is still the same.

But the question still remains, Why was the eighth day selected, and not rather, for instance, the sixth or the seventh, which would have no less perfectly represented these ideas? The answer is to be found in the symbolic significance of the eighth day. As the old creation was completed in six days, with a following Sabbath of rest, so that six is ever the number of the old creation, as under imperfection and sin; the eighth day, which is the first day of a new week, everywhere in Scripture appears as the number symbolic of the new creation, in which all things shall be restored in the great redemption through the Second Adam. The thought finds its fullest expression in the resurrection of Christ, as the Firstborn from the dead, the Beginning and the Lord of the new creation, who in His resurrection body manifested the first fruits in physical life of the new creation, rising from the dead on the first, or, in other words, the day after the seventh, the eighth day. This gives the key to the use of the number eight in the Mosaic symbolism. Thus in the law of the cleansing of the man or the woman that had an issue, the sacrifices which effectuated their formal deliverance from the curse under which, through the weakness of their old nature, they had suffered, were to be offered on the eighth day; {Leviticus 15:14; Leviticus 15:29} the priestly cleansing of the leper from the taint of his living death was also effected on the eighth day; {Leviticus 14:10} so also the cleansing of the Nazarite who had been defiled by the dead. {Numbers 6:10} So also the holy convocation which closed the feast of tabernacles or ingathering - the feast which, as we shall see, typically prefigured the great harvest of which Christ was the First fruits-was ordained, in like manner, for the eighth day. {Leviticus 23:36} With good reason, then, was circumcision ordered for the eighth day, seeing that what it symbolically signified was precisely this: the putting off of the flesh with which we are born through the circumcision of Christ, and therewith the first beginning of a new and purified nature-a change so profound and radical, and in which the Divine efficiency is so immediately concerned, that Paul said of it that if any man was in Christ, in whose circumcision we are circumcised, {Colossians 2:11} "there is a new creation". {2 Corinthians 5:17, margin, R.V}

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:3". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/leviticus-12.html.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

“And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.”

At the stage in fact when this law was first communicated, circumcision could not take place. It would have been unwise while constantly on the move. The instructions were thus in the final analysis for when they settled in the land. They were in the light of the soon anticipated entry into Canaan. (These instructions may have been given prior to the disobedience that cancelled that entry, thus with its full application being delayed, or it may have been shortly before Moses’ death, and used as an incentive to press the people to go forward).

Looked at in practical terms the seven days would also be necessary because time had to be given to her for recovery before she attended at the circumcision of a male child (see Genesis 17:10-14; Genesis 21:4). While circumcision was mainly seen as the father’s responsibility, unless he was too ill for it (Exodus 4:24-26), God graciously provided so that the woman could be fit enough to be present. He was her son too.

The circumcision would be performed, usually by the father, using a flint knife, by removing the foreskin. It was the shedding of covenant blood to seal the child in the covenant. It is probable that it was also seen as acting as a kind of blood offering, declaring the redemption of the child, and thus lessening the time needed for recovery in the case of a male child. They would have noticed that discharges of lochia did not occur for so long a period in the case of a male child.

The use of a flint knife for circumcision, following ancient tradition (see Exodus 4:25), was in fact much safer than using a metal knife, for the flint was naturally sterilised. It is also an interesting medical fact that the eighth day was probably the best and most painless period after birth for carrying out this operation. Up to about the fifth day the newborn babe was susceptible to haemorrhage, later the nerves would have become more sensitive.

Circumcision was a sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham in Genesis 17. Every male child who was to be seen as a true born Israelite had to be circumcised, and by it he became a member of the covenant people. It was also open to ‘strangers’ who wished to eventually become ‘true born Israelites’ (Exodus 12:48). But it was not carried out during the travels in the wilderness, presumably precisely because they were travelling, and it would be inconvenient, and then because of the breach with God which resulted in the stay at the oases around Kadesh. In one sense the covenant was seen as pending.

This non circumcision of the people may have been significant even though it is never explained, especially as it continued in the long period at Kadesh. It would seem that it was linked with the future hope. At first it was probably practical. Circumcision could be tricky while on the move. But it then probably became theological. They would be circumcised once they entered the land of Promise. And until that they were not worthy. The covenant was temporarily partly in suspense until contempt had been purged by the dying out of those who had refused to obey God’s command to enter the land (Numbers 14).

All the people who entered the Promised Land who had not been circumcised in Egypt (including the mixed multitude of Exodus 12:38) would in fact be circumcised on reaching it (Joshua 5:2-9). And the blood that was shed in the act of circumcision would almost certainly have been seen in sacrificial terms as making atonement. It was certainly seen as vital for a servant of God (compare Exodus 4:24-26). And from that day on these provisions would apply at every birth.

So the childbearer was through this law of uncleanness going through a repeat of the curse. And that is why sacrifices would have to be offered. Then God would normally give back to her the gift of life, and she would be clean, and her ordeal would be over. So was it indicated that in every birth a sinner was born, affected by the fall, and so was it revealed that he/she would be graciously received by God and be made ‘clean’, restored to the state intended for God’s people. And so would it also be revealed that she was delivered by God in her childbearing (compare 1 Timothy 2:15).

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:3". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/leviticus-12.html. 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

3.Foreskin’ circumcised — The sign of the covenant (Genesis 17:11) in the excision of a portion of the genitals, expresses with painful emphasis the fact that impurity presides over the very fountain of humanity and taints all its issues. Circumcision implies depravity and symbolizes spiritual regeneration, (Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4,) as does water-baptism, which takes its place in the new covenant. Colossians 2:11-12. While all are born sinful, none are born guilty, because our race is propagated under the dispensation of mercy extending from the first gospel promise (Genesis 3:15) to the day of judgment. As every Hebrew male child inherited a right to the sign of the first covenant, so, now that the middle wall is broken down (Ephesians 2:14, note) and the disabilities of sex are abolished, (Galatians 3:28, note,) every infant has a right to the seal of the new covenant, through which he is saved until he wilfully rejects it. Under both covenants God designed that grace should flow down the ages in the family relation.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:3". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/leviticus-12.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Eighth. Nothing but the child's health could retard the day, (Calmet) unless the parents were under the necessity of taking a journey, as they were in the desert, &c. (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:3". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/leviticus-12.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

circumcised. See note on "leprosy", Leviticus 13:2.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:3". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/leviticus-12.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(3) And in the eighth day.—When the seven days had passed by during which the mother remained un clean, the boy is to be circumcised, since on the eighth day the first period of her extreme state of impurity ceases, and she no more imparts defilement to whomsoever or to whatsoever she touches. For the rite of circumcision, see Genesis 17:10; Genesis 17:13.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/leviticus-12.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
Genesis 17:11,12; Deuteronomy 30:6; Luke 1:59; 2:21; John 7:22,23; Romans 3:19; 4:11,12; Galatians 3:17; 5:3; Philippians 3:5; Colossians 2:11
Reciprocal: Genesis 21:4 - GeneralExodus 29:30 - seven days;  Leviticus 9:1 - the eighth day;  Leviticus 15:3 - GeneralLeviticus 19:23 - uncircumcised;  Leviticus 22:27 - seven days;  Acts 15:1 - after

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Leviticus 12:3". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/leviticus-12.html.