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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Foreskin

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fōr´skin ( ערלה , ‛orlāh ; ἀκροβυστία , akrobustı́a , often euphemistically translated "uncircumcision"):

(1) In the literal sense the word is frequently mentioned owing to the rite of circumcision in vogue in Israel since the days of Abraham ( Genesis 17:9-14 ) and among several other peoples of antiquity and modern times. The act of circumcision is represented in the temple of Khonsu, a medical deity, at Karnak. Among the Jews of antiquity circumcision had to be performed by means of a flint or stone knife (Exodus 4:25; Joshua 5:2 , Joshua 5:3 ) on the eighth day after birth (Genesis 17:12; Genesis 21:4; Leviticus 12:3; Luke 2:21; Philippians 3:5 ), even if this day was the Sabbath (John 7:23 ).

Very early we find the practice one of which the descendants of Abraham became proud (Genesis 34:14 ), so that we see the uncircumcised despised and scorned (1 Samuel 17:26 ), and in the time of oppression under King Antiochus Epiphanes many Israelites suffered martyrdom rather than give up the distinctive sign of their people (1 Macc 1:48, 60, 61; 2 Macc 6:10). Among the Arabs and all Mohammedans the custom of circumcision prevails from pre-Islamic times, for it is nowhere ordered in the Koran, and the appellation "uncircumcised" (ghalaf ) is considered the greatest possible insult.

A peculiar martial custom is mentioned in 1 Samuel 18:25 , 1 Samuel 18:27 (compare 2 Samuel 3:14 ), where Saul is represented as asking "a hundred foreskins of the Philistines" as a dowry from David for the hand of Michal. This does not seem to have been an exceptional booty in war, especially if it meant that no very careful operation was expected to be performed, but the act became practically equivalent to extermination. We find in Egyptian history at the time of Ramses III, that an invasion into Egypt had been made by several Libyan tribes (see Dümichen, Histor. Inschr ., I, plates I-VI , and II, plates 47ff). The Egyptian army sent against the invaders defeated them and returned with a large number of karnatha which is a transcription into hieroglyphics of the Semitic word, קרנות , ḳarenōth , the word being used euphemistically as is proven by the accompanying determinative sign of a phallus. See Chabas, Études sur l'antiquité historique d'après les sources égyptienne , etc., 234; Bondi, Hebr.-Phoen. Lehnworte im Egyptischen , Leipzig, 1886, 72-74.

(2) Metaphorically the word is used in a variety of ways: ( a ) In the sense of "unlawful," "forbidden as food," "taboo." The fruit of newly planted trees was not to be eaten (Leviticus 19:23-25 ). (b ) In the sense of "obstinacy," "opposition to God's law." The rite of circumcision meant submission under the law. While an outward form could not be identical with an inward attitude toward God, the use of the word "circumcision" was soon extended to that of purity and obedience of the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6; and Colossians 2:11 , where this circumcision is called a "circumcision not made with hands,... the circumcision of Christ"). The uselessness of outward circumcision, which does not include obedience and purity, is shown by Paul (Romans 2:25; 1 Corinthians 7:18; compare Acts 7:51 ). (c ) In the sense of "Gentiles," "non-Israelites" (Galatians 2:7; Ephesians 2:11; Colossians 3:11 ). See CIRCUMCISION; CONCISION .

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Foreskin'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/f/foreskin.html. 1915.

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