This past Lord’s Day evening we looked at Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision. What a rich passage! While I sought to cover many of the angles one point that I passed over had to do with circumcision being commanded for new babies on the 8th day. A former nurse in the congregation stressed that for her that was very important as it highlighted the brilliance of God.
Certainly God is brilliant. He is all-knowing (omniscient). Job 31:4 reminds us of this when it says:
Does He not see my ways, and number all my steps?
But why did the LORD in His brilliance command Abraham to circumcise infants on the 8th day, why not the 5th or 7th or 10th?
Before we get to the symbolism, the brilliance of God is displayed in this simple and seemingly mundane command, in that on the 8th day new-born levels of vitamin K peak. Why is that important? Vitamin K helps the blood to clot, an important and necessary factor when undertaking a circumcision in an infant so young. While Abraham did not know about vitamin K, in His brilliance God did, and as such commanded the sign of the covenant to be given on the 8th day. But like many things in the Old Testament, and since this was a sign after all, what symbolism did God intend by the giving of this sign on the 8th day (for symbolism of the sign itself see the sermon)?
Not all Jews agree as to any spiritual or philosophical meaning of the 8th day. Some merely stress duty. One Rabbinic blogger noted that 7 signifies what is natural and finite (ex. 7 days of creation or 7 days a week). He suggested 8 represents the super-natural nature of the covenant, the incomprehensibility of it, and the miraculous of the grace in it (I read grace into it as he didn’t use this word). He said:
And so, a baby is given is brit [circumcision] on the eighth day. He is entering a religion founded upon faith, whose survival is miraculous, and whose potential in the world is infinite.
While much of the above would make sense symbolically to the Christian; Christianity has often seen much more at work them mere symbolism but also prophecy.
The early Church Father Augustine wrote this:
[Christ] suffered voluntarily, and so could choose His own time for suffering and for resurrection, He brought it about that His body rested from all its works on Sabbath in the tomb, and that His resurrection on the third day, which we call the Lord’s day, the day after the Sabbath, and therefore the eighth, proved the circumcision of the eighth day to be also prophetical of Him.
Following this view the 8th day was an early prophecy about the Christ which was the fulfilment of this promise and whose Resurrection took place on the 8th day. John Calvin, while more reticent than Augustine seems to concur with this redemptive-historical approach to the 8th day in his commentary on Genesis 17:12:
Augustine also thinks that it had reference to the resurrection of Christ; whereby external circumcision was abolished and the truth of the figure was set forth. It is probable and consonant with reason, that the number seven designated the course of the present life. Therefore the eighth day might seem to be fixed upon by the Lord, to prefigure the beginning of a new life. But because such a reason is never given in Scripture, I dare affirm nothing. Wherefore, let it suffice to maintain what is certain and solid; namely, that God, in this symbol, has so represented the destruction of the old man, as yet to show that he restores men to life.
So be it a prophecy about Christ, the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday (the Lord’s Day), emphasis on the new creation or grace found in the covenant, it appears along with medical reasons that the 8th day affirms the brilliance of God.
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,