Bible Stories for Young Adults


The Bloody Sign

Moses was the man God used to deliver the Hebrew slaves from Egyptian

bondage.  He was the man who led them through on dry land through the Red

Sea.  He was the one through whom God gave the ten commandments.  But did you know that before Moses did all this that the Lord was about to kill him?

(Exodus 4:18-26)

At the age of forty, Moses fled from Egypt after he had killed an Egyptian

there for physically abusing a Hebrew slave.  He had gone to the land of Midian where he joined to the family of Jethro, a priest, who had seven daughters.  He

married one of the daughters whose name was Zipporah and she gave birth to

two sons, Gershom and Eliezer.

After Moses was called by God at the scene of the burning bush to go back to

Egypt to appear before Pharoah to seek release for the Hebrew slaves, he

obtained permission from Jethro to take this trip and to take his wife and

sons with him. 

However, on the way, as they were staying in an inn, the Lord was about to

kill Moses because he had not had his son circumcised.  (This was presumably

his younger son.) So Zipporah did what no mother would really want to have

to do.  She took a flint knife and circumcised her son because Moses may

have been too sick to perform the surgery himself.  She threw the foreskin

from her son's circumcision at Moses feet and exclaimed, "Surely you are a

bloody husband to me!"  The Lord did not seek to kill him after the son was


What is circumcision?  It is the cutting off of the foreskin of the male

penis.  Why was this such a big deal?  About 500 years before the time of

Moses, the Lord had appeared to a man named Abraham and made a covenant with him.  After the Flood of Noah, the Lord picked out from all the people on earth the man Abraham to become the father of the faithful. Abraham's descendants would become a great nation through whom the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would one day (about 2000 years later) be born.  God told Abraham that the sign of the covenant with this nation would be that every male among them must be circumcised, and newborn males who were descendants of Abraham, or sons of Abraham’s servants, would be circumcised when they were eight days old.  (Genesis, chapter 17)  Additionally, any alien male who joined the faith of Abraham would also be circumcised. 

Why circumcision?  Such a bloody and painful operation!  Since nakedness is

a shame, it is a sign that would not be seen by others.  Why circumcision?

This was something the women could not be a part of -- only the men.  Why


Though God's Word does not give specific reasons for this sign, some of the

reasons may be as follows.

First, it was a symbol of cleanliness.  Since the sin nature of people is

passed down through the male, not the female, cutting off the foreskin of

the male reproductive organ  could be a sign of God's redeeming His people

from the curse and uncleanness of sin.  (One evidence that the sin nature

is passed through the male is that Jesus had to be born of a virgin in order

to not inherit a sin nature.)

Some claim that circumcised men have fewer diseases associated with this

organ and the organ is easier to clean when circumcised.  Penile cancer is

extremely rare among circumcised males.  According to S. I. McMillen, M.D.,

author of the book None of These Diseases, studies were done in 1954 that

gave firm evidence that women married to uncircumcised men were eight and

one-half times more likely to develop cancer of the cervix than Jewish

women, whose husbands were circumcised.  Other studies showed similar

findings.  Since that time hospitals in the United States routinely circumcise male infants,  whereas male babies born at home during and before

the Great Depression were not generally circumcised.

However, hospitals do not wait until the eighth day after birth, as the Bible requires.  The blood-clotting element, Vitamin K, is not adequate until the fifth to seventh day after birth.  Prothrombin, another element that helps in the clotting of blood, is at its maximum level, even above the normal level, on the eighth day after birth, so the absolute safest time for a boy to be circumcised is when he is eight days old, just as God commanded Abraham about 4,000 years ago.

Second, circumcision was a way to keep Hebrew females within the Hebrew

family for marriage.  (Genesis 34:14) Females growing up knowing that men

outside the Hebrew nation were "unclean" since they were uncircumcised would be preconditioned to not seek husbands elsewhere.  This was important to the nation because intermarriage with other nations would have weakened them spiritually and morally.  Though we have numerous cases of Hebrew men

marrying foreign women, often reaping unhappy endings, we are not told in the

Bible of Hebrew women marrying foreign men who had not been circumcised.   (Perhaps one exception was Queen Esther, who had no choice in the matter.)  Too,  for a man outside of Israel to want to become a believer in the God of Abraham, he would have to submit to circumcision, which would definitely be a deterrent to hypocrites or half-hearted men.  Until the time of Jesus' life on earth, the covenant people were strictly watched by God, and though they did

backslide at various times, the Lord would always discipline them and

"subtract" the most wayward individuals from the group, and give trials to

the others to bring them to their knees in repentance.

Thirdly, circumcision, a bloody covenant sign, would also foreshadow the

blood shed by Christ, but after Christ came, the bloody covenant sign was

replaced by water baptism.  Circumcision is optional to a Christian.

Circumcision was practiced among the descendants of Abraham through their

time of slavery in Egypt.  Once they left Egypt and were for forty years

wandering in the desert on the way to the Promised Land of Canaan, they

neglected circumcision.  Perhaps this is because they no longer mingled with

people of other nations and did not  need to practice this to set themselves

apart.  However, upon entering Canaan, Joshua made all the males be

circumcised.  (Joshua 5:2-7)

Though many Jews in the Old Testament trusted in their status of being

circumcised as the mark that made them right with God, many Old Testament

prophets warned them that God wants them to have a circumcised heart -- one

from which sin has been cut away and has been made clean and pure.  (Jeremiah 4:4) Physical circumcision was to be an outward symbol of an inward heart reality. 

Today, the same stands for baptism.  One may be baptized in water but not

baptized with the Holy Spirit.  Water baptism may be a symbol of becoming

clean, but if one is not repentant and made clean in heart and conduct, the

reality is missing and the symbol becomes vain.

Big fuss over circumcision

After Jesus rose from the dead, he stayed on the earth for 40 days before

ascending to heaven.  During that time he taught his disciples to go into

all the world to teach the good news and to teach all the nations to obey

what he taught.  He also told them to baptize their converts, but he did not

mention circumcision.  Now, if Jesus had thought that all these

uncircumcised heathen in other nations needed to be circumcised, instead of

or in addition to being baptized into the Church, surely he would have

mentioned this in his great commission.  (Matthew 28:18-20)

The first converts to Christ were Jews.  They were already circumcised, so

no problem.  But as Paul and others went out to win converts from other

nations, some Jewish Christians began insisting that these new converts be

circumcised.  Now there were beginning to be big problems.  In Galatia some

false teachers arrived and told those new churches that unless they were

circumcised they could not be saved.  Paul got very angry that these

"Judaizers" were misleading the Galatians and making them believe that they

had to be circumcised.  Paul rightly questioned whether they were trusting

in Christ and His grace alone, or whether they were coming in bondage to keeping all the commandments in the Old Testament laws.  Paul even said, "I wish those Judaizers would just go on and castrate themselves," thus implying that circumcision did not go far enough for them.  (Galatians 5:12)

Finally the feud got so steamed that Paul and his missionary companion

Barnabas went to Jerusalem to discuss the matter with Peter, whom Jesus

designated as "the rock," and James, the Lord's half-brother, and the other

elders and apostles of the early Church.  Should all new uncircumcised

converts to Christ be circumcised?  Should the church require this?  The

zealous Jewish Christians from the party of the Pharisees said the new

converts should be circumcised and keep the laws of Moses.  (Acts 15)

After a great deal of discussion, Peter  boldly stated that he had

personally witnessed the transformation that uncircumcised Gentiles like

Cornelius had by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Peter said that not even

Jews had been able to bear the yoke of the laws of Moses, and he stated that

both Gentiles and Jews are purified in their hearts by faith through the

grace of Jesus Christ.

Paul and Barnabas went on to tell the assembled leaders how God had been

doing marvelous works among the Gentiles they had preached to.  After this,

James spoke up and quoted an Old Testament prophet who had foretold of the

day when the Gentiles would turn to seek the Lord.  He said, "We should not

make it difficult for Gentiles who are turning to God."

However, James did state that there should be some preliminary requirements

for every Gentile joining the Church.  First, they should not offend Jews by

eating food that had been sacrificed to idols and "non-Kosher" meat that was

from strangled animals.  Neither should they consume blood, which was a

heathenish practice.  This provision, of course, was so as to not entirely

gross out Jewish believers who ate with them, as well as to protect them

from becoming entangled with idol worship.  The second restriction for new

Christians was that they should abstain from fornication.

Imagine that!  Only two big deals!  To distance yourself from idolatry by

observing some food rules and to forsake sex sins!  As for the other rules

for living a godly life, they would hear about that as the Word of God would

be taught as they assembled weekly for worship.

So it appears that the number one mark of a Christian, as far as these

apostles was concerned, was that he or she is not flirting around with idol

worship and has forsaken sex sin!  What kind of spiritual plane does that

put many church members of today on?  How many church members show up week after week, listening to sermons and partaking of communion, yet have not come to God in sorrow and repentance over sex sins?

Keep in mind how important circumcision was in the Old Testament, but now

these pillars of the early Christian church are saying that it is more

important to be sexually pure than to be circumcised!  In the New Testament

church sexual purity trumps circumcision.  This is quite a huge statement!

As a reminder to the church that there is hope for us and for our nation,

look at Second Chronicles 7:14.  "If my people, which are called by my name,

will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked

ways (which definitely includes sex sins), then will I hear from heaven and

will forgive their sin and will heal their land."


1.  Put yourself in Zipporah's place and think of reasons why she may have

been upset about having to circumcise her son.

2.  What is the strongest reason for circumcision in the Old Testament?  Why

do you think God chose this as a sign of the covenant?

3.  God was going to kill Moses for not  having his son circumcised, but he

did not kill the people in the wilderness under Moses' leadership for not

circumcising their children?  Why the difference?

4.  What does it mean to have a circumcised heart?

5.  What is the relationship between circumcision and baptism?

6.  Some Muslims practice female "circumcision."  What could be the reason

for this?  Is it Biblical?

  1. 7. What were some problems that arose in the New Testament Church

regarding circumcision?

8.  When the apostles and elders met in Jerusalem to settle the matter about

circumcision,  what was the result?

9.  Why do you think that James said that new converts must abstain from

fornication,  rather than to stop lying or stealing, as being of utmost


10.  What can the church do to cause God to heal our land?

Dig deeper

1.  Read Exodus 4:18-26  and Exodus, all of Chapter 18.  How would you

describe the relationship Moses had with his father-in-law?  From these

passages why might you think that Moses' wife and sons returned to their

home in Midian after the circumcision incident? What risks are there to a prophet's family when a prophet speaks for God? How does Jethro's suggestion compare to the levels of government we have in the U.S.?

(Some commentators mention that since Zipporah was a Midianite, she despised the circumcision, but others note that Midian was a son of Abraham by Keturah, his wife after Sarah died.  However, the Midianites may have

neglected circumcision and become ones "cut off" from the people of God,

which possibility is mentioned in Genesis 17:14)

2.  Read Genesis, chapter 17.  What did God command Abraham in verse 1?

What promises did God made to Abraham in verse 3-8?  What was the sign of

the covenant in verses 9-14?  After God told Abraham that Sarah would have a

son in verses 15-16, how did Abraham react?  How did the promises that God

gave Abraham about Isaac differ from those He gave him about Ishmael?  How

old were Abraham and Ishmael when they were circumcised?

3.  Read Joshua, chapter 5.  What was the difference between the Israelite

men who left Egypt and the ones who were born on the way?  Men of military

age in Israel were age 20 and above.  What happened to all the men who were

of military age when they left Egypt, and why?  What do you think verse 9

means in speaking of "reproach"?  What did the Israelites celebrate after

the men were healed?  What encounter did Joshua have in verses 13-15?  What great victory awaited them in Chapter 6?

4.  According to Exodus 12:48, who was allowed to celebrate  the Passover?

5.  How are the uncircumcised viewed in each of the following passages?

Judges 14:3I Samuel 14:6, I Samuel 17:26 & 36, I Samuel 31:4

6.  What kind of circumcision does God want?  Deut. 10:16Jeremiah 4:4

7.  What kinds of complaints about circumcision was Paul making in Galatians

5: 2-6  & 6:15.  How strongly did he oppose the false apostles of the

circumcision party, and what did he say about them?  (See Galatians 5:7-12,

6: 12-15)

8.  To settle matters about circumcision in the New Testament era,  the

Jerusalem Council was called after this in about 50 A.D.  Read about this in

Acts, Chapter 15.  Why do you think this council had even more authority

than Paul's letter to the Galatians?

9.  After the Jerusalem Council, Paul could even more confidently write about circumcision in later letters.  What did he say in the following

passages? Colossians 3:11, Romans 2:26-29Romans 3:30, Romans 4:11,

I Corinthians 7:19Philippians 3:3

10.  Though circumcision was dismissed as a necessary prerequisite in

joining the Christian Church, what were major concerns of the apostles in

the early church?  In what ways did Paul address the matters concerning  sex

in I Corinthians 6:12-7:9 ? Concerning food and idols in I Corinthians 8:1-13, and 10: 6-8 & 14-33? What is God's will for all believers in Christ? 

I Thessalonians 4:3-7

See the appendix of this website for a full Biblical definition of “fornication” and “virgin”.

Memorize:  The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.  Deuteronomy 30:6

Many people know much about Moses.  He was the baby that the princess of Egypt found floating in a basket on the Nile.  He was the one God used to deliver Israel from slavery in Egypt.  He was the one through whom God gave the ten commandments.  But what about the story depicted on the left?  Why is Moses’ wife so upset?  Read on to find out. 

Moses is remembered for his delivering the Ten Commandments to the people of God.  Was he forced to circumcise his son before or after this great event?

Abraham, who lived about 500 years before Moses, was the one through whom God gave the covenant sign of circumcision.  Who was supposed to be circumcised?

Esther, a Jew, was taken into the harem of the King of Persia.  The king made her his queen, but he did not

know she was a Jew.  How did her situation of marriage to an uncircumcised man differ from other Jewish women? 

Joshua is known for his leading the victory over Jericho as God caused the walls of the city to fall flat.  Did he win this victory before or after he ordered that the males to be circumcised? 

Instead of circumcision which was practiced among the faithful in the Old Testament, what is the rite of passage into the Christian church?

After Jesus ascended, the Jewish leaders of the Christian church met in Jerusalem to decide whether

non-Jewish converts to Christ had to be circumcised.  What was their rather surprising stipulations that these converts must not do?

What does it mean to “humble” ourselves? 

Is there a health advantage to males who are circumcised?

Try this link: