What Are Foreskins in the Bible?

Foreskins play an interesting and significant role throughout the Bible. As Christians seeking to understand God’s Word, it is important we grasp the meaning and significance behind this unusual theme that appears repeatedly in Scripture. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the biblical mentions of foreskins, examine what they represent, and draw out key lessons for believers today.


The foreskin is the fold of skin that covers the head of the penis. It is removed during the procedure of circumcision. While circumcision is common in many cultures today, in ancient Israel it held deep spiritual meaning as a sign of God’s covenant with His people.

Throughout the Old Testament, there are various references to foreskins and circumcision. When we study these in context, we uncover important biblical truths concerning God’s promises, righteousness through faith, and spiritual circumcision of the heart.

Here are 5 key takeaways about foreskins in the Bible:

  1. The foreskin represents man’s sinful nature and need for cleansing.
  2. God commanded circumcision as a sign of His covenant with Abraham and his descendants.
  3. Circumcision was intended to be an outward sign of an inward, spiritual truth.
  4. Uncircumcised foreskins represent the flesh, sin and judgment.
  5. True circumcision is of the heart, through faith in Christ.

Let’s explore each of these themes in depth through a survey of key biblical passages.

What Are Foreskins in the Bible?

The Sign of Abraham’s Covenant

The first mention of circumcision in Scripture occurs in Genesis 17 when God makes His covenant with Abraham:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” (Genesis 17:1-14 NKJV)

This passage describes how God established circumcision as the sign of His covenant with Abraham and his offspring. Every male descendant of Abraham was to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth. This act would be a “sign of the covenant” in their flesh, marking them as God’s chosen people.

Circumcision was not just a physical act, but carried deep spiritual meaning. It represents the cutting away of sin and uncleanness to enter God’s covenant. The foreskin, as part of man’s fleshly body, represents the fallen sin nature that separates us from God. Therefore, its removal symbolized cleansing from sin and commitment to walk in God’s ways.

God took His covenant so seriously that any male who was uncircumcised would be “cut off from his people” for breaking the covenant. The foreskin represented man’s sin, and its removal was necessary to be in right relationship with God.

A Sign of Israel’s Uncleanness

Throughout the Torah, uncircumcised foreskins are associated with uncleanness, danger and God’s judgment:

“If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days…And she shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days…But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks…And when the days of her purification are fulfilled, whether for a son or a daughter, she shall bring to the priest a lamb…to make atonement for her…” (Leviticus 12:2-8 NKJV)

“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying…If there is any man who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” (Genesis 17:1,14)

“Now it came to pass on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. And the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath…So the people rested on the seventh day. And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. Then Moses said, “This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: ‘Fill an omer with it, to be kept for your generations, that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’ ” And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a pot and put an omer of manna in it, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations.” As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept. And the children of Israel ate manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. (Exodus 16: 27-35 NKJV)

These passages reveal how uncircumcised men were excluded from Israel as covenant breakers. Women also underwent purification rites after childbirth, reflecting the uncleanness associated with sin and fleshly reproduction. God provided manna from heaven to nourish His people in the wilderness, separating them from uncleanness and sustaining them apart from the fruit of the land.

The imagery shows how God will judge sin and remove it from His people, while sustaining them with heavenly food as they undergo the wilderness journey of sanctification. The foreskin represents the fallen flesh from which Israel must be cleansed to enter God’s promises.

Joshua and the Flint Knives

After 40 years in the wilderness, Israel finally stood poised to enter the Promised Land. God commanded Joshua to circumcise the new generation before this conquest:

At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: All the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way, after they had come out of Egypt. For all the people who came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness, on the way as they came out of Egypt, had not been circumcised. For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people who were men of war, who came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord—to whom the Lord swore that He would not show them the land which the Lord had sworn to their fathers that He would give us, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” Then Joshua circumcised their sons whom He raised up in their place; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way.

So it was, when they had finished circumcising all the people, that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were healed. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day. (Joshua 5:2-9 NKJV)

This remarkable passage shows the connection between circumcision and God’s promises. The previous rebellious generation perished in the wilderness because of unbelief. But through circumcision, God rolled away the “reproach of Egypt” from the new generation, purifying them to receive the promise.

The foreskins represent the uncleanness and fleshly nature of man. Their removal prepares God’s people to cross over and gain victory in His spiritual promises. This teaches us that we must undergo cleansing of our sinful hearts to walk in the fullness of our redemption in Christ.

Saul’s Foreskins as Trophies

Later in Israel’s history, David garnered fame by presenting foreskins to King Saul as a trophy:

When Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them. Then Saul said to David, “Here is my older daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife. Only be valiant for me, and fight the Lord’s battles.” For Saul thought, “Let my hand not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.”

So David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my life or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” But it happened at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, that she was given to Adriel the Meholathite as a wife.

Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. So Saul said, “I will give her to him, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall be my son-in-law today.”

And Saul commanded his servants, “Communicate with David secretly, and say, ‘Look, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now therefore, become the king’s son-in-law.’ ”

So Saul’s servants spoke those words in the hearing of David. And David said, “Does it seem to you a light thing to be a king’s son-in-law, seeing I am a poor and lightly esteemed man?” And the servants of Saul told him, saying, “In this manner David spoke.”

Then Saul said, “Thus you shall say to David: ‘The king does not desire any dowry but one hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to take vengeance on the king’s enemies.’ ” But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. So when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to become the king’s son-in-law. Now the days had not expired; therefore David arose and went, he and his men, and killed two hundred men of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full count to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him Michal his daughter as a wife. (1 Samuel 18:15-27 NKJV)

Initially, King Saul attempts to manipulate David’s quest for his daughter’s hand in marriage by making the bride price 100 Philistine foreskins. He intends this as a ploy for David to be killed by Israel’s enemies.

But David exceeds expectations, delivering not 100 but 200 foreskins, representing victory over the uncircumcised Philistines. He uses the trophies of uncircumcision to secure a place in the kingly line of Israel.

While gruesome to modern sensibilities, this passage echoes the spiritual truth that God’s people must war against the flesh and overcome sin to attain greater blessings in His kingdom. As believers, we wage war not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12).

Circumcision of the Heart

While physical circumcision marked God’s old covenant people, the prophets looked ahead to a greater spiritual circumcision of the heart:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33 NKJV)

“Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6 NKJV)

“Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, And take away the foreskins of your hearts…” (Jeremiah 4:4 NKJV)

Rather than an outward symbol in the flesh, this new covenant would involve an inward circumcision of the heart — the removal of sinful desires and corruption.

This spiritual surgery would be performed by God Himself, enabling His people to love and obey Him from the heart. It represents the cleansing of our sinful nature through the blood of Christ, and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

Believers in Jesus undergo this true, spiritual circumcision which allows us to walk in holiness and intimacy with God.

Foreskins and “Flesh” in the New Testament

The New Testament continues this metaphor of the foreskin representing flesh, sin and judgment:

In [Christ] you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ. (Colossians 2:11 NKJV)

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28-29 NKJV)

For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3 NKJV)

In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Colossians 2:11-13 NKJV)

The New Testament authors leverage the familiar imagery of circumcision and uncircumcision to illustrate core truths of the gospel: Our sinful flesh is cut away through spiritual rebirth in Christ. This inward circumcision of the heart happens through faith, not works. Outward circumcision is meaningless unless the heart is purifed. True followers of God are marked by circumcision “made without hands”, that is, performed by the Spirit rather than human effort.

In Christ, our hearts are cleansed and we can walk free from bondage to the sinful nature. The foreskin represents the fleshly nature of unbelief from which Christ frees us through the new covenant.

Key Takeaways on Foreskins in the Bible

In examining these key passages, we emerge with a clearer understanding of the significance of foreskins in Scripture:

  • The foreskin represents man’s sinful nature and need for cleansing.
  • God commanded circumcision as a sign of His covenant with Abraham and his descendants.
  • Circumcision was intended to be an outward sign of an inward, spiritual truth.
  • Uncircumcised foreskins represent the flesh, sin and judgment.
  • True circumcision is of the heart, through faith in Christ.

From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture uses the imagery of circumcision and foreskins to teach profound truths concerning sin, righteousness, and our redemption in Christ. As we study and understand this important biblical symbolism, our spiritual vision becomes sharper and our relationship with God more intimate. We better grasp the glory of the gospel and Christ’s finished work in removing the burden of sin and uncleanness through His perfect sacrifice.

Just as Israel faced judgment if they broke God’s physical covenant of circumcision, we face separation from God if we spurn His New Covenant offer of spiritual circumcision and cleansing through Christ. I pray this overview encourages you to meditate on circumcision and foreskins in the Bible, that you may grow in wisdom, purity and intimacy with our Lord!

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