Circumcision has a long and fascinating history. The latest chapter is being written in Africa. The Wall Street Journal reports “circumcision dramatically reduces the risk of contracting HIV.”
In some areas, such as Kenya, the circumcision rate is a high 80%. While Kenya is an exception, there is good reason to believe that ultimately the practice of circumcision will spread.
In the history of circumcision one of the most intriguing stories involves Moses, the patriarch who led the Jews out of Egyptian slavery. Moses was married to an Ethiopian woman named Ziporah. Moses’ sister Miriam and his brother Aaron were unhappy about the marriage and said so openly.
Moses’ wife gave birth to a son. Naturally, the question of circumcision arose. Moses was not particularly interested. Moses himself had not been circumcised. The reason was his parent’s attempt to save him from an Egyptian edict that Jewish male children were to be exterminated — an early attempt at what we now call genocide. His parents put him in a little floating tub and dropped it in a stream adjoining the pharaoh’s estate. One of pharaoh’s daughters fell in love with the infant and he grew to manhood in the royal palace.
While Moses was not interested in circumcision, his wife was. With a sharp instrument, she circumcised the child and then smeared some blood on Moses’ toes.
Another fascinating story is the tale of Jews at the time that the Greek despot Antiochus Epiphones ruled Israel. Some upper-class Jews converted to the Greek religion. To avoid any misunderstanding they underwent a most painful bit of surgery to restore the foreskin.