A cutting around, because in this rite the foreskin was cut away. God commanded Abraham to use circumcision, as a sign of his covenant; and in obedience to this order, the patriarch, at ninety-nine years of age, was circumcised, as also his son Ishmael, and all the male of his household, Genesis 17:10-12. God repeated the precept to Moses, and ordered that all who intended to partake of the paschal sacrifice should receive circumcision; and that this rite should be performed on children on the eighth day after their birth, Exodus 12:44 Leviticus 12:3 John 7:22. The Jews have always been very exact in observing this ceremony, and it appears that they did not neglect it when in Egypt, Joshua 5:1-9.
All the other nations sprung from Abraham besides the Hebrews, as the Ishmaelites, the Arabians, etc., also retained the practice of circumcision. At the present day it is an essential rite of the Mohammedan religion, and though not enjoined in the Koran, prevails wherever this religion is found. It is also practiced in some form among the Abyssinians, and various tribes of South Africa, as it was by the ancient Egyptians. But there is no proof that it was practiced upon infants, or became a general, national, or religious custom, before God enjoined it upon Abraham.
The Jews esteemed uncircumcision as a very great impurity; and the greatest offence they could receive was to be called "uncircumcised." Paul frequently mentions the Gentiles under this term, not opprobriously, Romans 2.26, in opposition to the Jews, whom he names "the circumcision," etc.
Disputes as to the observances of this rite by the converts from heathenism to Christianity occasioned much trouble in the early church, Acts 15:1-41; and it was long before it was well understood that "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature," Galatians 5:2,3 6:15.
The true circumcision is that of the heart; and those are "uncircumcised in heart and ears," who will not obey the law of God nor embrace the gospel of Christ.