From Joshua 5, we read the following:
At that time the Lord said unto Joshua, make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised. For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord: unto whom the Lord sware that he would not shew them the land, which the Lord sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey. And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way (Joshua 5:2-7).
Circumcision was sign or token of the covenant which God had given to Abraham.
This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant (Genesis 17:10-14).
The Israelites would have been unsuccessful in possessing the land under the leadership of Joshua if they had not first been circumcised, for they would have broken God’s covenant and would have been cut off as the people of God.
Israel’s ongoing covenant relationship with God was dependent on physical circumcision, and being uncircumcised was one of many things which would caused the people of Israel to be cut-off from covenant membership.
In God’s covenant with Israel, there where specific things which would cause the children of Israel to lose their covenant status. Failing to be circumcised was one of them. In Joshua 7 we see another example when Achan sinned terribly in the eyes of God and cause the entire camp of Israel to be cursed.
During the overthrow of Jericho (Joshua 6), the Bible tells us, “Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel” (Joshua 7:1).
God had commanded Israel not touch the any of the accursed things in Jericho and to consecrate the all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron to the Lord.
And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the Lord: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord (Joshua 6:17-19).
Because of Achan’s sin, which defiled the entire camp, Israel failed in their next battle.
And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few. So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water. And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name? (Joshua 7:2-9)
Joshua was unaware of Achan’s sin which had defiled the camp of Israel, and in response to his prayer, God said the following:
“…Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith theLord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you (Joshua 10:-13).
Notice that God tells Joshua, “I will not be with you anymore, except ye destroy the accursed thing from among you.” Israel was called to be a holy people and being Abraham’s physical descendants did not mean that they were automaticly blessed as the people of God.
Joshua did as the Lord commanded.
And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day (v. 24 -26).
Being the descendants of Abraham meant, only, that they had been born into the covenant community, it did not guarantee their blessing. They were required by God to obey His voice or else they would be cut off from the covenant.
Listed below are some example, from scripture, of things which would cause the people of Israel to be cut off from covenant membership.
- The uncircumcised male (Genesis 17:10-14).
- Eating leavened bread during the 7 days of the feast of unleavened bread (Exodus 12:15, 19).
- Making substitute version of the anointing oil, or putting the anointing oil on a stranger (Exodus 30:31-33).
- Making a substitute version of the sweet incense for themselves (Exodus 30:34-38).
- Defiling the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14).
- Eating the t peace offerings while ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 7:20-21).
- Eating the peace offering on the third day (Leviticus 19:5-8).
- Eating the fat of the offerings (Leviticus 7:25).
- Eating or consumed blood (Leviticus 7:27; 17:10, 14).
- Killing an ox, a lamb, or a goat and inside or outside the camp and not bringing it to the tabernacle as an offering to the Lord (Leviticus 17:1-4).
- Offering burnt offerings somewhere other than the altar in the Tabernacle (Leviticus 17:8-9).
- Being sexually immoral (Leviticus 18:29).
- Sacrificing children to Molech (Leviticus 20:1-3).
- Tolerating others who sacrificed their children to Molech (Leviticus 20:4-5).
- Consulting with mediums (familiar spirits)and wizards (Leviticus 20:6).
- Marring and having sex with your sister (Leviticus 20:17)
These are just some (not all) of the offenses recorded in scripture for which a physical descendant of Abraham, under the Law, would be cut off from the covenant. Covenant membership required obedience to God.