The following was written concerning circumcision and the Sabbath.
“On another occasion, the Lord condemned the formalism of the Jews in regard to the sabbath by drawing attention to another law which took precedence over the sabbath and which they were commanded to obey even though it might require the breaking of the sabbath.
This greater law related to the rite of circumcision.
The Law of Moses required that on the eighth day a Jewish boy should be circumcised. But sometimes the eighth day of a boy’s life fell on a sabbath. The question then arose as to which law was the greater, and which law should be broken to fulfil the other. Should circumcision be waived and the sabbath observed? Or should the sabbath be waived and the rite of circumcision observed?
The Law taught that precedence should be given to the rite of circumcision because (and let the reader not this if he believes that the sabbath law was binding prior to the days of Moses) circumcision came from Abraham, and the sabbath from Moses. Christ explained:
“Moses gave you circumcision (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers – i.e. Abraham); and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?” (John 7:22-23).
If the law of circumcision took precedence over the sabbath law, on what grounds can some teach that the sabbath law is binding on believers, but the law of circumcision is not? Only by closing their eyes to the Scriptural facts.
Why should the law of circumcision take precedence over that of the sabbath? Because circumcision was the token of the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 17:10-11) that was confirmed by the perfect sacrifice of Christ (Romans 15:8); whereas the sabbath was a token of the Mosaic covenant (Exodus 31:17), confirmed by inefficacious animal sacrifices (Hebrews 9:19). As the Abrahamic covenant superseded the Mosaic covenant (Hebrews 8:8), so the Law beautifully taught this principle by superceding the importance of one by the other.”
The account in John 7 did NOT teach that circumcision takes precedence over the Sabbath.
John 7:21 Yeshua answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and you all marvel.
He is referring to his healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath in John 5.
John 7:22-23 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and you on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are you angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?
The key here is that circumcision was done on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses should not be broken. That can be applied two ways. 1) Circumcision was done so that the law of circumcision should not be broken or 2) so that the Sabbath should not be broken. Which is it? Or is it both?
The act of circumcising on the Sabbath would definitely prevent the commandment to circumcise on the eighth day from being broken and forbidding circumcision on the Sabbath would keep the Sabbath from being broken. However, the Jewish intent was so that the “Law of Moses” should not be broken; not just the circumcision commandment, but the Sabbath as well since that was a Law of Moses. How was the Sabbath not broken?
Obviously, circumcising on the Sabbath was not considered the kind of work that breaks the Sabbath. There are several kinds of work that were permissible on the Sabbath including the work of the priests in offering sacrifices and works of healing (saving life or health always takes precedence over any law). Yeshua’s healing of the man at the pool could not be a transgression of the Sabbath or else Yeshua would have sinned. Yet, he was sinless. Therefore, his healing work was permissible.
Yeshua uses the example of circumcising on the Sabbath in order to justify his healing a man on the Sabbath. For if circumcision can be performed on one part of the body on the Sabbath, then surely a healing can be performed on the entire body on the Sabbath.
In both cases, life and/or health took precedence. In healing the man, his health took precedence and in circumcising a male child, its life took precedence. How?
Gen 17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.
Also, to not circumcise under the Sinai Covenant was sin and broke the covenant. The wages of sin is death. Therefore, under the Sinai Covenant, circumcision was a matter of life or death.
So, it was not circumcision taking precedence over the Sabbath, but health and life taking precedence over both. Conducting the circumcision as Yahweh commanded would prevent death and allow the child to keep the Sabbath all the days of his life. Both commandments remain unbroken.
John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
This account makes it appear as though circumcision is taking precedence over the Sabbath, but upon looking deeper into it, it was not.
Yeshua said, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30)
“Righteous judgment” cannot be rendered unless the will of Yahweh is done. If circumcision takes precedence over the Sabbath, then the Sabbath is broken. That is not Yahweh’s will. If health and/or life take precedence, that is Yahweh’s will and that is what is happening in this account.