BAR (see earlier posts) is chock full of good stuff!
An article on circumcision points out that Israel wasn't the only nation practicing it, and that others did so usually in a puberty rite, declaring a man prepared for marriage, manhood, or both. This goes a long way to explain Genesis 34:14-17; 1 Samuel 18:25 and Exodus 4:25-26.
Also, other nations did the deed a bit differently than Israel (the article gets uncomfortably clear!). But the payoff is worth it; it helps explain Joshua 5:2 and Exodus 4:25-26. Although Moses and the Israelites may have been circumcised in an Egyptian style, it wasn't a religious commitment sufficient for God, nor, frankly, had enough been cut off. Have we shed all the world's corruptions, as God's people redeemed from Egypt, preparing to enter the Promised Land? Or is God calling you to greater obedience? Don't be conformed to the world...
Reformed folk believe baptism is the new covenant, more-inclusive and bloodless sacrament, replacing circumcision (Colossians 2:11-12). In that light, these words from the article were interesting to carry into my baptism:
"For the Israelites, circumcision... was the principl sign of Israel's covenant relationship with Yahweh.... The purpose... was to remind the Israelite male of his covenant with God... a sign for the individual Israelite, reminding him of his covenantal obligations; it is not a sign identifying Israelites to the outside world."
True, not a sign FOR the outside world, perhaps, but it does distinguish whether you are part God's covenant or not.