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circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; (Philippians 3:5)
Paul is about to list seven things that he had placed his trust in before he came to the truth. He is establishing his authority to speak on the things he is telling the Philippians. These seven items are all “religion.” If religion could save any man, then Saul of Tarsus was that man.
- The first point is “circumcised the eighth day.” This was a basic rite of the Mosaic Law. (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3). His parents followed the teachings of his religious system faithfully. He had Godly parents.
- Secondly, he was “of the nation of Israel.” He was a native-born He was not a proselyte or convert to Judaism. He was “grafted into” the Jewish belief system. (Rom. 11) Paul was of the right background.
- Next, we see that he is “of the tribe of Benjamin.” Benjamin was the favorite son of his father Paul came from the right tribe – in fact, some believe that he may have been named after the first King of Israel – Saul. The tribe of Benjamin remained true to the Davidic throne when other tribes rebelled against it. He could trace his lineage and genealogy – it places him in the right group.
- Fourthly, he was “a Hebrew of Hebrews.” He was a full-blooded Jew of Hebrew parents. They retained the Hebrew customs and characteristics (Acts 6:1). Paul was educated at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem and knew the Hebrew language and Scriptures. Paul refers to this in Acts 22:3 (KJV) – “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.”
The first four “gains” (verse 7) that Paul speaks of here are the result of his heritage, not his choice. The remaining three are choices that he made for himself.
- Fifthly, “as to the Law, a Pharisee.” Pharisees developed under the time of the Maccabees and were laymen who became experts in the Mosaic Law and championed the traditions of the Jewish religion. They thought that they could bring the Kingdom of God to the earth by political manipulation. Paul was apparently of the school of Hillel since he was a student of Gamaliel. So Paul saw himself as a part of the leadership of the nation of Israel in their religious movement.
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Paul was circumcised on the eighth day. Only God could have known. Clotting factors are as much as much as 110 percent of normal on the eighth day after birth, only a fraction of this the seven days before. But on the eighth day, it is the highest it will be in the child’s life. Dr. S. I. McMillen observes: “From a consideration of vitamin K and prothrombin determinations the perfect day to perform a circumcision is the eighth day . . . [the] day picked by the Creator of vitamin K.” Paul was circumcised exactly as the Mosaic Law stated. So, if there was any boasting to be done on the obedience to the Law, he could rightly do so. The Law mandated that circumcision should be carried out on the eighth day. (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3; Luke 1:59) In all likelihood, by the first century, many Jews lapsed on this for various reasons, being circumcised before or after the eighth day. When we look at proselyte Jews, it was, of course, not done until they were adults. (cf. Acts 16:3) Paul, though, states that his parents complied with the Law.
Of the nation of Israel. Paul was a direct descendant of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) of the tribe of Benjamin. He was not a proselyte Jew, and there were no proselyte Jews in his history. He had the advantage of being able to trace his genealogy to the patriarchs of the Israelite nation. He could set himself apart from the Edomites and others who performed circumcision, from the Samaritans, who were a mixed people. And from even the Jews.
Of the tribe of Benjamin. When the ten tribes revolted under Jeroboam, the tribe of Benjamin and one other remained. The tribe of Benjamin continued its loyalty to God. So, if Paul was to boast, he could do so in that his tribe did not revolt, and he was from honorable Jews. Also, the temple was on the dividing line between the tribe of Benjamin and the tribe of Judah.
A Hebrew of the Hebrews. This is the exaggerated or hyperbolical expression of praise for a Jewish person. The term “Hebrew” is first used in reference to Abram, distinguishing him from his Amorite neighbors. The term “Hebrew” (Ivri) comes from the name Eber (עֵבֶר eber), the great-grandson of Shem and an ancestor of Abraham. (Gen. 11:10-26) Eber is distinguished in the genealogical lists pointing to the blessing on Shem from Noah would be carried out in the descendants of Eber, of which, the Israelites, were to be the principal receivers of that blessing, which includes the apostle Paul. Paul had every benefit which could conceivably be obtained from the truth of his being a Hebrew. He was descended from Abraham; he was from the tribe of Benjamin, more honorable than many others, and he was a Hebrew from both his mother and his father. Paul was entitled to all the benefits obtained from these facts.
As to the law, a Pharisee. Paul knows that the Pharisees, of which he was one, studying under Gamaliel, the world-renowned Jewish teacher of the day, was viewed as the strictest sect of Judaism, observing the Law more than any other. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their inflexible observance of the minutiae of the law and had gone to great extremes to protect it from the prospect of violation by putting a fence around it with a vast number of oral traditions, which they viewed as being equally binding as the written law. So, if one can boast about being from the sect of Judaism that had the most rigid observance to the letter of the law, it was Paul.
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 Saul was Paul’s name before his life-transforming experience with Christ on the road to Damascus. See Acts 9.
 Pharisees were very fundamentalist in their belief system. They believed in the integrity of the Scriptures, angels, the resurrection and miracles. They were extremely nationalistic in their political beliefs.
 The Hasmonean family was led by Mattisyahu and his five sons: Shimon, Yochanan, Yehuda (Judah), Elazar and Yonasan. Mattisyahu was a devout man who could not bear to see Judaism and the Jewish spirit crushed. It was his family that led the revolt against the vastly superior Greek forces. Mattisyahu understood that the battle was far less for national liberation than it was for spiritual and religious liberation. Though Mattisyahu’s valor provided the initial spark for the revolt against the Greeks, he died shortly after the rebellion grew into a full-fledged war. The mantle of leadership passed from Mattisyahu to his son Judah, and with that the course of history was forever changed.
Judah Maccabee was a fearless leader, a brilliant battlefield tactician and a man capable of inspiring thousands to take up arms in the battle for the preservation of Judaism. It was Judah Maccabee who conceived of ways for the Jewish forces to out-maneuver the larger, better equipped and seasoned Greek army. When at last the Jews captured Jerusalem, rededicated the Temple and witnessed the miracle of the oil, it was with Judah Maccabee as the leader of the Hasmonean family and at the head of the Jewish army of liberation. http://www.torah.org/features/ holydays/judahmaccabee.html
 There were two major schools of thought in Phariseeism in the day of Christ and Paul. One was the more liberal school of thought and was attributed to the Rabbi Hillel, and the other was very conservative and was started by the Rabbi Shammai.
 None of These Diseases, 1986, p. 21.