So we have read through the first few chapters of Exodus – seeing God’s wonderful heart as He “hears the cry of the Israelites” and set’s into motion His rescue operation. We watch as He preserves the life of a small Hebrew baby – despite Satan working overtime to manipulate, and in effect thwart God’s plan, by killing all of the Hebrew boys. (Remember – Satan probably heard God tell Abram that his people would be rescued in the “fourth generation” (Gen 15) – so Satan did the math…). Now Moses wasn’t perfect by any means. He reacted in anger – and then committed murder – when defending the Hebrew against the Egyptian. This caused Moses to flee for his life… ending up in the family of Jethro – married to Zipporah (a Midianite).

Setting the stage for a very strange passage in chapter 4 (Ex. 4:24-26). Referred to as “The Bloody Bridegroom” passage – it has perplexed scholars and theologians for ages. It has many times been referred to as one of the most difficult passages in the Word of God to understand… and any casual “google” on the internet will reveal a plethora of opinions on what is really going on here. I have had several people ask me about it – and I have even engaged a few friends about some of the deeper meanings. For the purpose of this blog – I’m simply going to share a few insights and offer some references you can look into if you are curious to go deeper.

First – here is the passage in question…

“And it came to pass by the way of the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said ‘Surely a bloody husband art thou to me’. So he let him go; then she said, ‘A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision’.” Ex 4:24-26 KJV

So what is going on here? Moses has been told by the Lord to return to Egypt and confront Pharaoh with a message. Jethro has given his blessing and the family has head out on their journey to Egypt. But, right in the middle of this journey we are told about a weird encounter between the Lord, Moses, and Zipporah.

Several questions come up here… Why was God angry at Moses? Why did Zipporah step in? What is the point of this situation? Let me try and provide some insight into these questions.

First, remember that in Genesis 17 we learn what circumcision is all about. It is to be a sign of the everlasting covenant between God and the Israelites. Every child born into the family is to be circumcised at 8 days old (in addition to any servants, etc). God also tells Abraham that to fail to do this will require “that soul to be cut off from the people”. In effect, that individual has broken the covenant with God.

So why was God angry at Moses? We can speculate that Moses had failed to obey this commandment. We already know that he and Zipporah had 2 sons – and this may in fact be the younger of the two (Gershom). It seems that Moses had for some reason not had this son circumcised as God had commanded – thus bringing the wrath of God upon him.

So then why did Zipporah step in? Well, if we continue on that same concept of the uncircumcised child, Zipporah would have been fully aware of this and would have immediately stepped in to “save” her husband. Taking it a bit deeper, there are many theologians who speculate that it was Zipporah who had negatively influenced Moses to disobey God in the first place. After all, Zipporah is a Midianite (a NON-Israelite) and obviously, by her reaction, was not one who enjoyed the ceremony of circumcision (a very bloody ceremony as it was). Perhaps after she witnessed the circumcision of her firstborn, Eliezer, then she resisted allowing this same ceremony to be done to Gershom. But, upon seeing what was happening to Moses due to this disobedience, she stepped in and corrected the wrong, thus saving Moses.

Again, this is a difficult passage, with a lot of speculation needed due to not a lot of information provided by the text. Most Biblical scholars agree that what we are witnessing is a disagreement between Moses and Zipporah. It is interesting that Moses (who wrote these first 5 books of the Bible) speaks very sparingly about Zipporah and their two sons. Could this be evidence that they were like any married couple – needing to work out their differences, especially being that she was from a foreign land? In fact, later on in Exodus 18 we are told that Moses actually send Zipporah and their sons back to Midian with Jethro – furthering the thought that this was a major issue for them (Ex 18:2).

So what’s the point? I believe the real issue here isn’t the circumcision or Moses and Zipporah’s possible marital conflicts, but the need for Moses to fully obey the Lord. Moses was on his way to step into leadership over this entire fledgling nation. As any leader, Moses HAD to be an example to the people of full obedience to God. The Covenant between God and Abraham was a major part of who these people were becoming, and for Moses to not obey the sign of this covenant would have proved disastrous for the future of the nation. So, in that light, God needed to come down hard on Moses right at the get go – to ensure his obedience in future dealings.

Because this was all prior to Jesus coming as the final sacrifice for sin – Moses was placed in a precarious situation due to his disobedience. BUT (and here is the main focus) – despite all of this… we still see God’s loving mercy and grace in action! Moses was guilty of breaking the covenant with God, that punishment was laid out as “to be cut off”. It was Zipporah who stepped in and corrected the mistake… not Moses. Yet, God, in His wonderful grace, chose to accept that act of Zipporah’s and spare Moses the punishment due him.

All in all, as we continue to read through the story of Scripture, it is important to keep the overall theme in mind. With a casual glance it appears that God is mean and overly harsh towards Moses at a seemingly benign infraction. (I have heard some even accuse God of wanting to kill Moses here – which just doesn’t fit the character we have seen since Gen 1). In fact, we can see that what is really happening is that God knows the future plans He has for not only Moses, but this nation as a whole. Eventually, through these people’s bloodline, Jesus would come and provide salvation for us all. So, what can be seen as a “benign infraction” is actually a major misstep which could sidetrack the plan for future salvation for all of mankind! Hence, why God needed his first leader to obey Him in all things.

If you are interested in reading further – here is a great article on this subject.

Be Fruitful & Multiply,