DIG: What failure on the part of Moses almost kills him? Who does God hold responsible for this sin? Why?
REFLECT: The man is responsible for what goes on in the marriage. (See my commentary on Genesis Lv - I Do Not Permit a Woman to Teach or Have Authority Over a Man, She Must Be Silent, for further detail). Men, how can you make sure you don’t get sidetracked from fulfilling God’s plans for you in your marriage?
The flow of the previous verses seems to be rudely interrupted by this incident. At a lodging place on the way, ADONAI met Moses and was about to kill him (4:24). This probably meant that Moses was stricken with some type of fatal illness that would surely take his life. The death sentence was pronounced on any who would violate the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:14); therefore, Moses was held responsible and God sought to kill him because he had failed to circumcise his second son.
While the Midianites also practiced circumcision, it would have been a kind of puberty rite of passage for them (and other Semitic peoples as well). Thus, to the child’s mother, the practice of circumcising babies would have been unexpected at best and repulsive at worst. Moses had circumcised his first son, but not his second son. When the second child was born, Zipporah may have possibly resisted, by saying, “You have done this with the first boy, but not again. Not with my son!”67
She didn’t like the idea, and probably raised such a ruckus that Moses went along with her wishes. But the result was that Moses was living in a state of disobedience, and because he was living in a state of disobedience, how could he be Israel’s deliverer? He needed to get his own house in order because he had forgotten the very foundation sign of Israel’s covenant relationship with ADONAI. Before delivering Israel, he was reminded that without circumcision an Israelite would be cut off from the covenant (Joshua 5:3-9).68 In other words, if the child’s foreskin were not cut off, He would be cut off from the people of God.
What we see here is the zeal with which God guards this most important rite. Moses can argue, pout, whine and hold his breath about going to Egypt and God would deal patiently with him – but circumcision was another matter. Failure to circumcise his second child met with swift punishment.69
Therefore, at the critical moment, when Moses’ life hung in the balance and was rendered helpless, she did what she had objected to before. She took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin even though she was surely repulsed by it. In her anger, she touched Moses’ feet with it, saying: Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me (4:25). She said this because Moses had been as good as taken from her by the deadly attack upon him. She purchased his life by the blood of her son; she received him back, as it were, from the dead and married him once more. He was in fact, a bridegroom of blood to her.70 But once the problem of circumcision was taken care of, God let him alone (4:26).
At this point Zipporah disappears from the Biblical record until we get to 18:2, where we are told that she was being brought back to Moses after being sent away. In all likelihood, because of her objection to following the Abrahamic Covenant, Zipporah and her two sons had been sent back to Midian and had missed a first hand account of all the miracles that ADONAI would perform against the gods of Egypt.71 They would not see each other again until Moses and all the people of Isra'el are gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai.
For both believers and unbelievers alike, sin has its consequences. Zipporah missed many of the miracles of God because of her objection to following His direction. Let that not be said of us. Let us embrace His Word in obedience and faith. Then we, like the righteous of the TaNaKh will be blessed. The righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017