Scripture: At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” Exodus 4:24-25 ESV
Observation: Now that Yahweh has communicated all of Moses’ pre-mission instructions, Moses commences to Egypt with family in tow. Along the way, the Lord again presents himself to Moses, but this time as his adversary. Why? Because he failed to uphold the sacred right of dedicating the male newborn to God through the act of circumcision (verse 26). So Zipporah takes action to appease God’s wrath by performing the circumcision rite on one of their sons and proceeds to drop the foreskin at Abraham’s feet, declaring he is a “bridegroom of blood” to her.
This perplexing pericope presents two questions regarding the near-fatal abort of Moses’ Exodus mission. First, which son did Zipporah circumcise? If Moses had circumcised neither child, the oldest makes the most sense since he is the first fruit of Moses’ loin. Otherwise, it is likely the youngest. Secondly, what does “bridegroom of blood” mean? Scholars provide a wide range of possibilities, but Zipporah’s cultural background provides the best clue. Midianites did not circumcise their sons and likely considered the act a crude and bloody mess. Thus, Zipporah probably voiced her disgust and resentment for having to do the work herself by calling Moses her “bloody husband” (P. Middlekoop, The Significance of the Story of the “Bloody Husband”).
Takeaway: Regardless of the underlying meaning of “bridegroom of blood,” we do know that Moses failed to follow the rite of his forefather Abraham’s covenant with God with at least one son. Why? Was he people-pleasing: avoiding a conflict with his wife, who found the whole matter off-putting? Or did he deem circumcision an option in light of the urgent mission? Again, we can only conjecture, but taking God’s commands lightly, choosing which or when to obey them, will not do for the future leader of God’s people. Moses would learn his lesson from this incident, which further prepared him to step into his role as God’s spokesperson in the face of adversity.
The same applies to you and me. Although we are guilty from time to time of choosing which and when of God’s covenantal laws to obey, there is no room for à la carte Christians in God’s kingdom work. But there is plenty of space for grace: for repenting, receiving forgiveness, and being restored, that we might carry on with our Lord’s mission.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who faithfully completed his mission without a misstep. Would you please help us when we fall short of the mark to repent without delay and receive your forgiveness and restoration that we might carry on with your kingdom work? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling