Okay. I'm sure everyone who read through Exodus remembers this scene:

"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!' So he let him alone. It was then that she said, 'A bridegroom of blood,' because of the circumcision."

When I came across this part of Exodus, my response was like Dana's last year after she read about goat breeding in Genesis: "WHAAAAT?" Strangely enough, I don't remember reading this passage last year. What on earth does it mean, and is it of any significance to the story of Moses?
There are so many questions to be asked in just these few verses. Why did Zipporah circumcise their son? Why did she touch Moses with it? What did she mean by "a bridegroom of blood?" Why were her actions able to save Moses' life? The first question, however, is in verse 24: "At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death." The Lord just told Moses to return to Egypt, and after whining about it, Moses finally sets out to go. But on his way, the Lord sought to put him to death. What? Why?
     I found one source that contains the opinions of 3 scholars. In his article, "The 'Bloody Bridegroom,'" Ronald B. Allen poses basically the same questions that I posed and asks for thoughts from scholars Brevard Childs, Walter C. Kaiser, and John Durham.

Why did the Lord seek to kill Moses?
- Childs and Durham agree that Moses was guilty of being uncircumcised, and the Lord was angry with him for not keeping the covenant he established with Abraham in Genesis 17: 9-14. 
- While Kaiser believes that the cause for God's anger is unknown, he concludes that the "sudden introduction of Zipporah's action leads us to believe that she instinctively connected her husband's peril with their failure to circumcise their son. "

Why did Zipporah cut off their son's foreskin?
- Childs says that Zipporah did it because Moses simply failed to do it.
- Kaiser believes that their son had not been circumcised possibly because of a dispute between Zipporah and Moses. She only acts to save Moses' life, but she is disgusted by their son's circumcision in her sarcastic words that follow.
- Durham states, "Zipporah circumcised her son, because if she had circumcised Moses, he would have been incapacitated for his journey." (I found this comment amusing)
Picture


If you're curious as to what a flint rock looks like, here are two examples.

This is a Naqada flint knife with ivory handle. It dates back to 3200 B.C.

Although the image below looks like raw chicken, it also is an old piece of flint. It dates back to 4000 B.C.                      

Why did she touch Moses' feet with the
foreskin?
- Childs says, "The smearing of the blood
serves as a visible demonstration that circumcision had indeed been  performed."
- Kaiser believes that Moses had nearly forfeited his right to serve God because of being uncircumcised, and Zipporah's touching
his feet was to underscore the connection between his serious condition and the
circumcision of their son.
- Durham thinks that Zipporah touched Moses to transfer the effects of the rite of circumcision to him. 

What did she mean by "a bridegroom of
blood?"
- Childs believes that the meaning of her
mysterious words are unanswered.
- Kaiser thinks they are merely words of reproach, indicating that she disapproved of their son's rite of circumcision.
- Durham states, "The phrase 'a bridegroom of blood' was an ancient formula recalling circumcision as a premarital rite."

     While these three scholars have differing views on the subject, they all three agree to the final question of the significance of this scene. They believe that it serves to reiterate the importance of circumcision among God's people, the Israelites.

     After researching this topic, I have come to this basic conclusion: God was upset with Moses for not being circumcised, so Zipporah circumcised their son and touch Moses with the foreskin to appease the wrath of God. After the wrong was corrected, Moses' life was spared. 
     Although it still seems strange to me, this seems like the most logical conclusion. Why would Zipporah do what she did if she didn't know that it would save her husband's life? Apparently, she knew why God was angry.
    
     If the significance of this scene is to indeed reiterate the importance of the circumcision covenant, I think it odd that it was placed at this particular time in the story. It doesn't flow. God sends Moses to Egypt; but in the midst of his journey, we're reminded of the circumcision covenant? It's just an strange break in the literature. Why didn't God wait until they were alone in their tent and make a huge scene out of it to really emphasize the importance of circumcision? I guess that can't be answered. The placement of that scene just slightly bugs me.

What do you think about this scene?
 


Comments

Jan Case
10/04/2012 6:16pm

I'm afraid we're going to have to part ways here in looking at the act as a way to appease the wrath of God. I think that Western Christianity has done a great disservice to our faith by promoting ideas of "sinners in the hands of an angry God." And besides, how could an act of Zipporah change God's mind regarding an act of Moses?

I agree that the incident doesn't flow in the story at all. There is a parallel story in the Apocryphal book of Tobit (It starts in Chapter 6) about a demon who keeps killing a woman's husbands when they try to get into her bed. The demon departs when the 8th bridegroom dumps some stinky fish innards into the incense. The demon was appeased (or disgusted) and the bridegroom was saved.

It's an odd situation, but a demonic attack is better (at least to me) than a God attack. As God revealed himself to humanity through history, we've had some pretty crazy primitive superstitions as we've tried to understand the great mystery of the divine. For some reason the compilers of the canon decided that tales such as these have value as believers still seek to understand the mind of God.

Reply
10/26/2012 7:35pm

I agree with your question "how could an act of Zipporah change God's mind regarding an act of Moses?" That was another act within the story that confused me. I have never heard about that story in the Apocrypha. That's so interesting how it parallels to this incident. I'll have to check that out sometime!

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faith
04/23/2013 10:38am

i wonder if this is another foreshadow of the coming Messiah; who covered others sin

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Daniel
05/01/2013 8:36am

God was telling Moses to tell Pharaoh to let His people worship Him. Worship is not singing, it is a surrendered life to God. Obedience to God's commands are the evidence of our worship. Circumcision was part of God's law for His people the Israelites, and as Moses was now to call His people to worship God wanted to show him the importance of his integrity and obedience. Moses had to practice what he preached, and the area of circumcision was something neglected on his part. He had to first obey God himself before he could tell others to obey God. In this light the story is not randomly placed. Rather, it is just in the right place. The lesson I take from it is that we need to be obedient to God before we tell others to obey Him. We cannot be hypocritical in our faith. God bless you!

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Ty Babs-Alli
09/14/2013 2:23pm

Why the story is at variance is because it is misinterpreted. A part of the story ends on verse 24 while a different event starts from 25. Till 24, Pharaoh's first born son was the subject. God locks his intent on him and by extension all of Egypt's first born. The threat of death was not on Moses but on Pharaoh's son. 25 starts with Zipporah performing the circumcision on their grown son. Moses held him down so Zipporah had to do it, although she was disgusted with the whole thing since she was not Jewish. That was why she threw the foreskin at Moses' feet and called him a bridegroom of blood, she didn't see the need to shed the boy's blood. If God minded Moses not being circumcised He would not choose to use Him the way He did and besides that, He would have instructed him to get circumcised. The uncircumcision of the son does not bring death to the father, check the scriptures, so why would the son's circumcision prevent the father's death. It is theological but later translations of the Bible, though easily read are not easily understood. Read the story in context in KJV and break it up. It makes more thematic sense.

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Pietas
12/22/2013 1:37am

No! God never sought to kill Moses. Everyone assumes this because every bible school teaches it! All bible schools are controlled by Masonic Zionists!
Read:
http://www.kjvtoday.com/home/is-the-kjv-confusing-in-exodus-424-26

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