Study Guide

Zipporah in Book of Exodus

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Zipporah? We hardly know her-ah!

Okay, just had to get that out of our system.

Zipporah is Moses's wife. And given the lack of home-life information we have on Moses, you'd think this lady would be a good source of material. Well, sorry to disappoint, but Zipporah just doesn't get that much screen time. After all, family drama is the stuff of Genesis.

Jethro gives Zipporah to Moses as a thank-you in 2:21-22 after Moses saves Jethro's daughters. Sounds a little strange, but that's just the way the ancient world worked—you could give your daughters away as presents. We have no idea how Zipporah felt about the situation because the writers just don't care. Exodus is all about Moses as a political leader, not Moses as cuddly hubby.

But Zipporah does get one totally insane scene. Moses is on his way back to Egypt, and this happens:

On the way, at a place where they spent the night, the Lord met him and tried to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin, and touched Moses's feet with it, and said, "Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!" So he let him alone. It was then she said, "A bridegroom of blood by circumcision." (4.24-26)

Say what?

Let's do a quick rundown here. First, we have no idea who God tried to kill (Moses or his son)—or why, for that matter. And aside from funky pronouns, we see Zipporah, a Midian girl, performing an Israelite ritual function (circumcision) that protects the family. Is this her conversion scene?

Are the Kids All Right?

While all the commotion is going on in Egypt, it's unclear where Zipporah and Moses's kids are. Take a gander at this passage:

Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro took her back, along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, "I have been an alien in a foreign land"), and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, "The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh"). Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came into the wilderness where Moses was encamped at the mountain of God, bringing Moses' sons and wife to him. He sent word to Moses, "I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you, with your wife and her two sons." (18:1-6)

Hmmm. Were Moses and Zipporah fighting, or did Moses send her away for her safety? Who's bringing whom where? The point is, the text doesn't care very much about Zipporah; this scene is about the man-meeting between Moses and Jethro. The kids and the wife are just footnotes.

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