Forty women: 15. Zipporah

Marrying a foreigner is a risky business in the Old Testament. Sometimes it works out well, as it did for Boaz. And sometimes it’s a disaster, as it was for Solomon. But for Moses, it seems to have saved his life.

He’s come home from meeting Yahweh in the bush that burned but wasn’t destroyed and now he’s got to return to Egypt, to rescue the Israelites. And he’s taking his family with him. Zipporah and her sons are loaded onto a donkey, while Moses walks alongside with the staff that God gave him. But it takes a while and they have to stop overnight.

At which point, the Lord is on the point of killing Moses. It’s not the first time his life has been at risk, of course. And it’s not the first time that a woman saves him.

Zipporah steps in to save her husband. She does the obvious thing:

‘But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)’ (Exodus 4:25-26).

I mean, your guess is as good as mine.

Circumcision, of course, was a sign of the covenant God had made with Abraham. Presumably Moses had been circumcised as a baby, but it seems as though his sons had not. Perhaps God’s action against Moses was because his family did not bear that covenant sign, because they still lived as foreigners. Perhaps Zipporah’s action signifies her commitment to Moses’s God, Moses’s people. Whatever is going on, it works. The blood propitiates God’s anger against Moses. The blood from the circumcision keeps him safe. Gives him life.

Moses is her bridegroom, her husband. Now he becomes a ‘bridegroom of blood’.

We too have a bridegroom, of course. A bridegroom of blood. Blood from his circumcision. Blood that poured from his side. Blood that propitiates God’s anger against us. Keeps us safe. Gives us life.

I have no idea how Zipporah knew what to do. But I know she did the right thing.

Forty women: 16. Miriam