I had a friend post what seems to be a simple question the other day coming out of Exodus 4:24-26. The simpleness is only in the question, the passage is pretty tough. I thought I’d try to give a response in a reply but quickly realized it was way too lengthy to put in a reply. Then I realized that others who’ve been reading through the Bible daily would probably come away scratching their heads as well. This has prompted me to drop into “teacher mode” and try to shed some light, and hopefully understanding,
on the passage.
<Taking a deep breath> This is going to take a few sentences to explain, so bear with me.
God made a covenant with Abram and promised him Canaan as an inheritance. He also stated that the Israelites would be slaves in a foreign land for 400 years but would come out in the fourth generation. This was part of the covenant and God was obliged to keep it.
Here’s an interesting twist: we know that Satan’s end is the lake of fire; Satan also knows this and will do everything in his power to stop it from happening. His only solution is to try and break one or more of the promises of God — if God said that it would happen and he (Satan) somehow stops it from taking place, then God is a liar and has no right to judge him.
When God made the covenant with Abram, the devil knew that in the fourth generation something would happen which would enable the children of Israel to leave Egypt and go to the promised land. He watched and waited. He knew that God had promised a Savior but didn’t know when He would come — perhaps in the “fourth generation.” The fourth generation came and Satan engineered the killing of the Hebrew boys in Exodus 1:15-22 in an attempt to kill the would be deliverer. But one escaped – Moses. However, because he
was taken into Pharaoh’s house, he no longer posed a threat. That is until, as a young man, Moses started to show an interest in his own people and one day went to the rescue of one of them and murdered his Egyptian oppressor.
Moses has to boogie. Again, potential threat to Satan neutralized.
Forty years later God calls Moses to bring the people out of Egypt in fulfillment of the promise to Abram. Not a good thing from Satan’s perspective. Pulling aside the curtain prior to the burning bush episode, during those forty years, Satan gets worried and goes to see God. “God, you told Noah that if a man kills another man you will demand his blood (Genesis 9:5-6). Moses is a murderer — I remind you of what you said and I demand his blood.”
There’s no way to sugar coat what Moses did — it was murder, pure and simple. If you have any doubt of that, read the story in Exodus 2. The key verse is 12: ”He looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no one, he killed the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.”
The ironic part is that the killing wasn’t even necessary. Moses could have easily ordered the Egyptian to leave the Israelite alone — Moses was the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and would have been easily recognized. He had the authority of power (check out Acts 7:22) but chose instead to murder him and conceal the evidence. It was calculated murder.
So, God, bound by his own word, set out to kill Moses.
Stop the story right here. Let’s backtrack for a moment.
Moses had to boogie big time to Egypt because Pharaoh wanted to kill him. He fled to , settled down and married a shepherd girl. He might have been having an an identity crisis, not knowing if he was a Hebrew, an Egyptian (Zipporah told her father that it was an Egyptian that had rescued them; Exodus 2:19). Maybe he decided to become Midianite and forget his past, assuming that he’s messed up big time and was on the run. In 2:21 we’re told that “Moses was content to dwell with the man (Jethro),” meaning that at least for the time being he would accept the authority and customs of his father-in-law. Jethro being a priest would have probably had quite an impact on Moses at that point.
An important history lesson. The Midianites were descended from Midian, a son of Abraham through Keturah. They, and the rest of Abraham’s children, were separate from the covenant promises. Isaac was the only exception because he was the only heir.
Since the covenant was to be continued exclusively through Isaac it would not make any sense for the rest of Abraham’s children to continue with the practice of circumcision. Circumcision was a token of the covenant from which they were excluded and their own circumcision would only serve as a reminder of that exclusion. There was no reason for them to have circumcised their sons. In fact, if Moses had circumcised his sons it would have created a chasm between himself and Zipmily. This division would have made it impossible for Moses to have continued living with them.
Though Hebrews 11 makes mention of Moses being a man of faith, it is in reference to Moses AFTER his return to Egypt. Moses had little faith prior to the burning bush episode. Any conception that he held that he might be the deliverer of Israel had become a big misconception — actually a fiasco, at least from Moses’ perception. It seems very probable that he no longer even considered himself a member of the the Israelite family. He was far from the hero of the faith he was to become.
This puts Moses, on the lam, hiding out in the desert with bedouin sbedouinrders, married to a country girl and working for his preacher father-in-law. The only thing missing was a single-wide trailer and a broken down washing machine rusting in the front yard. Not much of a threat to Satan at that point.
Fast forward to the burning bush — it’s now showtime s about to shake everything up.
Now we’re back to God about to kill Moses.
Mrs. Moses (Zipporah) literally jumps in, slices the foreskin off of her little son and drops to her knees, touching Moses’ foot with the bloody flesh. What’s going on here?
There are at least two explanations that make sense. Both are based on how you understand the phrase “the LORD met him” in verse 24. 1) Moses was simply sleeping when the LORD came to meet with him and kill him and Zipporah, sleeping lightly as mothers of small children do, responded to the suddenness of the situation knowing that precious time would be lost in stirring her sleeping husband. 2) Moses was awake “meeting with the LORD” (it was more than likely a monologue with the added threat of the angel of the LORD standing there with drawn sword) and therefore couldn’t just turn away to do the circumcision himself.
Whatever it might have been, Zipporah wasted no time, quickly taking a flint knife and cutting off her son’s foreskin, then touching Moses’ feet with it. This saved his life (the reason she touched his feet with the foreskin was a symbolic act of showing that she was a submissive wife and that she only did the circumcision because of the necessity of the situation). It must be noted that this expression of submission shows that Zipporah acted on her own initiative and not at the command or bequest of Moses, thereby proving that Moses had no part whatsoever in the circumcision of his son (if Moses had indeed instructed Zipporah to perform the circumcision then she would have had no need to show her submission in such a way).
In the Hebrew text Zipporah referred to Moses as being her “bridegroom of blood,” not her “husband of blood.” She was making reference to a new beginning in their relationship based upon the realization that Moses’ God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, was the one true God. The LORD “left him alone” as a direct result of Zipporah’s actions. It appears rather obvious that she understood the signficasignificanceumcision as proof of acceptance of the Abrahamic covenant and its promises. In a flash she fully understood the implication of the angel of the LORD about to turn out her husband’s lights — Moses is THE deliverer but his past has caught up with him and he’s about to lose it all. Her quick response not only saves her husband’s life, it insures her and her sons’ place as the family of the Holy One of the LORD.
Why did the circumcision save Moses’ life? The only thing that could save Moses from Satan’s charge of sin was blood being shed to pay for the sin. In one brilliant action, Zipporah paid the blood ransom and made her son a true Israelite (and brought Moses back into the Hebrew blood line by fulfilling his role as a Hebrew father who is supposed to ensure his sons’ compliance with the Abrahamic Covenant).
But why did God wait for forty years before bringing judgemenjudgments? For those forty years Pharaoh was still seeking Moses’ life and therefore there was still ‘due process’. It was only when all those who sought his life had all died, and Moses was sent to deliver the Israelites from Egypt that Satan had no choice but to bring the charge of murderer before the throne of God himself.
So back to our question — why was God planning on killing Moses? Moses was a murderer and accused by Satan. Satan hoped that God’s promise to Abram would be broken, making God to be a liar and therefore not fit to sit in judgment over him. Zipporah foiled his plan and ensured that God’s purpose would continue all the way to Golgotha.
Never underestimate the Evil One’s tenacity.