One of the most enigmatic Torah events (that, frankly, runs contrary to our modern logic) is found in Exodus 4:24-26. There, after commissioning Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God came to kill him (Ex.4:24-26). What follows is the NASB translation along with several of my own modifications as supported by the Hebrew text. I am indebted to Michael Heiser for the core idea discussed in this article.
It happened on the way to the lodging place that the LORD met him [Moses] and sought his death (וַיְבַקֵּשׁ הֲמִיתוֹ). Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched his feet (וַתַּגַּע לְרַגְלָיו), and she said, “This is because you are a bridegroom of blood to me” (כִּי חֲתַן-דָּמִים אַתָּה לִי). So He let him alone. At that time, she said, “You – a bridegroom of blood” – because of the circumcision.
The key to this passage lies in realizing that Moses was not properly circumcised. Growing up in the Egypt, Moses and the rest of Israelites did not fully remove the male’s foreskin (growing up in the Egyptian Royal home, it could not have been otherwise). In the time of Joshua, Israelites went through a second, proper circumcision, where foreskin was fully removed (Josh. 5:2-3). All of this sounds trivial, gross, and strange to the ears of modern Christian believers, but clearly it was not how YHWH saw this situation. In other words, Israelites could be delivered while still being uncircumcised, but the leader of the Exodus would be held to a higher standard.
Moses was about to embark on “Operation Exodus” without the sign of the Abrahamic covenant on him or his son Gershom. When God came to seek his life, Moses’ Medianite wife Zipporah intervened to save him. God’s wrath was turned away by the blood of the son and decisive redemptive action of a Midianite woman.
This explains God’s seemingly strange behavior. But how can we understand the words of Zipporah (“You are bridegroom of blood to me”)?
Circumcision was not only a sign to the man of his entrance into the Abrahamic covenant. It also served as a sign to his bride that the man she was marrying was, in fact, a worshiper of the Most High God. A man who was properly circumcised was a “bridegroom of blood” to her.
But why did Zipporah touch the foreskin of Gershom to the “feet” of Moses? The most likely scenario is that the “feet” of Moses refers to Moses’ procreative organ (a common euphemism in the Hebrew Bible).
At the time, Moses’ procreative organ was not properly marked with the sign of Abrahamic covenant. After (properly) circumcising Gershom, Zipporah touched Moses’ procreative organ as if he was already properly circumcised. When this great woman of faith did that, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob spared the life of Moses, making him ready to deliver God’s Ancient people. We invite you to delay no longer and commit to discovering the original meaning of the Hebrew Bible. Register below and begin your journey of discovery.
The Bible is full of passages like this – passages that leave many people confused and perplexed. The key to understanding these “confusing” passages is to gain a better understanding of the Bible’s Jewish context.