The Feud Between Moses and Zipporah Over Circumcision Explained

Exodus 4:25, Cut off the foreskin. Presumable, Moses would have already been circumcised by his mother when he was a baby, thus he was consecrated in YHVH’s eyes. However, for Moses to continue forward in his ministry call, it was necessary for him to consecrate his minor sons through the ritual act of circumcision in accordance with the Abrahamic Covenant. What is the lesson in this for us today? Simply this. A servant of YHVH must get his own spiritual house in order before pointing an accusing finger at someone else. If he doesn’t, he will be revealed as an arrogant, two-faced hypocrite thus bringing disrepute to YHVH as a laughing stock of the devil resulting in hindering the advancement of his kingdom. YHVH required this of Moses before confronting Pharaoh accusingly.

The cutting away of the flesh of the foreskin symbolically signifies the death of the carnal man from following idols of the flesh and dying to the lusts. The foreskin being at the forefront or the leading edge of a man’s anatomy represents cutting away the filthy flesh and going forward spiritually in a clean, righteous and sanctified state. One’s willingness to undergo this procedure indicates a willingness go forward as the Creator’s spiritual bondservant.

Zipporah. Why did Moses expect Zipporah to circumcise his sons? This is a question that has puzzled many Bible students over the years. To answer this question, we must understand the role of the mother in ancient Near East culture during Bible times. The mother was the sole manager of the household. Because ancient Israel was a subsistence economy, a household’s resources had to be managed carefully, and this was the woman’s responsibility. She directed the preservation and storage of food and allotted food rations to each family member to assure that everyone in the household was fed and the food lasted until the next harvest cycle. “In the world of ancient Israel, a man’s home was his wife’s castle She had the domestic authority which he did not” (Social World of Ancient Israel, p. 25, by Matthews and Benjamin). The mother’s dominant role over the household including the children perhaps explains why Moses expected Zipporah to circumcise his two sons (Exod 4:25–26). 

For the mother, childbearing and teaching children were synonymous roles. The Book of Proverbs shows the dual role of the mother (Prov 1:8; 6:20; 23:22–25; 31:1–9).

A mother’s intimate bond to her children not only last through pregnancy and infancy, but through the weaning process, which often didn’t occur until the child was four years of age. After teaching them how to walk, talk, dress themselves, she taught the child the domestic skills of gardening, cooking herding, weaving and making pottery (Social World of Ancient Israel, p. 28, by Matthews and Benjamin).


6 thoughts on “The Feud Between Moses and Zipporah Over Circumcision Explained

    • All I know is what the verse says. It doesn’t say the other son wasn’t circumcised. I suspect that this was her response after she circumcised the first son and before she was about to circumcise the second. Don’t know. The Bible doesn’t say. It only says what her response was after the first circumcision. We can’t infer anything beyond that without venturing into speculation, so I can’t go there.

  1. So the mother was the mohel? interesting-I thought since Zipporah was the daughter of Jethro that this was a foreign practice to her since Jethro was a Midianite priest does that mean he was an idolater or at least not a part of God’s people as yet if ever? Can you clarify please?

    • The answer to your question is another question. Who was Midian? Genesis 25:2 tells us that Midian was the son of Abraham by Keturah. So Jethro/Yitro was a direct descendant of Abraham as much as Moses was. Abraham was likely his grandfather or great grandfather. He may have even known Abraham, since Midian was born some time after Isaac. So Yitro was likely NOT a heathen, but a worshiper of YHVH and one who certainly knew about the circumcision ritual. How do we know this? Exod 18:9–11 certainly indicates that Yitro acknowledged and even worshipped Elohim. He even made a burnt offering sacrifice to YHVH (v. 12) He even acknowledged the validity of the Torah (vv. 20). No, Yitro was no heathen, but an Elohim-fearing man, who even respected Torah.

      • If Abraham’s wife In happens s age had a son named Midian who se descendants settled in western Saudi Arabia, then it makes sense to me that the ritual of circumcision was not imposed on Keturah’s male offspring in Abraham’s later years. The Midianites knew about and respected the Great d of Abraham. Jethro the spriest Of Midian was able to make sense of Moses story because of their common ancestry. I might reduce that since Midianites did not require circumcision, then it would likely have been extreme or offensive to their culture.

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