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).


Following YHVH Can Be Tough on Marriages

Genesis 22:19; 23:2, Abraham dwelt at Beersheba…Sarah died in…Hebron. At this point, Abraham and Sarah lived in two separate towns some 50 miles apart. Why was this? The Scriptures don’s say, so we can only speculate. Perhaps the trial of Abraham’s faith in the previous chapter where YHVH asked him to sacrifice Isaac and Abraham’s compliance to do so put such a strain on their marriage that they separated. Perhaps the idea that YHVH would ask Abraham to sacrifice their only son was so hard for Sarah to believe that she questioned whether Abraham had even heard correctly from YHVH about this.

20243059Whatever the case, following YHVH can be tough on marriages and families as Yeshua notes in Matthew 10:34–39. Sometimes families split as a result. Abraham wasn’t unique in his situation.

In Exodus 4:24–26, in all likelihood, Zipporah and Moses split up over YHVH’s request to circumcise their two sons, for we never hear of Zipporah again, except that Moses had sent her away (Exod 18:2). Some Bible scholars take this mean that he put her away or divorced her (likely because of her refusal to follow him onto the mission field). Later, we find Moses remarrying a Cushite woman (who was likely black; Num 12:1).

David had to leave his first wife Michal, the daughter of Saul, because she despised him for dancing before YHVH’s ark of the covenant (2 Sam 6:14–16, 23).

The situation with the prophet Hosea is notable, as well, in this regard. YHVH required him to marry a wife of harlotry as part of his spiritual walk, so that he would better understand the experience of YHVH who was married to the adulterous nation of Israel. Hosea didn’t even know whether the children born to his wife were his own, or those of another man, yet he was to love her unconditionally anyway.

In the apostolic era, we hear virtually nothing about the wives of the apostles. This in no way indicates that their marriages were troubled, but one can only wonder given the rigors of the spiritual assignment YHVH had given them.

Paul is a case in point. He was likely married, since it would have been uncommon for someone of his spiritual stature to not to have been married in the Hebraic culture in which he lived, yet no mention of his wife is made. At the same time, he mentions a thorn in the flesh to buffet him and to keep him humble (2 Cor 12:7). On can only wonder if this isn’t a reference to a difficult marriage situation. Perhaps his wife became antagonistic at his conversion to Yeshua resulting in his leaving the prestigious and affluent life of the religious elite of his day, and counting his past life as dung (Phil 3:8). This may have been too much for her to bear.