“But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them and watered their flock. When they came to Reuel their father, he said, ‘Why have you come back so soon today?’ So they said, ‘An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock.’ He said to his daughters, ‘Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.’ Moses was willing to dwell with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses. Then she gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, ‘I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.’” (Exodus 2:15-22)
Last week we posted a story about Jochebed, Moses’ mother. Jochebed bravely gave her son up for adoption so that he could live. An Egyptian princess raised Moses. This week we will see what a good wife, Zipporah, God gave to Moses.
When he grew up he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. Moses killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. Pharaoh found out about it and tried to kill Moses, so Moses fled to Midian.
The Midianites occupied desert land in the Sinai Peninsula. Many years before this the land had been mined for semi-precious stones. By this time it was pretty desolate. It was occupied by a few sheepherders.
When Moses arrived he helped seven women water their flock. Isn’t it interesting that God found wives for Isaac (Rebekah) and Jacob (Rachel) in the same manner. Perhaps God wanted strong, hardworking wives for these men.
Anyway, Reuel (also called Jethro) had seven daughters and he gave his daughter, Zipporah, to Moses to be his wife. Zipporah’s name is translated “bird”. As she fiercely protected her husband and her sons she lived up to her name. Moses and Zipporah had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer.
Moses was content to live with Zipporah’s father and care for the sheep. One day God called Moses for the special task of delivering the people out from under the bondage of the Egyptians. Moses went to his father-in-law and asked for permission to leave. In the meantime the Pharaoh who had wanted to kill Moses had died, so it was safe for him to return to Egypt.
Jethro gave his permission and Moses, Zipporah and the boys left for Egypt.
Along the way a disturbing event took place. “Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the Lord met him and sought to put him to death.” (Exodus 4:24) Apparently Moses had not circumcised his sons. We really don’t know why. Certainly Moses had been circumcised by his parents. He knew how important it was. Maybe he just didn’t get around to it. Maybe he didn’t think about it because his Egyptian family did not circumcise boys. Probably the Midianites didn’t either. But that was no excuse.
God was serious enough about it to seek to kill Moses. Zipporah “took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, ‘You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.’” (Exodus 4:25) So God let them go. The Bible tells us that Zipporah repeated that Moses was a bridegroom of blood to her because of the circumcision. (Exodus 4:26) We do not know why Zipporah said to Moses twice that he was a “bridegroom of blood”. Maybe it was for each son? We only know that Zipporah knew about the rite of circumcision and that it was important as a sign of the covenant people and God. Her quick action saved her husband.
Zipporah continued on to Egypt with her husband. Moses’ brother Aaron joined them somewhere along the way.
It could not have been an easy life for her when Zipporah got to Egypt. She was a stranger to the Egyptians and to the Israelites. Zipporah was in Egypt as a witness to some of the ten plagues. At some point however Moses sent her and his two sons back home to Jethro.
Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt after the last plague. Along the way to the Promised Land, God provided food in the form of manna for the Israelites and water from a rock. When the people had complained too much, God sent quails for them.
The Amalekites came and challenged the children of Israel to a battle. God helped them to defeat the Amalekites.
About this time, Jethro heard about all that had happened in Egypt. He went to visit Moses bringing Zipporah and Gershom and Eliezer with him. Moses greets his father-in-law and takes him to his tent. Jethro gave his son-in-law much needed important advice at this time.
We do not know for sure whether Zipporah stayed with Moses or went back to Midian with her father. It is most likely that she and the boys stayed with Moses. If she did then we have one more story about her.
During the journey to the Promised Land Moses had many problems with the people. They kept complaining. They sinned by building a golden calf to worship the minute Moses turned his back. Even Moses’ brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, complained. They thought they should have a share in the rule.
Aaron and Miriam took an occasion to criticize Moses for the “Cushite woman” that he had married. (Numbers 12:1) Most scholars believe that they were criticizing Zipporah. Some Cushite people had migrated to Midian, so this would explain Aaron and Miriam’s slur of Moses’ wife.
Other scholars say that Zipporah went back to Midian with Jethro, and this Cushite woman was a second wife and that is why Aaron and Miriam were expressing their displeasure with Moses. The first option – Zipporah is the Cushite woman – is the more probable. There are no further children recorded for Moses, so it is hard to say. We will have to wait until we get to Heaven and can talk to Zipporah for ourselves!
Zipporah, like the wives of other Patriarchs – Sarah and Rebekah – was a strong woman with a trusting faith in God. Moses had no doubt instructed her in the ways of his people; that was how she knew about God’s covenant and circumcision. She remained faithful to God, her husband, and even her in-laws for as long as she lived. We can learn from her example of faith and fortitude.