Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

An Odd Thing happened on the way to Egypt…

 As Moses was on his way to Egypt, he stopped at a resting place for the night. The Lord met him there and tried to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife and circumcised her son. Taking the skin, she touched Moses’ feet with it and said to him, “You are a bridegroom of blood to me.” She said, “You are a bridegroom of blood,” because she had to circumcise her son.

Exodus chapter 4 verses 24-26

I had never heard of this incident before.

God had sounded so compassionate at the burning bush – but once Moses is on his way from Midian to Egypt, God is out for blood.

The characterisation has taken a turn. It sounds to me as if God is in human form at this point: a man with murderous intent. It reminded me of the bit where Jacob wrestled with God all night and was spared.

Gershom is spared too. It took Moses’ wife, Zipporah, to figure it out. Her son hadn’t been circumcised. She sounds none too pleased with her husband. It is hard to read tone when the meaning is so obscure, but I am reading her as irate?

Moses was a bit of a dodgy character to lead a revolution. Two generations of Pharaohs had wanted him dead. He had committed murder and had managed to escape the slavery his relatives suffered in Egypt.

God had given him this idea of leading the people out of slavery and into the desert to worship God and celebrate as a community of Israelites – but his son had not been drawn into this community through the mark of circumcision.

Moses was not identifying with the community he hoped to influence, so he wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

Obscure and random as this passage is, I think it is a warning against hypocrisy. Sadly it was Gershom that had to endure the knife in order for Moses to make sense to his people.

Zipporah does well though. Identifies the problem, deals with it and rebukes her husband for failing in his responsibilities. Maybe he’d said for years, “Yes, dear, I’ll get around to it….”.

I think she rolled her eyes 🙄 and thought “Men!”


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12 thoughts on “An Odd Thing happened on the way to Egypt…

  1. Read this post to my husband and we looked up it and the commentary in the Torah. Moses had deferred the circumcision as he feared the child would be in danger by having to travel soon after having been cut. That is permitted under Jewish law. However, Moses should have placed his faith in G-d who was holding him to a higher standard and would have protected his son. The angel who grabbed Moses is said to have grabbed him in a way that made it clear to his wife the problem was the failure to circumcise the baby. So she did the deed and then touched Moses with the baby’s blood to show G-d the commandment had been obeyed. The commentaries follow the oral fuller explanations of the Oral. The Oral law was given at the same of which the written Torah is much more concise.

  2. That should be the “oral law was given at the same time as the Torah which is much more concise.

    Also started a novel in my 40s hoping to finish it before my brain leaks away, don’t defer yours too long. Shared, care, and stay strong.

  3. I love your style, you’re right, she was fed up with Moses saying “Yes dear, I’ll get to it”
    I had a good giggle with this one.

  4. eleanor on said:

    Thank you both! Very interesting. Nor can I ever recall reading this before.

  5. I must have read it but I don’t remember it. I found this fascinating.

  6. So an innocent child had to be tortured and mutilated in order to save an adult’s life and concurrently give said adult the kudos to lead a revolution?

    Compassionate deity indeed…….

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