Zipporah: Moses’s Wife

Moses climbed down from the heights of Horeb. The old man’s heart burned with the fire of youth—set ablaze by the I Am. Moses recognized the significance of the moment. To assist the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in freeing Abraham’s descendants from Egyptian captivity and tyranny was the great cause of that epoch. A new nation—God’s nation—would come to birth and one day encompass the Earth. He could not imagine himself as an ambassador, yet that is exactly what the Eternal chose for him to be. Now he was on a God-ordained mission to meet Pharaoh.

Leaving the thin air of Horeb, Moses slipped deep into thought. His mind drifted back in time 40 years. He saw himself sitting by a well in Midian, still dressed as a prince of Egypt. Moses would never forget that day. His thoughts were so vivid it was as if he were reliving that day.

Seven Shepherdesses

The well water tasted cool and sweet. With each mouthful swallowed he regained the composure necessary to plan his next steps. Where would he live? What would he do? His thoughts were shattered by the sound of voices. In a panic, the prince of Egypt jumped to his feet. He feared that Pharaoh’s army had found him. He would certainly be captured and hauled back for execution. Then the prince chuckled. Not far off, he saw seven shepherdesses leading a large flock of sheep toward the well (Exodus 2:16). What a pleasant sight: sheep and beautiful young women.

Moses watched them draw water into the troughs for the noisy and thirsty flock. For a second, he laughed at himself. Was this the army he feared would take him back to Pharaoh?

The peace of the pastoral scene was suddenly shattered. A group of wily shepherds charged the women to drive them away from the well in order to take the water they had drawn for their flock. Moses rushed to the women’s defense and single-handedly ran the bullies off. He then helped the shepherdesses finish watering their flock.

The women were surprised but pleased that a wealthy Egyptian would come to their aid. As they returned home, they discussed the mystery: What was a well-dressed Egyptian doing in the wilderness of Midian?

When the women returned home early from pasturing the flock, their father Jethro asked, “How is it that ye are come so soon to day?” (Exodus 2:18). With girly giddiness, they answered, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock” (verse 19). Jethro wondered why an Egyptian was so far from home. He asked his daughters: “And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread” (verse 20). Jethro wanted to meet the man who had bravely protected his daughters and flock.

Moses’s Life in Midian

The questions that were likely on Moses’s mind when he first arrived in Midian were answered quickly. “And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land,” wrote Moses about his time in Midian (Exodus 2:21-22). Moses settled into his new life, becoming a shepherd, husband and father. But deep down inside, he knew that he was “a stranger in a strange land.”

As Moses reached the plain at the bottom of Mount Horeb, he stepped back into the present and sighed.

After 40 years of peace and tranquility, Moses’s life had again changed suddenly. “And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them,” Moses tells us (verses 23-25). Moses’s life was not a matter of happenstance. God had a job for him. He personally appeared to Moses and forthwith ended his days as a shepherd. The man Moses had finally committed to do what the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob required him to do (Exodus 4). Moses was heading back to Egypt. There was business to finish there—the I Am’s business!

Moses felt obligated to do one last thing before leaving Midian. He needed to say goodbye to a man he greatly loved and respected—Jethro. “And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive” (verse 18). Moses formally asked his permission to leave the family business, take his daughter and grandsons, and return to Egypt. This verse says a lot about Moses’s character and Jethro’s.

Notice Jethro’s response to his son-in-law: “Go in peace” (verse 18). Moses gives us only sketchy details of what took place during this meeting. However, it is clear that Moses knew he would never return to the life of a shepherd in Midian. “And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand” (verse 20). Thus reads the conclusion of Moses’s life in Midian.

Zipporah: Moses’s Wife

While Moses was preparing to leave Midian with Zipporah and his sons Gershom and Eliezer, God appeared to him and said, “Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life. … When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn” (verses 19, 21-23). These are fascinating verses for several reasons.

First, it was not until Moses was fully committed to leaving for Egypt that God revealed to him that all those in Egypt who wanted to murder him were dead. Another interesting point is that God didn’t spell out so clearly to Moses at the burning bush that Pharaoh would not be an easy man to convince. With Moses now on the move, God gave him information that may have discouraged him before this moment. Moses, Aaron and the Israelites would have a tough fight, but God gave Moses a dire prophecy for Pharaoh: God would slay his firstborn son if he refused to let Israel go.

Moses encountered trouble before he even got to Egypt. One night, as Moses and his family stayed at an inn, God sought to slay him (verse 24). At first read, this verse may seem really strange. Why would God want to kill the man He had spent so much time convincing to go to Egypt and free the Israelites? There is no doubt Moses was a man of character. Yet he did have his shortcomings. Study carefully the next two verses. “Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, a bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision” (verses 25-26). Moses was in big trouble with God because he had not circumcised his younger son Eliezer. Why would this make God so angry?

Moses was called to lead a nation of millions. These verses show that Zipporah was not supportive of God’s covenant of circumcision made with Abraham centuries before (Genesis 17:1-14). Moses had not obeyed God’s command because of his wife’s opposition.

God viewed Moses’s weakness with his wife as rebellion. Moses and his family were not in subjection to God’s command concerning circumcision. Please study this passage. Verse 14 is the most critical: “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.” How could Moses be used by God to establish God’s law and government if he was not abiding by it himself?

It appears Zipporah circumcised her son to save his life. Calling Moses a bloody husband shows that she was extremely upset with him.

The rest of Exodus 4 shows that Zipporah did not continue on to Egypt with Moses. It is Moses and Aaron—brothers in the work—who went to the Israelite slaves and Pharaoh. There is no express statement as to why Zipporah and her two sons did not continue the journey to Egypt. The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary states: “There is no express mention of Zipporah and her sons having been sent back to remain with her father. But it is certain that she was sent back; and whether, as the Jewish rabbis say, this was done by the advice of Aaron; whether the motive for it was a tender regard for the safety of the family, to keep them away from the intensely agitating and engrossing scenes of the Exodus, or, as some suppose, a domestic feud, caused by the circumcision of the younger son, had produced a sudden strife and alienation between Moses and Zipporah, there is no doubt that she returned to sojourn under her father’s roof.”

You can read in Exodus 18:1-7 that the problem in Moses’s family was reconciled. They were reunited at Mt. Sinai after the Exodus from Egypt. While the rabbis claim it was Aaron who sent Zipporah back to Jethro, Exodus 18:2 shows that Moses did it. We can see clearly that Moses repented of his grave sin against God and could therefore continue with what the I Am required of him.

As we enter into the most exciting phase of the Church’s mission for God, let’s be sure that we are fully behind our spiritual Husband, Jesus Christ, and the men He has graciously given to lead us.