Moses and family were on the move. After four decades as a Bedouin-style shepherd he had left behind his desert life and was heading back to Egypt on a mission. While they ledged overnight in a wayside ‘B & B’, he suddenly felt mortally unwell. At the lodging-place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death’ (Exodus 4:18-26). Why, when he was purposefully determined to obey God’s commissioning at the burning bush to liberate his enslaved people from their bondage in Egypt?
His wife’s astute rescue action
Zipporah, the God-fearing mother of Moses’ two thirty-something-year-old sons, was the daughter of Reuel, a tribal priest of Midian. Prior to their marriage Moses must have explained to her the Lord’s long-standing covenant with Abraham and his descendents; and of the Lord’s warning to Father Abraham back then: ‘any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant’ (Genesis 17:14).
However, when Gershon was born, the thought of the slicing of her precious baby with a knife repulsed her, and she seems to have talked Moses out of the practice – maybe by a compromising comment about ‘not yet, anyway’. We can deduce this from the fact that, to save her husband’s life on that scary night, she personally administered the cut on her adult son, since Moses was too ill to fulfil his long-neglected duty. She flung the bloody scrap of flesh on Moses’ feet, protesting: ‘Surely, you are a bridegroom of blood to me.’ Why did she not call him ‘my bloody husband’? Because, no doubt, in preparing her for their wedding bed forty years before, he had explained why she might think his genitals had been mutilated.
Also, by calling him ‘a bridegroom of blood’, Zipporah was actually signifying ‘It’s as if we have just got married afresh – this time on the Lord’s terms of blood covenant, and not on my previous nice, easy-going, non-messy religious style. In fact, similarly, in their imminent Passover-exodus, Israel too, as a ‘holy nation’ covenanted to the Lord would experience a new beginning through the blood of the sacrificial lamb.
That the Lord had ‘sought to put him to death’ is best understood in the light of Colossians 2:11-12. ‘In him [Christ, Colossians 2:8] …you (Gentiles) were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands.’ How? ‘… by putting off the body [not just the foreskin] of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ [not the cut in his infant body, Luke 2:21, but], having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him [not by a surgical ritual, but] through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.’ Only those ‘put to death’, buried and raised again with Christ are Abraham’s spiritual offspring.
Sound Christian foundations are important
Moses recovered his health and never forgot the lesson of this brush with death. In Exodus 12:43-44, 48 he recorded God’s binding rule for every future generation of Israel: ‘This statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat it, but … may eat it after you have circumcised him.’