The circumcision of Moses’ son (Ex 4:24-4:26)

“On the way, at a place where they spent the night, Yahweh met him and tried to kill Moses.  Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Moses’ feet with it, and said, ‘Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!’  So he let him alone.  It was then she said, ‘A bridegroom of blood by circumcision.’”

This is a complicated passage, no matter what language you are reading it in.  Apparently, on his way to Egypt, one night Yahweh tried to kill Moses.  Some have interpreted this like Jacob and his wrestling with God in Genesis, chapter 32.  To stop the murder from taking place, the wife of Moses, Zipporah, took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and put it on Moses’ feet, a euphemism for genitals.  Yahweh then let him alone.  Obviously, Moses was not aware of the strict understanding of circumcision, but his wife acted quickly.  In fact, there was no mention of the circumcision of Moses himself.  Circumcision was known in the Middle East, sometimes as a preparation for marriage.  However, for the Israelites it had a specific religious meaning, as it was projected back to the time of Abraham. 

The flight of Moses to Midian (Ex 2:11-2:22)

“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and saw their forced labor.  He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsfolk.  He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.  When he went out the next day, he saw two Hebrews fighting.   He said to the one who was in the wrong, ‘why do you strike your fellow Hebrew?  He answered, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?  Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid, and thought, ‘Surely the thing is known.’”

Moses had to learn about the Egyptian oppression, having never suffered it himself since he grew up as a prince of the Nile.  However, the turning point was when he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew he decided to take things into his own hands.   He then killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand.  However, the next day when he confronted a Hebrew for fighting with his fellow Hebrew, the response frightened Moses since it seems that people must have known what had happened the day before.  So now he feared that Pharaoh would kill him if he found out about it.  It is not clear if the Pharaoh knew Moses as the child of his sister or not.

“When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses.  But Moses fled from Pharaoh.  He settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.  The priest of Midian had seven daughters.  They came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock.   But some shepherds came and drove them away.  Moses got up and came to their defense and watered their flock.  When they returned to their father Reuel, he said, ‘How is it that you have come back so soon today?’  They said, ‘An Egyptian helped us against the shepherds.  He even drew water for us and watered the flock.’  He said to his daughters, ‘Where is he? Why did you leave the man?  Invite him to break bread.’  Moses agreed to stay with the man.  He gave Moses his daughter Zipporah in marriage.  She bore a son, and he named him Gershom.   For he said, ‘I have been an alien residing in a foreign land.’”

Moses fled to the land of Midian. Midian had been the son of Abraham from his third wife Keturah, who had been sent away to the east country in Genesis, chapter 25.  There, 7 daughters of the priest of Midian brought their flock to a well, as was the custom.  Once again, here is the number 7.  However, shepherds drove them away, but Moses watered their animals anyway.  When the daughters got home, they told their father the story about the strange Egyptian.  He told them to invite him to break bread with them.  Moses stayed there and took Zipporah as his wife, the daughter of Reuel, the priest of Midian.  Reuel was also the name of one of Esau’s sons.  Reuel may have been the grandfather of Zipporah since Moses’ father-in-law is later referred to as Jethro.  They had a son named Gershom so that he is firstborn son of Moses.  So far, nothing outstanding, Moses was in exile from Egypt and started a family in Midian.