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4. Zipporah (Exodus 4:24-26)

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I. Introduction

Are you ready for our last woman of influence? I don’t think you’ll forget her.

Zipporah May be Obscure, but the Wife of Moses Mattered is the title given to an article by Beth Brophy in the Jan. 25, 2008 edition of US News and World Report magazine.1

I couldn’t have said it better. Our last influential woman, named Zipporah, has a lot of mystery surrounding her story. In fact, quoting the article:

“Bizarre is typical of how biblical scholars describe the tale of Zipporah and her husband, Moses, especially the section in which God attacks Moses, and Zipporah uses a blood ritual to successfully defend her husband and son. ‘For mystery, mayhem, and sheer baffling weirdness, nothing else in the Bible quite compares with the story of Zipporah and the “bridegroom of blood.”’”2 (that last part is a quote of Jonathan Kirsch by Beth).

Difficult to understand, challenging to figure out, not many details to help and yet, Zipporah is a woman who mattered, her life was influential in many ways as the wife of Moses and the mother of his sons. We’re going do a quick overview of her life and zero in on the most compelling part of her story, the part that teaches us how to be an influential woman for good.

II. Zipporah Biography (Exodus 2:16-22)

Exodus 2:16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and began to draw water and fill the troughs in order to water their father’s flock. (NET)

1. Priest of Midian= name is Reuel (Jethro) If you were to look at 10 different maps, you might find 5 different locations for Midian because they were nomadic people who lived in different locals at different times, much like Abraham did. Midianites originated from Abraham through his second wife Keturah3 who he married after Sarah died (Gen 25:1-2). God chose to have the Covenantal promises given through Sarah’s son Isaac. So Moses and this family were distantly related, very distant cousins, yet, both coming from Abraham. Zipporah’s father, Jethro, was a priest and it’s possible he was God-fearing. However we don’t know for sure. We do know he was a wise man and Moses respected his opinions and they had a close relationship.

2. Seven daughters, one is Zipporah, care for their father’s flocks.

3. One day she and her sisters have an encounter with a stranger at a well where they were trying to water the flock. It’s such a good story. It is very much like Jacob and Rachel, who met in a similar way, at a well. The girls are getting water and some other shepherds push them away, and Moses just happens to be there and “rose to their defense.” He not only drove them away but also watered the animals. So the girls go home and tell dad who says “where is he, go invite him for dinner.” Zippporahs name = “little bird.” Hebrew tradition is that when her dad said go, get him, she flew fast like a little bird to find him.

Moses accepted the invitation and then stayed for about 40 more years.

Exodus 2:20-21 He said to his daughters, “So where is he? Why in the world did you leave the man? Call him, so that he may eat a meal with us.” Moses agreed to stay with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. (NET)

4. Zipporah became his wife and the mother of his sons= Gershom and Eliezer (Ex 18:2-6).

So far the story is clear, concise, we can understand, they met, they married, they had children. But as we read further into her story, we enter the extraordinarily puzzling4 part. But, this is also the part of her story that is the reason this obscure woman matters, the reason why she is such an influential part of this story and teaches us for all times what matters to God.

Approximately 40 years Moses and Zipporah and their family have been living with dad in the Sinai mountains area(also called Mt Horeb) Moses has been tending the flocks too. One day he saw an amazing site, a bush that continued to burn without being consumed. Right there, God called to him and said that He had seen and heard the misery of the Hebrews. (Ex 3:10) So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt. (NIV)

After many objections, Moses agrees to go back as God’s Deliverer of the Hebrews. He gets permission from his father-in-law and the family prepares to pack up and leave. One day they depart.

III. Her Bold Act (Exodus 4:24-26)

Exodus 4:24-26 Now on the way, at a place where they stopped for the night, the LORD met Moses and sought to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off the foreskin of her son and touched it to Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” referring to the circumcision.) (NET)

On the way from Midian to Egypt, at a lodging place for the night, the Lord met Moses and tried to kill him. How did God try to kill him? Some have thought that Moses got deathly ill, very sick. Others have said he might have been injured severely. The text is not clear. We are told that Zipporah takes a flint knife, a sharp knife, and circumcises her son. She takes the skin and touches Moses’ feet, and what does that mean? Then she says “You are a bridegroom of blood”.

The Jewish Study Bible says this is “extraordinarily puzzling” because there are so many unanswered questions in these 3 verses. How did God attack Moses? Why did she perform the circumcision? Which son was involved? What do her words mean?

Even though we have many unanswered questions that have plagued commentators for centuries, there is ONE THING we do know for sure…

What Zipporah did stopped God’s hand against Moses and she saved his life.

Truth: Somehow she knew what to do and she did it.

What did she do? She circumcised her son. Why? I think we have an answer.

IV. Circumcision

Circumcision was the “‘covenant sign’ given by God to Abraham and his descendants”5 in Genesis 17. God had commanded Abraham to circumcise every male baby on the eighth day as a sign that they belonged to the people of God; any uncircumcised male was to be cut off from his people, for he had broken God’s covenant.6 As we think of our story we have to ask Why was this child not circumcised? We don’t know. It’s possible that Zipporah didn’t want to have her child go through this rite, or that Moses was negligent and just ignored doing it. We don’t know, but how could the Deliverer, the leader of the Exodus, representative of the nation, not have his son carry the covenantal sign? For Moses to have ignored this requirement was unacceptable, open disobedience.

F. B. Meyer states

“How insignificant this omission may have appeared in itself, it could not be tolerated in one who was to stand out as God’s chosen and honoured servant. If God remembered the Covenant, it was surely necessary that His servant should…”7

Let’s go back to our article and read:

Despite the many ambiguities, the main message of the story is clear, (according to Kirsch): “The lesson the Bible intends is that God insists on circumcision as the essential symbol of the covenant of his chosen people.8

At just the right time, Zipporah did just the right thing: She did what God required, God required circumcision and she did it, and that is why she matters, why she has influence.

She knew what God desired and she did it.

V. Application Do You Know What God Desires For You? And Do You Do It? Or Is There Something You Really Need To Do But Have “Put Off”?

It may seem small, or maybe it’s huge, but there it is, right in front of you.

My seemingly small “stone of remembrance” of obeying God in a small way …I’m not saying this is an example for everyone, it was an act of obedience for me.

Illustration: my baptism: God wanted to take away my fear of dying.

Know what God wants and do it….How do we know what God wants?

1. Word of God. Moses was the first to record God’s Word when he wrote the Torah, the first five books. Until that time, God’s Word was handed down orally. Today we have the written Word of God to guide us, to let us know what God desires for his people. My pastor says “Reading the Scripture is not a spectator sport, in it we find ourselves, God’s love and grace drawing us to Him, showing us His Ways, bringing us to the fullness of our redeemed humanity.”9 Have you been a spectator or a participant in learning Gods Word?

2. We have the gift of prayer too. Do you love to talk to God? Do you listen to Him speak to you? The Lords Prayer is a beautiful way to direct our desires to what God desires for us. It reminds us the priority of worship, seeking Him to meet our needs and how important forgiveness is to maintaining all our relationships.

3. Are you part of a community of faith where you can find godly good counsel to help know the will of God? Wise friends, spiritual direction It’s in Christian community, in the church, that we find a place to form our thoughts & actions together, to see what God desires of His people.

Truth: Knowing what God desires and doing it is key to our influence. God is honored and can use us when we are obedient. Maybe God desires you to put away some behavior, stop doing it, cut it out of your life. Maybe he wants you to start doing something that glorifies him. It may have seemed a small thing to Moses and Zipporah, but God showed how much it meant to Him to be faithful to His covenant. God desires the same for us.

VI. Conclusion And Review

A Woman of Influence: a woman that affects her world for good for God. I want to be that person, dont you?

These 5 significant women of influence each one had an essential role of saving the life of Moses so God could mightily use him. Each woman had influence for good in her world. Each one can teach us what that means today.

  1. The Midwives Truth: Know the difference between right and wrong and choose right.
  2. Jochebed Truth: Let it go and trust God
  3. Miriam Truth: Live in your Forgiveness
  4. Zipporah Truth: Know what God desires and do it

When it comes to a woman’s influence in the world the sky is the limit. However, such an influence will never abandon who she is by God’s design and what pleases the Lord. The level of value of her influence in society is not defined by positions of prominence (though it may include that), but by her faithfulness. She may influence society by faithful prayer, excellent work, training up faithful children and/or serving overseas as a faithful missionary (eg. Amy Carmichael and Mary Slessor). Her actions may be private or prominent and yet can still have great influence (cf. Rahab and Esther).

The importance and influence of a godly woman is priceless.10


2 Beth Brophy in “Zipporah may be obscure, but the wife of Moses mattered," News and World Report (January 25, 2008).

3 Dorothy Patterson, 89.

4 Jewish Study Bible, 113.

5 R. Alan Cole, 78.

6 The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 333.

7 F.B. Meyer, Devotional Commentary on Exodus, 80.

8 Beth Brophy

9 Phillip Jones

10 Andrew Courtis on 19/06/2013 (blog) Pastor of Hills Bible Church

Related Topics: Christian Life, Women

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