Did God Seek to Slay Moses?
In Exodus 4, God
talks to Moses about what He wants him to do for His people. Shows him
signs and explains what He will do to Egypt should Pharaoh fail to heed
the warnings of Moses and Aaron. I know the Lord became exasperated with
Moses when he used excuses and questioned his being right for the job.
However, it still seems that Exodus 4:24-26 is out of context with the
Many a study of the passage in Exodus chapter 4 has caused the Biblical expositor to stumble when they came to the circumcision account. Much debate has begun around the passage which reads,
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. And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him. (22-24)
A principle of accountability is at work here in relation to those whom God chooses to serve Him. Because many often neglect this principle with the result they become ineffective in Godís service, we should pay the more earnest heed to what we are seeing. For it is truly written that to whom much is given, much will be required.
It is in the midst of God speaking to Moses, telling him what he is to say to the ruler of Egypt that the Lord suddenly brings the issue of submission to Him home to Moses. He has sons by Zipporah, who is probably related to but not of the House of Israel. And, in his union with this dark skinned beauty he has neglected the sign in the foreskin that is a visible sign of the covenant between God and the children of Jacob. God is sending Moses to give the ruler of the Upper and Lower kingdoms of Egypt a message. This man who his followers consider to be a god himself is about to run into the true and Living God and be sorely afflicted. God knows already that his stubbornness will ultimately cost him the life of Pharaohís firstborn. Shall God do this thing to Pharaoh and not require submission from that man He sends as messenger?
Perhaps Moses had not circumcised his sons because he was far from home. More likely he had withheld from fulfilling his responsibility for the sake of his wife and her people who had no such tradition. Not practicing circumcision themselves, the practice would seem a "bloody" one to Zipporah. It was upon her that burden for response fell because she is the stumbling block to obedience. In bitterness she took the knife and did the deed to save her first sonís life. And in this act she identified herself irrevocably if unwillingly with the covenant of Israel and the calling of her husband.
Stopping to consider the encounter that apparently takes place at an inn after Moses and his family have entered in Egypt, (Exodus 4:22-26) we must pause to note one fact. The Lord meets with Moses in human form in the land of Egypt before he is to make his connection with Aaron and stand before Pharaoh. We can wonder at why He would do this until we change the context of our normal considerations of this verse to realize that His physical appearing was not for the sake of Moses, but for Zipporah. This represents a change in modern reasoning. This change in thinking is not unlike the common modern error that the Lord was seeking to kill Moses and not his son.
Had Moses stayed with his father in law and lived out his days there, he would have always been a minor member of his family. This would be especially true after Jethroís death when the bulk of his wealth would have passed on to a male heir, probably his first born son. Godís call upon Mosesí life meant to Zipporah that the possibility of a more noble future for her children. Her husband had been set aside to be the leader of a people. No doubt in the successful accomplishment of this feat she saw her sons becoming as princes among a people.
Now she is faced with the loss of a coveted position in a liberated Israel and her eldest childís life as well. Likely she has been made to become acquainted with that part of Godís commands if she has not known of it before. It would be doubtful that such a requirement would not have been explained to a wife at some point early in their marriage. Perhaps she knew the words of Genesis 17:14 that the uncircumcised child was to be cut off from Israel with no inheritance for that branch of the family.
There is bitterness as she takes what is probably a stone (flint) knife, for such was used in medical procedures, and cut the foreskin. (The flint knife is a very sharp instrument.) Nevertheless, because the act is conducted on an older individual and not on the prescribed eighth day of life it is more bloody, dangerous, and discomfiting than it would have been had it been done in perfect obedience to God's plan. It is at the Lordís feet the foreskin is tossed, even as her address is made to Moses. Was she from this point angry and fearful of worse things happening? Did this cause Moses to send her to her father?
This question raised another about God being exasperated with Moses excuses but this needs to be answered as a separate question.
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