Zipporah wife of Moses:

Zipporah was the daughter of a priest from Midian. She was an obedient daughter who went out daily to tend her father’s flock in spite of being bullied by other shepherd’s in the area. She was one of seven daughters. She was a faithful wife and mother of an outsider. She was supportive of her husband and willingly stepped aside so Moses could fulfill his calling from the LORD God.  Exodus 2:16-22:  Exodus 4:19-26 

Zipporah was the daughter of the priest of Midian whose name was Reuel also known as Jethro. She had six sisters. She took care of the flock for her father. Zipporah was the wife of Moses and gave him two sons. Geographers place Midian in Arabia, just southeast of the Gulf of Aqabah. It was here that Moses stayed with Jethro during the forty years he hid from Pharaoh. The Midianites were nomads who pastured their sheep all over the Sinai Peninsula as well as Arabia. Midian was the territory of the tribe descended from Midian.

Moses was the son of a man and woman of the house of Levi who had been spared from the order of the Pharaoh who charged every son born of the Hebrews should be cast into the river, and every daughter should be saved alive. Moses had been hidden for three months and then placed in an ark of bulrushes and floated down the river. Moses was found by the daughter of Pharaoh and raised by her as an Egyptian. One day when Moses was grown he spotted and Egyptian hitting a Hebrew slave. Moses had killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand. Pharaoh heard what had happened he sought to slay Moses. It was out of fear of Pharaoh he fled and dwelt in the land of Midian and he sat down by a well. (Exodus 2:1-15)

Zipporah and her sisters would take their fathers flock to the watering trough in the mornings. They would draw water for the household from the well.  There they experienced problems with other shepherds who came to the watering troughs and tried to drive them away and the flock of Jethro. Moses stepped in and helped Zipporah and her sisters to water their flock and draw water enough for the family. Jethro invited Moses to his house and gave him bread. Moses was content to dwell with Jethro in the land of Midian and Jethro gave Moses Zipporah his daughter.  Moses became a shepherd and dwelt with Jethro. Zipporah gave Moses two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. The name Gershom means foreigner. Moses said, “I have been a stranger in a strange land.”  Exodus 18:3- 4 mentions the second son was named Eliezer means God is help. Moses said, “for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh:” The first son Moses called Gershom; “for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land:”

It was while Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law and led the flock to the backside of the desert by the mountain of God, Mount Horeb. This is where Moses saw the angel of the LORD appear unto him out of a flame of fire in the midst of a bush. This is where Moses was given the task to save the children of Israel and bring them out of the land of Egypt.

Exodus 4:19-26 tells us Moses had been in Midian for forty years when the LORD God sent him back to Egypt to rescue His people. All the men are dead which sought the life of Moses. He asked his permission from his father-in-law, gathered his wife, Zipporah, and sons and set off for Egypt. This was the beginning of his mission that the LORD God had for Moses. When they got by the way inn that the LORD met Moses and sought to kill him. The LORD confronted Moses and was about to kill him for not fulfilling the requirement of circumcising his son. “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.”

We knew circumcision was more than a custom of the Israelites it is given as a covenant between Abraham and the LORD God. It is believed the Midianites were from the seed of Abraham by his concubine Keturah (Genesis 25:1-2). But there is no evidence that suggests that the Midianites practiced circumcision. Moses had been circumcised before he was raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses came from the house of Levi and he was hid for three months. (Exodus 2:1-10). So Moses would have been circumcised by eight days old. So why was the first born son of Moses and Zipporah not circumcised?

We do know that Zipporah was familiar with circumcision because she took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son. We can safely assume that she did not agree with the Hebrew custom or it would have been performed on their oldest son.  We know Moses could not go to Egypt and tell the Israelites that the LORD God was about to fulfill His promises, based upon His covenant, when Moses had not circumcised his son in obedience to that same covenant. Through the life story of Moses we know him to be a soft man who gave into the will of the people. We can safely presume Zipporah was a strong opinionated woman who controlled her marriage.

Zipporah circumcised her son to save her husband Moses life from the anger of the LORD God. This was a covenant between the LORD God and Abraham. This was not a covenant between the Midianites and the LORD God. Zipporah must have loved Moses to choose circumcision of her son over his death.

We know that Zipporah went back to her father’s home before the great Exodus of the Israelites. It may have been directly after this episode, Moses would have been more aware of the danger of his mission and that he realized he must keep his attention on the LORD God to complete his Holy calling. Exodus 18:1-2 “ When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father in law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt;  Then Jethro, Moses’ father in law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back.”

Jethro, the father – in-law of Moses, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God: And he said unto Moses, I thy father in law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her. (Exodus 18:5-7). There was no hard feelings between Jethro and Moses because verse 7 tells us that Moses went out to meet his father in law and bowed down to his and kissed him. This is the last we heard of Zipporah in the Bible.

Numbers 12:1 mentioned the “Ethiopian woman who married Moses.” It is not known if this woman was Zipporah or a second wife. There are many explanations as if Zipporah was Ethiopian or Cushite. It is not known for sure if Zipporah was the Ethiopian who caused trouble for Moses with Miriam and Aaron. It is possible Moses married a second woman after the return of Zipporah.

There is not been much written about Zipporah in the Bible. We can assume that she was brave. We can also assume she was a practical woman capable of taking action at the right moment when she saved her husband Moses by circumcising her son. Zipporah was the daughter of a priest of Midian. She was an obedient daughter who went out daily to tend her father’s flock in spite of being bullied by other shepherd’s in the area. She was one of seven daughters. She was a faithful wife and mother of an outsider. She was supportive of her husband and willingly stepped aside so Moses could fulfill his calling from the LORD God.

Cite Article Source

MLA Style Citation:

Holstein, Joanne “Zipporah wife of Moses:.” Becker Bible Studies Library Apr 2015.<https://guidedbiblestudies.com/?p=2801,>.

APA Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne (2015, April) “Zipporah wife of Moses:.” Becker Bible Studies Library. Retrieved from https://guidedbiblestudies.com/?p=2801,.

Chicago Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne (2015) “Zipporah wife of Moses:.” Becker Bible Studies Library (April), https://guidedbiblestudies.com/?p=2801, (accessed).

Joanne Holstein is a Becker Bible Studies Teacher and Author of Guided Bible Studies for Hungry Christians. She is a graduate of Psychology/Christian and Bible Counseling with Liberty University. She is well-known as a counselor to Christian faithful who are struggling with tremendous burden in these difficult times. She is a leading authority on historical development of Christian churches and the practices and beliefs of world religions and cults.

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