The Sin of Zipporah

Exodus 4:25‑26  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 10
A bloody husband art thou to me, because of the circumcision."-Ex. 4; 25-26.
When the man by whose hand God would deliver Israel out of the land of Egypt, had received his authority and commission for that great work, and was on his way from the land of Midian, where he had been a stranger, we are told, he took with him his wife, and his sons. An incidental occurrence during the journey gives us an insight into the condition of the family, its responsibility before God, and the light in which that painful rite, which God had imposed as the outward mark of His relationship with the seed of Abraham, was viewed by its different members.
Circumcision had not been performed upon Gershon, their first-born, though years had elapsed since the reception of Moses into this Gentile family, and the birth of the child who is mentioned in a previous chapter (Ex. 2). Zipporah, it seems, had long been averse to it;-it was a painful, if not a dangerous operation, and distressing to her feelings as a mother Why should her child be made to suffer in this way? Why should her husband require that which was so severe and bloody? Nothing of the kind was thought necessary in her own family, it was quite contrary to the univeral practice around her, and had better at least be deferred to the time when Moses should again rejoin his own nation. Thus would human nature reason. Moses apparently had yielded, and God was forgotten and the mother pacified at the expense of obedience to Him.
Such was her foolish tenderness towards her child, which well nigh became, as is here related to us, the destruction of Moses, her husband. " And it came to pass, by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him." The Lord did not hold him guiltless for his negligence of His word, and foolish compliance with the wishes of his wife. And Zipporah, having quitted her own country, to accompany him, was on the point of being left desolate by the loss of her protector, for the anger of the Lord was kindled against him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the fore-skin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, surely a bloody husband art thou to me." The rite she so much disliked, and in which she saw so much cruelty, she has herself to perform, at a time and under circumstances, which must greatly have added to the distress she felt, and increased the suffering of her son. And with a heart still inexperienced in, and rebellious against, the dealings and requirements of the Lord towards those whom He has set apart as His own, she vents her indignation against her husband in language and in an action such as this. The circumcision was compelled at last, she was forced to it by the hand of God, but Moses was " a bloody husband "!
Thus he escapes we are told. So He let him (Moses] go: then she said, 'A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.' " Her heart is untouched, though the trial is over; and she cannot restrain her anger from breaking forth against the most apparent author of this grievance. As yet there is no feeling of what was due to the Lord, who had imposed this as a sign of separation to Himself. And though she is forced by the threatening attitude which the Lord had assumed, to perform the rite, and that even with her own hand, she has not learned the meaning of it, nor ceased to dislike it. In the end she has to return to her own country, sent back by Moses. (Ex. 18:22Then Jethro, Moses' father in law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her back, (Exodus 18:2)). Her selfwill and ignorance of the ways of the Lord made her ill-suited to be his companion, while accomplishing, under the hand of God, the rescue of His people out of the land of Egypt.
Such was her sin and folly; and such has been our own. God has been dealing with us that He may separate us to Himself. He has found fleshly evils allowed among us—subtle and refined errors of the human mind, leading us in the end to heresy, sectarianism, and clericalism—a turning back to establish and to lean upon what He had shown to us as evil, and called us out from—desiring somewhat of that position and respectability which natural men can look upon and value. As Israel with the nations of old, we have too much learned the ways of those around us. If our unbelief has not gone so far as theirs when they desired a king, there has been much of a similar character in our want of practical confidence in the presence, power, and guidance of the Spirit of God, and the distribution of His gifts. We have failed individually and collectively in condemning the world as that which crucified the Lord of Glory,—we have not been as those who are crucified to it, and know nothing but Christ risen, and in heaven; and who, united to Him, have done with all that is properly earthly. Thus Satan has found principles to act on among us, the means to introduce leaven which might corrupt in different ways. As in the instance before us, the hand of God has been raised against this fleshly evil, this unheavenly condition, so unsuitable for Himself, into which we have relapsed. And have we been ready to act in purging it out when discovered? Have we not rather, in foolish tenderness, shrunk back, thinking more of the pain we should inflict than the honor of our God, or of His jealousy, which required this prompt and decisive action? Surely God is to be thought of first, and what He looks for, however dear, and justly so, the object may be on whom the suffering has to be inflicted, When God came out to meet Moses there was no alternative then. It was to ask why He had been slighted, why His word had been neglected, His wishes and feelings disregarded? Is not God making this demand of us now, if we are inclined to tolerate what He has openly showed His judgment of, and what we found so corrupting in its nature, will not that provoke Him? Shall we stir Him to jealousy; are we stronger than He? Are we to tamper with the evil when God has made manifest its true character, and when His hand has been stretched out against us all on account of it? Surely it must be clean cut off and rejected, whatever suffering we cause ourselves in the act. Those most dear and favored must be sacrificed, and sacrificed to the Lord at such a time. Had the circumcision been performed at an earlier period, and under other circumstances it might not have been felt so severely, for this had to be done on a journey by the wayside. So we may have felt the manner of excision of evil to be rough and severe, and by such materials as were at hand or presented themselves on the emergency; but what of that, if we have been saved by it and our common blessing recovered? Shall we, with Zipporah, resent what we now own to have been necessary, and what others saw the honor of God required, when we were unwilling to admit it, yea, opposed it, shall we utter our reproaches against them? Is this the season for such words from our lips? It is written, " Others save with fear, plucking them out of the fire, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh,"-we have been thus rescued from the fire, and instead of looking up and owning God in our deliverance, we are occupied in seeing whether the plucking out was gentle enough!! Is this God's estimate of the matter? Have we understood His ways, and appreciated His goodness, that we can indulge in such trivial complaints, but not the less dishonoring to Him for their unsuitableness.
If the usage has been rough in putting away evil, we may attribute much of that to ourselves, and humble ourselves in that we have allowed it to go on so long unchecked. We have to thank God that there are some to consider what is due to Him, when we ourselves have forgotten it, and to act upon that, even though it be distressing to those dear to us, and to ourselves at the same time. There are times when we may have to lay aside the ties which otherwise most rightly bind us (Ex. 32:25-2925And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:) 26Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. 27And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. 28And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. 29For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day. (Exodus 32:25‑29)). And faithfulness to God contains often more true love than the outcry sometimes so loudly raised concerning charity. It is worthy of notice that some of those who cry loudest, utterly fail in charity towards their brethren, both in evil insinuations and direct censures. Nor should we be surprised if flesh repeats, "I know thy pride and the naughtiness of thy heart," or with loud indignation repeats, "A bloody husband art thou to me." After all, it only shows itself in its true colors, and will be judged by the Spirit of God dwelling in the saints.
No doubt the child that suffers by the infliction will cry out, and the mother's heart is tender, and may be pained by it; but so it is with all parental discipline, and it may be, as it often is, real kindness to disregard that.
Let us not imitate the conduct of Zipporah, and upbraid those who have been bold of God against evil, when others kept aloof through want of faith and faithfulness, and left them to fight the battles of the Lord alone. Let us not say to them, "A bloody husband art thou to me because of the circumcision; " they have been acting for God toward us in what they have done, and it ill becomes us to adopt this evil tone and bearing.