Questions From Readers
What occurred during the incident recorded at Exodus 4:24-26, and whose life was in danger?
Moses was on his way to Egypt with his wife, Zipporah, and his sons, Gershom and Eliezer, when the following incident occurred: “It came about on the road at the lodging place that Jehovah got to meet him and kept looking for a way to put him to death. Finally Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and caused it to touch his feet and said: ‘It is because you are a bridegroom of blood to me.’ Consequently he let go of him. At that time she said: ‘A bridegroom of blood,’ because of the circumcision.” (Exodus 4:20, 24-26) Though this passage is obscure and it is not possible to be certain about its meaning, the Scriptures do shed some light on these verses.
The account does not explicitly state whose life was in danger. However, we can reasonably conclude that it was not Moses’ life, for he had just received a divine commission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:10) It seems unlikely that on his way to fulfill that assignment, Moses’ life would have been threatened by God’s angel. It therefore would be the life of one of his sons. The law given earlier to Abraham regarding circumcision stated: “An uncircumcised male who will not get the flesh of his foreskin circumcised, even that soul must be cut off from his people. He has broken my covenant.” (Genesis 17:14) Moses had apparently neglected to circumcise his son, and thus the boy’s life was threatened by Jehovah’s angel.
Whose feet were touched when Zipporah cut off her son’s foreskin in an attempt to set matters straight? It was the angel of Jehovah who had the power to put the uncircumcised son to death. Logically, then, Zipporah would have caused the foreskin to touch the angel’s feet, presenting it to him as evidence that she had complied with the covenant.
Zipporah’s expression “you are a bridegroom of blood to me” is an unusual one. What does it indicate about her? By her compliance with the requirements of the circumcision covenant, Zipporah acknowledged a covenant relationship with Jehovah. The Law covenant later made with the Israelites showed that in a covenant relationship, Jehovah can be thought of as a husband and the other party as a wife. (Jeremiah 31:32) Hence, in addressing Jehovah (through his representative angel) as “a bridegroom of blood,” Zipporah appears to have been acknowledging her own submission to the terms of that covenant. It was as if she had accepted a wifely position in the circumcision covenant, with Jehovah God as the husband. In any case, because of her decisive act of obedience to God’s requirement, the life of her son was no longer in danger.