WORD STUDY – A HUSBAND OF BLOOD
Exodus 4:24-26: “And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. 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.”
This is a rather strange story that covers three verses and then we hear no more about it. There has been much speculation as to what this is all about. As Moses and his family arrive back in Egypt he meets up with the Lord who seeks to kill him. Zipporah immediately takes a sharp stone cuts the foreskin off of her son and throws it at the feet of Moses and declares he is a bloody husband. As a result the Lord decides not to kill Moses. This is not exactly an account you want to include when you are teaching little children the story of Moses in Sunday School.
So why is this even in the Bible, did it actually take place? Well, if it is in the Bible then I believe it is a real event. Not only do I believe it to be a real event, but I also believe it carries a very powerful message for the church today.
First we need to look at who Zipporah was. She was the daughter of Jethro who is in introduced in Exodus 2:18 as Reuel of Midian. In Islam Jethro comes under the name of Shuaib or Shu’ayb and is revered as a Prophet of Isalm. It is believed that he is a descendent of Ishmael which is very likely as Ishmael was known to settle among the Midianites. This then would make Jethro a descendent of Abraham and would explain his empathy for the Jewish God Jehovah.
I was reading in the Talmud Sanhedrin 106a that the Pharaoh consulted with Jethro, Balaam and Job regarding what to do with the Hebrews. Balaam said to exterminate them, commit genocide. Job sat on the fence and did not say harm or bless them and Jethro said to leave them alone. Because of Jethro’s stand on behalf of the Hebrews his descendants the Rechabites were allowed to sit with the Sanhedrin in the Temple. Jethro was a good man and sought to follow God Jehovah according to the best of his knowledge. However after generations and generations of having no guidance in the ways of Jehovah syncretism, the mixing of various religions, took place.
Exodus 2:16 tells us that Jethro was a priest of Midian. What that means is not altogether clear, however, it is safe to assume he mixed some of his belief in Jehovah with the pagan religion of Midian which is believed to be an early form of Druze which is monotheistic and Abrahamic and eventually evolved to Isamailism which is a branch of Shia Isalm. The important thing to keep in mind is that there is an element of the true worship of Jehovah mixed in with all this. As the descendants of Ishmael had not religious training in the ways of Jehovah, a lot of pagan beliefs wandered into this religion as the generations formed. One basic element of the Hebrew religion that was initiated by Abraham was circumcision. By the time of Zipporah, however, circumcision was still practiced but it was done by the bride on her wedding night, yeah go figure. Who wants to be circumcised on your wedding night. So to make this more viable a belief arose that on one’s wedding night a demon would come around to kill the new bridegroom
To appease this demon the new bride would cut the foreskin off of her husband as a blood sacrifice and throw it at his feet as an atonement of sorts so that the demon would have no cause to take the husband’s life. Somewhere in all that mish mosh you see an element of the original belief of blood sacrifice for atonement of sins. Anyways, the husband would be so grateful to his new bride for saving his life that he would then consummate the marriage, after a little time of healing for his wife’s surgical procedure. But she would declare to her new husband chatan damim atah li you are a husband of blood to me. This is a colloquial expression meaning I saved your kester buddy so you had better be faithful to me.
So come the wedding night of Zipporah and Moses as Zipporah gets her martial knife ready to save her husband from this demon that is to come around to kill him she discovers to her horror that the old boy is already circumcised. Now she lives in anxious watch, waiting and sensitive for this supernatural being to come around to kill her husband. They have their first male child and on the eighth day as Moses gets ready to have the Brit milah old Zipporah steps in and says “Not on your life kiddo, you may have escape that demon for now, but no way are you going to endanger my son’s life. He keeps his foreskin until he gets married.” They argue, they fight over it and of course as week kneed men have done throughout the ages he eventually gives in. He probably thought, “What the fat, would it make any difference?” Actually, yes, it put Moses in direct disobedience to God.
Now that Moses has entered Egypt and is ready to really move in the power of God, here he is about to declare a plague that would kill the first born of the Egyptians and his own family is not in obedience to God because his wife is clinging to some pagan belief that her son would be protected from this angel of death through a perversion of one of the key commands of God, the rite of circumcision. Ironic, isn’t it. Zipporah senses the presence of a supernatural being that is not at all pleased with the household and she is suddenly struck with the fear, “This is it, that demon has come to kill my husband and he has no foreskin for me to cut off to save his life.” In the Hebrew the phrase seeking to kill is yibaqesh hamitho which really means desiring for the death (of Moses). It does not mean God was seeking to kill him but only desired his death. The word death is moth which simply means an end to life. Paul said: “For me to live is Christ to die is to gain,” Philippians 1:21. If Moses was not in obedience to God he could not be used for this great task so his mission on earth was over, God was ready to take him home and hire someone else who was in complete obedience. So in desperation Zipporah cuts the foreskin from her son and tosses it at the feet of Moses and says, “You are now a husband of blood to me.” Moses and God simply says, “You are now in compliance, let’s get these Hebrew children out of Egypt already.”
I think there is a great lesson for us in this. I have a friend who grew up in a very legalistic church. Movies, dancing, bowling on Sunday, smoking, drinking and back in the 60’s and 70’s long hair on men was sinful. The Bible has absolutely nothing to say on movies, long hair and bowling. It does mention drinking to excess and actually encourages dancing. But the church taught her it was sinful and stretched some Scripture references to support their view and she grew up hog tied to a certain belief system that she could not really fellowship with any Christians outside her denomination. She even questioned that they were Christians.
Eventually as she grew older, married and had children of her own she came to realize that although there was really nothing sinful in following her legalistic system, she also realized she grew critical, judgmental to Christians who did not abstain from these things. She realized she was in not really living the ministry God laid on her heart because of her critical attitude toward other believers. Even though she was following a harmless and seemingly beneficial belief system she was not in obedience to God in loving others and because of that disobedience, God could not perform the work through her that He intended.
We have a lot of traditions in our churches, many are not really Scriptural but just cultural. They are harmless and not sinful, but we really need to discern if some of these traditions will cause us to be disobedient to God.