Who is Zipporah in the Bible?

Author: BibleAsk Team


The pages of the Bible unfold tales of remarkable characters, each contributing to the grand narrative of faith, redemption, and divine intervention. Among the notable figures is Zipporah, the wife of Moses, whose life is intricately woven into the fabric of the Exodus story. While her presence may seem overshadowed by the colossal figure of Moses, Zipporah plays a crucial role in the biblical narrative, embodying traits of faith, obedience, and resilience.

Zipporah’s Origins:

Zipporah’s journey in the Bible begins in the book of Exodus, where she is introduced as the daughter of Jethro (or Reuel), “the priest of Midian” (Exodus 3:1; 2:18). The alternative names Reuel and Hobab are also ascribed to her father. Midian, located east of the Gulf of Aqaba, became a temporary haven for Moses as he fled from Egypt, a crucial period in the life of the future leader of Israel. Zipporah was a “Cushite woman” (Numbers 12:1) or Ethiopian woman. Cush is ancient Ethiopia (Genesis 10:6), which was in classical times called Nubia.

The Encounter at the Well:

After Moses slew an Egyptian to protect a Hebrew slave (Exodus 2:12), he fled from Egypt to the land of Midian to avoid prosecution (verse 15). When he got there, he met the priest of Midian who had had seven daughters that attended their father’s flock. When some shepherds tried to drive the women away, Moses defended the woman. So, the daughters told their father Jethro of the stranger that helped them and he in gratitude invited Moses to eat with his family. Later on, Moses married Zipporah one the priest’s daughters (Exodus 2:16–22).

Marriage and Family:

The biblical account swiftly progresses from their initial meeting to the union of Moses and Zipporah. This intercultural marriage marks a pivotal point in the life of Moses, connecting him to the Midianite community and shaping his destiny. Zipporah becomes not only a wife but a partner in the journey ahead.

The union between Moses and Zipporah bears fruit in the form of two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. The names given to these children carry significance, reflecting the challenges and experiences of their parents. Gershom, meaning “a stranger there,” echoes Moses’ own sense of estrangement from Egypt. Eliezer, meaning “God is my help,” signifies the divine assistance that Moses sought throughout his mission.

Zipporah and the Circumcision Incident:

One of the most intriguing episodes involving Zipporah occurs in Exodus 4:24-26. Upon God’s call to go back to Egypt, “Moses took his wife and sons” and started back to Egypt (Exodus 4:20). As Moses, accompanied by his family, is on his way to Egypt to fulfill his divine mission, God seeks to intervene by attempting to kill Moses. The reason behind this abrupt and enigmatic episode is Moses’ failure to circumcise his son.

In a swift and courageous act, Zipporah takes a flint knife and circumcises her son, touching Moses’ feet with the foreskin. She then declares, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” This intervention is symbolic and carries profound theological implications. Circumcision, as a sign of the covenant with God, was a crucial practice for the Israelites. Zipporah’s act not only averts God’s wrath but underscores the importance of obedience to God’s commandments.

Zipporah’s Role in Moses’ Leadership:

While Moses stands as the preeminent leader of Israel, Zipporah’s influence is evident in various aspects of his life and leadership. Her presence in the wilderness journey, the establishment of the legal and judicial system, and the guidance during challenging times all contribute to the narrative of a supportive and wise partner.

The Wilderness Journey:

As the Israelites embark on the arduous journey through the wilderness, Zipporah stands alongside Moses. Her resilience and adaptability to the challenges of the desert reflect a woman of strength and character. While the focus often remains on Moses’ interactions with God and the people, Zipporah’s steadfastness in the face of adversity is an unspoken testimony to her faith and commitment.

Establishing the Legal System:

Jethro, Zipporah’s father, plays a crucial role in advising Moses on the establishment of a legal and administrative system for the burgeoning nation. This episode, recorded in Exodus 18. The establishment of judges and leaders within the community reflects a collaborative effort that extends beyond Moses’ individual leadership.

When Moses heeded the counsel of Jethro without first consulting Miriam and Aaron, they became jealous of him and blamed his wife for what they considered Moses’ neglect of them (Numbers 12:1). The fact that Zipporah was a Midianite, though a worshiper of the true God, was used by Miriam and Aaron merely as an excuse for rebelling against the authority of Moses. But Moses did not violate the principle of non-marriage with the heathen when he took her to wife, as they apparently claimed. For Zipporah was a worshiper of God and a daughter of the priest of Median.

Legacy and Significance:

Zipporah’s legacy extends beyond the pages of the Bible. As the wife of Moses and the mother of his children, she played a crucial role in shaping the destiny of the Israelite nation. Her actions, whether circumcising her son to fulfill God’s command or providing support to Moses in leadership, underscore the importance of obedience, faith, and partnership in the journey of faith.

Conclusion:

In the rich tapestry of biblical narratives, Zipporah emerges as a woman of substance, contributing significantly to the story of Moses and the exodus of the Israelites. While her role may not always be at the forefront, the nuances of her character reveal a woman of faith, courage, and wisdom. Zipporah’s journey, from a chance encounter at a well to a pivotal moment of divine intervention, exemplifies the intricate ways in which individuals, even in the background, can shape the course of biblical history.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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