Exodus 4:18-26 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What assurance does Jehovah (the Lord) give Moses (see Exodus 4:19 printed below?) But what happens to Moses at the lodging place as he and his family are journeying to Egypt? See Exodus 4:24 (printed below)

Now Jehovah had said to Moses in Midian, Go, return to Egypt; for all the men who attempted to kill you are dead. (Exodus 4:19)

At a lodging place on the way, Jehovah met Moses and attempted to kill him. (Exodus 4:24)

Having called Moses to return to Egypt, the Lord now assures Moses that his life will be safe because the men who sought to kill him are now dead. Forty years have elapsed since Moses fled Egypt and now that former generation of leaders have all died off. But in Exodus 4:24 we are told that at the lodging place the Lord met Moses and attempted to kill him. The very Lord who called Moses to return to Egypt and assured him that his life would no longer be threatened by the Egyptian rulers, now personally attempts to kill him—even as Moses is obeying the divine command.

2. What does Zipporah do to rescue Moses? See Exodus 4:25 (printed below)

Then Zipporah took a flint knife and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at his feet. She said, You are surely a bridegroom of blood to me! (Exodus 4:25)

Moses’ wife, Zipporah, springs into action to save his life: she grabs the hunting knife and hastily performs an operation of circumcision on their little son. Then we read that the Lord “left him alone” (verse 26); His divine anger was appeased and He withdrew from His attack against Moses.

3. What caused the Lord’s righteous anger to be aroused against Moses?

The Lord’s anger was aroused against Moses and He rose up against him because Moses had failed to circumcise his (younger?) son. In the Old Testament, circumcision was the sign of the covenant, and it was a mandatory requirement for all the sons of Abraham (note Genesis 17:9-10,14). It was Moses’ solemn responsibility as a Hebrew father to circumcise his sons, how much more was it his responsibility to do so as the divinely appointed leader and deliverer of God’s covenant people!

4. Why do you suppose Moses failed to circumcise his son? Hint: note Zipporah’s attitude as described in Exodus 4:25 (printed above under question #2).

As soon as the Lord displays His anger against Moses, Zipporah immediately circumcises her son—she knew what was the cause of the problem. She flings the bloody foreskin at Moses’ feet and in a tone of disgust calls him “a bridegroom of blood” (verse 25). The sacrament of circumcision, (and what it represents, namely, original sin), may have been offensive to Zipporah; or else, it was painful to her as a mother to inflict any pain upon her little child. To keep peace in the home Moses may have initially postponed the required act only to find that as the child grew it became harder to perform the required circumcision. For one reason or another, the act was never performed. Perhaps Moses eventually rationalized, “Such a relatively insignificant act is not worth the big hassle with Zipporah—and is this not confirmed by the fact God initially issued His divine call despite the neglected act of circumcision and without even bringing up the matter?

5. What lessons was the Lord teaching Moses and what lessons must we learn from this incident?

One lesson God forcibly brought home to Moses in no uncertain terms is the fact that there are no exceptions when it comes to obedience, no matter who you are. Before Moses could call upon Israel and upon Pharaoh to submit to God’s commandment, Moses himself had to submit to God’s commandment. No one, not even Moses, is exempt from the requirement of obedience. A second lesson Moses would be taught in no uncertain terms is that there are no exemptions when it comes to obedience, even in “the little things.” It is not for Moses to categorize God’s commandments into degrees of importance; it is his duty to obey them all. It is not his prerogative to sacrifice obedience to God for the sake of peace within the home; it is his responsibility to give the Lord first priority in his life and in his home. There are no exemptions from obedience, because we have been called for obedience, such is the ultimate purpose and end of salvation (cp. Ephesians 2:8-10).