24 At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. 26 So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.) Exodus 4:24-26 niv 2011
But Moses had been Zipporah’s rescuer at one time, in fact it’s how they met:
16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock. Exodus 2:16-17 niv 2011
Moses sees the injustice of how these bully shepherds come along and drive off these hardworking ladies and he rescues them. Not only that, but he does their work for them: verse 17,[he] came to their rescue and watered their flock.
You can’t tell me that wouldn’t turn a girl’s head.
So what happened to these two people between the dramatic rescue and you bridegroom of blood?
Here’s what I see in my ministry, and I think it may have happened with Moses and Zipporah as well. Oftentimes one spouse will be called into the ministry, and the other will be called to encourage. The case in my marriage is that I am the one who’s been called into ministry, and I am so thankful for Jim’s spiritual gift of encouragement. I get discouraged at the drop of a hat, but Jim lifts me up quickly, pointing me back in the right direction.
After Moses’ dramatic rescue of Zipporah and her sisters, he’s called into ministry—and it’s gonna be a big one. But dear Moses is easily discouraged. And instead of encouraging her husband, Zipporah bullies him for neglecting a covenant responsibility.
Jim and I were talking about this while I was writing this lesson and he pointed out something that I never saw before, but I think it happens in a lot of marriages, and that is that Moses couldn’t talk.
10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” Exodus 4:10 niv 2011
And if he couldn’t speak for the Lord, do you really think he spoke well with his wife? If I were a betting woman I’d bet that communication had broken down between Moses and Zipporah, and neglecting to circumcise their son was a result of that. I think Zipporah was angry with her husband about it. She’d been raised by a holy man. Her family worshiped the true God. She knew good and well that her son had to be circumcised, she probably lacked the heart to do it.
She may have tried to talk to Moses about the situation, and he didn’t know how to speak about the things of God with her. And this is all pure conjecture on my part, but knowing how I’ve behaved as a wife I’d guess that she used her influence to keep Moses from circumcising the child. Honestly, who wants to do this? If we didn’t have the pediatrician performing the circumcision in the hospital, are there any of us who thinks we could do it?
Though, when the Lord is about to kill him, she changes her tune quite immediately. Her hand is forced and she is the one circumcising the child. If I were in that situation, I’d be steamed and I’d probably take it out on my husband.
This is such a two way road, Ladies. It’s not all Zipporah’s fault here. Moses fell back on a comfortable default mechanism (I am slow of speech and tongue) that he doesn’t hesitate to use even on the Lord. He’ll do anything to avoid conflict. So when Zipporah snaps at him, he shuts down. He knows he’s been wrong, and that ole righteous bully gets her way again.
Now let me show you how the righteous bully operates in other relationships.
I was at a dinner one night, seated around a large table of at least 10 people I knew were unbelievers. In an unforeseen change of conversation, someone made an erroneous comment with regard to the Old Testament. Quite easily, I corrected the comment—but I didn’t stop there. When I noticed how deficient the unbelievers around the table were with regard to their Old Testament knowledge, I gave an abbreviated commentary that silenced everyone around me. They couldn’t speak because they knew I had more knowledge than the rest of them. Inside, I swelled with pride.
I didn’t realize how awful I had been until a few months later when I went to speak at a ladies’ event. After the event, a few women approached me and asked if they could pray over me. I said, “sure,” and we commenced. One lady among us launched into her tongues—but there was no interpreter. I had no idea what she was saying, but oh did God ever minister to me in that moment. He said quietly to me, “She’s using her gift of tongues to show off…just like you used your gift of knowledge to show off to your unbelieving friends. Are you edified by her words?”
It cut me to the core. Though I had been “righteous” in everything I said that night, the motivations of my heart were nothing less than prideful. Did I edify my unbelieving friends by showing off my God-given gift of knowledge? I doubt it. They probably walked away with more questions than they had in the beginning. I behaved like a righteous bully. I would bet that I didn’t win anybody over with my words that night.
When Zipporah says, “you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she’s filled with self-righteous pride. She knows her husband knows he’s been wrong, just as I knew that my dinner companions knew they’d been wrong.
Next week we’ll take a look at how we can remedy this righteous bully that dwells within us.
© 2018, Ta`Mara Hanscom
If you’re interested in my fiction, get the first 4 chapters of The Pretender at www.TaMaraHanscomBooks.com.