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Mary Elizabeth Baxter :: Zipporah, the Wife of Moses—Exodus 4:18-26

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When God sent Moses to school in the land of Midian, after he had sought to deliver Israel by his own unaided hand, Moses, in his flight, sat down by a well. He had left the soil of Egypt, and was already in the mountainous country of Midian (Exd 2:15.), probably a part of Mount Sinai, or, at least, in that neighbour‐hood. The priest or prince of Midian seems to have been a shepherd king. The valleys which lay in between the rocky heights were rich pasture lands, and it paid better in that country to keep sheep than to do much in the tillage of the land. Water was scarce; the watercourses ran in the pasture lands of the valleys; it was easier to take the sheep to the place where water could be found than to carry water to fields where corn and other grain could be sown.

It was the custom in many of the countries of the East for the daughters of a family to lead the flocks and herds to the wells for water. Water was a precious thing, and the servants might easily waste it, and, therefore, the members of the family who would know its value were trusted with this office. The seven daughters of the Midianitish prince came to draw water at the well where Moses was sitting. Shepherds, doubtless from some unfriendly tribe, very frequently "came and drove them away." There was, perhaps, only sufficient for one flock; and to the surprise of the young women, the stranger who sat upon the well, "stood up and helped them and watered their flock." (Exd 2:17.) It was a bold step to take. We know not how many were the men whom this unaided stranger vanquished, but if they were only a dozen or twenty, it was no small victory, when Moses alone overcame them.

Reuel, or Jethro, their father, in surprise at their quick return, said to his daughters:

How is it that ye are come so soon to‐day?"

"An Egyptian," they said, "delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us and watered the flock." (Exd 2:18-19.)

Hospitality was more commonly exercised in those Old Testament times, when disorderly Christians, i.e., those who will not work (2Th 3:11), were not at large, sponging upon industrious and hard‐working people of God. And Jethro said to his daughters:

"And where is he? Why is it that ye have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread." (Exd 2:20.)

Thus God provided His servant a home in a strange land. Moses was highly cultivated, but this very fact made him superior to becoming a burden upon strangers. He asked his host for employment. Thus the polished student obtained the charge of Jethro's sheep, and finally Jethro gave him Zipporah, his daughter, in marriage. There, in Midian, his first son was born, and he named him Gershom, which means, "A stranger here." (Exd 2:21-22.)

It is almost certain that Zipporah learnt from Moses to fear the true God, but she was a woman of some strength of character, and she had certain ideas of her own which she did not willingly yield to her husband. They may have been conscientious scruples.


When a father and mother do not see eye‐to‐eye about the bringing up and the education of their children, the cross is no light one to bear. Such a cross is far from uncommon.

God had appeared to Moses at the burning bush, and commanded him to return to Egypt that he might be, as His instrument, the deliverer of His people. When he communicated to Jethro the message of his God, Jethro made no difficulty, but said to Moses:

"Go in peace."

His God also encouraged him by saying: "All the men are dead which sought thy life." (Exd 4:18-19.) Moses took with him his wife and his sons-for a second son was now born into the family-and Moses was now eighty years of age.

It is evident that circumcision was a great stumbling‐block to Zipporah. She did not understand the covenant with God, and, probably, considerable contention, or at least, difference of opinion, prevailed between Moses and his wife; and perhaps, at the time of his return to Egypt, Moses was feeling strongly that Zipporah must be brought into the mind of God concerning this thing. But how can a man overcome an obstinate woman? or, how can a woman overcome an obstinate man? There is but one way, and that is to


On the journey God said to Moses:

"Thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is My son, even My first‐born; and I say unto thee, Let My son go, that he may serve Me; and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy first‐born." (Exd 4:22-23.)

It is probable that this message brought things to a climax in Moses' family. Probably, he felt the necessity of intense prayer. Seeing that Pharaoh's first‐born would be slain if God could not have His way, Moses feared for his own uncircumcised first‐born, who was in the company. Was it not in answer to his prayer that, "by the way in the inn, the Lord met him and sought to kill him?" All must be put right in Moses' family, whatever it might cost, if he was to be the leader of God's people. He knew Zipporah; but having trusted his God, God must deal with Zipporah. She saw her husband within an inch of death, and she knew instinctively what God meant by it. She saw the danger of being left alone with her two sons. She took a sharp stone, and circumcised her child, saying at the same time a very hard thing to her husband. Yet God had conquered; the witness of the covenant was clear in Moses' house; Zipporah, at any rate, could see that nothing came by chance, and she recognised the voice of God to her in His dealing with her husband.

Every family trial is the voice of God. His appeals to the families of those who are His special witnesses are very strong and very striking; it must be a very blind eye, or a very deaf ear which does not detect them. "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." (Hbr 12:11.) But they must let themselves be exercised, must listen to the voice of God.

Jochebed, the Mother of Moses—Exd 1; and 2. ← Prior Section
Miriam, The Prophetess—Numbers 12. Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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