This week, Vicki Stewart from Auburn, Alabama, USA asks:

Can you explain the verses from Exodus 4:24 – 25 where it seems that the Lord was going to kill Moses over the circumcision or lack of it for the children and why Zipporah did the circumcision and said what she did to Moses?

Also, what exactly happened to Zipporah after this?

Our teacher Rivkah Adler answers:


Gidon Ariel asked me to address your question about the events in Exodus 4:24-25. Indeed, these are very deep verses. Here’s an explanation I hope will be helpful.

As Moses was about to leave for Egypt according to the command of God, he was unsure what to do about circumcising his newborn son. He didn’t know whether to delay the trip in order to give the baby a chance to heal after a circumcision or leave right away. He left right away, thus postponing the circumcision. God’s anger at Moses was not because he postponed the circumcision to travel to Egypt, but because he postponed it further by seeing out lodging instead of circumcising his son at the first possible opportunity.

Tzipora saw with Divine Inspiration what needed to be done. She took the initiative and saved her husband from God’s anger by circumcising her son with a sharp stone.

The Jewish tradition is that, after this happened, Tzipora was turned away by Moses’ brother Aharon as they approached Egypt. Aharon told Moses to send her and the children back to Midian where it was safer for her. As a result, she was not present for the Exodus.

I hope that helps,
Rivkah Adler

7 thoughts on “God, Moses, Zipporah and Circumcision”

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    Thanks so much for explaining this to me Rivka. I have pondered these verses for so long and this has really helped me so much to understand this. I feel so indebted to Zipporah for having the courage to act on her inspiration because if she had not done this we might have lost Moses. I also will have to continue to meditate on this passage because it impresses on me that delayed obedience is still disobedience in the Lord’s eyes.

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    Thank you so much for the explanation about Tziporas deeds of loving kindness to her husband Moshe Rabbinu. It is a great story but we know this already what we do not know is the meaning and significance of her actions to Moshe and Israel. Why did Aaron chase her and why was she not included amongst the Bnei Yisrael? Why was Moshe in turmoil about circumcision of his own children? Why did she act and not insist that her husband did his job? Was sending her away the reward for a mitzvah? All very difficult to understand. Was the children hers or his or both? Did Moshe intend for their sons to be different from the rest of the tribes? There are more questions than answers it seems to me.

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      Tzipora did no less than save Moshe’s life. In fact, there is a tradition that this is the second time she did so. The first time, Jewish tradition says that she brought Moshe food and water during the time he was imprisoned in the home of Yitro, her father.

      The incident in these verses appears to have happened very quickly after the family settled into lodgings from their journey. I don’t think Moshe was “in turmoil”. My impression is that God was treating Moshe with very strict judgement (We have a tradition that the greater the righteousness of the person, the stricter God judges them.) According to Jewish tradition, Moshe was incapacitated by God’s judgement and therefore Tzipora had to be the one to act.

      The children are the children of Moshe and Tzipora.

      Aharon advised Moshe to send Tzipora and the children back to Midian for their own safety, since the slavery in Egypt was quite severe at the time and there was no way to know if they would have been enslaved had they entered with Moshe. It’s not clear that there was a connection between her actions regarding the circumcision and being sent away, although your theory is interesting.

      I recommend the book Moses’ Women by Shera Aranoff Tuchman for more information. You’ll see how Moshe’s life was saved by women over and over, which is the way I teach it.

      Rivkah Adler

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    brenda treants

    I thank Vicki for asking about these verses. How blessed we are to have a teacher we can speak with when we have a question. The answer is helpful in understanding what we have read here. For a non-Jewish person studying all I can about Jewish heritage, books of our Old Testament, The Torah, this web site is so helpful to me. In the effort to better understand our “Letter from Yeshiva” our Bible, and The Torah, I will continue to hopefully learn the lessons we are to be learning from our studies.
    Shalom and thank You God for all Your blessings!!!

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      Hi Brenda, I like your way of expressing things! So glad you posted! Blessings, Bob.

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    Emma Jacobson

    Personally, you cannot Serve YHVH without first lovingly obeying Him. You cannot be a “light” to the nations unless you first become that light.

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