Zipporah, Moses’ wife, was one of seven daughters of the priest of Midian, variously known as Jethro, Reuel and Hobab. After Moses received his directive from Yahweh to return to Egypt to save the Israelites, at a night encampment on the way, God threatened to kill either Moses or his son (the pronouns are unclear). Zipporah averted the imminent death by circumcising her son with a flint. Thereafter Zipporah returned with her sons to her father’s home in Midian. Later she rejoined Moses at Mt. Sinai. Nothing more is recorded of her. Our knowledge of Zipporah is limited to a few verses in the Bible. Most scholars have relegated the Zipporah account as too unfathomable and fragmentary to ever reconstruct into a cohesive narrative whole. However, I think there are sufficient details in these verses to enable us to identify the most plausible explanation of who she was and what she did.
Prior to the story of Cozbi, in Numbers 25, we learn that Balak, the king of Moab, listened to the advice of the mercenary prophet Balaam to entice the Israelites away from Yahweh by encouraging them to fornicate with the Moabite women. The result was a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites. In the midst of this state of affairs, Zimri, the son of the chief of the Simeonites, cohabited with Cozbi, the daughter of a Midianite chieftain. In a rage, the priest Phinehas stabbed the couple to death in order to stop the plague. It seemed to have done the trick. End of story? Not quite. The narrative bristles with possible interpretations that shed more light on Cozbi. Continue reading
“Most blessed of women be Yael, wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of women in tents. He asked for water, she offered milk; in a princely bowl she brought him curds. Her left hand reached for the tent pin, her right for the workmen’s hammer. She struck Sisera, crushed his head, smashed and pierced his temple.” Judges 5:24-26.
Judges 4 and 5 comprise both a prose and poetic account of the Battle of Kishon wherein the judge Deborah led the Israelites to victory against their Canaanite oppressors. When the Canaanite general Sisera fled on foot he found himself at the tent of a lone woman, Yael (Jael) who then killed him a hammer and a tent peg. Continue reading