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.
Her Birth Announcement
Just after Sarah dies, Rebecca’s birth is recorded, the only woman given this distinction in the Bible. It seems that the narrator wants to reassure the reader that the saga will continue. “Before the first matriarch died, the second is already born” (Teugel, p.92). But it is not just that she is mentioned, it is the way that her birth is recorded. The genealogical record lists Rebecca as the only progeny of Bethuel (22:23) even though very clearly she has a brother, Laban. Through the notice of her birth, Rebecca is being emphasized so that we understand that she will carry on Sarah’s role. Continue reading