Monday, June 26Exploring The Black Presence In The Bible

Zipporah: The Midianite Wife of Moses


"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge..." - Hosea 4:6

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Zipporah was one of seven Midianite sisters that mistook Moses for an Egyptian after he saved them from the men at the well (Exodus 2:16-19). Her father Jethro was the priest of Midian, and it was he that gave Zipporah to Moses to marry. While she is introduced early in Exodus, very little is said about her. In fact, she’s only mentioned three times in scripture.

  • Zipporah: meaning bird or little bird.

The First Wife of Moses

What isn’t immediately obvious in scripture is that Moses had two wives and Zipporah was the first. This is actually a topic that is debated often, but scripture is clear that Moses married two different women from two different lineages. We can prove that by tracing their lineages in scripture.

  • Zipporah was a descendant of Abraham’s son Midian, who was born to Keturah. Ketrah was Abrham’s third wife. This means that Zipporah is a descendant of the line of Shem (Genesis 25:1-2).
  • Moses’ second wife is unnamed and referred to as an Ethiopian in the KJV and a Cushite in most other translations (Numbers 12:1). Cushites were descendants from the line of Ham through his son Cush.

By looking at the lineages we can safely conclude that Moses had at least two wives mentioned in scripture. Zipporah was the wife that gave birth to the two sons of Moses:

Zipporah’s Children
  • Gershom (Exodus 2:22)
  • Eliezer (Genesis 18:3)

An Emergency Circumcision

Sometimes in scripture we run across strange events that have no explanation as to what led up to them happening. The circumcision of one or both of Moses’ sons is one of those events.

“And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.” – Genesis 4:24-26

If we read the preceding verses, we see that this occurs after God had just given Moses instructions as to what to say to Pharaoh. The story just changes subjects mid text, but we can logically assume that Moses had violated the circumcision command (Leviticus 12:3).


Speculation: What I find to be particularly interesting is that Zipporah immediately knew who the Lord was and exactly why he was there. Her first reaction was to circumcise her son without being told to do so. She also seems to be angry because of the circumcision requirement, pointing to the possibility that her and Moses may have had a conversation and possibly an argument about it, ending in her refusal to allow it. Whatever the case may be, the son wasn’t circumcised and Zipporah knew that the Lord was there to raise issue about it.


What Happened To Zipporah?

The last we hear of Zipporah is shortly after the Exodus. Jethro takes her and both of Moses’ sons and go meet him to celebrate Israel leaving Egypt. After this event, Zipporah simply disappears from scripture and we never hear anything about her ever again.




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