What do I say that hasn’t been said countless times before? I’m not here to preach these passages. I’m not even trying to teach them. I’m just… responding to them. The problem with the super familiar passages is that all those lessons, all those sermons, in this case all those movies, actually get in my way. I find it difficult to connect with it on a personal level. It’s a lesson I’m repeating, reciting.
So what is it in this passage that sticks out to me? The bit about circumcision on the way to Egypt. The Faithlife commentary I’ve been consulting and citing pointed out that the pronouns in these versus don’t have a clear antecedent. Since Zeporah circumcises their son, it’s possible it’s his life that was threatened. After all, it would be weird for God to send Moses back to Egypt, to have a full conversation with him, just to try to kill him when he’s on his way to obey, especially since no mention of circumcision was made in that conversation. But, she touches the foreskin to Moses and declares him her bridegroom of blood. So, so many questions. (Especially since ‘feet’ could be a euphemism!)
Egyptians had circumcision. It was different: the foreskin wasn’t entirely removed. The suggestion that Moses wasn’t circumcised according to the Hebrew way doesn’t hold up for me because his mother kept him until he was three months. I’m pretty sure circumcision would have been earlier than that, even without the explicit timing laid out in the law. Still, it’s possible he circumcised his own sons in the Egyptian manner. He was raised and educated by them. Or maybe he followed the customs of his wife’s people and they didn’t circumcise at all. So maybe it isn’t so strange that it hadn’t been done according to the covenant.
But how did she know what it was that needed to be done? Was there an announcement made? I’m here to kill Moses, or Gershom, because this hasn’t been done! Why is she the one that scrambles to do it, not him? And… why does she declare him her bridegroom of blood?! What is the significance of that? Why is the circumcision of their son significant in their marriage? Why did she have to touch the foreskin to him? Seriously… so, so many questions.
So I asked Google. I found a christian take and a Jewish take on the passage. They helped. (And the exploration of Jewish tradition is fascinating.)
Both of them point to the preceding passage, the one foretelling the death of the firstborn. They explain that the pronoun confusion even extends to who exactly is touched by the foreskin. It could have been God as he stood ready to kill Moses. They explained that obedience was what would protect the Hebrew firstborn sons from death, and it is obedience that saves a life here. They explain that only in the houses where the occupants were circumcised and sheltered under blood would the firstborn be safe. So they explain the significance of the passage as a parallel of what is coming, another example of how the shedding of blood is required for salvation.
Still not clear on how Ziporah is the one who understands and acts, or the significance of this. Or, and this is where my mind got stuck on this explanation: if it’s God’s feet she touches with the foreskin, is she calling him her bridegroom of blood? Because, God calls himself the bridegroom several times. It is through obedience, the sacrifice of blood, that we take our place as the bride?