Today’s reading: Exodus 4:18-7:13
Exodus 4:24 NLT
24 On the way to Egypt, at a place where Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the Lord confronted him and was about to kill him.
I have to admit – I am sure I have read Exodus 4 at least 10 or more times, the verse never caught my eye until this year’s reading. I reread it two or three times. How is that I had missed the idea that the Lord was about to kill Moses – his chosen leader of of Israel’s deliverance from the Egyptians?
As an avid reader of God’s word I had to find out what this was all about. I read several commentaries and found that over the years there have been many theories on what provoked the Lord’s anger.
- Moses was at fault for bringing his family with him while on duty for the Lord.
- Moses and his family were at an inn and were spending too much time resting and relaxing.
- Moses was “unequally yoked” to a Midianite woman who spoiled the children and did not allow circumcision.
- Moses had totally given up on circumcision.
Ultimately, after reading many commentaries a theme did begin to emerge. The idea that God is a Holy God an he demands his servants to be observant and holy as he is holy.
1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV, ©2010)
15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
Let’s look at the whole passage, not just the verse that jumps out.
Exodus4:20 – 26 NLT
20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and headed back to the land of Egypt. In his hand he carried the staff of God.
21 And the Lord told Moses, “When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go. 22 Then you will tell him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son. 23 I commanded you, “Let my son go, so he can worship me.” But since you have refused, I will now kill your firstborn son!’”
24 On the way to Egypt, at a place where Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the Lord confronted him and was about to kill him. 25 But Moses’ wife, Zipporah, took a flint knife and circumcised her son. She touched his feet with the foreskin and said, “Now you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” 26 (When she said “a bridegroom of blood,” she was referring to the circumcision.) After that, the Lord left him alone.
First thing to note is in verse 20 – Moses has sons at this point, more than one. That is important because in verse 25 Zipporah circumcised only one son.
Second thing to note is in verses 21 – 23. Moses is on a task that the Lord specifically told him to do. He is on a mission from God – a real mission – not a comical one like the Blues Brothers .
The third thing to notice is that the resolution to the problem was the circumcision of the second son by Zipporah. There is almost a sense that the touching of the recently cut foreskin (I assume bloody) to Moses’s feet was in some sense a forerunning of the redemptive blood of the lambs at Passover and the blood of Jesus on the Cross.
The conclusion the commentaries come to is that Moses and Zipporah had circumcised one son (presumably the older son) and had not yet circumcised the younger. God had told Abraham and his descendants that they were supposed to circumcise the male children when they were 8 days old.
Genesis 17:9 – 14 NIV
9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
As a holy God, it was not possible to have his spokesman not be obedient to one of the key covenant of God. Moses was to have circumcised his son. Failing to do so was failing to honor God. The Lord took action.
I would like to think that the Lord was showing mercy by not cutting off Moses’s son from the his people and the covenant. The Lord took his discipline to the father, the one who was responsible for raising the son and ensuring the son’s religious and faith responsibilities.
From this point I suppose you can draw your own application. I see you can pick one of the following:
1. As I said earlier – we are to be holy as God is holy. Let us not forget to be faithful in the things of the lord.
2. We are to carefully guide our sons (and daughters) through their spiritual journeys. Ultimately, they will have to make their own decisions and choices when it come to their faith. But, until that point we have responsibilities to do what is best for them as we raise them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
Photo Credit: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org