Post by Mike Miller on Feb 24, 2014 15:59:47 GMT -5
Ok, this is a tough one. It's obviously tough because we surely don't understand why something like this would happen. But it's also tough because some of the translators read into it what is not in the Hebrew text. Let me explain.
First, the word "Moses" never appears in these verses. Verse 24 literally says, "At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death." The NIV says, "the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him." Most scholars (including Jewish scholars) tend to think that it was not Moses the Lord intended to kill, but Gershom, Moses' firstborn. This especially makes sense considering the context. God had just told Moses that the risk of Pharaoh not submitting to Moses' demands would be that God would kill Pharaoh's firstborn son. Therefore, if Moses were to issue that threat--and eventually the danger of all the firstborn in the land of Egypt (at the time of the Passover)--then Moses' own son needed to be treated according to the law of circumcision.
Now, the Midianites (with whom Moses was dwelling and had married into) also practiced circumcision. But remember that Moses was raised in the house of Pharaoh, and at that time, the Egyptians were known to practice a partial circumcision, removing only a portion of the foreskin. It is possible (but we don't know for certain) that Moses had either performed this partial circumcision (which in God's eyes was no circumcision at all) or had not circumcised him in the first place. Therefore, God's threat was to kill the firstborn of Moses unless he was circumcised properly.
I know this seems odd to us today, but we have a hard time understanding just how significant circumcision was. This was the covenant sign between God and His people. For Moses' own son not to have been circumcised was a really big deal.
Furthermore (and I know you didn't ask this, but we might as well look at the rest of the passage), the word "Moses" does not appear in the next verse either. The more likely reading would be that Zipporah touched Gershom's feet with the foreskin, smearing them with blood as an outward sign that the circumcision had been done.
Of course, also problematic is the phrase "bridegroom of blood." First, what does it mean? And second, to whom was it spoken? The phrase itself does not appear anywhere else in Scripture or any ancient Hebrew document. So, the truth is that nobody knows for certain exactly what is meant by the phrase. However, we also need to consider that the word for "bridegroom" can mean either "husband," "bridegroom," or "relative" (a male relative). One possible translation (and I think the probable one) is that she is saying to Gershom, "Surely you are a blood relative to me." In other words, everything was now official, and the law had been completed so that there was no question that Gershom was indeed a true Israelite.
I know this does not resolve all the problems, nor does it likely provide satisfying answers. The truth is that the passage in question is quite enigmatic. Nevertheless, I hope I've helped a little bit. Feel free to ask follow up questions, and others are certainly welcome to chime in as well.