In Exodus 4:25, what is meant by the phrase “bridegroom of blood”?
Zipporah, Mose’s wife, refers to her husband as a “bridegroom of blood” in Exodus 4:25. Look back 400 years to learn the meaning of the name and the context of Zipporah’s adoption of it.
By God’s providence, the book of Genesis concludes with Joseph as prime minister of Egypt, having saved the country from famine and bringing his family to Goshen.
Exodus is set centuries later, when the Israelites had already established themselves as a powerful nation. Pharaoh did not give a hoot about whatever Joseph might have done, and he was understandably worried about having so many strangers living in his country (Exodus 1:8–11). Although he had previously ordered the deaths of all male Israelite infants, Moses had been spared by his mother and was later adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter (Exodus 2:1–10). The fact that he was born into Israelite nobility in Egypt never escaped his mind. It all started when he defended a slave from Israel and accidentally killed an Egyptian. If Moses had stayed in Egypt, Pharaoh would have had him slain (Exodus 2:11–17). In the land of Midian, he settled down as a shepherd.
Over the course of 40 years, Moses established a family in the Midian region. We don’t know what he told his wife and her family, but it seems he intended to spend the rest of his life tending sheep and forgot all about his time in Egypt and the imprisoned Israelites.
When Moses approached the bush, God spoke to him there and commanded him to return to Egypt and free the Israelites there. Moses initially protested but then accepted his fate (Exodus 3:1–4:17). A lot of things in his family life would have to change, and his wife probably wouldn’t approve of this new path he was following.
God “was about to murder him” when Moses returned to Egypt (Exodus 4:24). It was Zipporah, Moses’s wife, who “took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Moses’ feet with it” (verse 25). When asked if she had been circumcised, she responded, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me” (verse 25). (verse 26). Thereafter, God gave in (verse 26). Zipporah prevented the death of her spouse in this way.
It’s likely that the “bridegroom of blood” episode will strike most readers as peculiar. To what end did God send Moses on a mission if only to have him killed by the Egyptians? If God was appeased by circumcising the son, why? First, it’s important to acknowledge the possibility of anthropomorphic language; after all, God would have been successful in killing Moses had He actually tried to do so. Because Moses had not circumcised his son, it indicates that God opposed or threatened Moses in some way (possibly through severe illness). The covenant between God and Abraham’s descendants was symbolized by circumcision (Genesis 17:9–14). Any male who isn’t circumcised must be “separated from his people” (verse 14). This may result in exile or even death.
The fact that Moses had not circumcised his kid as a shepherd in Midian suggests that he had given up all pretense of being an Israelite. Could it be that Moses felt he was already “cut off” from his people and saw no reason to continue using the covenant’s outward sign? He had never circumcised his own son, and it was possible that his Gentile wife had objected.
Not until Moses returned to Egypt to shepherd God’s covenant people did God make his presence known. Moses needed to take care of his personal business before he could accept leadership. The circumstances surrounding Zipporah’s knowledge of how to circumcise their son are unknown to us, but we can presume that the topic had been discussed by Moses and his wife. She then used the foreskin to touch Moses’ feet after she had circumcised her son, which would make sense if Moses had been gravely ill and unable to execute the procedure himself. Moses was “healed” when he touched his feet with the foreskin, a symbolic gesture signifying the correction of a sinful situation.
ZIPPORAH: “You are a bridegroom of blood to me.” — a complaint or a sorrow. She had to subject her young boy to a gruesome and bloody procedure. She voiced her dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs and admitted that it was something no mother would ever want to do. It’s possible that she intended to spend the rest of her life as a shepherdess and mother on the Midian plains even more so than Moses. As it was, she and her family had been ripped from their familiar surroundings and sent on an adventure she had never anticipated. She also had to do something she strongly disliked. She blames Moses and names him “a bridegroom of blood” because of this. You may also use “a mate of sorrow” or “a groom of gore” to convey the same meaning in English. If I hadn’t married you, I wouldn’t have had to do this terrible thing to my son.
After the “bridegroom of blood” incident, Zipporah is barely referenced again. Her relationship with Moses and whether or not she came to believe in his God are mysteries. Similarly, Moses’ offspring aren’t mentioned again, and they clearly didn’t ascend to positions of power in Israel, either. Even whether or not Moses’s family lived with him while he was leading Israel is unclear. Despite the fact that Moses grew up in a dysfunctional household, God nevertheless chose to utilize him. Leaders in the church are expected to be upstanding citizens in the New Testament community (1 Timothy 3:1–12; Titus 1:5–9).