Month: September 2014

Not Even God Could Kill Moses

Everyone wanted to kill Moses. 

In Exodus 1-2 Pharaoh tried multiple times. He told the midwives to kill all Hebrew baby boys, and when that didn’t work he told his people to throw the Hebrew boys in the Nile. When Moses grew up, he killed an Egyptian taskmaster who was beating up a Hebrew slave, and when Pharaoh found out, he wanted to kill Moses yet again.

baby Moses stained glassEach time Moses was protected by a woman. The midwives lied to Pharaoh to protect the baby Hebrew boys. Jochebed and Miriam, Moses’ mother and sister, protected him after “throwing” him into the Nile in a basket, literally an “ark” (teva- just like Noah (Gen. 6:14), and my sandals). Pharaoh’s daughter rescued baby Moses in his ark. The daughters of Jethro welcomed Moses who was fleeing Pharaoh into their home (after some encouragement by their father).

Every time Pharaoh tried to kill Moses, he was rescued by women.

Finally, God tried to kill him. 

At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision (Exodus 4:24-26). 

Old Testament scholar, David Penchansky comments on this story, “Biblical scholars love this passage because it is totally incomprehensible” (from What Rough Beast? Images of God in the Hebrew Bible, 1999: 67).

We talked about this story in class recently and brainstormed a list of questions.

Why did God want to kill Moses?
How did Zipporah (Moses’ wife) know God was going to kill him?
How did Zipporah know God wanted to kill Moses because their son wasn’t circumcised?
Why does Zipporah call Moses a bridegroom of blood?
Why was God unable to succeed in his quest of slaughter?  He tried, but couldn’t? 

I’m not sure what was going on with the “Bridegroom of Blood” story, but it does continue a pattern of incidents in Exodus where Moses’ life is in danger.

But he keeps being protected by women.

The midwives.
Pharaoh’s daughter.
Jethro’s daughters.

I’m not sure how hard he was trying, but this time not even God could kill him. Although, God does eventually succeed, preventing Moses from entering the Promised Land for striking, not speaking to, the water-rock (Num. 20:12; Deut. 34:5).

Thank God for women who deliver and protect men. 

How do you understand the “totally incomprehensible” bridegroom of blood story? 



Does God really promise to give us our own nation?

Joel Osteen Psalm 2.8Recently, Joel Osteen Ministries posted on Facebook that we should pray “hidden dreams” and “unborn promises” based on Psalm 2:8.

I disagree, and write about it here on the BTS blog.  (The blog was written in August, but publication was delayed.)

My perspective is also quoted here in this article in the Christian Post (written by Nicola Menzie).

In Psalm 2:8, God promises to give the nations.  I keep asking for the nation of Tahiti, but God hasn’t come through yet.  Perhaps, I’m not righteous enough (see James 5:16)?

Holy Water, Jealous Husbands, and Dropping Uteruses

I received an email this morning from a current student.  Here is how he started,

“Since we talked about weird laws tonight, Numbers 5:11-31 has been deeply troubling to me.”

I don’t think he’s unique.  Let me summarize the law. Numbers 5, a husband is jealous, wondering if his wife has been fooling around, so there’s a test to figure out whether she’s guilty or not.  The priest gives her some holy water in a jar, with tabernacle floor dust sprinkled on top.  She has to take an oath and drink the water.  If her uterus drops then she’s guilty.  If not she’s innocent, and her husband should trust her. 

This is how I replied:

A lot of people wonder about this weird story, but not too many have asked me about it directly.  I’ll probably convert this email into a blog post.

No definitive answers, but here are six points to make.

First, Genesis 2 lays out the ideal for a husband and a wife.  A mutual partnership of trust, where they both help (ezer) each other.  I would argue it was an equal partnership, with no implicit authority.  But after the first sin (the forbidden fruit eating), he rules over her (Gen. 3:16).

Second, the man is clearly ruling in Numbers 5.  So, we’re not talking about the ideal.  It’s not Genesis 2, more like Genesis 3.

Third, this bizarre test is almost certainly an improvement on what would have normally happened back then.  A jealous husband would often just get rid of his wife, and she would have no security, and become either destitute or a prostitute.  Assuming she’s innocent, this test gives the woman a way to reclaim her reputation, and hold onto security.

Fourth, from a purely human level, how often is slightly dirty water going to cause a woman’s uterus to fall out?  It would seem like the default is innocence, barring some supernatural intervention.

Fifth, while I’m still troubled by this, I can see good in this law for the woman, but it does require a step of faith on my part to assume that the law is somehow designed to protect her.  Their culture and context were very different than ours, even more patriarchal and sexist than ours.

Sixth, why not a similar test for a jealous wife of a suspicious husband?  Good point.  I don’t have a good answer for that, but in my next book I look at adultery and rape laws.  The relevant OT laws are actually rather progressive, more so than our laws today in terms of giving women the benefit of the doubt in these types of situations.

Now, off to my faculty meeting for the next 3 hours.

What would you have said to my friend about Numbers 5?