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? 




  1. “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? ”
    Okay – I’m DYING to know what the answers were!

  2. I’ve written a chapter on this in my book ‘Catalysts: You can be God’s Agent For Change’, is that Moses had understood in the back of his mind somewhere that Hebrew boys should be circumcised, but he hadn’t been brought up to understand the deep significance of why, and therefore he had not followed through on it when his sons were born.

    Maybe he and his wife had discussed it, but in his mind it was just a ritual without meaning so if he had even thought of doing it, probably the fact that his wife didn’t want him touching her baby boys convinced him.

    When he left, taking them with him to do what God had commanded, he had left those things undone (as we all do when we’re obeying the Lord but are not circumcised in our hearts – we’re never as ready as we think we are).

    She knew prophetically when God was trying to kill him, that it was about the rolling away of the flesh, and although she hated having to do it, because she was not Hebrew herself and couldn’t really understand it, she went ahead and did what was right. She truly did save his life and enable him to fulfill the call of God on his life.

    Circumcision in this context can be likened to the circumcision of the heart. It’s the Old and the New Testaments meeting each other in the most mysterious and back to front ways, as they sometimes do.

    You can’t serve the Lord without having to roll away the flesh. His son/s were a type of his need to be sanctified before the Lord.

    That’s my take on it anyway.

  3. Tanya, I’m afraid you’re going be disappointed. We came up with many questions, but few answers. The text provides little support to help us more toward greater clarity. We can speculate, but as long as we’re clear that that’s what we’re doing, it’s fun.
    Bev, I like what you’re saying. And it is good to say, “Maybe…” as you do, because Exo. 4 doesn’t give us much help. Bev, it’s awesome that you wrote about this strange little story.
    Thanks for engaging.

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