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In Exodus 4:24–26 the story is recounted of Moses' failure or delay in circumcising his son, and Zipporah stepping in herself to perform the right, saving Moses' life.

I am aware some theologians consider this to be too fragmentary for understanding. For systems of Biblical Hermeneutics that consider it meaningful as written, how is this phrase interpreted?


For reference, the passage is:

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 (ESV)

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3 Answers

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Could be retranslated as "bridegroom of blood" ("bloody bridegroom" could be an attempt to smooth the english genitive) which could just be a lament about the fact that Zipporah's son almost died because Moses had failed in his responsibility.

Conversationally, I have heard people wonder if she disagreed with circumcision. I don't think so, given her father's familiarity with Yahweh (and the cultural norm of circumcision).

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FYI, I edited the question a bit to get at the meaning of the phrase rather than the translation oddity. I don't know if you want (or even need) to change your answer. –  Jon Ericson Mar 29 '12 at 18:23
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This is the Wikisource translation :

And it was on the way, in a lodging, and Yahweh met him, and sought to put him to death. And Zipporah took a flint, and cut off her son's foreskin, and touched it to his feet, and said, "for a blood groom you are to me". And he backed off him, then she said "blood groom", to the circumcision.

I personally didn't think this thing was so difficult to interpret in light of the other just-so stories and fake etymologies invented to explain place-names (like Beer-Sheva'), patriarch names(like Isaac and Moses), and ceremonies (like Succoth). The phrase חֲתַן-דָּמִים (blood groom) looks to me like an idiom regarding marrying Jews, that a Jew is a blood groom because he requires circumcision of the sons. The Biblical story would then be justifying this idiom by a giving it a biblical narrative.

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In sensus plenior, the whole of chapter four is a hidden narrative of Christ and the cross. It hints at a conversation between 'the Lord' and 'my Lord' as David recounts.

Ps 110:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord,...

The first part of the chapter is a conversation about the Son becoming incarnate and being made to be sin. At first he doesn't want to do it because the idea of being made to be sin is abhorrent to him. (Moses and the rod turned serpent). This part of the conversation is also reflected in the parable of Matt 21:28-31.

Verse 20 is his incarnation.

In prophetic riddles, when someone is threatened with death but does not die it is a symbol of the death and resurrection of Christ. This occurs within the passage in question.

At the cross, Christ is obtaining his spiritual bride, the church. Zipporah represents Israel, the first bride of flesh. Like Leah and Rachel.

The first wife is imploring Christ not to forget her, and to remember the covenant. Since "Life is in the blood" She says "You are a husband of life to me."

In SP:

Exod 4:25 Then [Israel] took [the word of God], and [remembered the promise made to Abraham], and [prayed], and said, Surely a husband [of life] art thou to me.

Exod 4:26 So he [rose from the dead]: then she said, A husband [of life] thou art, because of the [remembered promise].

Please let me know if more details are needed in the transformation.

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