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)


5 Answers 5


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).

  • 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. Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 18:23

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.

  • 1
    That is an interesting approach to a difficult passage. Is it your own speculation or is there some evidence that Jews were called that? Thanks.
    – user10231
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 16:56
  • 1
    @WoundedEgo: It's totally my own idea, but I didn't find any better ideas out there.
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 2:12

Question: How is this phrase interpreted?

I think the simplest I've seen it explained is from GotQuestions:

Zipporah’s exclamation, “You are a bridegroom of blood to me,” is a complaint or a lament. She had to do something to her young son that was very painful and also very bloody. It was something that no mother would necessarily want to do, and she expressed her frustration with the way things had developed. Perhaps she, even more so than Moses, had planned to live out her days on the plains of Midian as a shepherdess and mother. Instead, her family had been completely uprooted to go on a journey she never expected to take. Additionally, she found herself doing something that she objected to. She is angry at Moses about it and calls him “a bridegroom of blood.” In English it might be paraphrased as “a husband of horrors,” “a mate of misery” or “a groom of gore.” The sentiment is, “If I had not married you, I would not have had to do this awful thing to my son.”


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.


What was wrong with Moses?

Moses was a murderer to Egyptians. He fled from Egypt because of it. Now, he wanted to go back, but what would happen to him if he did? His wife worried more about him then he worried about himself. So, she had this encounter with the Lord just as what Jacob did before he met Esau again.

Who is the bridegroom?

There is only one bridegroom in the Bible. He is not Moses. Moses already had two kids and was married, so he could not have been the the bridegroom. Jesus is the only bridegroom. Just look up all the instances of "bridegroom" in the Bible.

Why a "bridegroom of blood"?

Jesus died on the cross for our sins. These was possibly revealed to Moses' wife. So, Why did Moses' wife circumcise her son? To remind the Angel of the Lord---Jesus (one form of the Father to the old testament era people) what he would do later on for Moses.

What is the relation to the circumcision? It was clear in the text that the circumcision is related to the "bridegroom of blood". That is why Jews need to do the circumcision just as they need to sacrifice at the altar for their daily sins. This is also why they do not need to do it anymore after what Jesus was crucified later on.

Why did the Lord leave Moses alone after his wife circumcised her first son? Her second son was possibly circumcised already per the Jewish law. However, her first son was not before this incident since her first son was supposed to be in her bloodline but not Moses. Moses was a taken in husband but not an usual husband. Her action reminded us what the Lord would do to His First and ONLY SON. That completed the ransom of Moses' trespass.

  • 2
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    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 17:16
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