I'm needing a little midrash help. Jump in to give any guidance.
At the end of last week's prison bible study one of the inmates asked for my opinion about a curious little story in Exodus 4 where God tries to kill Moses.
Yes, God tried to kill Moses. Here's the story:
Exodus 4.21-26You got to love the Bible! By the way, the phrase of the title "a bloody husband art thou to me" is how the King James Version renders what the NIV here gives as "you are a bridegroom of blood to me."
The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”
At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. So the LORD let him alone.
Some background to the story. In Exodus 2 Moses marries Zipporah, a Gentile, who gives birth to Gershom. We can make the assumption that Gershom is the uncircumcised son of Moses in Exodus 4 (yet, 4.20 states that Moses had "sons" so we can't be sure).
So what happened?
As we read, Moses was set to go off to liberate the Jews from Pharaoh. But the savior of the Jews, it seems, had an uncircumcised son. This seems problematic for God who seeks to kill Moses for this oversight, failing to circumcise his son. Not that Moses could be blamed too much. Moses wasn't raised as a Jew and Zipporah, Gershom's mother, wasn't a Jew.
So, to save Moses from being killed by God Zipporah springs to action and performs a quick circumcision with a "flint knife"--Ouch!--on Gershom. She then flings the bloody foreskin at the feet of Moses and, well, problem solved.
(Incidentally, it might not have happened exactly like that. The word "feet" in the Old Testament is often the Semitic euphemism for "penis." So when Ruth uncovers Boaz's "feet" in the book of Ruth she was actually uncovering...well, you get the idea.
Let's see that in a Veggie Tales show.
If the euphemism is being used here, and many scholars think it is, then Zipporah takes the bloody foreskin of Gershom and covers Moses' penis with it. A sort of symbolic circumcision. Moses might not be circumcised but the bloody foreskin of his firstborn son upon his own penis appears to function, here, as an acceptable substitute. So God doesn't kill Moses.)
Last week, when asked about this text (yes, I was familiar with this story--I've looked into just about every odd story in the bible, I'm kind of like a butterfly collector in this regard), my answer was simply that it's a story about how circumcision was important to the Jews and how Moses, coming in as an "outsider," needed to comply with Abraham's covenant with God.
That's obvious enough. But it still doesn't explain the Divine whiplash. Why did God send Moses out with such enthusiasm and then, soon after, try to kill him at a roadside inn? Why not bring this issue up with Moses when they were talking earlier? Why didn't God simply tell Moses what he needed to do to prepare himself and his household for the work God had called him to do? Why ambush and try to kill Moses on the road?
That's the part that perplexes.
Well, that and the feet stuff...Bet you'll never think of the story of Ruth in the same way again.