Understanding Difficult Texts

Understanding Difficult Texts - Moses’ wives

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Moses’ wives:

It appears that Moses took a second wife. But if we notice carefully it becomes clear that Moses married only once! But some insist that the Ethiopian woman was the second wife of Moses. Let us assume that that was the case.

The marriage of Moses is a fascinating one. The way he got his wife, Zipporah, is similar to Isaac getting Rebekah. The difference is that Rebekah drew the water from the well and helped the house of Isaac, but here Moses drew the water and helped the house of Zipporah. Let us read both the passages.

Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink; And she say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the LORD hath appointed out for my master's son. And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well, and drew water: and I said unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee. And she made haste, and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: so I drank, and she made the camels drink also. And I asked her, and said, Whose daughter art thou? And she said, The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bare unto him: and I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands. And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter unto his son. (Genesis 24:43-48)

Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon to day? And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock. And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread. And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. (Exodus 2:16-21)

Moses had a son by his wife Zipporah. The Bible records:

And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom. (Exodus 2: 22)

According to the law that God gave Abraham every male child was to be circumcised on the eighth day. God said:

And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. (Genesis 17:12)

We don’t know how Moses forgot to circumcise his son; and God reacted sharply.

And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision. Exodus 4:24 – 26

 The law of circumcision was first given to Abraham when he faltered in his married life by taking a second wife, and having a son through her. This law was to constantly remind them of the mistake of Abraham, and the lesson of depending on human wisdom, and the danger of giving-in to the desires of the flesh. When Moses failed to perform this ceremony on his son God saw the danger of him forgetting the issue behind it. And God wanted to kill him for this! This shows that God was serious about the whole issue, and what it stood for.

Moses would never want to repeat the mistake of Abraham in having plural wives. If God wanted to kill him for not circumcising his child (the law that came directly from the result of plural marriage) how would God react if he committed the original mistake itself?

It appears Moses got married again! And we see God supporting him fully, and rebuking Aaron and Miriam, and striking Miriam with leprosy for murmuring at Moses because of his new wife. Is God changing His position on this issue that hits at the root of this holy ordinance? Not at all! God and His Word never change. He said:

For I am the LORD, I change not. (Malachi 3:6)

 The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17)

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)

My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. (Psalms 89:34)

 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Matthew 24:35)

 Let us have a closer look at the second marriage of Moses.

And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. (Numbers 12:1)

 The Ethiopian woman or a Cushite, as the Bible margin has it, became Moses’ wife, his second wife. The siblings of Moses were upset and spoke against Moses. When did he marry this woman? Well, the date is not given but the context gives us a clue. It was just before the children of Israel went to spy out the land, as the next chapter talks about it. So it was many years since they left Egypt (and since his first marriage) and a little time before the children of Israel entered Canaan.

The Scripture does not record the death of Zipporah, Moses’ first wife. But we can conclude that she was dead when Moses got married again when we look carefully at the text of the second marriage.

 Who were upset when Moses got married to the Ethiopian woman? It was the brother and sister of Moses. If Zipporah was alive, shouldn’t she be the most upset person, being the first wife, and, one flesh with him? Remember the story of Abraham’s second marriage? Though, at Sarah’s bidding, he got married to Hagar, Sarah was the one upset at the end of it (Genesis 16:1-6). But when Moses chose his second wife the Bible mentions that only two of his loved ones being upset. Obviously Zipporah was dead by then.

 



 
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