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Exodus 4:20

Context
4:20 Then Moses took 1  his wife and sons 2  and put them on a donkey and headed back 3  to the land of Egypt, and Moses took the staff of God in his hand.

Exodus 4:24-26

Context

4:24 Now on the way, at a place where they stopped for the night, 4  the Lord met Moses and sought to kill him. 5  4:25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off the foreskin of her son and touched it to Moses’ feet, 6  and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood 7  to me.” 4:26 So the Lord 8  let him alone. (At that time 9  she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” referring to 10  the circumcision.)

1 tn Heb “And Moses took.”

2 sn Only Gershom has been mentioned so far. The other son’s name will be explained in chapter 18. The explanation of Gershom’s name was important to Moses’ sojourn in Midian. The explanation of the name Eliezer fits better in the later chapter (18:2-4).

3 tn The verb would literally be rendered “and returned”; however, the narrative will record other happenings before he arrived in Egypt, so an ingressive nuance fits here – he began to return, or started back.

4 tn Or “at a lodging place” or “at an inn.”

5 sn The next section (vv. 24-26) records a rather strange story. God had said that if Pharaoh would not comply he would kill his son – but now God was ready to kill Moses, the representative of Israel, God’s own son. Apparently, one would reconstruct that on the journey Moses fell seriously ill, but his wife, learning the cause of the illness, saved his life by circumcising her son and casting the foreskin at Moses’ feet (indicating that it was symbolically Moses’ foreskin). The point is that this son of Abraham had not complied with the sign of the Abrahamic covenant. No one, according to Exod 12:40-51, would take part in the Passover-exodus who had not complied. So how could the one who was going to lead God’s people not comply? The bold anthropomorphisms and the location at the border invite comparisons with Gen 32, the Angel wrestling with Jacob. In both cases there is a brush with death that could not be forgotten. See also, W. Dumbrell, “Exodus 4:24-25: A Textual Re-examination,” HTR 65 (1972): 285-90; T. C. Butler, “An Anti-Moses Tradition,” JSOT 12 (1979): 9-15; and L. Kaplan, “And the Lord Sought to Kill Him,” HAR 5 (1981): 65-74.

6 tn Heb “to his feet.” The referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity. The LXX has “and she fell at his feet” and then “the blood of the circumcision of my son stood.” But it is clear that she caused the foreskin to touch Moses’ feet, as if the one were a substitution for the other, taking the place of the other (see U. Cassuto, Exodus, 60).

7 sn U. Cassuto explains that she was saying, “I have delivered you from death, and your return to life makes you my bridegroom a second time, this time my blood bridegroom, a bridegroom acquired through blood” (Exodus, 60-61).

8 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

9 tn Or “Therefore.” The particle אָז (’az) here is not introducing the next item in a series of events. It points back to the past (“at that time,” see Gen 4:26) or to a logical connection (“therefore, consequently”).

10 tn The Hebrew simply has לַמּוּלֹת (lammulot, “to the circumcision[s]”). The phrase explains that the saying was in reference to the act of circumcision. Some scholars speculate that there was a ritual prior to marriage from which this event and its meaning derived. But it appears rather that if there was some ancient ritual, it would have had to come from this event. The difficulty is that the son is circumcised, not Moses, making the comparative mythological view untenable. Moses had apparently not circumcised Eliezer. Since Moses was taking his family with him, God had to make sure the sign of the covenant was kept. It may be that here Moses sent them all back to Jethro (18:2) because of the difficulties that lay ahead.



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