A speaker at a recent ministers meeting admitted that he did not understand why God sought to kill Moses. God had appeared in a burning bush and commanded Moses to lead his people out of Egypt. Moses was on his way to Egypt when he stopped to let his family rest at a desert motel. Suddenly, God appeared again, allegedly seeking to kill Moses for failing to circumcise his son.
The scenario does appear a bit unreasonable. Unless God wasn’t seeking to kill Moses as the minister assumed. My husband and I had a debate over who God sought to kill on the way home. I don’t believe Moses was God’s target. The way the scripture is worded in the NIV Bible makes it difficult to prove my point, but not impossible.
“At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met [Moses] and was about to kill him.” (Exodus 4:24)
The first clue to understanding who God sought to kill is the brackets around Moses’ name. The brackets indicate the word “Moses” is not in the original Hebrew text, but inserted by the translators to add clarity. Most of the other translations read “the Lord met him and was about to kill him”, which leaves room for speculation. The obvious answer is: the Lord met Moses. But the obvious contradicts the character of God, which is love and integrity. If God showed up to kill someone he had a very good reason.
To understand a difficult scripture, we need to examine everything God said up to the point we are stumped, and then interpret God’s actions in the light of his words. Since circumcising Moses’ son stopped God from killing someone we need to know what God said about circumcision before he knocked on Moses motel door in the desert.
Moses was on his way to deliver the children of Jacob for one reason. God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 2:24). When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, God placed one requirement upon him and his descendants if they wanted God to be their God – circumcision. God also said to Abraham, “Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant” (Genesis 17:14).
Who will be cut off from God’s people? The answer: “any uncircumcised male.” Now we know who God sought to kill. Not Moses, but the son in violation of God’s covenant.
If I know what God said to Abraham, Moses surely knew as well. Since Zipporah circumcised her son to save his life and only one son was in jeopardy, we can safely assume Moses had circumcised his firstborn son, Gershom. Apparently, Zipporah found the rite distasteful and refused to have it performed on Eliezer.
God’s actions were justified and reasonable. He had an agreement with Abraham that spanned generations. We may forget the past, but God has too much integrity to let time erase the agreements he enters into.