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Lesson 5: Moses and Zipporah: Relating With Relations *

Introduction: You know the background story for Moses: he was born in Egypt as a Hebrew slave. Worse than that, Pharaoh decreed that he, like all Hebrew baby boys, was to be drown in the Nile river. Moses' mother put him in the Nile, but had him in a little floating basket. Pharaoh's daughter found Moses in his little basket, decided to adopt him as her own, and Moses grew to manhood as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Let's dive right in to learn more about Moses and his marriage!

  1. Flight

    1. Read Exodus 2:11. What kind of emotion would you expect from Moses? Although in his very early years he was raised by his own Hebrew mother ( Exodus 2:1-10), he had undoubtedly been educated as an Egyptian elite. Would he identify with the slaves or with his sophisticated adopted family? What would you do?

    2. Read Exodus 2:12. This answers our previous question, he obviously identifies with the Hebrews. Perhaps he just objects to injustice. Does Moses think it is right for him to kill the Egyptian? Why not just intervene to stop the beating? (The Bible reveals that Moses knew this killing was unlawful, because he looked around to see if anyone was watching. Plus, he hid the body.)

      1. Should this be your standard for conduct - whether anyone will find out?

    3. Read Exodus 2:13-14. What kind of emotions would be flowing through Moses' mind now?

      1. What are his thoughts about his own people? (They are ungrateful for what he has done.)

      2. What are his thoughts about his adopted people? (That he has betrayed them and violated one of the fundamental rules.)

    4. If Moses had not been a Hebrew, do you think killing the Egyptian would have mattered? (I'm not sure how strong the "rule of law" was in Egypt. My guess is that this would not normally be a problem - royalty killing a slave - considering the death decree for Hebrew baby boys. The problem here was that this showed that Moses was disloyal to Egypt and had loyalties to the slave nation. Obviously, that would be a problem for a future leader of Egypt.)

    5. Read Exodus 2:15-16. We see that killing a Hebrew was a serious problem for Moses. He escapes death and runs away. Have you noticed a pattern in our last few lessons? Where should you go to meet women? (A well.)

      1. Last week we discussed Jacob's emotions when he found Rachel, the daughter of Laban. How would you compare Moses' emotional state?

      2. What is the modern equivalent of the well for meeting women? The grocery store? The gas station? The bar? The pet park? The Laundromat? (Now we know why it is not so easy to meet women these days - working and watering have been separated. Guess that leaves the water fountain in the office.)

    6. Read Exodus 2:17. What insight are we getting into the character and skills of Moses? He kills the Egyptian bully, he intervenes in the fight between the Hebrews, and he drives the shepherd bullies away. (He not only has a highly developed sense of justice, he believes that he has the burden of intervening to make things right. Generally, small, weak men do not do such things. Thus, I conclude that Moses was, if not a large man, a strong and highly trained fighter.)

  2. Marriage

    1. Read Exodus 2:18-20. Apparently, the daughters were not looking for a man at the well, but the father was. What do we learn about this father in these few verses? (He is a religious leader - a "priest of Midian." ( Exodus 2:16) He has a lot of daughters and perhaps not enough sons! He either has a sense of gratitude, or he is looking for someone to help his daughters in their daily work. (A note about his name. Exodus 2:18 calls the father "Reuel." Later, in Exodus 3:1 he is referred to as "Jethro." We'll just call him "Jethro Reuel.")

    2. Read Exodus 2:21-22. What is Moses' attitude? What would be your attitude if you were in Moses' place?(Moses lived in the palace of one of the most prominent and sophisticated countries in the world. He is now an alien in a foreign land - living with shepherds. (Egyptians had historically detested shepherds. Genesis 46:34.) I think Moses' comment is a note of resignation about his sorry situation.)

      1. How would you evaluate Moses' chances for success in his marriage to Zipporah? What factors do you think are important to consider. (She has a different religious background. She has a different cultural background. She has a different racial background. She has a different economic background - although the differences might not be a significant as it seems. A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, says that "priest of Midian" could also be understood as "prince of Midian" - and the offices were generally joined. Thus, this commentary considers him the ruler of the Cushites. My belief is that the more differences in the backgrounds of a couple, the more difficult it is to "become one." These two have nothing in common.)

    3. God calls Moses to rescue the Hebrews from their Egyptian slavery. Let's pick up the story by reading Exodus 4:18-20. How is the marriage going? (Contrary to my predictions! Acts 7:30 tells us Moses was in Midian for 40 years. Thus, it appears he has been married for about that length of time.)

      1. What reason does Moses give to his father-in-law for going to Egypt? (Sort of an inspection tour - to see if any of his old friends are still alive. Class reunion kind of thing. Very innocuous.)

      2. What is Moses' real reason for going? (Read Exodus 3:9-11. He is going, at the command of God, to confront Pharaoh and convince him to free the Hebrew slaves.)

      3. Is Moses just being modest? Why does he so seriously misstate to "dad" the reason for his trip?

    4. Read Exodus 4:24-26. The Bible does not say how it was that God "was about to kill" Moses. Clearly, God could have easily killed him. My belief is that Moses became ill. What does a serious illness cause most people to do? (Re-examine their life. In this case, Moses was on a very important mission and his life needed to be in accord with God's will.)

      1. Why would the circumcision of his son be such a "big deal" to God? (In Exodus 3 God repeatedly says that He is the God of Abraham and He is remembering and fulfilling His promise to take Abraham's descendants to the promised land of Canaan. Genesis 17:10-14 reminds us that the symbol of this covenant between God and Abraham was the rite of circumcism. How could Moses be the leader in fulfilling that promise while ignoring the very symbol of that promise?)

      2. What would logically account for Zipporah calling Moses a "bridegroom of blood?" (The Bible does not say, but I imagine Zipporah would be against circumcising her sons. Who wants to start carving on their child? She indicates here her feelings about the rite. My bet is that this has been a source of friction between the two of them. Moses has deferred to his wife. But, now that he is gravely ill, he is convicted of his obligation, but is too weak to perform the rite. He tells Zipporah of his conviction about the nature of his illness - so she reluctantly performs the rite to save her husband's life. She is not happy about having to do it - and says so.)

    5. After a great struggle with Pharaoh, Moses leads the Hebrews out of Egypt. Read Exodus 18:1. How much of a shock do you think this was to Jethro Rueul? (Contrary to Moses' statement that he is just taking a trip to check on the life and health of his friends, Jethro Reuel now hears that Moses has brought the entire Hebrew nation out of slavery - and drowned the Egyptian army in the process!)

    6. Read Exodus 18:2-5. Why would Moses send his wife and sons away? We last saw them traveling towards Egypt together? (Read Exodus 4:22-23. God told Moses to tell Pharaoh that He would kill Pharaoh's first-born son if he did not free the Hebrews. On such a mission, I would not bring my sons along. I would not have them anywhere in the neighborhood. I think that thought crossed Moses' mind and caused him to send his wife and sons back to their father.)

    7. Read Exodus 18:6-12. What kind of relationship do Jethro and Moses have?

      1. How has Moses' faithfulness to God affected the spiritual life of Jethro Rueul?

      2. How has Moses' relationship to God affected the spiritual life of Zipporah?(It is not clear whether Jethro and Zipporah have ended their relationship with all other gods, but they clearly are convinced about Moses' God - that He is greater than all others.)

    8. Friend, if you are married to someone who is not a believer, your faithfulness to God may well convert the heart of your spouse and your in-laws. It is better not to marry outside your faith, but do not let that be an excuse for losing your faith. Use it as an opportunity to convert your family.

  1. Next week: Sampson and His Women: The Folly of Passion.
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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