Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Cut Above (aka Circumcisions by Zipporah - Half Off)

In the beginning of Exodus 3, we find Moses happily married and peacefully leading a flock of sheep on the edge of the desert. One day, while wandering in the desert heat, Moses came upon a rather singular sight, as we are told in Exodus 3:

And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

Going over to this burning bush, God introduces Himself, probably because most people wouldn't recognize Him in His burning bush disguise. Then, God tells Moses that He wants the Israelites out of Egypt, ending his statement with these two verses in Exodus 3:9-10:

9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.

10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.

Did Moses not wonder where God was when the Israelites first went to Egypt? Is God not supposed to be all-seeing, meaning into the future as well? Did God not foresee this oppression with which the Egyptians oppressed them? Was He asleep at some point when this first started happening? What was it that finally caused the cry of the children of Israel to come to Him?

Another thing, if God is all-powerful, why did He not go in person to get His people back? Would not the arrival of an omnipotent being be more impressive than the arrival of a shepherd? And besides, is God not everywhere? Why was He not in Egypt?

Well, Moses had some thoughts on this subject too, for in Exodus 3:11 he asks God:

Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

God apparently wasn't prepared for this, for He attempted to beat around the bush (no pun intended) with a vague answer which comes to us in Exodus 3:12 :

Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain

What the hell did that mean? Was God only to be with Moses in though? Could God not come along for the ride? Even for moral support?

Moses kind of knew that expecting logical answers from a burning bush was futile, and so he agreed. Then after some instructions and encouraging words, not to mention learning a few magic trick from God, Moses was ready to get underway. In Exodus 4:20 we read:

And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.

So all was going as planned and everyone was happy. Moses's wife, who was called Zipporah was getting a little vacation as well.

Then, for reasons unexplained, God decided to meet Moses at an inn. Perhaps he still had a few magic tricks to teach Moses before he went. Whatever the reason, all hell broke loose in the inn, as we see in Exodus 4:24-26 ;

24 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him.

25 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.

26 So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

So what the hell happened here?! God had chosen Moses as the savior of all the Israeli people in Egypt, and then He tried to kill him just for not having his son circumcised? Had God had too much to drink at that inn? Was this not a bit of an overreaction? Why did God have such an aversion to foreskin? And what was God doing peeking at the baby's private parts anyway? Is this not bordering on perversion?

But even if God disapproved, could He not have had a rational discussion with Moses? Is seeking to kill the guy that you just entrusted with a mission of Biblical Proportions something we would really expect from a Divine Being? Was Moses even sure that this was God? What was God doing hanging out in an inn without the burning bush guise?

And what was Zipporah doing walking around with a sharp stone? Had she foreseen this Divine temper tantrum? Did she have more foresight than God? How did she become so skilled at circumcisions? Was the poor child scarred for life? Did God care? Apparently not, for verse 26 says He let them go. Was He that impressed with Zipporah's emergency circumcision, or did the sight of the foreskin on the floor scare God away? If the latter, is it not good that the Egyptians had not armed themselves with foreskins?

Was Zipporah British? Was her calling Moses twice a "bloody husband," indicative of some British education. Should we not admire her restraint in her not calling him a "bloody idiot?"

And why did God decide that we have to know these minute details anyway?