Why Was God About To Kill Moses?
by Terry W. Benton
The text of Exodus 4:24-26 seems oddly placed, but it is a separate paragraph from the rest of the text. Moses has been commissioned to go back to Egypt where the Israelites are and tell Pharaoh to free them. Moses thought of excuse after excuse, which angered God, and then made preparations physically to make the journey with his family. It had been important to him to get Jethro's permission and get the family ready in every way but one. He neglected a duty under the covenant of Genesis 17, the covenant of circumcision.
God told Moses what to say to Pharaoh about the death of his firstborn son if he did not comply with God's command to let His people go. This should have caused Moses to think about the effect of losing his own son to death. Yet, the covenant of circumcision was clear that if the Israelite male was not circumcised "he shall be cut off".
In reading between the lines of our text, it is easy to see that this act had been neglected in Moses' very own family. How can a man who let his wife overrule this very essential covenant take a message of doom to Pharaoh if he didn't obey God? How could the sentence of death be enforced upon Pharaoh if he didn't obey? Yet here we have Moses and his wife disobeying this essential covenant from God. Can they obey "if they want to?" Is God's word a list of suggestions but not commandments? Can this leader of Israel take his family to Egypt and not even comply with God's law themselves? Is the sentence of death for everyone but the leader in Israel? Is it for Egypt's leader, Pharaoh, but not for Israel's leader, Moses?
This matter should have been taken care of on the eighth day after Gershom's birth. Moses let his wife overrule God's word. She knew this was a problem to Moses, but she despised the covenant and could not see any value in it. When people don't "see" any value in something, they discard it. When people today don't see any value in baptism, they just ignore God's word on the matter.
In this case Zipporah despised the whole idea, and apparently was ready for Moses to tell Pharaoh about the death of his son, but forgot about the danger to their own son by disobeying God. With this attitude, have they really prepared themselves and their family for this most important trip to Egypt?
When we put all this together, it becomes clear as to why God was about to kill Moses. He brought him under a curse that reminded Zipporah that God's covenant of circumcision is not to be taken lightly, and you cannot be a leader and not set an example, and you cannot condemn another leader for non-compliance when you haven't complied yourself. She knew immediately what to do. She didn't like it, but she complied. But there is also here a hardness of heart matter. She would not comply with this Hebrew covenant because of the hardness of her heart. Pharaoh would not comply with God's order to let His people go until things got really difficult, and even then, he acted like Zipporah did, complying very angrily and resentfully. Perhaps God was giving Moses a quick rehearsal of how things would be when a man runs up against stubborn human will trying to get away with disobeying God.
See also "Explaining Exodus 4:24-26" by Carey Scott that will help to make sense of this otherwise obscure and strange passage. Once we see the context, it begins to make more sense.