A Bridegroom of Blood – Reflections on Exodus 4

There is a strange incident recorded in Exodus 4:

Yahweh said to Moses, “When you go back into Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your hand, but I will harden his heart and he will not let the people go. You shall tell Pharaoh, ‘Yahweh says, Israel is my son, my firstborn, and I have said to you, “Let my son go, that he may serve me”; and you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.’”

On the way at a lodging place, Yahweh met Moses and wanted to kill him. Then Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet; and she said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me.”

So he let him alone. Then she said, “You are a bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.

  • Exodus 4:21-26 (WEB)

This is one of the more enigmatic passages in the Old Testament because it raises many questions:

  • Why does the Lord want to kill Moses?
  • At whose “feet” does Zipporah cast the foreskin?
  • What is the meaning of “a bridegroom of blood?”  And, to whom is Zipporah speaking?

These questions have been debated for centuries, so they’re unlikely to be resolved here.  However, the general consensus is that the Lord wants to kill Moses because he did not have his son circumcised as was required under the Abrahamic covenant.  Moses is meant to lead the people of Israel to deliverance, but had not properly brought his own firstborn son into the covenant.  In addition, the “feet” at which Zipporah casts the foreskin is generally considered to be Moses’ feet.  However, “feet” can also be used as a euphemism for genitals; taken this way, the sense would be that Zipporah circumcises their son, then touches Moses’ uncircumcised genitals with the foreskin, thereby incorporating him into the covenant through the proxy of his own firstborn son.

Some thoughts flow from this.

First, in the New Testament, Baptism is pictured as corresponding to the Old Testament rite of circumcision:

For in [Christ] all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, and in him you are made full, who is the head of all principality and power; in whom you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.  You were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh. He made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, wiping out the handwriting in ordinances which was against us; and he has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; having stripped the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

  • Colossians 2:9-15 (WEB)

Second, as alluded to in Colossians above, Christ’s own death and resurrection is connected with Baptism.  Indeed, the purpose for which Christ was baptized was to connect our own baptisms with his death and resurrection, which he referred to as his “baptism.”  For example:

But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished

  • Luke 12:50 (WEB)

Third, Jesus Christ is referred to as the bridegroom many times, while the Church is the bride.  This image is carried throughout the Scriptures, actually, beginning in the Old Testament and carried through to the New.  In addition, Jesus is a “bridegroom of blood,” because it is through his blood shed on the cross that redeems his bride.

Coming full circle, then, Moses is sent to bring up the people of Israel, God’s “firstborn son,” and he himself is redeemed through the blood of his own firstborn son.  The “bridegroom of blood” saves, just as the “blood of the lamb” saves during the night of Passover later.  These foreshadow Jesus, as he is the bridegroom, the lamb of God, and God’s “firstborn” – the only-begotten Son.  All-together, the incident in Exodus 4 serves as a typological foreshadowing to Christ, his shed blood, and the Baptismal proxy through which we receive the benefits of his blood.


(Image: The Circumcision of son of Moses. By Jan Baptist Weenix – cyfrowe.mnw.art.pl, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35122095)

Aaron Simms is a writer specializing in Christian theology, history, and classical studies.  He is  a member of the American Academy of Religion, the founder of St. Polycarp Publishing House, and a front page contributor for The Resurgent.

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