I’m reading through Exodus at the moment and came to a passage that has puzzled me every time I’ve read it. The story picks up as God tells Moses he has a job for him to do with Pharaoh and the Israelites in Egypt.
Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. … At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. So the Lord let him alone. (Exodus 4:20, 24-26.)
The Bible never says why God was about to kill Moses.
- Was it because Moses hadn’t circumcised his son?
- In their lengthy instructions to Moses about going to Egypt and leading the Israelites back to the Promised Land, couldn’t God have added in a quick reminder to circumcise his son?
- Also, wouldn’t killing him before he even got to Egypt put a damper on God’s plans to use Moses to free the Israelites from their captivity?
The passage doesn’t say much about any of these questions. But it does say a lot about women.
Zipporah the Intercessor
One of the main functions for the ancient priests of God was to intercede for the sake of God’s people. They stood as mediators between God and the people when the people sinned.
In taking on this role they are not exercising a power inherent in themselves but stand as representatives of God. That’s because it is really God himself who intercedes for us.
Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:23-25.)
One thing to remember about Zipporah is that she saved Moses before Israel had any priest. Yet still she carried out a priestly duty in offering blood to intercede for Moses with God; after all, atonement for sin requires an offering of blood. This was one of the first ordinances God gave the Israelite priesthood.
Once a year Aaron [the first high priest of Israel] shall make atonement … with the blood of the atoning sin offering for the generations to come. It is most holy to the Lord. (Exodus 30:10.)
The ultimate and eternal sacrifice, the one the priests merely represented through their actions, is Jesus’ blood on the cross.
The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering … . And so Jesus also suffered … to make the people holy through his own blood. (Hebrews 13:11-12. See also Isaiah 53:12.)
If the actions of the high priests year after year on behalf of God’s people interceded for them in their sin, and since this is actually a representation of what Jesus the Son of God did once for all time on the cross with his own blood, then Zipporah took the same place as a priest: she represented Christ in standing between her husband and God with the sacrifice of a son’s blood.
Women and the Priesthood
There is not a single woman listed among the priests of Israel. The ordinances of the priesthood made clear that they were to come from males in the line of Aaron, and only those men who were without physical handicap, blemish or infirmity. (Leviticus 21:21.) These were the rules for Israel under the Mosaic Covenant, the laws God gave Moses for the Jews as he established their theocratic nation.
We are not under the Mosaic Covenant.
Neither was Zipporah.
She lived to see that covenant, but at the time she saved Moses from God’s wrath that covenant did not yet exist. It doesn’t exist for Christians either.
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:6.)
That “written code” is the Mosaic Covenant with all its rules. You now live under a new way, one where everyone is a priest.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9.)
The nation of God’s people is made up of women and men together, with no distinction in their merit or place in his kingdom.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28.)
In Jesus we are not under the Mosaic Covenant; we are equal in God’s sight; we are all priests in the kingdom of Christ.
Sounds a lot like Zipporah, the priest who saved her husband’s life.