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  • Susan Brown

Ladies’ Bible Study — Zipporah


Write a thumb-nail sketch of the person’s life:

Zipporah was the wife of one of the most famous men in the Bible. God did amazing miracles and her husband, as God’s spokesman, was honored and feared around the world. Yet, we know very little about her. Why? As we look at her life, we can see some reasons.

Zipporah was the daughter of a shepherd in the desert.  There’s no reason she should have been famous, except for a traveler who came into her life   She and her six sisters were out taking care if the sheep and brought them to the well to water them. They drew the water out of the well and poured it into troughs for the sheep, only to have some other shepherds come and drive their sheep away and put their own sheep at the troughs.  It evidently happened all the time — and they had to wait until the others were finished to draw more water and fill the troughs again for their sheep.

But on this day, something different happened.  A young man was at the well. When he saw the shepherds driving away the flocks of Zipporah and her sisters, he stood up for them, and he helped them water the sheep.  He came to their home so their father could thank him for his help.  His name was Moses.

Moses had grown up as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, but he never forgot his people.  I think he must have known that delivering his people was to be his destiny.  But God had another bit of training for Moses before he could lead God’s people out of slavery.  He had 40 years to spend hiding in the desert.  Moses had killed an Egyptian who was mistreating an Israelite. He had to run and hide so that Pharaoh wouldn’t kill him.

Instead of being a prince, Moses was a lowly refugee.  If he had delivered God’s people when he was still a prince, no doubt he would have been proud.  He would have received all the glory for the deliverance. But God had a different plan.  He gave Moses 40 years of humbling.  Those lessons of meekness he learned in the desert were as important as the lessons he learned in the palace. Maybe more so!

It was while he was on the run that he came to the aid of Zipporah and her sisters.  He stayed with Jethro, her father, and married Zipporah.  They had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer.  No doubt Zipporah felt safe and happy after so many years of marriage.

One thing didn’t make her happy. She didn’t want to obey God in the matter of circumcision.  This wasn’t just done for cleanliness and health. It was a symbol that the son was set apart to God.  She wasn’t ready to trust her son to God — or she didn’t believe God was real, so it didn’t seem necessary to her.

It may have been that the first son had some trouble with his circumcision — an infection or something.  We don’t know, but we know that the second son didn’t have this done.

Then God called Moses to leave the desert and go back to Egypt to lead His people to freedom. Can you imagine how Zipporah must have felt when she learned they were going back to Egypt?  It was dangerous there.  What if Moses was put in prison or killed?  She didn’t know anyone there, and her family and friends were there in the desert where she grew up.  Moses had fit himself into her life, and she was comfortable and happy with the situation. Now she would have to give up her life and security and fit into HIS life instead.  How would she like being the wife of a famous man?  Would other people look down on her, a simple shepherdess?

Still, she went along with Moses as they traveled back to Egypt. While they were at an inn, the Bible says that “God met Moses and sought to kill him.”

We don’t know exactly what that means. If God wanted him to die, it certainly would have happened.  I think that Moses must have become very sick.  The reason, though, was obvious.  Moses hadn’t circumcised his son — hadn’t given him to God and shown it with the ritual God commanded.

Moses was probably too sick to do it now, because we read that Zipporah took a sharp rock and did the circumcision herself.

And she was NOT happy.  “”Surely you are a bloody husband to me,” she said, and she flung the bloody foreskin at Moses feet.

She was angry and disgusted.  Whether it was her choice or Moses’ choice, we don’t know, but she didn’t go the rest of the way with him to Egypt. She and her sons went back to her father, Jethro.

That’s when Moses’ story gets really good!  There were the meetings with Pharaoh and the plagues, and the miracles.  The people saw an angel leading them in a pillar of fire by night and pillar of cloud by day.  They saw the Red Sea parting so they could walk across on dry land.  Over and over they saw wonderful, miraculous things on this amazing journey.  And Zipporah missed it all.

We don’t see her again until some time later when her father brought her to Moses. The Israelites were camped out in the wilderness and Jethro delivered her and her two sons back to her husband.

How did she feel about it?  We don’t know. We also don’t know how Moses felt about it. If he was glad to see her, we don’t read about it in Scripture, although we do read about her father for another whole chapter.  That’s the end of Zipporah in the Bible. The only other reference is that Miriam and Aaron didn’t like his Cushite wife.  Some people think that meant Zipporah, and that she was a Cushite.  It might have been so.  If it was, we don’t know exactly why they didn’t like her, other than they thought she was from an inferior race. Cushites have black skin. It might have been, though, that Zipporah died and Moses had married again, to an Ethiopian woman.  We’ll see what God thought of Miriam’s attitude next week when we do her study.

How did Zipporah’s life and character affect her husband? Her children?

Do you think Zipporah encouraged Moses to love the Lord and to obey Him?  No, evidently not.  If she had, her son would already have been circumcised.  She was the one who didn’t want to consecrate him to God, and she was angry with Moses because God demanded it.  We don’t see her as an adulterous woman, like Potiphar’s wife, but we see her as one who hung back and tried to keep her husband from following God.  Perhaps, in a way, that makes her even more wicked.  God had a plan for Moses that He had been preparing since before Moses was born.  No doubt the devil wanted to thwart that plan, and he used Zipporah in an attempt to keep Moses from fulfilling what God had called him to do.

Can anyone outsmart God?  No. He is the sovereign God and He will always do what He sets out to do.  It was Zipporah who suffered from her failure to trust God.  She missed out on all the miracles and blessings, and she missed out on being with her husband for this important time.

What about her sons?  Do you think they were affected by her unwillingness to surrender to God?  Yes, they missed out on seeing the miracles first-hand, too.  And, if they followed God when they grew up, we don’t hear of it. They didn’t become great leaders like their father.  Perhaps their mother’s interference and anger kept them from being all they could be.

List all of Zipporah’s characteristics. What does the Bible say about those characteristics?

She was rebellious and reluctant to follow God.  She was angry when she was forced to obey. She resisted God’s instructions and was bitter instead of repentant when He sent the reproofs of life.  She eventually gave in, but with a bad attitude.

I Sam. 15:23  Fro rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry….Sin is demanding my own way, insisting that I am the boss, the god of my life.  We are denying God’s right to direct our lives when we rebel.

Prov. 17:11  An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.  When you seek rebellion, your own way, a cruel messenger — the result of your sin — will be set against you.  For Zipporah, it was the loss of seeing God’s work, and the temporary loss of her husband.

She was idolatrous.  She put her son’s comfort ahead of obedience to God.Anything we put ahead of God becomes an idol.  Children can easily become idols.  We must never forget to surrender them to the Lord.

She was angry. She was angry with God and took that anger out on her husband.

Pro. 21:19  It is better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious and an angry woman.

Pro. 27:15  A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.

Col 3:8-10 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.  Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.

Prov. 16:32  He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.

Prov. 27:5  Wrath is cruel and and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?

Eph. 4:31  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.

What do you think is the leading lesson taught by Zipporah’s life?

It is a dangerous thing to defy God, and to try to keep our families from obeying, even if it looks like a logical thing to do.  Zipporah didn’t keep God’s will from happening. She just missed out on seeing the wonderful works of God.

Zipporah didn’t want to obey God, she didn’t want her husband to obey, and she certainly put her son’s welfare above obedience to God.  We see that it DID matter to God.  Her husband was in danger because of her rebellion. When she was forced to obey, she was angry.  She showed that anger to her husband, but she was really angry with God. She did what He commanded — but with the worst possible attitude.

What applications can you make to your life?

What are some ways a wife can hold her husband back from obeying God?

If a wife is worried about finances, she can persuade her husband not to tithe — which is a sin.  The tithe belongs to God, and refusing to give it is a sign of not trusting God and not really believing He will do as He promised.  (Mal. 3: 8-10)

Bible school.  A husband may want to attend, but his wife doesn’t want to be left alone.  Know that the closer your husband gets to God, the better a husband he will be.

A man may feel called to pastor, but his wife is reluctant to make the sacrifices that will be called for.

What makes you angry?  Anger is a symptom of something not yielded to God.  It is the opposite of peace, which comes from trusting God and surrendering to Him.  It’s like your own Zipporah is inside you saying, “This is not going according to my plan, and I don’t like it!”  That anger comes out against our husbands and children, but it is really against God.

The result of all of these?  It damages relationships, but worst of all, it makes you miss out on seeing God’s glory and His wonderful works.  It’s not worth it to be a Zipporah!

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