Friday, May 6, 2016

A Bridegroom of Blood or a Groom Protected by Blood?

Badarian (3200 BC) flint knife with ivory handle

Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin and threw it at Moses' feet, and she said, "You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me." So He let him alone. At that time she said, "You are a bridegroom of blood" [hatam damim]-- because of the circumcision... Exodus 4:24-26

Alice C. Linsley

Exodus 4:24-26 is a puzzling passage and one that shows evidence of emendation. It is not clear why the Lord sought for Moses to die when He had given instructions for Moses to address Pharaoh upon his future return to Egypt.

At first glance this story seems to be about Moses and Zipporah, but a later source - probably the Deuteronomist Historian - shifts the focus to the firstborn son and draws a parallel with God's wrath shown to the firstborn of Egypt when the angel of death passed over. This emphasizes YHWH's protection and preference for Israel.

Exodus 4: 2-23 suggests a reason for the intrusion of this idea.
The Lord said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the Lord, "Israel is My son, My firstborn. "So I said to you, 'Let My son go that he may serve Me'; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.'"
Israel is said to God's "firstborn" and circumcision was to be the sign of the covenant with Israel. God's wrath would be expected to fall on Moses if he neglected to circumcise his son. Why did Moses not perform the circumcision?

Zipporah was Moses's second wife; his cousin bride. Presumably, the son who Zipporah circumcised was their first born. If this is the case, Zipporah performed the rite that would have been performed by her father, Jethro the priest of Midian. This is because the first born son of the cousin bride belonged to the household of his maternal grandfather. This is a feature of the marriage and ascendancy pattern of Abraham's people.

Zipporah's father was a Horite Hebrew priest who ruled in the region of Midian. The land of Midian was named for one of Abraham's sons, born to Abraham's cousin wife, Keturah (Gen. 25). To explore the account given in Exodus 4:24 we need to understand the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the Horite Hebrew chiefs.

To prevent her husband's death, Zipporah performed the circumcision to cover him by the blood [dam]. The son's blood was placed on the father as a spiritual protection, just as the blood of the lamb on the doorposts in Egypt protected the people.

Since circumcision originated among the Nilotes we do well to look at the ancient Egyptian verb TM to determine the meaning of ha-tam damim.

In his book The Ancient Egyptian Language: An Historical Study, James P. Allen explains: "The verb tm forms a negative counterpart of all verb forms that can be negated except the imperative. It is a verb in its own right, meaning something like “stop doing, fail to do, not do,” and as such can be negated itself..." (p. 129). The examples he gives include: "He will not fail to do good." and "He does not fail to return." Zipporah's complaint pertains to something Moses failed to do. Moses failed to have his first born son by his cousin wife circumcised according to the tradition of the Horite Hebrew fathers (Horim). The boy should have been circumcised on the eighth day by Jethro, to whose household the child belonged according to the marriage and ascendancy pattern of Abraham's Horite Hebrew people.

The root dmm appears in over 62 places in the Bible and 4 times in the book of Job, the Horite of Uz. It refers to guilt or responsibility. With this in mind, ha-tm damm appears to mean simply that Moses failed to do his duty in some regard.

The word hatan has multiple related meanings. It means husband. Moses was both Zipporah's husband and her covering. We recall how in seeking Boaz's protection, Ruth asked him to cover her with the hem of his robe. This is a very ancient custom which is observed in many cultures. In the Akkadian, hatan means protection. However, in Arabic hatan (or khatin) refers to circumcision (Hebrew Study Bible, pp. 113-114).

It is possible that Zipporah claimed concerning her husband: "You are protected by blood" (Sarna, N., The JPS Torah Commentary on Exodus, Jewish Publication Society, 1991, p. 26).

It is significant that the blood that protects is the blood of the Son. Let those who have ears to hear, hear the message of our Messianic Faith.

Related reading: Why Zipporah Used a Flint Knife; Hatam Damim: The Bridegroom of Blood; Circumcision Among Abraham's People; The Origin of Circumcision; Moses's Wives and Brothers; Seated With Christ; The Pattern of Two Wives

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