Why did God want to kill Moses in Exodus 4:24?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Exodus chapter 4 says: “[24] And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. [25] Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. [26] So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.” This is a very strange and intense passage. Yet, it is true. The Bible says God actually wanted to kill Moses! Why was God so harsh? Was God not extreme in seeking Moses’ life simply because he had not circumcised his son? We will take our Bibles and search the Scriptures for enlightenment.

God’s words in the previous verses help us. Exodus chapter 4 again: “[21] And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. [22] And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: [23] And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.”

Israel was God’s “firstborn son,” meaning His nation of servants. The Abrahamic Covenant was the first and foremost agreement that set Israel aside as God’s nation. We must consult Genesis chapter 17 at this point. About 450 years prior to Moses in Exodus chapter 4, the LORD God appeared to Abraham (still called “Abram” at that time) to tell him more about the Abrahamic Covenant he had first given him back in chapter 12 many years earlier.

Genesis chapter 17: “[1] And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. [2] And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. [3] And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, [4] As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. [5] Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. [6] And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. [7] And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. [8] And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

“[9] And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. [10] This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. [11] And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. [12] And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. [13] He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. [14] And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.”

Physical circumcision was not an option in Israel’s program. God had commandednot requested—that every male descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob be physically circumcised. Why? That physical circumcision was a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, and that covenant gave Israel her identity as God’s (set-apart) nation. As Acts 7:8 says, the Abrahamic Covenant is “the covenant of circumcision.” Yet, here was Moses in Exodus chapter 4, the leader of Israel, and he had a son whose physical appearance did not reflect his nation’s spiritual standing before JEHOVAH God. Moses’ son did not the physical circumcision that his nation’s covenant demanded. Genesis 17:14 had said: “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.” It was a most serious problem for Moses’ son to be uncircumcised!

Moses’ wife Zipporah called him a “bloody husband” because of the circumcision she had to perform on their son (Exodus 4:26). She greatly disliked this rite but executed it in a successful attempt to spare Moses’ life. Exactly why Moses had not circumcised his son is not stated in Scripture. Yet, we know Moses, his wife, and their son lived with the Midianites (Moses’ wife’s family) for 40 years (see Exodus 2:15–Exodus 3:1). They may have influenced Moses not to do it. Since returning to Egypt with him, and in a matter of life or death, however, Moses’ wife was forced to do it and she did it!

Also see:
» Was God “unfair” in striking Uzzah dead?
» Why did Israel have to keep so many strange laws?
» Was God “unfair” to punish us for Adam’s sin?