Exodus 4:26
So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) So he let him go.—God let Moses go, i.e., allowed him to recover—accepted Zipporah’s act as sufficient, albeit tardy, reparation, and spared the life of her husband.

Then she said.—When Moses was sufficiently recovered, Zipporah explained to him why she had called him “a bloody husband;” it was “on account of the circumcisions,” i.e., the two circumcisions—of Gershom in Midian, many years previously, and now of Eliezer. We learn from Exodus 18:2-3, that Zipporah and her boys were sent back to Jethro by Moses, probably at this time. Moses was in haste, and the child could not have travelled conveniently for some days.

4:24-31 God met Moses in anger. The Lord threatened him with death or sent sickness upon him, as the punishment of his having neglected to circumcise his son. When God discovers to us what is amiss in our lives, we must give all diligence to amend it speedily. This is the voice of every rod; it calls us to return to Him that smites us. God sent Aaron to meet Moses. The more they saw of God's bringing them together, the more pleasant their interview was. The elders of Israel met them in faith, and were ready to obey them. It often happens, that less difficulty is found than was expected, in such undertakings as are according to the will of God, and for his glory. Let us but arise and try at our proper work, the Lord will be with us and prosper us. If Israel welcomed the tidings of their deliverance, and worshipped the Lord, how should we welcome the glad tidings of redemption, embrace it in faith, and adore the Redeemer!So he let him go - i. e. God withdrew His visitation from Moses.

Moses sent Zipporah and her children back to Jethro before he went to Egypt, Exodus 18:2. The journey would have been delayed had he waited for the healing of the child.

26. So he let him go—Moses recovered; but the remembrance of this critical period in his life would stimulate the Hebrew legislator to enforce a faithful attention to the rite of circumcision when it was established as a divine ordinance in Israel, and made their peculiar distinction as a people. So he let him go; or, he, i.e. God, or the destroying angel sent from God, departed from him, i.e. from Moses, and removed the tokens of God’s indignation, the sickness or stroke laid upon him.

Zipporah both repeats and amplifies her former censure, and reproacheth not only her husband, but also God’s ordinance; which perverse and obstinate spirit her husband observing in her, and wisely forecasting how much disturbance she might give him in his great and difficult work in Egypt, he thought fit to send her and her children back to her father, as appears from Exodus 18:1-3. In the Hebrew it is,

because of the circumcisions, to wit, of her two sons, who possibly were both circumcised at this time, though it be not so expressed; but one being mentioned for an example, we are left to suppose the like concerning the other; or the circumcision of this child brings the other to her remembrance, and so she upbraids him with both. Only this doth more provoke her than it seems the other did, because she was forced to do this speedily, and with her own hands, and that to a tender infant; whereas the elder peradventure was circumcised when he was more grown and strong, and able to bear the pain. Let none think it strange that Zipporah should quarrel so much at circumcision, because the Midianites were descended from Abraham, and therefore were circumcised. For if they were so, it was done when they were grown up, about the thirteenth year of their age, from the example of Ishmael, who was circumcised at that age. But indeed it is more likely that those people, being cast out of God’s covenant, as to the benefit of it, would, and did in a little time, throw off the sign of it, as having much more of pain and danger in it, than of use and privilege.

So he let him go,.... That is, the Lord let Moses go; suffered him to go on his journey without any further interruption; as the Targums, "it", the angel, ceased from him, or left him; or the disease and trembling departed from him, as Aben Ezra, and he was quite well and easy; though Grotius, after Lyra, understands it of Zipporah, she departed from him, that is, from Moses, and returned to Midian again, as it seems she did; but this the grammatical construction of the words will not bear, being masculine, though sometimes the masculine is used of women, as in Exodus 1:21,

then she said, a bloody husband thou art because of the circumcision; this is repeated, partly to give the reason of her calling him a bloody husband, because of the circumcision, and partly because of her great joy on occasion of her husband's restoration to her by this means.

So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
26. let him alone] Heb. relaxed from him: cf. Jdg 11:37, Deuteronomy 9:14.

Then she said (viz. when she spoke the words given in v. 25b), ‘A blood-bridegroom,’ with regard to circumcisions] The last word is plural in the Heb. ‘Blood-bridegroom’ was apparently a current expression: and the passage seems to attribute to Zipporah the new sense of it explained in the last note but one.

It seems that in this narrative an archaic stage in the history of circumcision is referred to, which is not elsewhere mentioned in the OT. Circumcision is a rite which has been, and still is, largely practised in the world: among the Hebrews (besides its religious associations) its distinctive feature was that it was performed in infancy. Among the Arabs it is performed upon boys of ages varying, in different places, from 3 to 15; but in many parts of the world it is performed upon youths at the approach of puberty. A practice so widely diffused must rest upon some common principle: and the idea which appears generally to underlie circumcision is that it is a rite of initiation into manhood; a youth, till he has been circumcised, is not reckoned a full member of the tribe, or (as in Australia, for instance) allowed to marry. Now the fact that the Heb. word for ‘father-in-law’ (ḥôthçn) is derived from a root which in Arabic signifies to circumcise, seems to shew that it meant originally circumciser, and to indicate that in primitive times circumcision was among the Hebrews, as among the other nations just referred to, a general preliminary to marriage, which it was the duty of the future father-in-law to see enforced. These facts throw light upon the present narrative. The reason why Moses had incurred Jehovah’s wrath was because he was not a ‘blood-bridegroom,’ i.e. because he had not, according to established custom, submitted to circumcision before marriage: Zipporah, seizing a flint, circumcises her son instead of her husband, and so makes the latter symbolically a ‘blood-bridegroom,’ and delivers him from the wrath of Jehovah. At the same time, the circumcision of male infants is explained as a more humane substitute for the original circumcision of young men before marriage (Wellh. Hist. p. 340; EB. ii. 830, 832; DB. v. 622a). On circumcision, see now very fully Hastings’ Encycl. of Rel. and Ethics, s.v.

Verse 26. - So he let him go. i.e. "God let Moses go" - allowed him to escape death, accepted Zipporah's tardy act as a removal of the cause of offence, and gave her husband back to her. Then she said, etc. This is not a second address of Zipporah to Moses, conceived in the same terms, but an explanation of her previous address. She called him "a bloody husband because of the circumcision." Literally, "of the circumcisions." The two circumcisions, of Gershom in Midian, and of Eliezer on the way to Egypt, are especially in the writer's mind.

CHAPTER 4:27, 28 Exodus 4:26But if Moses was to carry out the divine commission with success, he must first of all prove himself to be a faithful servant of Jehovah in his own house. This he was to learn from the occurrence at the inn: an occurrence which has many obscurities on account of the brevity of the narrative, and has received many different interpretations. When Moses was on the way, Jehovah met him at the resting-place (מלון, see Genesis 42:27), and sought to kill him. In what manner, is not stated: whether by a sudden seizure with some fatal disease, or, what is more probable, by some act proceeding directly from Himself, which threatened Moses with death. This hostile attitude on the part of God was occasioned by his neglect to circumcise his son; for, as soon as Zipporah cut off (circumcised) the foreskin of her son with a stone, Jehovah let him go. צור equals צוּר, a rock, or stone, here a stone knife, with which, according to hereditary custom, the circumcision commanded by Joshua was also performed; not, however, because "stone knives were regarded as less dangerous than those of metal," nor because "for symbolical reasons preference was given to them, as a simple production of nature, over the metal knives that had been prepared by human hands and were applied to daily use." For if the Jews had detected any religious or symbolical meaning in stone, they would never have given it up for iron or steel, but would have retained it, like the Ethiopian tribe of the Alnaii, who used stone knives for that purpose as late as 150 years ago; whereas, in the Talmud, the use of iron or steel knives for the purpose of circumcision is spoken of, as though they were universally employed. Stone knives belong to a time anterior to the manufacture of iron or steel; and wherever they were employed at a later period, this arose from a devoted adherence to the older and simpler custom (see my Commentary on Joshua 5:2). From the word "her son," it is evident that Zipporah only circumcised one of the two sons of Moses (Exodus 4:20); so that the other, not doubt the elder, had already been circumcised in accordance with the law. Circumcision had been enjoined upon Abraham by Jehovah as a covenant sign for all his descendants; and the sentence of death was pronounced upon any neglect of it, as being a breach of the covenant (Genesis 17:14). Although in this passage it is the uncircumcised themselves who are threatened with death, yet in the case of children the punishment fell upon the parents, and first of all upon the father, who had neglected to keep the commandment of God. Now, though Moses had probably omitted circumcision simply from regard to his Midianitish wife, who disliked this operation, he had been guilty of a capital crime, which God could not pass over in the case of one whom He had chosen to be His messenger, to establish His covenant with Israel. Hence He threatened him with death, to bring him to a consciousness of his sin, either by the voice of conscience or by some word which accompanied His attack upon Moses; and also to show him with what earnestness God demanded the keeping of His commandments. Still He did not kill him; for his sin had sprung from weakness of the flesh, from a sinful yielding to his wife, which could both be explained and excused on account of his position in the Midianite's house. That Zipporah's dislike to circumcision had been the cause of the omission, has been justly inferred by commentators from the fact, that on Jehovah's attack upon Moses, she proceeded at once to perform what had been neglected, and, as it seems, with inward repugnance. The expression, "She threw (the foreskin of her son) at his (Moses') feet," points to this (ל הגּיע, as in Isaiah 25:12). The suffix in רגליו (his feet) cannot refer to the son, not only because such an allusion would give no reasonable sense, but also because the suffix refers to Moses in the immediate context, both before (in המיתו, Exodus 4:24) and after (in ממּנּוּ, Exodus 4:26); and therefore it is simpler to refer it to Moses here. From this it follows, then, that the words, "a blood-bridegroom art thou to me," were addressed to Moses, and not to the boy. Zipporah calls Moses a blood-bridegroom, "because she had been compelled, as it were, to acquire and purchase him anew as a husband by shedding the blood of her son" (Glass). "Moses had been as good as taken from her by the deadly attack which had been made upon him. She purchased his life by the blood of her son; she received him back, as it were, from the dead, and married him anew; he was, in fact, a bridegroom of blood to her" (Kurtz). This she said, as the historian adds, after God had let Moses, go, למּוּלות, "with reference to the circumcisions." The plural is used quite generally and indefinitely, as Zipporah referred not merely to this one instance, but to circumcision generally. Moses was apparently induced by what had occurred to decide not to take his wife and children with him to Egypt, but to send them back to his father-in-law. We may infer this from the fact, that it was not till after Israel had arrived at Sinai that he brought them to him again (Exodus 18:2).
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