Reference: Exodus 4:24-26
Why did God try to kill Moses?
Holy Smoke! This one is just too weird. If for no other reason then the fact that it is so cryptically brief. Out of the blue, God tries to kill Moses, his wife circumcises their son, she tells off her husband, and God spares Moses. Wow! There is little if any time to even figure out what is going on here. But even if this was a whole chapter, it is hard to think of a good reason why God would want to kill the leader he had spent the past 40 years prepping to rescue his people.
From a literary perspective it is interesting to note that the preceding passages have a lot to do with firstborn sons. God has told Moses to go and rescue God’s firstborn son Israel from Pharaoh. To do so Moses will threaten Egypt with the death of Pharaoh’s first born son. And here in these brief verses, Moses‘ son gets thrown into the mix. I think that it is safe to say that the bizarre action of God in this passage has a lot to do with Moses’ son, more specifically the fact that Moses had not circumcised his son. This may seem like a small thing to us, but consider that circumcision is the sign of the covenant between God and his people Israel. Moses was about to take leadership of God’s people, and he had neglected to circumcise his own son, one of the most important acts of their faith.
Given the brevity of the passage it is hard to discern why Moses’ son had not been circumcised. It is likely though that there was some internal family argument about the issue given the disdain with which his wife Zapporah responded saying “Now you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” Zapporah was a Midianite and may have been turned off by the practice of circumcision, or Moses himself may have been lax on the issue. Her anger may have been because Moses had never taken care of such an important task, or her anger may have been because she never wanted to do it in the first place. Whatever the situation was, in the time of crisis when Moses was in danger, she knew exactly what the problem was and what to do, so she didn’t waste any time. I’ve been married for 6 years and I think I can picture the expression on her face and hear the tone in her voice.
As to the means by which the Lord was going to kill Moses, little is said here. What we can extract from the short verses is that Moses was not the one who remedied the situation, Zapporah was. This may indicated that Moses was incapacitated with illness, which would be consistent with the way that God works in a situation like that. Remember, God is about to go into Egypt and bring all kinds of plagues to the Egyptians. God may likely have been working in the same way here. It is unlikely though that God confronted Moses in the form of a man with a weapon (as we might imagine).