Zipporah or Tzipora (Hebrew: צִפּוֹרָה, Modern Ẓippora Tiberian Ṣippôrāh ; Greek: Σεπφώρα - Sephora; Arabic: Safura or Safrawa صِفُّورَةَ,صوانة ; "bird"), is mentioned in the Book of Exodus as the wife of Moses, and the daughter of Jethro, a priest of Midian.
Zipporah also features in a much more curious, and much-debated, passage (Exodus 4:24-27). The passage concerning Moses and Zipporah reach an inn contains four of the most difficult sentences in Biblical text. One possible interpretation is that something (perhaps God, perhaps an agent of God) tries to kill Moses, until Zipporah carries out a circumcision. (Other interpretations suggest that it is their son, Gershom, who is attacked.) Yet another is that Moses tries to kill his own son and only after Zipporah cuts the child's foreskin, drawing blood and pain, does his anger subside.
A third reference to a wife of Moses occurs in the story of Aaron and Miriam's complaints, at Numbers 12:1, where his wife is described as a Cushite or Kushite, an African ethnic group. However the Midianites themselves were a dark-skinned people often called Kushim, the Hebrew word used to describe dark skinned Africans. Modern biblical criticism has posited that Zipporah and this Cushite wife were different individuals, particularly since bigamy was legal, and practiced by Jacob, a major patriarch. Traditional Jewish sources debated throughout Mishnaic and Medieval times, whether Zipporah was indeed the Cushite woman. What has become known as "the Cushite reference" identifies Zipporah with the ancient inhabitants of North Sudan, i.e. the ancient Cushites (also known as Nubians- a dark skinned, African people).
The book of Genesis identifies the Cushites as descendants of Ham. Traditionally, it is held that Ham was the father of dark skinned peoples. He is the son of Noah who moved into Africa. His descendants spread through Africa and parts of the near East. They became the Nubians, Egyptians, Ethiopians, Canaanites, Hittites, Libyans, and Phoenicians etc. Flavius Josephus refers to this wife as the wife he married before fleeing Egypt. He married her during his campaign to Ethiopia as a general for the Egyptians.
Zipporah, the wife of Moses, was one of the seven daughters of Reuel, a Midianite priest, who was also called Jethro (Exodus 3:1) and Hobab (Judges 4:11). Moses, fleeing from Egypt, arrived in Midian and sat down by a well. While he was resting, Reuel's daughters came to water their father's flocks. Other shepherds arrived and drove the girls away so they could water their own flocks first. Moses, fearlessly, took on the shepherds and drove them away.
The girls returned home earlier than usual. Their father Reuel asked them, "How is it that you have come back so soon today?" The girls answered, "An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds; he even drew water for us and watered the flock." "Where is he then?" Reuel asked them. Why did you leave the man? Ask him in to break bread (Exodus 2:18–20)."
Moses stayed and lived with the Midianite priest and his family. Reuel gave him his daughter Zipporah in marriage; and, in due time, she gave birth to Gershom and then to Eliezer.
After all the men in Egypt who had sought his death had died, God commanded Moses to return to Egypt. Moses took his wife and sons and started his journey back to Egypt. On the road, they stayed in an inn, where a mysterious incident took place.
The Bible tells us that God came to kill Moses. Zipporah quickly circumcised Gershom with a sharp stone and touched Moses' legs with it, saying "A bridegroom of blood because of the circumcision (Exodus 4:26)." After that event, Moses sent Zipporah and the children back to her father in Midian, and he continued alone to Egypt.
After Moses succeeded in taking the Israelites out of Egypt, Reuel came to the Hebrew camp in the wilderness, bringing with him Zipporah and her two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, who had been staying with him. Some scholars identify Zipporah with the Ethiopian woman whose marriage to Moses was harshly criticized by Miriam and Aaron.
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