Before Moses left Midian, the LORD said to him, “Return to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you have died.”
So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and headed back to the land of Egypt. In his hand he carried the staff of God.
And the LORD told Moses, “When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go. Then you will tell him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son. I commanded you, “Let my son go, so he can worship me.” But since you have refused, I will now kill your firstborn son!’ ”
On the way to Egypt, at a place where Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the LORD confronted him and was about to kill him. But Moses’ wife, Zipporah, took a flint knife and circumcised her son. She touched his feet with the foreskin and said, “Now you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” (When she said “a bridegroom of blood,” she was referring to the circumcision.) After that, the LORD left him alone. (Exodus 4:19-26)
There’s God’s way. And then there’s God’s way. God told Moses it was safe to go back to Egypt.
Apparently Moses’ wife Zipporah, a Midianite, had resisted circumcising their son. So, on the way back to Egypt, God threatened to kill him. Why? Centuries earlier, God had told Abraham that those who were not circumcised had broken God’s covenant and would be cut off from their people (Genesis 17:14).
Moses was about to become the leader of the people of Israel. In returning to Egypt, Moses and his family were making the choice to be part of Israel rather than part of Midian. Circumcising their son was a rite of conversion for Zipporah. It was also a choice for their son, doubtless a grown man when Zipporah circumcised him. Moses had been forty years old when he left Egypt. He was eighty years old now that he was returning. He and Zipporah had been married for a very long time. But Zipporah was not happy about having to circumcise her son. She felt like she was paying a new dowry—this time in blood—just to remain Moses’ wife and to keep her son.
God will make sure you do what he wants, whether you like it or not.