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Zipporah (Hebrew: "bird"), daughter of Jethro Reuel of Midian, was the wife of Moses. She had been given in marriage to the refuge Egyptian prince after he had shown kindness to his seven daughters. Zipporah bore for him two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. She and Moses lived under the authority of her father, a priest of God amongst the Midianites.

Though she at first had gone with Moses after he was called by God to deliver His people out of Egypt, she had returned to her father with her young son after an emergency circumcision in reaction to God's attempt to kill Moses. She would rejoin Moses with her sons when her father brought to him after the successful rescue of the Israelites from Egypt.


Zipporah was born into the ruling priestly class of the Kenite tribe[1] in the land of Midian.[2] He father Jethro ("His Excellency") Reuel, was a priest of the true God, whom he revered as the greatest of the gods. She was one of seven daughters, and had a brother named Hobab.[3] The daughters had responsibility over the family's flocks.

In the three hundred and ninetieth year after Abraham had entered Canaan, a distant cousin showed up while Zipporah and her sisters were taking care of the sheep.[4] The Midianites had descended from Abraham by Keturah,[5] moving to the southwest with wealth but no land. The Midianites had not had much contact with their cousins, the descendants of Jacob, but they worshipped "the Most High God," and had a priesthood. However, they did not know this man to be of the long lost tribes of Israel. To them, he was an Egyptian.[6]

This Egyptian looked to have been traveling for days, but he stood up against a band of shepherds that were denying their flock water in the desert. Afterwards, they ran to Reuel and explained, having left their champion standing beside the oasis. Reuel insisted that "the Egyptian" join them for a meal.[7] They learned that the man's name was Moses — an Egyptian name — and that he was good with the flocks. Since to Egyptians considered shepherds despicable,[8] this indicated to them that Moses must be of a lower caste. Arrangements were made, and when a dowry had been earned, Reuel gave Zipporah to be Moses' wife.[9] She bore Moses' firstborn son, whom he named Gershom — a Semitic word meaning "foreigner."[10] She would also bear for him a second son whom he would name Eliezer in honor of God ("El") who had helped him escape Egypt.[11]

When Moses returned home from the fields with an incredible story of an encounter with the God of Abraham,[12] Zipporah agreed to go with him to Egypt. Along the way, though, her husband came to her in fear for his life. He said that the same God that had called him now wanted to kill him![13] She apparently saw a connection with the ancient Abrahamic faith they shared. She followed the rules set down at the time of the Covenant, fulfilling the role of the head of household.[14] She called the circumcision a bloody ritual and took her son with her and went home.[15]

She would rejoin her husband only after her father brought her and her children to the wandering tribes several months later.[16] It would turn out that her dark, 'Cushite,' skin was an offense to her in-laws Aaron and Miriam.[17] Nevertheless, her sons, as Levites, would be eligible to serve in the service of the Israelite God, Yahweh, whom her father now believed to be the greatest of all deities.[18] Though she is not mentioned further in the record, it is assumed that she died before the crossing into Canaan nearly forty years later.[19]


  1. Judges 1:16 (Link)
  2. Exodus 2:16 (Link)
  3. Numbers 10:29 (Link)
  4. Genesis 2:17 (Link)
  5. Genesis 25:2 (Link)
  6. Genesis 2:18 (Link)
  7. Exodus 2:20 (Link)
  8. Genesis 46:34 (Link)
  9. Exodus 2:21 (Link)
  10. Exodus 2:22 (Link)
  11. Exodus 18:4 (Link)
  12. Exodus 3:2-4 (Link)
  13. Exodus 4:24 (Link)
  14. Genesis 17:11-23 (Link)
  15. Exodus 4:25 (Link)
  16. Exodus 18:1 (Link)
  17. Numbers 12:1 (Link)
  18. Exodus 18:11 (Link)
  19. Numbers 32:11 (Link)