Zipporah had the distinction of being the Bible's first woman to circumcise her child. She was given in marriage to Moses by her father Jethro, a Midian priest, after Moses rescued her and six of her sisters from shepherds harassing them while they attempted to water their sheep at a desert well. Moses came upon the women after fleeing from Egypt, where he had taken a man's life for maltreatment of a Hebrew slave. Although their religious beliefs were different, Zipporah and Moses had a good marriage and produced two boys, Gershom and Eliezer.
Zipporah proved herself to be decisive and determined when faced with God's seeming displeasure toward her and Moses. God spoke through a burning bush to Moses, telling him to return to Egypt to free his brethren from the pharaoh's bondage. He told Moses to take the rod that the Lord had given him (which Moses would use to “make signs” or miracles), and that the men who wanted to kill him were themselves all dead. While on the return journey, Zipporah, Moses, and the boys stopped at an inn. There God met Moses and “sought to kill him” (Exodus 4:24). Zipporah, perhaps fearing that God was angry because their son was not circumcised, took matters into her own hands…literally.
The Hebrews used circumcision as the symbol of their covenant with God as his chosen people. Exodus does not reveal which son Zipporah circumcised. It does reveal that she threw the piece of bloody foreskin at his feet, but that raises another question: To whom does “his” refer? Did she throw the skin at God, Moses, or the child? Still, her swift action saved the life of her husband and restored Moses' favor in the sight of God.
The narrative about Zipporah may have been instrumental in warning ancient Hebrews about the importance of circumcision, and that neglecting it could have dire consequences, even death. The story may also support the idea that marriages of Hebrews to nonHebrews can be good matches and work out well. Finally, Zipporah perhaps served as a powerful example for women's faith and abilities to conduct religious ritual.