Saturday, October 20, 2012


Troubling Bible Story of the Month

Here is Exodus 4:24-26. Moses is on his way with his wife (wives?) and sons to Egypt to get the Jews out of bondage.

At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses'[a] feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone.

What? Why is God so cross with Moses that he wants to kill him? It's not explained. We'll get to the logical choice below.

Why does Zipporah immediately cut off her son's foreskin? It's a complete mystery. I'll note that no one knows what "touched Moses' (actually the pronoun 'his' in the text) feet" means in Hebrew. This is our best guess but it might have been she touched the bloody foreskin to Moses' genitals.

What the freak does "bridegroom of blood" mean? I really have no clue.

Why does the emergency circumcision of Moses' son placate God? And how did Zipporah know that it would? Or was she just cutting off foreskins willy nilly that day and it just happened to be the thing to cool God's apparent anger? This part is particularly disturbing.

There are nothing but questions about this passage. Most people leave it alone. In all the Masses and Protestant services I have attended in my life, I have never heard these verses read and certainly they were never part of any homily or sermon I have heard.

We do assume that the lack of circumcision of the son is the reason God is out to kill Moses (because after the circumcision He is no longer out to kill Moses). It is generally accepted that cutting off the foreskin is the sine qua non of the First Covenant (between God and the Jews) so it is Moses' negligence to keep the Covenant with his own children before he sets off to free God's children that has God all worked up. But God was talking to Moses every day. Why not a little warning to get his house in order before Moses sets off to do God's bidding? Of course, if God did tell him to do that, unrecorded, we can certainly understand the rage (at least the desire to kill) He feels when his chosen guy disobeys him. But isn't that attributing human foibles to God? Isn't rage a deadly sin?

Circumcision is back in the news, lately. German courts have ruled that it is a crime to circumcise a child. Nazis.

Aside from the fact that we have complete religious freedom here, we American non-Hispanic Christian males don't seem to think circumcision is a big deal, as we are routinely circumcised on day one of our lives, mainly for health reasons. Certainly we, unlike the Germans, have no problem with the Jews doing it, and throwing a party because of it even. There is a little bit of a trade off we make getting circumcised in that the exposed penis tip is supposedly less sensitive due to contact with clothes afterwards, and sex for the uncircumcised is apparently more intensely pleasurable. But countering that is the fact that to most Americans an uncircumcised penis looks slightly worse than a circumcised one, or at least that's what a majority of the American women who have discussed the topic with me have said. So to the final question.

What has God got against foreskins?

UPDATE:  Diomedes says that there are two types of Jewish law: 1) The laws that jive with logic and common sense; and, 2) The laws that absolutely make no sense (like most of Leviticus). Circumcision as the bedrock basis for the Frist Covenant is one of the laws that doesn't make sense. It's that you follow an absolutely senseless law in order to obey God which makes the law (and your decision to obey it) valuable, both for the fact that we cannot understand God, and for the fact that we love and honor God so much we'll do whatever He asks.

Reminds me of dialogue in the movie Pork Chop Hill. The American brass, seeking to figure out why the ChiComs will waste so many men on a worthless objective, finally see the light and say that the hill's value is that it has no value. I can follow the logic, but it still sounds stupid to me. Sorry, D.


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