What is the bridegroom of blood scene there for?
An enigma. All of a sudden in the narrative, after struggling to persuade Moses to take up the role, God comes to him in the night and seeks to kill him. You wonder if it is a continuation of the struggle they were having at the bush.
It is a nightmarish scene. Were they asleep and does Zipporah have to wake up to seeing somebody trying to kill Moses? At one point or another, whether he is asleep or not, Moses’ son is made aware of the problem. Zipporah rudely circumcises him on the spot: no preparation, no anesthesia, just a knife.
Was Moses choking and gasping, rolling around in the grip of some kind of disease? Was he wrestling with a person like Jacob? Whatever happened, his life was threatened and Zipporah knew what had to be done. Which is curious, isn’t it? I don’t think what happened is that Moses shouted instructions–maybe he did but it doesn’t seem like what is going on. She seems to know what to do and gets it done.
I somehow doubt that it was a reluctance to inflict pain on the child that kept the lad uncircumcised. I don’t think people then were so protective of their children, and when you read the bizarrely elated reaction we see in Shechem to the requirement of circumcision you have to think it was different for them. Zipporah’s exclamation about a bridegroom of blood does not sound so much like squeamish disgust as it does like the mention of a bad omen. Perhaps she doesn’t want to live near danger.
God is dangerous. You are either for him or against him. He will have all or nothing. He will have monotheistic religion alone, exclusive loyalty, demand everything of those who worship him. He will save whom he will save and his people will relate to him as he decides.
Like marriage–exclusive. A bridegroom of blood.
So why did she touch his feet? Well, where else do we notice Moses’ feet? When he takes off his sandals to avoid profaning the proximity of the presence of the Lord. Did that make him special? No. It did not give him a free pass on observing circumcision: he still had to observe the covenant, do what God commanded. He had to identify with God’s people as God indicated, not otherwise. Proximity to God does not result in laxer requirements. I think though that we tend to think it does. I think in our day we are inclined at some level to identify grace and license.
Piety, as the confession so helpfully states, does not consist in what we seem to think is pious, not even in what men have decided traditionally to regard as pious. Piety lies in observing what Scripture commands with such jealousy that we neither add to it nor subtract from it. I think Zipporah was having a hard time adjusting to that. It didn’t please her, it did not seem lucky, it was a bad business.
But it was God’s business. God’s plan is to save his people by means of a bridegroom of blood, and only his way will do.