God Sought to Kill Moses

Someone please explain to me Exodus 4:24 and it says

“And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him.”

as it refers to Moses

Actually, some commentators say it refers to one of Moses’ sons. In any case, the reason why is because the child had not be circumcised as God has commanded him to be. For Christians this speaks of the importance of having children baptized, which is the fulfillment of circumcision in Christ. It shows how seriously God takes his commands.

Moses, instructed by G-d, is on a mission. In this passage from Exodus, G-d reminds Moses of the power of circumcision–which represents the Covenant between G-d and the Jewish people–to withstand his enemies, including the Pharaoh, whom he will no doubt find in Egypt. The language G-d uses may seem threatening but it is really meant as an aid to Moses so that he take the time to understand that G-d is always with him and that the bond, or binding contract, between G-d and the Jewish people is unshakable and eternal. But, as in any contact, both participants must do their share. G-d is doing His, and He reminds, in no uncertain terms, Moses of his responsibility to do his share as well.

I asked this question before but did not get a decent response. The thing puzzling is that God wanted Moses to go and free his people and Moses was really reluctant, coming up with excuses such as those people won’t listen to him and that he is not eloquent and request someone else take his place. Eventually he acquiesced and had more chitchat with God. Then suddenly in Ex 4:24, God tried to kill him. God could have killed Moses at any time before Moses agreed to take up this job. So my question is why at this time when he is on the way to Egypt to do this job that God wanted to kill him abruptly? Was there some missing information which could have explained this? As far as I can make out, his status remained the same before he took up the job and when he was on his way to Egypt. He was uncircumcised before he took this job and there was nothing to suggest that God required that he must be circumcised for the job which can be punished by death by not complying.:confused:

But Moses’ status DOES change. This is due to the fact that Moses accepts of his own free will the responsibility of being G-d’s prophet and freeing his brethren from bondage. This is why G-d makes it clear to Moses that if the latter consents to such a daunting task, there is no turning back now and no middle ground. IOW, such a task requires the responsibility, as well as privilege, of sacramental fulfillment, which means that he must be circumcised and that his sons must be circumcised. This is the contractual agreement that G-d and man enter into. G-d will help Moses on his journey to Egypt but Moses must also demonstrate that he is worthy of G-d’s help by entering into the Covenant.

There are scholars who have argued that G-d has required this of Moses and his sons to show that G-d, not Moses, is still in charge of freeing the Jewish people from their captivity in Egypt, that Moses is but an arm of G-d’s might, who has no power of his own. That is, G-d might very well have chosen another to fulfill this task. I disagree with such an interpretation since it, albeit unintentionally, makes G-d appear to be a show-off. I much prefer to interpret G-d’s commandment as pointing out to Moses in no uncertain terms that he has taken on the responsibility not only of liberating the people but of becoming a full-fledged Jew. And that responsibility necessitates an irrevocable contractual bond between Moses and G-d in the form of a Covenant which is represented by the rite of circumcision. By doing this, Moses is afforded the opportunity of proving his worthiness to undertake the task that G-d has given him and to which he has acquiesced.

But why kill him? For what reason? What new wrong had he just committed? What law had he just broken or had he been disobedient? It doesn’t really flow, does it?

I can understand that, but ‘sought to kill him’, wouldnt that be infringing upon our free will?

He had been disobedient in not circumcising his son.

D-R Bible, Haydock Commentary:

Ver. 24. The Lord met him, and would have killed him. This was an angel representing the Lord, who treated Moses in this manner, for having neglected the circumcision of his younger son: which his wife understanding, circumcised her child upon the spot, upon which the angel let Moses go. (Challoner) — Both his children were born about this time. But Eliezer, the younger, had not been circumcised; and therefore remained under the power of the destroying angel. (Origen, contra Cels. v.) Others think the angel was going to kill Moses. (Calmet)

Moses had given himself to God to go to the Israelites in Egypt. Being God’s servant Moses was bound to obey him. Moses had disobeyed by not having his youngest son circumcised. So, apart from the fact that all of us are created by God, which gives God the right to take our lives whenever he pleases, Moses have violated God’s command. At that time, before the Age of Grace brought about by Jesus’ Incarnation, judgment was immediate and final, if not repented of, which is why Moses’ wife did the circumcision immediately.

Very true. Moses knew that his son had to be circumcised due to the eternal covenant between God and the “His Chosen People” and Moses had ignored this law probbaly becuase Moses wife at the time was not happy that child should be circumcised. It seems that they Moses and his wife had different opinions about circumcision. As we know the wife wins to keep peace many times. When God tells Moses He will kill him, notice that wife knows right away what the issue is and cuts off the foreskin, throws it at Moses, and says “you bloody husband” so the wife does this but is still bitter that she has to do this. God is serious about his laws and the Abrahamic covenant with His people and, as God, knows the end from the begining and knew how that issue would get resolved and resolving this issue is according to God’s clock, not man’s, and it was resolved, but no way would God allow Moses to lead His people if the leader did not comply with rules of the covenant. The wife had free choice to decide what to do, but God knew ahead of time what choice she would make and it did not matter how bitter she was about it. Actually, later on Moses had a second wife …

I re-read Exodus 2 several times and till Ex 3:1 there is nothing to suggest that Moses knew he was a Hebrew. He was brought up as an Egyptian and after he was discovered for committing murder, he fled. He got married and was tending his in-laws sheep at around the age of 80 before God appeared to him.

There is a presumption that he knew he was a Hebrew and that he knew what the laws of the Hebrews that he is supposed to keep. But that is an assumption. In his conversation with God while on the mountain, God did not tell him to circumcised his son or remind him of his missed obligation. The conversation was just to get Moses to accept the task. Then out of the blue this perplexing verse to kill Moses. God could have done this easily while conversing with Moses on the mountain. It does looks like there are some other missing information which could explain this action from God. It is not a big thing for me nor does it suggest that the Bible is in error, but it doesn’t flow from Ex 3 to Ex 4 from the information contained in those verses that Moses knew he had done something wrong that need to be corrected. From Ex 4:1 - 23, there is nothing to suggest that God had the intention to kill Moses. Just a series of chit-chat.

Or is it just me? Some part of my brain needs rewiring?

Sorry, you’re wrong about that. Moses fled Egypt because he’d killed an Egyptian who he saw striking a fellow Hebrew. Moses was weaned by his own mother and knew his family. You’ve watched Cecil B. DeMille’s “Ten Commandments” one too many times. :wink:

There is a lot of missing information in Scripture because it wasn’t written like a modern news story. Nevertheless, Bible scholars agree why God threatened Moses with death–it was for the reasons we gave.

I agree that is not exactly spelled out in the Bible, but if you look, there are some Bible verses that support the notion that Moses knew he was Jewish. Maybe his mother / sister who was his nurse revealed it to him as he seem to know he was a Hebrew when he got so angry when the Hebrews were being beaten and he killed the Egyptian and then fled. At the burning bush, God calls out to Him about his people who were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were in bondage and God was choosing Moses to deliver him. His wife knew why God wanted to kill because she immediately cut off the foreskin, threw it at him and said you bloody husband. it seems to me that this was a point of contention between them as Jewish should be circumcised on the 8th day. Does God really have to spell everything out or should there be some logical reasoning or inference? this is all minor stuff as if it were important, God would have spelled it out more clearly.

Moses killed an Egyptian and the fled …you really need to read Exodus from 2-11 to 2-15 as Moses went out to his brethen and saw the Egyptian smiting the Hebrew…

I have read it. I believe I said pretty much the same thing. :slight_smile:

It is always a good idea to consult the writings of the Church Fathers to see what Holy Tradition says, so I hope you all are ready; here is St. Maximos the Confessor’s Ad Thalassium 17. :stuck_out_tongue:

Q. [111] If God sent Moses off to Egypt, then why did the angel of God seek to kill him who had been sent by God? Indeed the angel would have killed him, had Moses’s anxious wife not circumcised their young son and thereby curbed the angel’s wrath (cf Ex 4:19-26). And if the circumcision of the little boy was necessary, why did God not kindly enjoin Moses to circumcise the boy before he ever sent him on his way? Why indeed, if Moses had mistakenly failed to circumcise his son, did the good angel not kindly warn him, as he was being sent off, to perform such a service on his son?

R. Whoever intelligently examines the enigmas of the Scriptures with a fear of God and for the sake of the divine glory alone, and removes the letter as though it were a curtain around the spirit, shall discover everything face to face, as the wise proverb says (Prov 8:9). No impediment will be found to the perfect motion of the mind toward divine things. Therefore we shall let it stand the literal meaning in the Spirit, since this power is constantly being realized and abounding into its fullness.

The desert (Ex 3:1) from which Moses was sent to Egypt to lead out the sons of Israel represents either human nature, or this world, or that habitude (of the soul) which has been ridded of passions. The mind who, subsisting in that habitude and dwelling in this world, is instructed in true knowledge through the contemplation of created beings, receives a hidden and mystical commission from God invisibly to lead out of the Egypt of the heart - that is, from [the realm of] flesh and sense - divine thoughts of created beings, in the manner of the Israelites. For such thoughts are uselessly spent on clay, that is, on the passions of the flesh. Yet [113] the mind who remains faithful in this divine ministry - having gnostic wisdom joined with him like a companion, and having the noble demeanor and reflection that arise therewith - invariably travels in a holy way of life the road of the virtues, a road that in no way admits of any stalling on the part of those who walk in it. On the contrary, this mind runs the ever-moving, swift race of the soul toward the goal of the upward call (Phil 3:14). For the immobility of virtue is the beginning of vice. When the mind, in subjection to passion, is vexed by material obstacles intruding from either side in its way, it profanes and renders uncircumcised the pure and wholly circumcised conduct and reflection that arise from godly living.

And so one spiritually envisions the reproving word (of God) forthwith as an angel threatening death in the conscience, and testifying that the reason for this threat is immobility in virtue, such as also causes the uncircumcision of mental reflection. The wisdom that dwells with the mind wins over its reflection, and, in the manner of Zipporah, uses the small stone (Ex 4:25) of the word of faith to circumcise the material illusion that arises in the little boy - that is, in mental reflection - and to eliminate any thought of sensual life. For Zipporah said, the blood of the boy’s circumcision has been instituted (Ex 4:25), which is to say that the passion-laden life and illusion and motion (of the soul) abate once the defiled reflection (of the mind) has been purified with the wisdom of faith. Therewith the word (of God), which like an angel smites the errant mind through the conscience and frustrates every emerging thought save that which properly befits it, suspends its purification. For the way of the virtues is in truth filled with many holy angels who can affect every specific virtue. I am speaking of the principles and modes of the virtues. They are the “angels” who cooperate with us in pursuing what is good and who elicit such principles (of virtue) within us.

Therefore the word of Holy Scripture remains good and noble, always offering spiritual truth in place for the literal for those who lay hold of its saving meaning with the eyes of the soul. The scriptural word contains nothing slanderous of God or his holy [115] angels. For according to the spiritual sense of this text, when God sent Moses on his way he did not have an uncircumcised son, or rather thought, otherwise God would have commissioned him in the first place to circumcise his son. Moreover, the divine angel was not being harsh when he warned Moses of the death that would befall him by being errantly immobile in the way of the virtues. On the (moral) racecource, weakness in performing the virtues can result in just such a death.

Those of you who rely more precisely on the literal meaning of the story will notice that the angel who went to meet Moses and threaten him with death for the passion that secretly arose in his mind did so not at the beginning or middle or end of the road, but in the inn. You will notice that had Moses not desisted from his course and stopped his journey, he would not have been accused, not been blamed for his boy’s being uncircumcised.

If indeed we are walking in the way of the divine commandments, we should entreat God not to suspend the death that follows from every transgression, and to send us the “angel” of his illumining word within our conscience, so that when we perceive it, we will learn by enlightened wisdom to circumcise, like the foreskin, the impurity of the passions that secretly arises in us in the moral race course of life.


But it remain unexplained why didn’t God kill him on the mountain but rather after he started his journey to Egypt if it were for his failure to circumcise his son.

I’ve sometimes wondered the same thing. If God wants to kill someone, He can do it any time, anywhere, anyhow. Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead on the spot, in response to Peter’s declaration of the death penalty for lying (which I always thought was a bit tough). I notice though that Peter never did anything like it again. I don’t think he was happy about the outcome, bearing in mind his own failings some time earlier.

However this is part of the Jewish Scriptures, and so I went looking for Jewish commentary on the episode. I found a few explanations at the following link, and posted the simplest below.



This is a very similar issue question to the previous one. “God sought to kill Moses” or did He? The incident certainly produced a response from the hitherto uncooperative Midianite daughter of Jethro, Zipporah! Like it or not she had married into God’s covenant people and circumcision! Who said Jewish identity only or even primarily comes through maternal descent? Forget Ephraim and Manasseh if so!

Is this from Rabbinical Halachic law or God’s Law? As with the previous question, the answer surely lies in another question, “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” (Romans 11:34 - check out the context and compare also with 1 Cor 2:16).

Bear in mind Moses married a couple of Midianite women who were not Jewish. They’d probably drawn the line at Moses’ demand that their infant sons should be circumcised, and Moses, after having looked after a bunch of sheep for forty years, his once princely confidence shattered, all washed up, not very eloquent, and now being told by a burning bush to go and confront Pharaoh.

That’s like a near broke 80 year old red neck, having been told off by a burning bush in the back yard, marching into the White House via the Pentagon, carrying a stick, and confronting the American President, who is backed up by the military industrial complex and more money than you can shake a stick at. Compared to that, what’s the big deal about a circumcision?

The last thing Moses wanted or needed at that point was a prolonged bout of nagging wife upset about her kid getting circumcised.

Notice it was Zipporah, one of his Midianite wives, who changed her mind, and circumcised her own son. Presumably she saw the writing on the wall, and realised the gravity of the situation.

Exodus 4:25 NIV

But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said.

In other words, if God was going to make Moses the leader and founder of the Jewish nation, he needed to make a visible start by getting his own kids circumcised.

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