In the midst of the inevitable orgy of candy, card, flower (and perhaps car) giving on Mother’s Day, it’s important to remember the Day’s original intent: to embrace the acute necessity for peace and reconciliation in the world and the notion that women are our true hope for success in this regard because they are mothers and because…well…they are women. (You fill in the blanks as to the myriad of reasons this is true.)
Mother’s Day was originally the inspiration of Anna M. Jarvis whose mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis, devoted her adult life to creating opportunities for healing between veterans of both sides of the outrageously bloody and brutal American Civil War. Others, including suffragette great Julia Ward Howe, also strove for the creation of a day to honor the unique abilities of women for creating the world God intended for us all, the one Jesus called God’s Kingdom.
In the true spirit of Mother’s Day, The Comic Lens lifts up perhaps the most audacious peacemaking woman and mother – the most significant peacemaker you may have never heard of -- Zipporah!
Zipporah is the wife of Moses and the mother of their sons Gershom and Eliezer. You can find what little there is to find out about her (at least in the Bible) at Exodus 2:21-22, Exodus 18:1-6 and…Exodus 4:24-26.
For any number of reasons, Exodus 4:24-26 is one of the passages of scripture most likely to cause your jaw to drop to the floor requiring a whisk broom to pick it up again. Read it now, if you dare. For Mother’s Day.
As you will see, it starts out with God seeking to kill Moses. Whaaaaaat?????
Moses was the one God had painstakingly selected to lead the Hebrew people, God’s Chosen, out of Egypt, out of their horrible suffering. In the previous chapter of Exodus (Chapter 3), God called Moses from the burning bush to tell him the exciting, life-giving news. As is usually the case in the Bible, the one God dramatically calls, at least initially, finds all sorts of reasons to say no. Moses finally seems to accede at 4:17, after God’s anger has “been kindled.” Things are perhaps nowhere near resolved, for the next thing we hear, at v. 24, a furious God “meets” Moses, homocidally, in the Egyptian wilderness.
Back in Genesis 9, God created the rainbow as a reminder He forever needs to better control His anger, even if humankind pushes Him to the limit. Perhaps He continues to need even more help….
And it comes in Exodus 4:25 in the form of Moses’ wife who, it seems, instantly knows what to do to save her husband and the whole of God’s liberation project (and everything in the Bible and beyond that proceeds from there).
Before it all ends in tears, Zipporah grabs a flint and circumcises infant Gershom, holding the foreskin to her husband’s “feet” (ie “male member”). God immediately leaves Moses alone and gets over it, while Zipporah calls Moses her “bridegroom of blood.”
Whaaaaat????? (Bridegroom of Blood sounds like a great title for a splatter film. As well as a authentic film about the Bible. Oh if only…but that’s maybe just me.)
Unlike most other texts I have heretofore discussed in this blog, I feel awkward claiming this story was originally experienced as comedy. Maybe that’s because it is just so weird, and I know that any conversation dealing with the “male member” is going to automatically elicit giggles simply because we’re talking about “naughty parts”. Giggling may or may not have been part of the ancient hearer’s response. Circumcision for Israelite males was, and remains, the most sacred of actions. It symbolizes God’s promise to never allow the Jewish people to be without a next generation.
In any case, and beyond that, we do have other elements of the story that have lots of comic potential.
For one thing, we have a woman (and a Midianite/foreigner to boot), the most “low status” of characters in the eyes of the biblical world, unexpectedly steering the action and saving the day for a man – a Divinely chosen man at that – AND God, the two most “high status” of characters. For the modern mind, it’s perhaps like Forest Gump…plus plus plus.
For another thing, the way Zipporah saves the day is most clever: tricking God into thinking her husband is circumcised (which of course he probably wasn’t as he’d grown up in Pharaoh’s court) therefore protecting him from Divine Wrath. I can't help but think if Skylar White had had a male baby, this is the kind of thing we would see her doing....
In the biblical story, Zipporah’s ballsy (pun totally intended) snip-snip restores peace, reconciliation, harmony, and hope for and between God and humankind like nobody’s business.
Here’s to moms and the power they truly have. You can do it!!