"Now on the way, at a place where they stopped for the night, the LORD met Moses and sought to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off the foreskin of her son and touched it to Moses’ feet, and said, 'Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me.' So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said, 'A bridegroom of blood,' referring to the circumcision.)." Exodus 4:24-26.
God sought to kill Moses, simply because Moses failed to timely circumcise his son? Does this make any sense? Could we ever picture Jesus ever doing anything remotely like this?
Of course not. Let's take a closer look.
First, this passage says God sought to kill Moses, apparently for failing to circumcise his son on the 8th day after his birth. The Jewish mindset often would say "the Lord" did "this deadly thing" or "the Lord" did "that deadly thing," but then later assign the actual destructive action to an angel. They interpreted all "angelic activity" as "the Lord"." They considered Satan "the angel of death" of the Exodus plagues who just followed the Lord's killing orders. This Exodus 4 passage is no different.
Judaism and Calvinism both make the same basic theological mistake -- they both believe Satan ONLY does what God expressly commands him to do. Calvinism says Satan is a rabid dog on the Lord's taut chain, BUT that he ONLY does what the Lord specifically "yanks his chain" to do when He "sics" Satan on those He wrathfully wishes to destroy. Judaism differs only slightly in saying that while Satan is not be a rabid dog, he is certainly an obedient servant angel who ONLY does what the Lord expressly orders him to do. Either way, Satan is seen as the executor of God's destructive judgments.
Again, the Jews attributed ANY and ALL angelic activity to God. When Jacob wrestled God, the Bible describes it in one place as God wrestling Jacob, while in another place Scripture says it was an angel who Jacob wrestled. When God appears to say He Himself will strike the firstborn of Egypt, it is actually the death angel who thereafter does the dirty work, a death angel Judaism has always recognized as Satan.
As THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF JEWISH CONCEPTS by Philip Birnbaum says, "Satan...is...identified with the angel of death. He leads astray, then he brings accusations against man, whom he slays eventually. His chief functions are those of temptation, accusation and punishment. Under the control of God, he acts solely with the divine permission to carry out his plots." (Sanhedrin Press, page 594). Rabbi Benjamin Blech similarly writes, "Judaism sees Satan as a servant of God whose function is to set up choices between good and evil so that we can exercise our free will.... [His] apparent harshness is merely camouflage for divine concern and love." IF GOD IS SO GOOD, WHY IS THE WORLD SO BAD? Simcha Press, pages 7-9
In fact, in this Exodus 4:24 passage, the Jews believed it was an ANGEL in the form of a SERPENT to be doing the harm to Moses. As Christians, we know who the "serpent-angel" is-- Satan. Below is one of the most famous Jewish commentaries concerning this passage. It is called Rashi's Commentary. Rashi was the outstanding Jewish Biblical commentator of the Middle Ages.
"Exodus 4:24. Now he was on the way, in an inn, that the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. כד. וַיְהִי בַדֶּרֶךְ בַּמָּלוֹן וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁהוּ יְהֹוָה וַיְבַקֵּשׁ הֲמִיתוֹ:
Now he was: [I.e.,] Moses.
ויהי: משה בדרך במלון:
on the way, in an inn and sought to put him to death: [I.e., He sought] Moses, because he had neglected to circumcise his son Eliezer. Because he neglected it, he was [to be] punished with death. It was taught in a Braitha: Rabbi Jose said: God forbid! Moses did not neglect it, but he reasoned: Shall I circumcise [him] and go forth on the road? It will be dangerous for the child for three days. Shall I circumcise [him] and wait three days? The Holy One, blessed be He, commanded me, “Go, return to Egypt.” [Moses hurried to Egypt intending to circumcise Eliezer upon his return.] Why [then] was he to be punished with death? Because first he busied himself with [the details of] his lodging. [This appears] in tractate Nedarim (31b). ******The angel turned into a sort of serpent and swallowed him [Moses] from his head to his thighs, and then [spit him out and] swallowed him from his feet to his private parts. Zipporah therefore understood that it was because of [the failure to perform] the circumcision [that this occurred]. — [from Ned. 32a, Exodus Rabbah 5:5]."
The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) likewise attributes the attack on Moses to an angel of the Lord rather than to Yahweh directly. Note how the Old Testament saints confused Satan and the Lord in the following passages: 1 Chronicles 21:1 and 2 Samuel 24:1. These passages both describe the exact same Biblical event of David's sin in numbering Satan, but in the first passage "Satan" caused David's sin and the resultant killing of 70,000 Isrealites, whereas in the second passage "the anger of the Lord" caused David to sin. So, if the Old Testament "wrath of God" is in reality "the ministry of Satan," then "Houston we have a problem" in rightly understanding the difference between God's nature and Satan's nature in the Old Testament.
The point is that Old Testament saints believed Satan was the left hand of God, His angry voice, His official minister of wrath. SO THAT when THEY described "the angel of the Lord" as committing destructive acts, they were referring to Satan.
If we don't allow for their misunderstanding on that point, we will believe in all sorts of horrible things about God. Jesus revealed a God who only gives and protects life and a Devil who only takes and destroys life. John 10:10; Hebrews 2:14. Jesus perfectly knew the difference between God's works and Satan's works. The Old Testament saints often didn't.
If we can't see Jesus killing Moses over his son not being circumcised, then we can't see God the Father doing it either. Now, if Moses had an obedience issue with God, a faith-flaw in this important area of sanctifying his family, then this could grant Satan legal access to afflict and try to destroy him. This is why the New Testament warns us to "not give space to the devil" (Ephesians 4:24). That is what I believe is going on here. But, that Satanic access was cured here by Zipporah's repentant actions.
Paul says in Galatians physical circumcision is "nothing," but that heart circumcision is everything. To imagine Jesus ever killing anybody over the absence of a physical ceremony which the New Testament says is "nothing" is just inconceivable. We have to start in the New Testament and work backward.
From this angle, we can now read this passage as a Christo-allegory of Paul's New Testament directive that a believing wife can sanctify an unbelieving or misbelieving husband. This sanctification is an inside job regarding the need for a sanctified heart motive in his role as a father which Moses, as a type, was lacking. His dear Zipporah stood in the breach for him and saw him healed. Good message of female empowerment here.