19 May, 2007

Was Moses' Wife Zipporah an Ethiopian?

When he fled Egypt Moses was taken in by Jethro Ruel, a priest of God in Midian. Midian is located in the region of Mt. Sinai in northern Arabia. The Midianites were also descended from Abraham, through Keturah. In time Moses was given Zipporah, daughter of Jethro, for his wife. Her name meant sparrow or swallow. Two sons were born to them, Gershom and Eliezer (Ex. 2:15-22). Zipporah accompanied Moses when he returned to Egypt (Ex. 4:25), but during the long sojourn in the wilderness he sent her and the boys back to her father (Ex. 18:2). Fairly early during the sojourn Moses married a Cushite woman (Num. 12:1). This cause Aaron and Miriam to criticize him. Cushites were Nubians who inhabited Ethiopia and were a dark-skinned people. Egypt and Ethiopia were geographical neighbors and frequently under a common ruler. The woman may have been among the mixed multitude that followed Moses and the Hebrews out of Egypt (Ex. 12:38).

There is no indication that Zipporah and the Cushite woman were the same. Because the information is limited we have two possibilities about Moses and his Cushite wife. Zipporah might have died, or Moses might have taken her as a second wife. Such was a common practice in the ancient Middle Eastern societies. Abraham and Jacob and later David and Solomon all had multiple wives and concubines.


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