Sunday, November 6, 2011

Why Zipporah Used a Flint Knife

Alice C. Linsley

A reader has raised an interesting question. He asked, "Why did Zipporah use a flint knife to circumcise her son when she could have used metal? Didn't she live during the Bronze Age?"

It is true that Moses and Zipporah lived in the late Bronze Age (1550-1150 BC).  The ruler of Og (Numbers 21) slept in an iron bed, so Abraham's ruling descendants used iron, bronze and flint.  An iron bed was an innovation, but the Horim didn't encourage innovation when it came to sacred rituals such as animal sacrifice, the coronation of rulers, and circumcision.

The use of flint for circumcision followed the ancient tradition for this ritual received from the ancestors.  Abraham's people valued these tradtions and regarded it as disrespectful to abandon the ways of the Horim.

The tradition of their ruler ancestors included maintaining their marriage and ascendency pattern, as Moses did by having two wives: one a half-sister and the other a patrilineal cousin. Zipporah was his cousin bride.  His half-sister bride is not named in the text, but we are told that she was Kushite. All the Horite rulers had two wives.

For further information, read Zipporah's Flint Knife; Circumcision Among Abraham's People; The Origins of Circumcision, Circumcision and Binary Distinctions

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