SURVEY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
HOW MANY WIVES DID MOSES HAVE?
INSTRUCTOR: C. ROBERTSON, D. MIN.
STEVEN C. SPAIN
Old Testament Scripture in Exodus regarding Moses and the topic of marriage is misleading in regards to whether Zipporah was his only wife or if he was married to an Ethiopian woman also. This article will attempt to unravel the mystery.
Did Moses have one wife or did he marry twice? We know he took a wife in the land of Midian after he escaped from Pharaoh in Egypt, for killing the Egyptian(ex. 2:11-15). Also does his or her blood line play a part in this quandary; the problem of scripture being contradictory is prevalent here where some books of the Bible I’ve learned may overlap that speak of the same issues; or similar instances which are also perplexing is the use of terms that seem to have different meanings, this article will seek to address all of these possibilities.
While in the wilderness on the far side of the desert, at a well Moses meets seven daughters of a Priest of Midian. After helping the women recover their sheep which had been run off by some neighboring shepherds the women told their father about him and he offered his hospitality to Moses by inviting him to eat with them (ex. 2:13-22).
As a reward for helping his daughters, Reuel also called Jethro offered his hospitality and gave Moses his daughter Zipporah to be his wife.
After a long while living with his family in the desert Moses returns to Egypt. It was the Lord Himself who spoke to Moses to make the return (Ex. 3). He took his wife Zipporah and their two sons Gershom and Eliezer with them.
On the way back Moses displeases the Lord, by not circumcising Eliezer. God’s anger is so great that He is about to kill Moses; but something happened that was enough to spare him from God’s wrath. Zipporah used a stone to cut off the foreskin of Eliezer! And the Lord spared Moses. Zipporah’s action angered Moses so much that he eventually sent her back to her father.
At this point Moses is alone on his way to Egypt, God tells Aaron to go out and meet him. After they meet Moses shares God’s instructions with Aaron, they then go and gather all of the elders of the tribes of Israel( Ex. 4:27-29). This is where we see Zipporah reenter the scene with Moses. Exodus 18:1-12 shows us how Jethro who is motivated by the news of how the Lord has helped Moses and decides to go out to where Moses is and takes his daughter, Gershom and Eliezer with them to meet Moses.
We see here that Jethro a Priest of Midian, not an Israelite is impressed to say the least with how the Lord has blessed Moses and offers up sacrifices to the Lord! His sacrifices are acceptable to God even though he is a foreigner. Even though Jethro is not a Israelite he is knowledgeable of the Israelites ways, and says,” blessed be the Lord who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh…. V. 11, Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other god’s, for He did this to those who have treated Israel arrogantly.”
A word about Midian will help to clarify this mystery of Moses and his wife or wives. In an article from Http://zionofjah.tripod.com. , I was surprised to find information that could shed some light on this dilemma. The article says,
“Midian is a land which is named after a man named “Midian,” the descendants of “Midian” are called the Midianites. Midian is a son of Abraham and Keturah. He was one of 7-Ishmael, Zimarn, Joktan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
This writer proposes that Abraham must have taught the ways of the Lord to his illegitimate children as well as his own; he substantiates this position in Genesis 18:19, “For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he had spoken of him.” Remember, Midian was a son of Abraham of which Jethro (Reuel) the Priest of Midian, was a descendant. Therefore where in Genesis 25: 1-6, tells us, Abraham took a wife and her name was Keturah, she bare him zimran, and jokshan, medan, and midan and ishbak, shuah,  and jokshan begat Sheba, and dedan, And the son of dedan were Asshurim, Letushim and Leumim.  And the son of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and Elddaah. All these were the children of Keturah.  And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. But to the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward , unto the east country.”
The Midianites lived in the east country! Consequently, Midian is the son of Abraham the Shemite. The Midianites are Shemites as well. The article reiterates, “Midianites are not Cushite’s from Noah’s son Ham. This leads us to the pivotal incident of Miriam and Aaron , an how Miriam spoke against Moses’ wife. Please note she spoke badly of Zipporah because she was not an Israelite! Not because she was black! The issue of black and white is moot; because Moses was black. Zipporah was an Ethiopian- Midianite or black Midianite.
The logic to this lies in the concept of the term Cush. Ethiopian means Cush in Hebrew which means black! In other places in scripture, the man Cush comes from Ham; here is where this author believes the translators deliberately misled readers by calling Zipporah an Ethiopian. The author believes the European take on Moses’ race is that he was white or Caucasian, also Zipporah’s children were not “100%” Israelite which probably did not sit well with Miriam and Aaron either. Another factor for consideration regarding Miriam’s contention is that she was a prophetess and she knew Zipporah was probably spiritually enlightened regarding the Lord’s ways, as discussed earlier Zipporah being a descendent of Abraham was probably taught the ways of the Lord that were past down through the family over the generations.
All of these probabilities amount to the idea that Miriam was threatened by Zipporah in more ways than one.
The author goes on to argue how the Hebrew word Ethiopian should not be interpreted from the Greek because they do not fit in every instance. Ethiopian can mean “black face or black people. Cush on the other hand means black or burnt, and refers to one tribe or people. Ethiopia refers to all black people, and Ethiopia(n surely cannot be used to describe Cushites!
This author goes on to state “if you try to translate the Hebrew equivalent, to the word Cush, then you are inaccurately limiting this Greek word to refer to one tribe of black people or to one country.” He says that the correct title to the continent called Africa is Abyssinia or Abasha and is wrongly called Ethiopia. He reiterates that in ancient times Ethiopia covered the whole continent up India
Furthermore the black man Cush he says is just one son of the black man Ham, meaning that Ham’s son’s were also black but could never be called Cushites, but they could be called Ethiopians or Aithiops a Greek word that covered all black people. Further still he says, “Shem’s descendants were black too, yet we would never call them Cushites but you could call them Ethiopians because they were black. He also refers to Nimrod’s empire, that because it was black could be referred to as Ethiopian as well as Cushite, he says Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medes, and the Persians were all peoples of color (emphasis mine) including Israel were considered to be black in ancient times. One last reference is found in Habakkuk 3:7 where the word Cushan is used, he says It does not refer to Cushites, but is a place in the east ; he says that this land (Cushan) “dwelt in the land of Midian.”
To close, erroneous translation is the is real issue according to this author, and is at the core of misunderstandings regarding, in this case study whether Moses was married twice. Using this article as a “credible” source I am of the belief that Moses only married once to Zipporah who was a Midianite, which are descendants of Abraham and Keturah therefore when one reference says he married a Ethiopian and another says a daughter of Keturah, I propose that they were still referring to Zipporah a Midianite woman and Moses’ only wife.