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There are many parallels between the stories of Jacob and Moses. Both flee their homes, afraid, and both meet their soon-to-be wives while at a well. In the case of Moses, however, his wife was not a relative, but rather, a foreigner.

1. Moses is certainly a well-known Old Testament figure. However, most Christians today know more about Miriam, the sister of Moses, than they do about Zipporah, his wife. Zipporah appears infrequently in the biblical narrative (see Exodus 2:21-22; 4:25; 18:2; and Numbers 12:1-2).

* Who was Zipporah? Does the fact that she was a Midianite hold special significance?

2. In Numbers 12, we find that Aaron and Miriam speak against Moses because of his “Cushite” wife. While there is some debate, many scholars identify Cush with Ethiopia. Whatever the case, it seems clear from Jeremiah 13:23 (“Can the Cushite change his skin?”) that wherever Cushites came from, their skin was different from that of the typical Israelite. Ironically, when Aaron and Miriam complained, God changed Miriam’s skin–she became “leprous, like snow.”

* Are cross-racial marriages a positive or a negative thing? Should skin color be an issue when considering marriage?

* It is often assumed that Miriam complained against Zipporah because of Zipporah’s darker skin. Is this really the case? Does the context suggest that jealously might be the root cause, not skin tone?

3. Some have suggested that the Cushite wife mentioned in Numbers 12 is someone other than Zipporah. If so, then we once again have a great hero of the Old Testament who had more than one wife–seemingly without meeting with God’s disapproval.

* Is God so open to different cultures that he accepts whatever the culture accepts?

4. Zipporah is connected with one of the more difficult passages in all the Old Testament–Exodus 4:24-26. Review a good Bible commentary on this passage.

* What does this passage mean? (The radio broadcast may be helpful in answering this question.) Whatever lies behind this story, who is it who takes the initiative to avert disaster? Is this surprising?

5. The Adult Sabbath School Study Guide emphasizes the positive impact of Jethro, Zipporah’s father. According to the text, Jethro was a priest of Midian. The Sabbath School Study Guide calls him a “pagan.” Later, the Midianites oppress Israel until they are defeated by God, through Gideon.

* What does the story of Jethro teach us about God’s ability to use people of “other” religious traditions? Should God’s people ever listen to the advice of one who is an outsider–both from a cultural and a religious perspective? For example, can a church leader learn from an Imam, or can a pastor learn from a priestess?

* Jethro is also called Reuel, which means “friend of god.” Should this name be understood as somehow descriptive of Jethro’s/Ruel’s spiritual sincerity?

5. In marrying Zipporah, Moses gained a very wise and helpful father-in-law.

* How important are in-laws to the success and happiness of one’s marriage?

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