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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Zipporah

Biblical, exact dates uncertain, range from circa 1500–1200 B.C.E., ancient Egypt

Zipporah was the wife of Moses and they had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. The most well-known story of Zipporah is contained in the Old Testament Book of Exodus and is generally identified as one of the most difficult passages of the Bible to interpret. The story relates that while Zipporah and Moses were staying at an inn, Yahweh (God) became angry with Moses and threatened to kill him. The reason for his anger is unclear, but the most likely cause is the fact that Moses, who was raised an Egyptian, was not circumcised and neither were his sons. Zipporah managed to defuse Yahweh’s anger by performing a circumcision with a sharp stone, although it is uncertain whether she performed it on Moses or one of her sons. Apart from this story, little is known about Zipporah’s life except that she was the daughter of a priest named Jethro.

Rosso Fiorentino. Moses Defending the Daughters of Jethro, 1523–24. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

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