What exactly is happening in the passage about the circumcision of Shemot 4:24-26?

First of all, who was met, sought to kill and let from - at which time in the story did this occur - and by whom?

And secondly what does Tziporah intended/meant when she said: 'Surely a bridegroom of blood art thou to me' and 'A bridegroom of blood in regard of the circumcision'. Which circumcision did she mean? Because I couldn't find a verse which talks about such a punishment when one couldn't or didn't circumcise on the eight day after birth, and a large group wasn't circumcised in the wilderness untill Yehoshua did so at Gilgal.

  • Gen 17 clearly contains a pretty severe punishment
    – Double AA
    Jan 7 '18 at 17:08
  • @DoubleAA you mean the part of cutting off from His peoplebecause he has broken His covenant? But here in Shemot death seems the punishment. In Bereshit 17 it doesn't say something like 'Will die' or 'surely die'... but it does show the importance of it so good you pointed that one out.
    – Levi
    Jan 8 '18 at 7:00

Who was met

Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Rashi, Rashbam, Ibn Ezra, and S'forno (on that verse) all understand that it was Moshe who was met.

However, Ibn Ezra (there) quotes an opinion that it was Moshe's son Eliezer who was met. Rabbenu Avraham ben HaRambam (there) quotes this explanation as well. Rabbenu Hananel (commentary here and to Yoma 85b as well as being quoted by Rabbenu Bahya) similarly says that his son (Eliezer) was met.

Shadal (there) suggests that Moshe's older son Gershom was the one who was met.

By whom

According to Yerushalmi Nedarim 3:9, Targum Onkelos, Pseudo-Jonathan, Ibn Ezra, Rabbenu Bahya, and S'forno he was met by an angel. According to Ibn Ezra (second commentary), Shadal and Artom, the "divine meeting" refers to a sudden illness.

Who was to be killed

Presumably the one to be killed was the same one who was met (given the repeated pronoun).

Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Rashi, and Rabbenu Hayyim Paltiel (there) indicate that indeed it was Moshe who was to be killed. Rav Sh'muel bar Hofni Gaon (quoted in Ibn Ezra's second commentary), however, is adamant that it was Eliezer who was to be killed; not Moshe.

Who was to be circumcised

According to Targum Pseudo-Jonathan Gershom was supposed to be circumcised.

According to Rashi (4:24), Ralbag, Rabbenu Avraham ben HaRAmbam (there), and Shadal (4:25) Eliezer was supposed to be circumcised.

Reason for severity of punishment

Rabbenu Hayyim Paltiel suggests that although not circumcising on time doesn't generally carry such a severe punishment, perhaps non-Jews have a stricter punishments for not circumcising (non-Jews who are commanded in circumcision, that is). Alternatively, he suggests that the penalties were more severe since Moshe was a very righteous person, and righteous people are judged more strictly.

  • This answers 5 parts of the question. I will hopefully add another few parts...
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 7 '18 at 18:45
  • @רבותמחשבות Thanks for the edits. FWIW, I don't think the commentary of R. Hananel is extant. I think the MHK edition of it printed in the Torah Hayyim is basically just culled from Rabbenu Bahya. || Editing the post was very appreciated. It leaves me quoting Artom, and only assuming that this must be Rabbi Elia Samuele Artom, and not even knowing where one would find this idea of his. (His commentary edited by Cassuto?)
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 7 '18 at 21:46
  • You are likely correct re: Rabbeinu Chananel, I was using the version on alhatorah (which has many more mefarshim than the mikraos gedolos, just search on the top left). It is E.S. Artom, I have the Artom/Cassuto Tanach at home. Jan 7 '18 at 22:43

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