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Q13. What do we know about Moses’ family?

Q:

“Awesome wrap up was great! Thank you! I do not understand why the circumcision requirement was not brought to their [Moses’ family’s] attention. Did Moses’ wife not realize when they married or?”

Deniese T.

“I always wondered what happened with Moses’ children. Do you have any information?”

Dora V.

Hey guys! These were two questions on my Exodus 1-25 Weekly Recap that I answered. They were similar enough that I thought it would be a good idea to post it here, too.

 

Why didn’t Moses family know about circumcision? 

Hi Deniese!  I have a bit of a long answer for you!  It seems like Moses had decided to raise his sons as non-Israelites, ie. not observing the covenant of Abraham the physical sign of which was male circumcision (Genesis 17). Moses must’ve grown up in a confusing cultural environment. He knew he was a Hebrew, but he was educated like an Egyptian, lived with the Egyptians and all the privileges that came with it. We learn from his first interaction with the daughters of Jethro that Moses dressed and looked and likely spoke like an Egyptian because they told their father that they were helped by an Egyptian (Exodus 2:19). 

In short, Moses was used to being an outsider. An outsider to his biological family, an outsider to the Hebrews, an outsider to the native Egyptians, an outsider to his new family in Midian: Perhaps he was hoping to stay this way and so raised his sons on the outside as well. God wasn’t satisfied with this.

If Moses was to be the man to lead Israel, to be God’s spokesperson, he needed to follow and nearly embody the covenant of Abraham. Anything short of obedience from Israel’s leader would be an excuse for the Israelites to sin against God (and they certainly didn’t need any help with that!). And SO we get this bizarre circumcision event. 

The irony is that the covenant is fulfilled for Moses by his gentile wife. As the daughter of the priest of Midian, she would have been aware of the importance of religion and covenants. I’m sure the covenant of Abraham had arisen in conversation! Especially as they were on their way to Egypt on mission from this God of Abraham! We an only guess at the reasons of Moses, but based on his upbringing and reluctance to go on God’s mission in the first place – it seems natural to his character that he was also reluctant to include his children in the Abrahamic covenant.

 

Do we have any other information on Moses’ family?

Hi Dora! The fate of Moses’ children is a bit of a mystery. It is known that they were of the tribe of Levi, specifically they belonged to the Kohathites. In Numbers 3 and 4 we are told that the Kohathites were responsible for caring for the Tabernacle and all of the items like the ark, altar, etc. So we can assume that Moses’ sons served in that area.

It is noteworthy that one of Moses’ sons did not take his place as leader. Even in Numbers 3:1 when it says, “This is the account of the family of Aaron and Moses…” Moses’ sons aren’t listed, only Aaron’s. So it is probable that they did not grow in to any positions of importance among the Israelites. We do know, thanks to genealogies in 1 Chronicles 23 that both Gershom and Eliezer did live with Israel and had sons and descendants.

In Judges 18:29-31, we get a view of one of Moses’ grandsons that is less than flattering. The tribe of Dan captured a city, that they named Dan, and set up idols there and a whole cultic centre to rival the Tabernacle. They hired Moses’ grandson and his family (who are Levites after all) to be their priests: Jonathon the son of Gershom the son of Moses. This pagan cult centre seems to have survived under the direction of Moses’ descendants until the capture of Israel by Assyria in the 700’s BC (so for several hundred years!).

To wrap it up, the history we do know of Moses’ descendants is polluted with idol worship. This is only one branch of his family line though, the other branches seem to have done nothing overly extraordinary either bad or good.

 

Hope this helps!

 

Corie Bobechko | January 31, 2021 – 2:35 PM EST