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Michael Hardt

Shadows Of The Church

If Rebecca is one of the best known and fullest types of the church in the Old Testament, Zipporah is one of the least known ones. There are a number of aspects in the account of her life that lend themselves to a typical interpretation but they are relatively few and perhaps less obvious than in cases such as Eve, Asenath, etc. As has been said in relation to Zipporah: “In her we see a faint type of the church.” (J. N. Darby).

Zipporah is mentioned in chapters 2, 4, and 18 of the book of Exodus.

And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter.

Exodus 2:21

Zipporah was one of the seven daughters of a Midianite priest called Reuel (Ex. 2:16.18). Moses met her when he fled to Midian to live there (v.15). It is interesting to consider why Moses had to flee. It does say the Moses fled from Pharaoh (v.15) but the context brings out a further aspect, namely that his brethren had rejected him. When Moses saw two Hebrew men who were quarrelling and reprimanded the guilty one he was told: “Who made thee ruler and judge over us? dost thou intend to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian?”. It was, as a matter of fact, this opposition from the side of his own people that put him in danger with Pharaoh.

At that point in time, Moses had not been recognised as leader of Israel who would liberate the people, and this brings us to the first point in relation to Zipporah: she was the bride given to Moses in the days of his rejection. Similarly, the church now [1] is the bride given to the Lord Jesus during the time in which He is rejected by Israel.

And she bore a son, and he called his name Gershom; for he said, I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.

Exodus 2:22

This verse sheds some light on Moses’ own feelings while he was in Midian. He was keenly aware that he was a stranger, living in a foreign land and alienated from his brethren. Typically, the emphasis is therefore on the feelings of Moses in relation to Israel, not so much on the comfort derived from his wife and son as in the case of Joseph – who while a stranger to his brethren – “ called the name of the firstborn Manasseh - For God has made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house. And the name of the second he called Ephraim -For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:51.52). Hence we have another indication here that Zipporah is a less explicit type of the church than others.

The next occurrence of Zipporah is found in Exodus 4. Moses tells his father-in-law that he is to go back to Egypt to see his brethren (v.18). It is then stated explicitly that Moses “ took his wife and his sons [2] , and set them riding upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt ”. The account then takes us back to an incident that happened ‘on the way’:

And Jehovah said to Moses, When thou goest to return to Egypt, see that thou do all the wonders before Pharaoh that I have put in thy hand… And it came to pass on the way, in the inn, that Jehovah came upon him, and sought to slay him. Then Zipporah took a stone and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, A bloody husband indeed art thou to me!

Exodus 4:21.24-23

No doubt, there are important practical lessons in this passage, namely that the judgement of the flesh is painful, and more so if it is delayed, that God cannot overlook this matter, etc. However, given the focus of this article on the typical meaning of Zipporah we only want to point out that the movements of Moses and Zipporah during this period are significant.

It appears that Zipporah left Moses either directly after this incident or a little later and returned to Midian. We read a little later:

And Jethro the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law [3] , heard of all that God had done to Moses, and to Israel his people; that Jehovah had brought Israel out of Egypt . And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her back…And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came to Moses with his sons and his wife into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mountain of God. And he sent word to Moses: I, thy father-in-law Jethro, am come to thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her.

Exodus 18:1-6

The fact that Zipporah was hidden in her father’s house and not with Moses during the time when he administered the judgements on Egypt and liberated the people of Israel , is significant. The Lord is the true Moses who will deliver His people with might and power and who will execute the judgement on the world. It is true that when the Lord appears in power for the judgement of the Western nations the ‘armies in heaven’ (heavenly saints) will follow Him. But even then it is His garment that is dipped in blood and the two edged sword proceeds out of His mouth. In the judgements related to the Assyrian we read that “the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, as a lion among the beasts of the forest as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, treadeth down, and teareth in pieces…” (Micah 5:7) but this is not the role of the church.

Having administered these judgements Moses is reunited to his wife. The picture we get in Exodus 18 is that the following ‘parties’ are assembled together: Moses (picture of the Lord), and Zipporah (picture of the church), are together with Reuel (picture of the nations) and speak about the subject of how God has delivered his people Israel and the ways he has gone with the enemies of His people in order to bring this about.

And Moses told his father-in-law all that Jehovah had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel 's sake; all the trouble that had befallen them on the way, and how Jehovah had delivered them.

Exodus 18:8

The result is an outburst of praise on Jethro’s part:

And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness that Jehovah had done to Israel ; that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. And Jethro said, Blessed be Jehovah, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians…. Now I know that Jehovah is greater than all gods; … And Jethro, …took a burnt-offering and sacrifices for God; and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel , to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law in the presence of God.

Exodus 18:10-12

Israel has been delivered. The marvellous ways of God with them are rehearsed. The nations marvel at this and start to acknowledge that the God of Israel is the true God ‘greater than all gods’. There are even sacrifices brought by Jethro (the nations). The company is then joined by representatives of the people of Israel (Aaron and the elders) who come to have fellowship (‘eat bread’).

But although these different ‘parties’ are together, in mutual fellowship and ‘in the presence of God’ there is one who is closer to Moses, the great deliverer, than anyone else. This is Zipporah, his wife. And so it will be during the Millennium: there will be blessing for delivered Israel, the nations will join in and praise God and bring worship but the place at the Lord’s side, so to speak, is reserved for the church, His bride and wife.

Summary and comparison with Joseph and Asenath

There are a number of parallels between Moses and Zipporah on the one hand and Joseph and Asenath on the other. Both, Joseph and Moses, were rejected by their brethren, they were strangers in a foreign land, and both received a wife there. But there are differences. The following table may serve as a little summary.


Christ seen as

The church seen as

Joseph & Asenath

- Glorified

- hated by His brethren – due to who He was, in His person

- the Saviour of the world

- Associated with Christ – who is glorified and ruling over the world


Moses & Zipporah (Ex. 4)

- Hidden from the eyes of the world and rejected by Israel

- Hated by His brethren – due to what He was, in His offices

- His companion in His rejection.



Moses & Zipporah (Ex 18)

- The Deliverer

- The King – Deut. 33: 5

- Associated with His people (while the Gentiles sacrifice, as they will to in the Millennium)

- His glory manifested in the various spheres (Jew, Gentiles, church)

- Reunited with the great Deliverer who has administered to the judgement to the world


- The one who is closest to Him (still in the Millennium)



[1] Some Bible teachers regard the church as bride only after the rapture (Rev.21:2.9 etc.). However, we do read that “the Spirit and the bride say ‘Come!’.” (Rev.22:17). Clearly, this is the desire of the church during the present time, longing for the coming of the bridegroom, the rapture.

[2] The name of the second son, Eliezer (‘the Lord is my helper’), is only mentioned in chapter 18, once Moses had fully experienced God as the true helper.

[3] Moses’s father-in-law is called Reuel in Ex.2:18 and in Numbers 10:29 . It may be a question of two names for the same person or ‘father’ signifying grand-father in one case.