I have just finished reading an amazing book Zipporah, by Marek Halter. It tells the story of the Cushite wife of Moses, the grand old man of the Old Testament and mother of his two sons.
Zipporah grew up in the household of Jethro, a sage/ high priest of the Midian kings, an abandoned baby who grew up with his own children, apple of his eye for her dark skinned beauty and wisdom beyond her years. In her adopted tribe, she is not accepted as a possible bride, but for the refugee from Egypt, Moses, Zipporah was the wife he felt was made for him.
The story of Zipporah follows the evolution of Moses from a refugee Egyptian prince to a leader of the Hebrew slaves of Egypt, prodded by both Jethro and Zipporah. The trip across the desert to Egypt was a revelation for her: accepted as Moses’ destiny by both his adoptive and biological mothers, she is rejected by his brother Aaron and sister Miriam; animosity against Moses’ dark-skinned wife is instigated and eventually, she is forced to go back to her father’s land, with her sons, so that Moses may fulfill the destiny that brought him back to Egypt.
When news comes that Moses had succeeded in bringing the Hebrews out of Egypt and led them out after the parting of the waters – which Zipporah had earlier seen in a dream, she goes back to Moses, this time with her sons and Jethro.
But the chaos and gross mismanagement of the exodus into the desert, the creation of the golden idol by supposedly beggarly Hebrew refugees wreak havoc with Moses and Zipporah’s emotions and cost the lives of both sons.
It is Zipporah and her father Jethro who prod Moses up the mountain again, from where he emerges with the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s command to accept strangers, but it is too late and she is forced to return to father’s home. Too late – for after Jethro’s death, another destiny altogether awaits her, leaving Moses bereft and adrift in the sands of the desert with his people for the biblical forty years.
It is another generation altogether that is led into the Promised Land by Moses’ favorite, Joshua, as the Grand Old Man stays back with his memories of the woman who was his, the woman who remains but a foot note in the Old Testament, despite her vital role in the life of Moses.
Zipporah emerges as a beautiful and strong woman, as intelligent as she is intense and loyal. Her thoughts are strong and analysis immaculate, which make her an Epic Woman, despite being only a footnote in the Testament.
What perhaps makes this depiction of those times unique but sad is the narrative of the evolution of Mankind, with one segment wise and sober, repeatedly overruled by the petty-minded and rabid mobs – a trend that has prevailed over centuries to our times.
Wonderful read for historical and religious fiction enthusiasts.