The Torah tells us surprisingly little about Moshe's family and his wife Zipporah. Zipporah appears only three times – in Shemot 2:16-22 when Moshe marries her, in Shemot 4:20-26 when Moshe leaves for Egypt, and in Shemot 18:2-7 when she is returned to Moshe.1 From this meager data, the commentators attempt to sketch a portrait of Zipporah.
- Divrei HaYamim LeMoshe Rabbeinu and Yalkut Shimoni describe how Zipporah followed in Hashem's ways and reached the level of the Matriarchs.2
- R. Avraham b. HaRambam notes that Zipporah was a descendant of Avraham,3 and that this accounts for her family's traits of charity and hospitality. The Tzeror HaMor emphasizes that Zipporah herself was unique in her modesty and good deeds.
- Targum Yerushalmi (Yonatan) and Divrei HaYamim LeMoshe Rabbeinu tell a fantastic story of how Yitro imprisoned Moshe, and left him to starve in a pit for ten years. Moshe survived only because Zipporah secretly fed him.
- R. Elazar in Bavli Bava Batra suggests that Moshe's marriage to Zipporah, the daughter of an idolater, resulted in their having a descendant who was an idolatrous priest.4
- Shadal claims that Zipporah was a bad influence on Moshe. Shadal thus explains that the problems at the inn in Shemot 4:24-26 (see Mystery at the Malon), came about because of Hashem's concerns that Zipporah (and Gershom) would dissuade Moshe from carrying out his mission.5
Before meeting Moshe
- Heathen – See below for those who maintain that Zipporah did not change her practices even after marrying Moshe.
- Monotheist from a family of idolaters – R. Mubashir HaLevi. See Yitro's Religious Identity for additional sources and discussion.
- Monotheist from a family of monotheists – R. Saadia. See Yitro's Religious Identity for more.
After meeting Moshe
- Still adhered to idolatrous practices – opinion cited and rejected by Ibn Ezra,6 Ramah,7 Shadal.
- Converted to Judaism – See Midrash Tadshe and Yalkut Shimoni Yehoshua 9 that Zipporah converted,8 and see the sources above that Zipporah was already a monotheist.
Marriage to Moshe
- How could Moshe marry a heathen woman? See Moshe and Zipporah's Marriage.
- Did she return with Moshe to Egypt? See When Did Zipporah Return to Midyan and Mystery at the Malon.
- Did Moshe divorce her? See אחר שלוחיה.
- Was she present for the revelation at Sinai? See Chronology of Shemot 18.
- Did her marriage to Moshe resume upon her return? See Miryam's Critique of Moshe and his Cushite Marriage.
An analysis of Zipporah's personality is related to the following topics: