223 – Numbers 22 – Zippor and Zipporah
Last time we talked about Numbers 22:1-3 where we were introduced to Balak king of Moab. As I was studying for this week I noticed a little detail in the text that gave me pause. I realized there probably was no pot of theological gold at the end of the rainbow, but I felt I needed to sate my curiosity, so I chased it down a bit.
Let’s look at the text, then I’ll tell you what I noticed.
2 Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
3 And Moab was exceedingly afraid of the people because they were many, and Moab was sick with dread because of the children of Israel.
4 So Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now this company will lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.” And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.
One of the things a careful observer is trained to do is identify repeat words or phrases in the passage being studied. Sometimes the biblical author is signaling significance by using repetition. I noticed that the phrase “son of Zippor” was repeated two times in three verses. As I was thinking about how that might possibly be important to the author and the original biblical audience, I noticed a contrast. Neither of the two previous chapters introduced the kings by giving their name and saying “son of..”.
As a matter of fact, to my recollection, it was pretty much just the Israelite introductions that included the family line, which is important for at least a few reasons, one of which is establishing the family line of Jesus.
But here, in Numbers 22:2, and other verses, we are introduced to Balak and his family line. I could find no information on Zippor, Balak’s dad. This might just mean that his family line was meaningful to the original biblical audience and lost to us. Hard to tell. As I was pondering this I noticed another little detail.
Zipporah, daughter of the priest of her people, was the name of Moses’ wife and she was from Midian! So the name Zippor and Zipporah are the exact same name, only one is a male name and the other a female name. As an aside the name means “little sparrow”. Maybe it was just a common boy/girl name among the people of Midian? Maybe, I don’t know.
Midian at one point was friendly to Moses and the nation of Israel, but now when they were almost at the end of their wilderness experience Midian was joining forces with Moab against them.
Maybe God was telling them, and us, that He brought Moses and the Nation of Israel out of both physical and pagan religious bondage by delivering them from something once friendly and familiar, but now hostile to them and their relationship with Yahweh God. I’m hesitant to say for sure without more facts but it seems worth considering.
Verse four informs us that Moab as a nation presents the idea of an alliance to the elders of Midian. Their reason for colluding together militarily? Unless we stop them, “… this company [Israel] will lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field”.
Two Nations facing potential annihilation at the hand of the traveling family of Israelites were understandably terrified. Sadly, they did not introspect. They did not seek God to discover if there was some way they could avoid His judgment. Instead, they appeal to a spiritualist and their pagan gods for help, which we will introduce next time.
The word of God is packed full of detail, much of which we miss because we only read it devotionally and refuse to put forth the necessary work to uncover it. Sometimes I think we are looking for some new deep earth shattering revelation that will make us feel good to the exclusion of what is actually on the page.
God is good and in His goodness He provided His Holy written word for us to read, study, understand, and apply to our lives.
God truly is worthy of all praise, worship, and adoration.
All Scripture quotations from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.