Zipporah, First Female Surgeon Documented in the Bible


Meet Zipporah, Moses’ Wife…

Moses met Reuel’s daughters as he sat by the well in Midian. Zipporah and her sisters came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their fathers’ flock. Reuel had no sons, he fathered seven daughters, and they inherited the assignment of tending the livestock.

It was no small feat for women to make a trip to water the flock. On this particular day, a monopoly of shepherds herding their flocks came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and came to their rescue, and he also watered their flock.

At this time in history, men were the dominant sex, and it was customary for women to take a back seat to them. Apparently, these men saw women as the weaker sex; therefore, they didn’t show any compassion for them.

Thankfully, Moses was there to assist them, his actions were moral, regardless of societal beliefs. Scripture tells us that God is not a respecter of persons; (Romans 2:11). He sees the human creation of equal value regardless of sexual orientation.


After the flock was watered, the women went home and told their father about the trouble they encountered and how Moses helped them. Reuel wanted to meet Moses, so Zipporah invited him to their home. Reuel, also known as Jethro, was the priest of Midian. Moses found comfort at their home, so he decided to stay with them. Not long after, Reuel gave Moses Zipporah’s hand in marriage. Later she gave birth to two sons, Gershom and Eliezer; the family resided with Reuel, and Moses tended the flock.

40 years later, God heard the children of Israel crying for help because they were in bondage under Pharaoh. God heard their groanings, and He remembered His Covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

While tending the flock in the wilderness, Moses came to Horeb, the Mountain of God. The Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing flame of fire from the midst of a bush. God speaking from the bush, commanded Moses, saying, “Go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt.” But out of fear, Moses replied, “Pardon your servant, Lord, please send someone else.” Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses.

After his encounter with God, Moses went home and asked his father-in-law for permission to return to Egypt. Reuel replied, “Go, and I wish you well.” Moses took his wife and sons, saddled the donkey, and they headed toward Egypt.

As they traveled, they came upon a lodging place, and the LORD met Moses there. He was angry with Moses, and He wanted to kill him because of his disobedience. Immediately Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son’s genitalia, and cast it at Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely, a bloody husband art thou to me.”

Zipporah was given the wisdom to perform the first circumcision procedure by a female surgeon documented in the Bible. But, why did Moses, the Law-Giver, knowingly neglect the law? He knew the relevance of the covenant and the effect it has on the future generation. A  visible, physical sign of the covenant promise, between the Lord and His people, was required by the Jewish male. Any male that was not circumcised was to be cut off from his people and was regarded as a covenant breaker. As a leader and family man, Moses’ responsibility was to carry out God’s commands and follow His instructions.

After the LORD’s anger was sufficed, rather than allowing his family to continue with him to Egypt, Moses sent them home with his father-in-law. Zipporah is not mentioned again until after the Exodus. Along with Reuel, she and her two sons visited Moses in the wilderness after the Hebrew people left Egypt; (Ex. 18:1-5). Moses was camped near the mountain of God. Jethro sent word to him, “I, your father in law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons.” Moses went out to meet his father in law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. The next mention of Zipporah was when Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because he married an Ethiopian woman, and Miriam spoke against Moses’ leadership abilities; (Numbers 12:1).


What I find interesting about Zipporah’s story is although she was an outsider to the Jewish covenant promise, God used her to carry out His plan of circumcision to secure her family’s legacy. Jehovah gave her the wisdom to perform a successful surgical procedure to preserve her posterity. Zipporah fulfilled the law of circumcision despite her husband’s neglect. She defended her family’s rights and their covenant position, least her sons would be considered as “covenant breakers,” and would be put out of their tribe.

Jehovah is a covenant-keeping God. He keeps His covenant throughout thousands of generations; (Deut. 7:9).  Zipporah sparred Moses’ life by performing the first female documented circumcision surgical procedure in the Bible. Not only was she the first female surgeon, but she was also the first female to perform a surgical procedure on a male. She is definitely a “Female Promise Keeper, and her sons are heirs to the covenant promise because of her bravery and obedience to her husband’s God.



  • What is a covenant? A covenant is an agreement between two parties that involves promises on the part of each to the other.
  • Moses was a Hebrew from the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe.
  • He grew up in Pharaoh’s household under Egyptian laws.
  • He was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter as her son. She named him “Moses, which means “drawing out” in Hebrew. Moses assisted Zipporah and her sisters to “draw water for their flock.”
  • The first circumcision was performed by Abraham per God’s instructions. Abraham was told to circumcise every male child in his household eight days after birth, including his servants.
  • Zipporah’s name is pronounced “zip POE rah,” which means “female bird.”
  • Zipporah was instrumental in keeping the Jewish law within the Messiah’s family in obedience to the Abrahamic Law.
  • In circumcision, a sharp knife was really a sharp stone. Zipporah used a piece of flint in accordance with the usage of the patriarch.
  • Jethro, Reuel’s other name, means “Excellency,” which may have been a title indicating his rank in the tribe.
  • Moses was brought up in Pharaoh’s household, knowing kingdom principles and laws. After Moses ran to Midian and he became the keeper of Reuel’s sheep. Moses went from royalty to shepherd. He had to face many challenges before he could actually lead masses of people.






BACKGROUND SCRIPTURES: Exodus Chapters 2 through 4; Exodus 18:1-5

Photography: Noire 3000 Bible, by James C. Lewis

REFERENCES: Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary; Got;


Here is a YouTube video of a shepherd watering his flock. Video Credit: