Religions (Sep 2017)

Tsipporah, Her Son, and the Bridegroom of Blood: Attending to the Bodies in Ex 4:24–26

  • Margaret Murray Talbot

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8, no. 10
p. 205


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Through the centuries, scholars and readers have looked through a variety of lenses to discover what might be revealed by the story of Tsipporah’s circumcision of her son in Exodus 4, and to assign meanings to it. The ambiguity of the language and the particular interests of readers in their contexts allow for a breadth of possibilities. However, in most cases, the son and his body fail to attract much scholarly concern. In this reading, I suggest that considering more intently the bodies of the son, Tsipporah, and the deity through the lens of affect theory offers a fresh understanding of Tsipporah’s utterance following the cutting of her son’s foreskin. Teresa Brennan’s work on the transmission of affect breaks down the “foundational fallacy” of the individuated bodies of the three, allowing the deity’s threat, the son’s pain, and the mother’s response to affect the way Tsipporah’s words might be heard and understood.