Marek Halter’s Zipporah is the second book in his bible trilogy based on the lives of women, a story from an epic time, Zipporah, a Cushite becomes Moses wife and is the step sister to the Queen of Sheba.
The story begins with Jethro one of the five kings of Midian and three of his daughters, Orma the youngest, unmarried and most beautiful daughter who would become the Queen of Sheba, Sefoba the oldest of the three and already married and lastly Zipporah, the cleverest of them all, who Jethro had found as a baby next to her dying mother as they fled the kingdom of Cush and had raised as his own daughter. Zipporah, meaning little bird was as black as burnt wood, and because of this was expected never to marry.
One day as they were fetching water from the well they were attacked by three shepherds who wanted to rape Zipporah and they were rescued at the last minute by a stranger, Moses, whom Zipporah had dreamed of.
The two unmarried daughters had eyes for Moses but he only had eyes for Zipporah. Moses after fleeing Egypt was weak and unsure of himself he had no aims, it was the will and guidance of Zipporah who refused to marry him until he had carried out his destiny, to free the Hebrew slaves of Egypt.
This story takes us through the discovery of Moses by Zipporah in Midian, as well as Moses’ discovery of Zipporah
‘And I’ she says, ‘Do you know who I am?’
‘The son of Jethro’
She laughs and holds out her arms and hands so that their color mingles with the darkness,
‘do you truly believe it with this skin?’
Before she could react he held her fingers and pulled her to him.
‘You are Zipporah the Cuchite, the one that Moses rescued from the hands of the shepherds at the well in Irmna, you are the one who always knows where to find me.’***
Through to his final acceptance of his destiny and the departure for Egypt with Zipporah. In Egypt Zipporah is rejected as foreign by the Hebrews and returns to Midian with her two sons Gershom and Eliezer from where we hear, second hand, from caravan trails of the events in Egypt leading up to the Hebrew’s being lead out of Egypt by Moses.
It is then back in Midian in the anarchy of the Hebrew people, that have never had to rule themselves, that Zipporah urges Moses to climb mount Horeb to get the commandments from Yhwh. The story then quickly moves on to its tragic end.
Marek Halter tells this story with biblical language and biblical colors, a feminist take on an original all masculine story.
First published in French as Tsippora by Robert Laffont in 2004
Translated into English by Howard Curtiss as Zipporah and published by Broadway Books in 2006