Is this passage implying that Moses left his wife and children before he went into the wilderness?

If that's true, why did Moses leave his family?

Exodus 18:1-7 ESV Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. Now Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her home, along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”), and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”). Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was encamped at the mountain of God. And when he sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her,” Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent.

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    If he left them in care of Jethro while he was away, what's the issue? Is your question about what his mission / intention / purpose was in going into the wilderness? (On a RL analogy, have you ever been on a business trip? Deployed? You leave your wife and kids then too(for a while). Is there a problem with this? Apr 5, 2017 at 14:36
  • @KorvinStarmast I wasn't sure if it was a temporary leave or a permanent one.
    – LCIII
    Apr 7, 2017 at 12:28

2 Answers 2


It is helpful to read all of Exodus 4 starting at verse 18.

After the burning bush, and God giving Moses signs to do in Egypt, Moses then asked his father in-law if he could return to Egypt. Moses took his wife and two sons, put them on a donkey, and set off for Egypt.

Notice verse 24: ON THE WAY.

Moses' wife was not an Israelite and she was NOT going to allow her son to be circumcised. Moses had yielded to the wishes of his wife, but as he was on the way to represent the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God shows us that NOBODY was exempt from His covenant:

9 And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. 13 He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” (Genesis 17:9-14)


When Zipporah saw that God was going to kill Moses, she defiantly complied.

24 And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him. 25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’[a] feet, and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!” 26 So He let him go. Then she said, “You are a husband of blood!”—because of the circumcision. (Exodus 4:24-26)

Picturing this scene of marital stife, it's not difficult to see her returning to her father's house at this point, while Moses and Aaron continue on to Egypt.


Moses first took his wife and children from Midian to Egypt on a donkey.

Now the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go, return to Egypt; for all the men who sought your life are dead.” 20 Then Moses took his wife and his sons and set them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the rod of God in his hand.

Exodus 4:19

She was with him when Moses' son was circumcised in the wilderness in the latter part of Exodus 4. Then Aaron went out into the wilderness to meet Moses. Then they both went to Egypt and gathered all the elders

And the Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him on the mountain of God, and kissed him. 28 So Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which He had commanded him. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel.

Exodus 4:27-29

The Bible doesn't mention his wife and children again until Jethro brings them with him, meaning at some point Moses sent them back. The Bible is not specific about when or why, but it can be inferred through the text that because of the possible danger posed by the Pharaoh, Moses did not wish to put his family in harm's way without necessity. Therefore, he sent them back to Midian where they were received by Jethro, his father-in-law.

Not far distant from where the Israelites were now encamped was the home of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. Jethro had heard of the deliverance of the Hebrews, and he now set out to visit them, and restore to Moses his wife and two sons. The great leader was informed by messengers of their approach, and he went out with joy to meet them, and, the first greetings over, conducted them to his tent. He had sent back his family when on his way to the perils of leading Israel from Egypt, but now he could again enjoy the relief and comfort of their society. To Jethro he recounted the wonderful dealings of God with Israel, and the patriarch rejoiced and blessed the Lord, and with Moses and the elders he united in offering sacrifice and holding a solemn feast in commemoration of God's mercy.

Patriarchs and Prophets p. 300

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    Apparently "Patriarchs and Prophets" is an Ellen G. White book. Please give a complete attribution for quotes, preferably with a link if it is online.
    – Bit Chaser
    Apr 7, 2017 at 0:03
  • @disciple Is it a problem that it's an Ellen G. White book? Apr 7, 2017 at 1:09
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    It's simply a matter of full disclosure. I see her statement as pure speculation, so not very related to Christian doctrine. From some others, I might expect there was a lot of reasoning behind it. In any case, it ought to be traceable to the belief of some Christian group.
    – Bit Chaser
    Apr 7, 2017 at 1:30
  • @disciple I'm not trying to hide anything. I cited the book and chapter. It's the only book called Patriarchs and Prophets, that I know of. Nevertheless, I will post a link to make it more transparent. Apr 7, 2017 at 17:37

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