Fanciful version of the fatal encounter between African princess Zipporah and young Moses, in a breathy, atmospheric translation.
The second volume of French novelist Halter’s Canaan Trilogy (Sarah, 2004) shows Zipporah, the daughter of Midian high priest Jethro, meeting the fugitive Moses on his flight out of Egypt. At the well with her light-skinned stepsisters, Zipporah is intrigued by the stranger she recognizes from a dream. Although Moses explains to Jethro that he has killed an Egyptian overseer and is fleeing Pharaoh’s court, the priest offers him a small flock and shelter among the Midianites. News of his adopted mother’s illness nearly sends him back to Egypt, but Zipporah persuades Moses to remain and be her husband, despite his conflicted identity—he has learned he is Hebrew by birth—and inability to embrace the Midian god, Horeb. True to her dream, however, the sight of a burning bush convinces Moses he must return to Egypt. Zipporah makes the arduous trek with her husband, their flock and two children; they are joyously reunited with Moses’ long-lost siblings, Aaron and Miriam. The Hebrews, however, are appalled by this black-skinned bride, and Miriam is particularly hostile to her. Moses insists on his gratitude to Zipporah for saving his life (and circumcising his son Eliezer), but she at last grasps the futility of her presence amid the monumental events unfolding in Egypt. Excluded by her African birth from the covenant Yahweh made with Abraham, Zipporah returns sadly to Midian, only to learn a year later that Moses had led the great exodus from Egypt. By then, the Hebrews are wandering restively, Moses is a changed man and the couple’s brief, final meeting makes a tragic footnote to the violent surge of events.
Affecting biblical drama scaled down to human dimensions.