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MOSES WIFE: ZIPPORAH OR THARBIS (Adoniah)?

Updated: Jul 9, 2023




Detail of Jacob Jordaens' painting "Moses and his Ethiopian Wife Zipporah," c. 1650.


There is an understanding about Moses’ wife, which says that he was married to an Ethiopian lady. This is something that I’ve always wondered about, because when I checked the background of Moses’ wife I never found this to be true.


The most popular incident is when Moses is challenged by Aaron and Miriam, because of his marriage to an Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12:1).


After researching this, I have found this statement was true, but not in the way that most people think…


When reading the scriptures you’ll find that Moses was married to Zipporah at the time when he was accused of being married to an Ethiopian. So everybody naturally assumes that she was the Ethiopian.


But is this true?


Who Was Moses Wife Zipporah?

Let’s look at what the scriptures actually say by starting in the book of Exodus. First let’s see whether Moses was married to Zipporah.


Exodus 2:21

21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter.

When we research the lineage of Zipporah Moses wife we see that it goes back to the Midianites. This is the land that Moses dwelt in when he took refuge from Pharaoh.


Exodus 2:15

15 Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.

The Midianites were not Ethiopians, they are actually from the lineage of Abraham who Moses is also a descendant of.


Below you will see one of the sons Abraham had with his late wife Keturah. His name is Midian, which made him the forefather of the Midianites.


Genesis 25:1-4

1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.
2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.
3 And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim.
4 And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.

As you can see above Abraham’s second wife Kenturah gave birth to children and one of them was the father of the Midianites.


This totally contradicts the idea that Moses wife could have been an Ethiopian. So the question is, who is the Ethiopian woman that Aaron and Miriam had an issue with Moses about?


Here’s a scripture that shows that Reuel (Jethro) Zipporah’s father was a Midianite.

Exodus 3:1

1 Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.

Above you can see that Reuel (Jethro) was Moses father in law and the priest of Midian too.

Also keep in mind that Jethro is also known as Reuel, you can see this in the below scriptures:


Exodus 2:16-18

16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock.
17 And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.
18 And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon to day?

These scriptures should clear up any misunderstandings you may have had about these different names.


Brief Explanation Of Tharbis & Moses’ Marriage


An important history book to read is called The works of Josephus I, inside the book we are given more clarity.


Below is an excerpt from the Josephus works. It explains the wars that Moses was a part of when he left Egypt.


We are told that Moses led the Ethiopians in battle against the Magician Balaam and his two sons (Jasher 72:3,6), who had taken over the Ethiopian castle and convinced the Ethiopians to betray their original king while he was in battle.

However, while Moses was uneasy at the army’s lying idle, (for the enemies durst not come to a battle,) this accident happened: – Tharbis was the daughter of the king of the Ethiopians: she happened to see Moses as he led the army near the walls, and fought with great courage; and admiring the subtility of his undertakings, and believing him to be the author of the Egyptians’ success, when they had before despaired of recovering their liberty, and to be the occasion of the great danger the Ethiopians were in, when they had before boasted of their great achievements, she fell deeply in love with him; and upon the prevalency of that passion, sent to him the most faithful of all her servants to discourse with him about their marriage. He thereupon accepted the offer, on condition she would procure the delivering up of the city; and gave her the assurance of an oath to take her to his wife; and that when he had once taken possession of the city, he would not break his oath to her. No sooner was the agreement made, but it took effect immediately; and when Moses had cut off the Ethiopians, he gave thanks to God, and consummated his marriage, and led the Egyptians back to their own land. THE ANTIQUITIES OF THE JEWS, BOOK 2, CHAPTER 10

Where Is Tharbis Mentioned In The Bible


In the above scriptures the queen of Ethiopia took a liking to Moses because of his abilities during battle. He was instrumental in getting back the Ethiopian castle after it was abducted by Balaam the Magician and his two sons.


After the battle, Tharbis the Ethiopian queen made an agreement to marry Moses and he accepted.


You can see here that Tharbis is mentioned, not in the bible scriptures, but in the Josephus histories.


This information sheds a clear light on the question, whether Moses was married to an Ethiopian?


Adoniah (Tharbis) Mentioned In Jasher


More research shows a biblical record that supports the information presented by Josephus concerning Moses war against the Ethiopians when he was the king of the Ethiopians.


This book is mentioned in the scriptures but many people think it doesn’t exist. It is called the book of Jasher and it is mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18.


The name Tharbis can not be found in the book of Exodus, but you can find it below in other scriptures…


Jasher 76:2

2 And all the children of Cush loved Moses all the days that he reigned over them, and all the inhabitants of the land of Cush were greatly afraid of him.

So here we see that Moses reigned over the people of Cush. Cush being another name for Ethiopia. So the answer to the question, whether or not Moses married an Ethiopian has been answered, and the answer is, Yes!


More proof of Moses marriage to the Ethiopian queen Tharbis known as Adoniah in the book of Jasher can be found below:


Jasher 73:30-31

30 So Moses took the city by his wisdom, and the children of Cush placed him on the throne instead of Kikianus king of Cush.
31 And they placed the royal crown upon his head, and they gave him for a wife Adoniah the Cushite queen, wife of Kikianus.

Here where we see in the Book of Jasher the same history documented in the Josephus histories.


The story is definitely the same, although the name of the Cushite (Ethiopian) queen is different, it is clearly the same history being recorded.


In the book of Jasher Moses was made king after the death of the Ethiopian King Kikianus’ death:


Jasher 72:34

34 And they wished to choose on that day a man for king from the army of Kikianus, and they found no object of their choice like Moses to reign over them.

After the crown was given to Moses Adoniah the former kings wife married Moses.


How Many Wives Did Moses Have?


To get the necessary information about how many wives Moses had, we have to study the scriptures more closely.


Now we know that Moses was married to Adoniah (Tharbis), by just simply understanding the history of Israel, we can say that Moses was married twice.


Moses first Marriage was to Adoniah as previously mentioned and his second marriage was to Reuel (Jethro) the Midianite’s daughter Zipporah.


At the time of Moses marriage to Zipporah he was no longer married to the Ethiopian Adoniah (Tharbis).


Why Aaron And Miriam Were Against Moses


Many people often assume that Aaron and Miriam spoke against Moses because of his marriage with Zipporah:


Numbers 12:1

12 And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.

The common assumption made is that Zipporah was Ethiopian, some even say that there is some type of biblical error. Both of these assertions are inaccurate…


The truth is, as you have seen throughout this article, is that this assumption is based off a lack of knowledge and thorough study of the scriptures.


Here you can see that Moses married an Ethiopian called Adoniah (Tharbis):


Jasher 73:30-31

30 So Moses took the city by his wisdom, and the children of Cush placed him on the throne instead of Kikianus king of Cush.
31 And they placed the royal crown upon his head, and they gave him for a wife Adoniah the Cushite queen, wife of Kikianus.

Above Moses married his first wife the Ethiopian Adoniah (Tharbis), when he was around twenty-seven (Jasher 73:2) years old.


Moses then left the Ethiopians after forty years of ruler-ship (Jasher 76:5-12). Then at the age of sixty-six he went to the land of Midian and married Zipporah the Midianite.


The Staff Of Moses


I will briefly discuss the staff of Moses because it has relevance to the marriage between Zipporah the Midianite and Moses.


Most people know that Moses had a staff which he carried when he performed the eleven miracles against Pharaoh in Egypt. But where did it come from?


These scriptures explain where the staff of Moses came from:


Jasher 77:38-51

38 And afterward Moses went into the garden of Reuel which was behind the house, and he there prayed to the Lord his God, who had done mighty wonders for him.
39 And it was that whilst he prayed he looked opposite to him, and behold a sapphire stick was placed in the ground, which was planted in the midst of the garden.
40 And he approached the stick and he looked, and behold the name of the Lord God of hosts was engraved thereon, written and developed upon the stick.
41 And he read it and stretched forth his hand and he plucked it like a forest tree from the thicket, and the stick was in his hand.
42 And this is the stick with which all the works of our God were performed, after he had created heaven and earth, and all the host of them, seas, rivers and all their fishes.
43 And when God had driven Adam from the garden of Eden, he took the stick in his hand and went and tilled the ground from which he was taken.
44 And the stick came down to Noah and was given to Shem and his descendants, until it came into the hand of Abraham the Hebrew.
45 And when Abraham had given all he had to his son Isaac, he also gave to him this stick.
46 And when Jacob had fled to Padan-aram, he took it into his hand, and when he returned to his father he had not left it behind him.
47 Also when he went down to Egypt he took it into his hand and gave it to Joseph, one portion above his brethren, for Jacob had taken it by force from his brother Esau.
48 And after the death of Joseph, the nobles of Egypt came into the house of Joseph, and the stick came into the hand of Reuel the Midianite, and when he went out of Egypt, he took it in his hand and planted it in his garden.
49 And all the mighty men of the Kinites tried to pluck it when they endeavored to get Zipporah his daughter, but they were unsuccessful.
50 So that stick remained planted in the garden of Reuel, until he came who had a right to it and took it.
51 And when Reuel saw the stick in the hand of Moses, he wondered at it, and he gave him his daughter Zipporah for a wife.

We are told that the Most High used what is now known as the supernatural staff of Moses to create the worlds (Jasher 77:42). The stick was then taken by Adam (Jasher 77:43) when he was sent out of the Garden of Eden.


This stick was passed down until it reached Abraham, then Jacob took it. The stick was made of Sapphire (Jasher 77:39) and not the traditional wood normally expected.


Eventually Reuel the Midianite ended up with the stick after the death of Joseph. He then planted it in the ground (Jasher 77:48) waiting for a man who was worthy to pluck it from the ground…


Moses was that man, when he took it out the ground Reuel saw him with it, and it was at that moment he knew Moses was special, so he gave him his daughter Zipporah.


This story sounds strikingly similar to the story of Excalibur. I’m pretty sure it was a source of inspiration for that popular story line.


Conclusion


Now you know that Moses was in fact married to an Ethiopian, you can go and educate others. Moses’ first wife was Adoniah (Tharbis) and his second wife was Zipporah.


It’s important that we study the scriptures our self, even the scripts we are told are not part of the sixty-six books that we have been left with. If we don’t study then we’re only left with half the truth.


Here’s a little background on Josephus:


Josephus was a devout Jew, who lived just after the death of the Messiah, he had knowledge of all the historical information about Israel.


When we read the bible we see mention of the book of Jasher quoted above, which gives credence to it’s authority (Joshua 10:13, 2 Samuel 1:18).


Remember the only way to know if scripture is valid is to read it. Hopefully this article has helped clear up the questions you may have had about Moses wives.


Don’t forget to share this with someone that needs it. Shalom!




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