Amram who was from the family of Levi married a Levi daughter named Jochebed, (Exodus 6:20). It is notable here that their child Moses would come from the lineage of Levi, the family from which the Priesthood would be chosen. (Deuteronomy 18:5) At first it would seem that Moses was the first born of Amram but latter we learn that Moses had an older Sister (Exodus 2:4) and an older brother. (Exodus 7:7) Moses’ siblings and particularly Aaron were probably born at the time the midwives were sparing the children but Moses was born under the threat of death. It would have been heartbreaking enough to lose a son to the order of Pharaoh that every newborn male should be cast towards the Nile River, but to lose one that was healthy and beautiful called forth every effort to preserve the child. The name “Moses” comes from a root meaning “take out,” because Moses was taken out of the river (Ex. 2:10). According to one Jewish source, Pharaoh’s daughter actually named him Minios, which means “drawn out” in Egyptian, and the name Moshe (Moses) was a Hebrew translation of that name, just as a Russian immigrant named Ivan might change his name to the English equivalent, John. The author of Hebrews states that it was an act of faith on the part of the parents of Moses to hide him for three months. This would imply that not only was Moses a beautiful child but also his parents believed that God had a special plan for him. (Hebrews 11:23)
Jochebed hid her male child for three months until it was no longer possible. A healthy child would cry loudly at three months and would have been noticed by Pharaoh’s attendants. Jochebed made a basket of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. Placing Moses in the basket she took it to the Nile River and placed it amongst the reeds at the river bank. This is a clear intention that she did not want the basket to float down the river. Miriam, Moses’ sister was placed not far away to watch that no harm came to Moses. It is obvious here in the thinking of Moses’ mother that something important was expected. This is also an indication that the parents of Moses were trusting God to care for their child.
It is probable that Moses’ mother knew where the Daughter of Pharaoh would come to bathe. Her hope was that the daughter of Pharaoh would do exactly as she did. This was a dangerous plan of Jochebed as a passing soldier could have heard the baby crying but for Jochebed there was no other alternative.
Ramesses II Born in July or August 1213 BC; referred to as Ramesses the Great, was the third Egyptian pharaoh (reigned 1279 BC – 1213 BC) of the Nineteenth dynasty. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. His successors and later Egyptians called him the “Great Ancestor.” Ramesses II led several military expeditions into the Levant, re-asserting Egyptian control over Canaan. He also led expeditions to the south, into Nubia, commemorated in inscriptions at Beit el-Wali and Gerf Hussein.
At age fourteen, Ramesses was appointed Prince Regent by his father Sethi I. He is believed to have taken the throne in his late teens and is known to have ruled Egypt from 1279 BC to 1213 BC for 66 years and 2 months, according to both Manetho and Egypt’s contemporary historical records. He was once said to have lived to be 99 years old, but it is more likely that he died in his 90th or 91st year. If he became Pharaoh in 1279 BC as most Egyptologists today believe, he would have assumed the throne on May 31, 1279 BC, based on his known accession date of III Shemu day 27. Ramesses II celebrated an unprecedented 14 sed festivals (the first held after thirty years of a pharaoh’s reign, and then every three years) during his reign—more than any other pharaoh. On his death, he was buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings; his body was later moved to a royal cache where it was discovered in 1881, and is now on display in the Cairo Museum.
The early part of his reign was focused on building cities, temples and monuments. He established the city of Pi-Ramesses in the Nile Delta as his new capital and main base for his campaigns in Syria. This city was built on the remains of the city of Avaris, the capital of the Hyksos when they took over, and was the location of the main Temple of Set. He is also known as Ozymandias in the Greek sources, from a transliteration into Greek of a part of Ramesses’ throne name, Usermaatre Setepenre, “Ra’s mighty truth, chosen of Ra”.
And so it happened that one of Pharaoh’s daughters came down to bathe in the Nile. This may well have been for the purposes of a ritual act as the Nile was worshipped in the form of the god Ha‘pi, the spirit of the Nile flood. It would be a private place and her maids would patrol the banks to keep prying eyes away while she bathed. It was the princess herself who spotted the basket, for she was the one who entered the water among the reeds in order to bathe herself in the Nile, and she sent her personal servant to obtain it for her. It is probable that she thought it would contain an image of the gods and wondered why it was there.
“The daughter of Pharaoh,” may be more that one from Pharaoh’s many concubines. This may not mean simply any daughter of the Pharaoh, but be a literal reproduction of the Egyptian Saat Nesu, “daughter of the king”, being the official title of a princess of royal blood, just as Sa Nesu, “son of the king”, was the official title of royal princes.
There are two interesting things to note here. First Pharaoh’s daughter readily identified the baby as an Israelite child. Perhaps the child was wrapped in a tribal blanket with identifying tribal fringes. Or maybe she noticed that the child had been circumcised as the custom is on the eighth day for the Hebrew male children. Second her heart was touched by the plight of this baby. Pharaoh’s daughter was well aware of the order to kill all male Israelite newborn children that her father had ordered. Apparently she was uninvolved in that and was only concerned for the plight of this child whom she had drawn from the Nile. In any case here is another human life that God was using to affect His will and purpose.
Miriam was quick to see an opportunity to offer a nurse for the baby. Neither the Daughter of Pharaoh nor her maids were in the position to nurse a child or take care of the babies needs. Again we see the providence of God and the advice of Moses’ mother in play here. It is believed that Miriam’s age would have been around five or six and she may not have been aware of a young child’s needs for care. A child of that age would need a woman that had milk in her breast and could wean a child. It was the custom in that time that a mother who had her child slain by the Pharaoh to hire out as a nurse. Most likely Moses’ mother had instructed Miriam to offer to find a nurse for the child should he be spared by the one who found him.
As a result Moses’ mother was given back her own child to nourish, to love, and to care for. Now Moses had the protection from the daughter of the one who was seeking to kill him.
Jochebed was hired by the Daughter of Pharaoh to raise the child and was given wages to do so. In the case of Pharaoh’s decree it had been defeated. God’s purposes had been placed in a helpless baby and raised in Pharaoh’s family the very family that had condemned him to die. We must be amazed at the way God works. Moses was now living in the best home in Egypt, under the care of his own mother, and protected by the authority of the Egyptian royal family.
“He became her son.” It would appear that this is the time at which she named him. It is probable that his mother has already been calling him ‘Moses’ (mosheh) “one who draws forth” as the one who had been “drawn out” of the water and had “drawn out” compassion from the princess, and that she had explained this to the princess. But her naming of the child is mentioned because it was very important in political terms. It marked him as being of the royal house, and as being a gift from the Nile god.
The name is in deliberate contrast to the fate of other Hebrew males. They were thrown towards the water, but Moses was drawn out of the water. We can compare here 2 Samuel 22.17; Psalm 18.16 which may well have had this incident in mind, and certainly illustrate it, ‘He sent from above, He took me, He drew me from many waters, He delivered me from my powerful enemy and from those who hated me for they were too strong for me’. God turned the tables on Pharaoh, and Moses was constantly there as a witness to the fact.
It is probable that Pharaoh’s vindictive command did not last for too long a period. Perhaps he found that his own people were unwilling to carry out their invidious task enthusiastically, especially after the first waves of deaths. It was hardly a policy that most people would put much effort into on a continual basis once their blood lust and anger had been assuaged. Perhaps the Egyptians began to recognize that they would lose a good source of slave labor. And perhaps he was made to recognize that it was after all a long term solution. It would be twenty or more years before it even began to work effectively. The animosity which would arise among the large numbers of Israelites would meanwhile be difficult to contain. The fact is that it was not a workable long term policy even for a tyrant.
Moses being raise by his own mother also had another effect on his upbringing. Jochebed would have taught Moses the customs and believes of the Israelite nation. It would only be obvious that in his adult years Moses would be draw to his own people.
We are not told what happen during the years between his adoption by the Daughter of Pharaoh and the time he began to act for God. Egypt was the center in the ancient world for wisdom. Moses’ training in the house of Pharaoh would have been similar to being trained in a modern university campus. Moses had the advantage of the best of learning at that time.
In the house of Pharaoh Moses would have been taught in the business of government, both in the common law and of the ancient Near East and the task of administering them. Moses would have been trained in international relations with specific emphasis upon international treaties and covenants.
Moses would have been trained in the affairs of the military and in the leadership of armies. Moses would have learned strategy and tactics and the problems of organizing and supplying armies marching in the field. All of these matters would serve Moses well for the tasks that God would call him to do. Moses’ education from the teacher of the children of the king, his tuition under some important court official with the help of the priestly caste which would probably include reading and writing, transcription of classical texts and civil and military administration, his experience of courtly affairs, his grounding in the faith of his father’s by his mother, until at last he was grown up and had reached manhood. The basic training for an Egyptian Prince was almost perfect preparation for the man who was to become the leader of God’s people. God is a God of economy and does not waste anything.
But that he knew his background comes out in the incident here as his natural mother had probably made sure of that. And he goes out to visit his relatives. He saw them as his brothers. He deliberately aligned himself with the people of God. Now a grown man at the age of forty as reflected by the sermon of Stephen recorded in Acts 7:32.
Moses saw the Israelite people as his brethren and in comparing their harsh treatment to the life he was leading in Pharaoh’s court he was no doubt disturb by it. From a human standpoint, Moses’ actions stand out in the gigantic proportions of a hero, but a hero who was clearly human. His burning passion for justice, his promptness in decision and action, his reckless abandon tempered with carful observation, his blow for deliverance without regard to personal cost, all of these make up the nature of Moses. We shall observe each of these characteristics showing up again.
Moses sees an Egyptian mistreating one of his brethren and kills him hiding the body in the sand. This detail clearly shows the historical truth of this account. Bodies were easy to hide in Egypt. If this had been told by a later writer he would have not been aware of the sandy nature of Egyptian soil. Moses was clearly wrong in his action against the Egyptian taskmaster as the end never justifies the means. Moses thought he was safe, for there had been no witnesses.
The next day Moses returned and saw to Israelites fighting. Slavery had broken down all semblance of social order. In Moses’ question as to why they were striking each other returned a question that brought terror to the heart of Moses, as he realized that his crime was known. Moses had overlooked two things. First the Israelite whom he had rescued the day before would certainly talk about the event. Second to the Israelites Moses appeared to be an Egyptian. By Moses’ dress and appearance he would have looked like an Egyptian. Moses may have thought he could live with his conscience but he could not live with the thought of facing prosecution for his crime.
It would not be long before the word of Moses’ deed would reach the court of Pharaoh and Moses would become a wanted man. From the outward appearance Moses had ruined any opportunity of being of any service to God or his people.
Moses knew what was in store for him and that his only hope lay in escape. But he little realized that he was treading a path then that he would again tread many years later with responsibility for a large number of people. It was preparing him for what was to come. So he fled the country, taking a similar route to that which he would take later with the Israelites, and that taken by a man called Sinuhe whose life story we discover in Egyptian records. Indeed it was a route by which many were known to attempt their escape.
Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian. Is there here a reflection of Genesis 4.16? And Cain went out from before the face of Yahweh and dwelt in the land of Nod. Both had committed murder, but have the writer in mind that while in the case of Cain he had become estranged from Yahweh; Moses had only become estranged from Pharaoh? Yet both would be a long time in the wilderness (Nod was the land of ‘wandering’), and both would find mercy of a kind. On the other hand Cain turned to city-building, while Moses found his way to the mountain of God. Therein lays the difference.
We are not given any detail of Moses’ flight from Pharaoh to Midian. Midian is located east of the Gulf of Aqaba, on the east side of the Sinai Peninsula and the Wilderness of Paran. The Midianites we a nomadic people and their land was never defined and probably overlapped into the Sinai Peninsula. This region was several hundred miles from the courts of Pharaoh. We are also not told of why Moses chose this location to flee to but there may be at least two good possibilities. The first reason is that this region was outside of the normal channels of Egyptian commerce and communication. This would be a safer place than traveling back into Canaan where the Egyptians had control. Neither would the Sinai be a good choice as the Egyptians had extensive mining operations in that area. Moses most likely chose Midian because these people were also descendants of Abraham. (Genesis 25:2) The Midianites, connected with Abraham through Keturah’s son Midian, whose name they had taken. They were not a people who would prove helpful to Pharaoh in his search, or among whom he could pursue enquiries with any hope of finding something out. The tribe’s people would be inaccessible and uncommunicative, and besides, once he had disappeared Moses was probably not considered to be important enough to make too great a fuss over. No one would know where he had gone. Pharaoh could afford to wait until he surfaced. The Midianites already used camels (Genesis 37.25) which they would later use extensively (Judges 6.5). They were split into a number of groups but could come together when the need arose or when it was of some benefit to them.
A well in a wilderness section of the country would also cause an oasis. This would be a place of rest and refreshment and it would also be a place where travelers would encamp. The story becomes interesting with the introduction of seven daughters of the Priest of Midian. The seven daughters came to the well to care for their father’s flocks. Their father was not only a Priest but also a man of wealth. As they were drawing the water from the well other shepherds waited until they had finished and came to drive them away in order to water their flocks. Moses was made aware of what was happening and drove the other shepherds away. Once again we are made to realize the strength and valor of Moses.
The daughters returned home to their father earlier than expected and their father inquired as to the reason. Their father’s name is given as Reuel. This name does give a slight problem as he is also identified as Jethro in Exodus 3:1. In Numbers 10:29 he is called Hobab. This is not uncommon for a man in the Near East to have two or more names. Various traditions probably preserved different names. The father’s name, Reuel, means either shepherd of God or friend of God. Either definition would have been suitable to his character and priestly function.
When Reuel’s daughters reported home they told him of their experience of an Egyptian man rescuing them from the shepherds. Reuel was astounded that his daughters had not invited the man to his house for a meal. A father’s responsibility is to get his daughters well married. This was a large responsibility for Reuel because he had so many daughters. Reuel insisted that Moses be invited to eat and so Moses had found a welcome in the wilderness of Midian.
Another gap in information is here in between verses 20 and 21. Verse 21 begins with Moses in the employ of Reuel and married to his daughter Zipporah. There is no way of knowing how much time has passed in between these to verses but it is safe to assume that it was not overnight. Moses has now settled down to family life and shepherding the flocks of his father in law. The appearance here is that Moses’ act of passion in Egypt had permanently closed the door of his service to God there.
Still in Moses’ heart was a longing for his people. The first born son of Moses was named Gershom. The name is related to the Hebrew word stranger. Even though Moses seemed to be settled in Midian he still felt himself to be a stranger. Everything was going well for him but he was in the wrong place and he knew it. There was a wistful note of longing in the name he gave his son. Moses knew his people needed him.
Another amount of time has passed and the Pharaoh has died and been replaced with a new Pharaoh. The bondage of the Israelite people still continues and their cries are heard by the Lord. It neither is stated if Moses knew that the Pharaoh had died and been replaced.
Moses had left Egypt when he was forty years old and now he had been in Midian for forty years. There is a slight undertone in verses 24 and 25. Although Moses had deserted his people in Egypt God had not. The Basic messages her are fourfold, and they reflect a growing intensity.
“God heard their groaning.” The Hebrew translation indicates that God was doing more than merely hearing, He was consciously listening to the cries of His people. God was paying attention to their cries.
“God remembered His covenant.” In the Old Testament a central feature is the covenant relationship between God and the Israelite people. The emphasis always is that regardless of Israel’s faithfulness or lack of it, God was always faithful. The central feature of verse 24 and the book of Exodus is the message of God’s dependability. It is especially noteworthy as the gods that the Israelite people seem to continually come into contact with are capricious and undependable.
“God saw the sons of Israel.” God was not just watching but studying the experiences of his people. God was examining and grasping the total impact of the situation. God is spoken of in very human terms but for man there is no other way to describe God in terms other than our own experiences.
“God knew their condition.” In the Old Testament the verb “know” always refers to something more than mere mental awareness. The verb usage refers to something learned experientially. It means that God’s knowledge is first hand, personal knowledge. Thus when “God knew their condition,” He knew it because He was experiencing it. God had entered into their suffering, even though they did not know it.
When God enters into their suffering the stage is set of His historical acts of redemption. For “God heard, remembered, saw, and knew.” The Israelites felt alone and forgotten but God was with them.
From this chapter we learn that the sufferings of His people are never unknown to God. And they can thus be sure that when such sufferings come, somehow or another, though they have to wait long, God will provide for them a way of escape, whether in this world or the next. For we do not look at the things which are seen but at the things which are unseen (2 Corinthians 4.18), just as Moses did here (Hebrews 11.26). For God watches over His own, and when things seem at their worst, that is often when God begins to plan His best.
A further lesson we learn from Moses is that when we genuinely seek to follow His will He will act on our behalf, even despite our folly. Moses committed murder, but God used his folly in order to prepare him for the task that lay ahead, and gave him a new family, wife and children into the bargain.
And just as Moses, though under threat of death, was raised a deliverer, so our Lord Jesus Christ came to deliver us through a threat of death that became a reality. As Moses gave God’s Law to the people so did Jesus Christ bring us God’s Law, taking of the Law of Moses and building on it. And while Moses risked his life for his people, our Lord Jesus Christ gave His life for us, and then in order to accomplish our deliverance rose again that we might live through Him. Thus we look to a greater one than Moses.
Deuteronomy 18:5, Hebrews 11:23, 2 Samuel 22:17, Psalm 18:16, Acts 7:23, Genesis 4:16, Genesis 37:25, Judges 6:5, Genesis 25:2, 2 Corinthians 4:18, Hebrews 11:26