The birth of Moses. — V.1. And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. Amram, a grandson of Levi, married his aunt Jochebed, the daughter of Levi; in spite of the troublous times he had dared to enter into the state of marriage, and the marriage, as the later history shows, had been blessed with a daughter and a son. The special reference is here to the time when the cruel mandate of Pharaoh went into effect. V.2. And the woman conceived, and bare a son; and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, a handsome, well-proportioned baby, that also gave promise of fine development, she hid him three months, in the hope of saving his life somehow, Acts 7, 20; Heb.11, 23. V.3. And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink. When it became increasingly difficult to hide the boy from the eyes and ears of prying Egyptians, the mother constructed for him a small chest, or ark, out of the papyrus reeds that grew on the banks of the Nile, making it water-tight by means of asphalt and pitch, and placed this in the rushes on the brink of the river. V.4. And his sister stood afar off to wit what would be done with him. Miriam had thus reached an age at which she could volunteer to watch over the baby, to find out what would happen to him. The place chosen by the anxious mother was one frequented by the daughter of Pharaoh for bathing, and this fact entered into her plans. She trusted in the Lord that He would take care of her son, for faith will dare many things for the sake of a thing which has the approval of God.
Moses adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. — V.5. And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river, for such bathing in the open stream accords well with the customs of ancient Egypt; and her maidens, the attending slaves, walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. The other maids being engaged in patrolling the neighborhood against any disturbance, the attendant of the princess was sent to get the chest which had aroused the curiosity of Pharaoh’s daughter. V.6. And when she had opened it, she saw the child; and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children. She guessed the reason for the exposure of the child at once, but the natural motherly feeling asserted itself; she was filled with loving pity for the lonely, hungry child. V.7. Then said his sister, who had quietly drawn near during the excitement, to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for thee? She managed to make her question so casual that no one suspected her of being in the neighborhood by design, and her inquiry contained just enough of the suggestion necessary to direct the thoughts of Pharaoh’s daughter as she wished matters to proceed. V.8. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Go. In her deep pity for the crying child she readily acted upon the suggestion offered her. And the maid went and called the child’s mother, the best arrangement that could have been devised. V.9. And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child away, carry it away with you, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. So the boy’s own mother was engaged to be his nurse, obviously by the dispensation of God. And the woman took the child, and nursed it. V.10. And the child grew, he reached the age at which he was weaned, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son, was formally adopted by the princess, but not before he had been informed of his descent and of his deliverance, for with his mother’s milk he drank in the Hebrew spirit. And she called his name Moses; and she said, Because I drew him out of the water. This Egyptian name, Mousheh, which means saved, that is, delivered from the water, became in the Hebrew Mosheh, which means deliverer, a name with prophetic significance. As the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter Moses was educated according to the highest Egyptian standards, and became mighty in words and deeds, Acts 7, 22. Thus God holds His sheltering hand over them that are His and saves them in the midst of great perils.
Moses attempts to deliver his people. — V.11. And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens; and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. Moses grew to manhood fully conscious of his derivation, and therefore an Israelite at heart, although a prince of the nation to all appearances. The Israelites were his brethren, as the text emphasizes by the repetition of the word, and the enforced labor under which they were groaning hurt him deeply. He restrained himself, however, until he saw an Egyptian overseer strike down a Hebrew workman. V.12. And he looked this way and that way, to be sure that there were no unwelcome witnesses present, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, thus avenging the murder which the latter had just committed, and hid him in the sand. Although the act of Moses cannot be labeled murder, Acts 7, 24. 25, yet he anticipated divine providence by his rash act. V.13. And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together, they were engaged in a fight; and he said to him that did the wrong, the one that was in the wrong in the quarrel, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? V.14. And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? He plainly told Moses that he had no business to interfere, not having any authority over the Israelites. Intendest thou to kill me as thou killedst the Egyptian? So there must have been a witness on the previous day who had escaped the watchful eye of Moses. And Moses feared and said, Surely this thing is known. How did this matter become known? V.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 land of the Midianites had no definite boundaries, but may be said to have extended eastward from the Aelanitic Gulf; some tribes, however, were found on the Peninsula of Sinai. He chose this country for his sojourn, pitching his tent near a well, apparently the only source of water for a long distance. This experience of Moses was to serve him in good stead in later years, for it is God’s way of preparing great men for their life’s work.
Moses in the land of Midian. — V. 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. This man is called a priest, but the Midianites apparently had not retained the pure religion of Abraham, chap. 4, 25. 26, although the tradition of the true God persisted, as the name Reuel shows. The seven daughters of this priest, as dwellers in the wilderness, performed the work which the unmarried daughters of the Arab tribes do to this day. V.17. And the shepherds came and drove them away, for the saying that might makes right held good in the wilderness; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. V.18. And when they came to Reuel, their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon today? It seems that the shepherds made ungallant behavior their daily practise. V.19. And they said, An Egyptian, for as such they regarded Moses from his dress and probably from his speech, delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock. In comparing this passage with Num. 10, 29 and Ex. 18, it should be noted that Reuel (friend of God) was the given name of this priest and Jethro, or Jether, his official title, while Hobab was the name of his son, the brother-in-law of Moses. V.20. And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? Why is it that ye have left the man? Call him that he may eat bread. They had offended against desert hospitality in not inviting Moses to the home of their father, especially after he had shown them such kindness. V.21. And Moses was content to dwell with the man, he consented to accept the urgent invitation; and he gave Moses Zipporah, his daughter. V.22. And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom (always a sojourner, ever a stranger ); for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land. The birth of this son is of particular interest, inasmuch as at various times the Lord threatened to destroy the children of Israel and to make the descendants of Moses a great nation. Through the long period of trial and humiliation Moses clung to his faith in the true God and learned to submit unconditionally to the will of God.
The Lord resolves to deliver Israel. — V.23. And it came to pass: in process of time that the king of Egypt died, the Pharaoh on whose account Moses had found it necessary to flee; and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. This was many days, about forty years, after the flight of Moses. The oppression of the children of Israel continued also under the new Pharaoh, and since they had hoped for some relief, their crying arose to heaven with all the greater fervency. V.24. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. He had, of course, never forgotten it, but He took occasion to reflect and to act upon it. V.25. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them. He looked into the case and was constrained to interfere in behalf of His people. When God’s hour of deliverance has come, He always sees to it that the temptation is speedily brought to a close.