What began as fear of the large population of Israelites in the land of Goshen, within the Egyptian’s borders had turned to panic. God was fulfilling His promise to Abraham to make his descendants “as numerous as the stars or the sands of the sea”. God’s fulfillment is the very rationale that the enemy of God’s people seizes on to destroy them.
Exodus 1:15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” Pharaoh gave this cruel order for the midwives to murder all of the Hebrew baby boys. These mid-wives had a choice. They could either murder their own people out of fear of Pharaoh, or do the right thing and let the boys live. 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. They chose to fear God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). The fear of God is the most truth-orienting wisdom available in the world.
18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” 19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
Now, there is deception going on here, at some level or another. The midwives likely went to their clan elders about what they’d been asked to do, and likely the entire community agreed that these two mid-wives would be purposefully slow in getting to any births from then on.
20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
So God rewards the midwives for doing their part in the plan of God to see the nation of Israel increase and multiply—they were given families of their own by God. We see that all of the actions of Pharaoh, meant to decrease the Israelite population, have instead functioned to increase it. Nothing could prevent God from fulfilling His promise to Abraham. God’s plan will not be thwarted.
Since his plan to quietly kill the Hebrew baby boys had failed, Pharaoh is now forced to bring this plan out into the open. Exodus 1:22 tells us: Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
All Egyptians were expected to join in killing all Israelite newborn boys. Notice that this started out as fear, because the Hebrews were so numerous, has turned to persecution and now genocide with the full participation of the entire non-Jewish population.
2 Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. 2 And the woman conceived and gave birth to a son;
Now, we learn that both of Moses’ parents, Amram and Jochebed, were from the tribe of Levi. Since Aaron was 3 years older than Moses, Aaron was likely one of the boys saved by those faithful midwives.
A second thing to notice is that Moses was a chosen child from the only tribe called to the spiritual leadership of Israel—the Levites. Moses was pre-ordained for the leadership role that God would have for him later in his life, even before God revealed that the Levites were to be the priests.
and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months.
Moses was beautiful. This word Towb is the same word that God uses over and over in Genesis chapter 1, starting in Genesis 1:4 when God saw that the light was good, and ending in Genesis 1:31, when God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Like His creation of the world, the birth of Moses was a part of His plan to deliver Israel, to fulfill His promises to Abraham, and to someday bring forth His Messiah. It was fear on the part of the most powerful person on earth, Pharaoh, that had caused this problem of the enslavement and murder of the Hebrews, and it was a lack of fear among lowly Israelite slaves that God was going to use to solve the problem.
3 But when she could no longer hide him, she got him a papyrus [d]basket and covered it with tar and pitch.
The word for what Moses’ mother put him in is tebah, or ark. This word is only used one other place in the Old Testament: Noah’s Ark. Both Noah and Moses were deliverers, called to lead people and animals to a new location where they could be fruitful and multiply, and play their part in God’s redemptive plan for the world.
Then she put the child in it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.
So Jochebed did the best that she could and put the ark of reeds, this little basket among the other papyrus reeds by the bank of the Nile. Jochebed demonstrated faith in putting baby Moses in God’s hands. How hard it must have been for her to trust God with her little one, not knowing what was going to become of baby Moses. She demonstrated great trust in God.
4 And his sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him.
His sister Miriam (ex. 15:20) protects him by watching over him. The whole family is involved in protecting Moses. 5 Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her female attendants walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave woman, and she brought it to her.The Israelites lived in Goshen, so Pharaoh’s daughter would have had to have been in the region in order to find Moses. It was God that brought them together, and caused Mariam to witness the event.
6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”
When the Egyptian princess opened the ark, and knew immediately that this was one of the Hebrew children. She could not be unaware of her fathers cruel program of population control. The sight of little Moses touched her heart. She probably hated what her father was doing, and decided immediately to rescue this little baby.
7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a woman for you who is nursing from the Hebrew women, so that she may nurse the child for you?”
Clearly, according to all evidence, the Hebrew women were having a lot of children, and it’s at least implied that the Egyptian women weren’t, since the Hebrews were becoming so much more numerous compared to the Egyptians. And, of course Miriam knew the perfect Hebrew woman to find.
8 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go ahead.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9 Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him.
And so, we can only imagine the excitement with which Miriam ran back to Jochebed with this amazing news of God’s provision. Moses’ protection was assured by his adoption by the Pharaoh’s daughter. And so, by trusting God, Jochebed not only made sure that Moses was safe, but also received back what she had given into God’s hands. God had turned horrible circumstances into hope, and ultimately salvation, because of the trust that this young Levite woman placed in Him. The only things that we truly get to keep are the things that we dedicate to God. If we give God our lives, our time, our resources, our love, our children, then God does not forget. God wants us to know that we can trust Him with what is most precious to us.
10 And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. And she named him [i]Moses, and said, “Because I drew him out of the water.”
Moses was given this Egyptian name, which means “son” or “to beget a son”. But, this word sounds a lot like Moseh, from Mashah, which means “to draw out”, which fits the circumstances of Moses being drawn out of the water. The Princess both honors his Hebrew family by giving him a name associated with the Hebrew language, and also makes him legitimately Egyptian by giving him an Egyptian name, emphasizing her adoption of Moses. And so, it was through the courage of these women, doing the right thing even though it could cost them to accomplish His plan of deliverance for the Israelites.