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Go to Bible: Exodus 2
|Exo 2:1||- (top)|
“that he was special.” The literal meaning of the words in the Hebrew text of Exodus 2:2 is not debated. Moses is said to be tov (#02896 טוֹב), which means “good,” translated “special” in the REV.
What is debated by scholars is what “good” means in this context. Some commentators say it means “healthy” or “robust” (cp. NET). But M. Kalisch correctly writes: “Rashbam [Rabbi Shmuel Ben Meir] justly refutes the usual translation…“goodly child”…for Jochebed, the mother, would have been perfectly as anxious for the preservation of her child, had it been less fine or less strong. That interpretation would, indeed, almost remind us of the barbarous custom of the Spartans, who killed their children if they did not appear to them sufficiently robust (Plut. Life of Lycurgus).”a
Other commentators say tov means “beautiful” here in Exodus 2:2, but the same objection should be made to the translation “beautiful” (cp. CSB; NASB) as was made about “healthy.” Every baby is beautiful to the mother, and that is as it should be. If all Exodus is saying is that Amram and Jochebed, Moses’ parents (Exod. 6:20), saved Moses because he was “healthy” or “beautiful” they surely would have been afraid of being found out. But Hebrews 11:23 says they were not afraid, and that was because they were acting upon guidance from God.
Exodus 2:2 is a place where spiritual discernment and a knowledge of God’s plan should be brought into the consideration of the understanding and translation of the Hebrew text, especially because the New Testament adds information to the Old Testament that would have been in the mind of Amram and Jochebed. The NLT translates Exodus 2:2 as “a special baby,” and that catches the sense of the verse. Moses was special because God said he was.
Stephen read the record of Moses’ birth and said that Moses was “beautiful before God” (Acts 7:20). Stephen was not translating the Hebrew text, rather he was giving the meaning of the text. Reflecting Stephen’s interpretation back into the Old Testament, we should realize that Amram and Jochebed knew the things that Stephen knew, which was that Moses was special (“good”) to God, and that is why they risked their lives to hide him.
At the birth of Moses, the Israelites were in slavery in Egypt and were looking for a deliverer. Hundreds of years before Moses was born, God told Abraham that He would bring the Israelites out of Egypt in the fourth generation of their being there (Gen. 15:16). Now, with the birth of Amram’s children, Miriam, Aaron, and Moses, the fourth generation had been reached. The four generations who were in Egypt were Levi (Joseph’s half-brother), Kohath, Amram, and Moses (Gen. 46:11; Num. 26:58-59; 1 Chron. 6:1-3). Given that the fourth generation had arrived, it should not surprise us that God—who acts to bring His promises to pass—would have acted in some way to bring His words to pass. We should note that from a fleshly perspective there is no reason that Amram and Jochebed would have believed that their second son would be the way God would bring the Israelites out of Egypt. God said “fourth generation” to Abraham, and Joseph spoke of the deliverance coming (Gen. 50:24), but there was no prophecy about how that was going to be accomplished. So the most logical way that Amram and Jochebed knew to protect Moses and that he was special to God was that God spoke to them in some way about Moses and it was at that point that Jochebed saw that Moses was special and “beautiful to God.”
Hebrews 11:23 confirms that Amram and Jochebed knew from God that Moses was special. To best understand Hebrews 11:23 it is important to realize that Hebrews chapter 11 is about people who heard from God or knew what God had said and obeyed Him. They acted “by trust” (“by faith”) on the words of God. This was the case with Abel (Heb. 11:4), Enoch (Heb. 11:5), Noah (Heb. 11:7), Abraham (Heb. 11:8, 17), Isaac (Heb. 11:20), Jacob (Heb. 11:21), Joseph (Heb. 11:22), and with Amram and Jochebed (Heb. 11:23). All those people acted “by trust,” which means they trusted God and acted on what He said. Guidance from God is why Amram and Jochebed hid Moses instead of killing him, and their trust in the guidance of God is why they defied Pharaoh’s command and how they could do that and yet “they were not afraid of the king’s [Pharaoh’s] commandment” (Heb. 11:23). To say that Amram and Jochebed kept Moses alive and hid him and were not afraid of Pharaoh’s command simply because Moses was “healthy” or “beautiful” misses the mark. It misses God’s love for Israel and that He kept His promise and acted “in the fourth generation,” which is when He said He would act; it misses the interaction between God and Moses’ parents such that they understood how special Moses was; and it misses how committed to God Amram and Jochebed were that they listened to Him and then acted “by trust” on what He said.
“a papyrus ark.” This is the same Hebrew word as in Noah’s ark (see commentary on Exod. 2:5).
“bitumen.” For more information on bitumen, see commentary on Genesis 11:3.
“laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank.” Moses’ mother did not float Moses in a basket down the Nile like many stories and movies portray. Moses’ mother knew the only chance Moses had of surviving was if he was found and pitied by a member of the royal family, so she used great care and wisdom when placing Moses in the reeds at the bank of the Nile. The point was not to hide Moses, the point was to have him found by the right people; which thankfully is what happened.
This should be a great lesson for us. Too many people think that “God is in control” and we can just roll the dice and let God determine the outcome. Thankfully, Moses’ mother did not think or act that way, or she would have floated Moses to his death, perhaps in the gut of some Nile crocodile. God is not “in control” in the way many people think He is. Furthermore, God says, “Wisdom is the principal thing” (Prov. 4:7 KJV). If we want to be successful in life we have to use wisdom, make deliberate decisions, and take decisive action. Moses’ mother also had Miriam watch over Moses, because if he was not quickly found he would need to be fed. God’s people need to be like Moses’ mother: make a bold, wise plan, and be deliberate and decisive in carrying it out.(top)
“his sister.” Moses’ sister was Miriam.(top)
“ark.” Baby Moses was placed in an “ark,” the same Hebrew word as Noah’s ark, but different from the “ark of the covenant.” Just as Noah’s ark saved humankind, Moses' ark will eventually lead to the establishment and salvation of Israel.(top)
|Exo 2:6||- (top)|
“his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter.” Moses’ sister Miriam was able to approach Pharaoh’s daughter. The Bible does not say why; it is possible that it was due to Miriam’s young age, and/or to God acting in the situation.
“Should I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women.” This would not have seemed strange to Pharaoh’s daughter because many women had had their baby boys killed due to Pharaoh’s decree to kill the male babies, so many women would have been producing milk but not had babies to feed.(top)
|Exo 2:8||- (top)|
|Exo 2:9||- (top)|
“she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter.” There is so much heart, emotion, hope, and commitment in this short and unassuming phrase in Exodus 2:10. Pharaoh’s daughter had no idea that the woman who had been nursing the baby for likely at least three years (nursing went on much longer in the biblical culture than it does in ours today) was the baby’s real mother, Jochebed (Exod. 6:20). But now it was time for Jochebed to trust the revelation she received about Moses when he was born, which is why she had determined to hide him from Pharaoh’s death command. Now Moses was older, and so Jochebed “brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter,” perhaps to never see him again, hoping and praying that he would be the one to deliver Israel from slavery in Egypt.
The Bible never says Moses ever saw his parents again. He stayed in Pharaoh’s house for 40 years, then went to “see” his fellow Hebrews, but very quickly ended up fleeing for his life from Egypt and living in the land of Midian, where he stayed another 40 years before returning to Egypt. Given the difficulties of the hard bondage in Egypt, it is probable that his parents died during that 80-year period.
What a sterling example of a true believer Jochebed is to us! Life is full of difficult choices, and few people handle them as well as Jochebed did. She could not let on she was Moses’ mother; she could not ask for visitation rights; she could not run away with the baby. It is likely that she cried herself to sleep for many nights missing her lovely boy, and she no doubt spent much time in prayer, likely with her husband Amram too, praying that their boy would be treated well in Pharaoh’s house and would get the training he needed to be the one to deliver Israel.
As the years went by and Moses passed age 20, then 25, then 30, if Jochebed and Amram were still alive, it is likely that they said to each other, “Maybe this will be the year we go free.” Alas, it was not until Moses was 80 that he came to deliver Israel, and since the Bible mentions both Moses’ older sister Miriam and his older brother Aaron, but never mentions his parents, it is likely they had both passed away by the time he returned to Egypt.
Handling life’s difficulties in a godly way is not “natural” and never easy. It is the result of years of working to be Christ-like and many times of self-examination. God gave us examples like Jochebed, so we know it can be done.(top)
“brothers.” The word “brothers” is being used in the idiomatic sense, meaning one of his own people, a Hebrew.(top)
|Exo 2:12||- (top)|
“neighbor.” In this context, a fellow Israelite. For more on “neighbor” see commentary on Leviticus 19:18.(top)
|Exo 2:14||- (top)|
|Exo 2:15||- (top)|
|Exo 2:16||- (top)|
|Exo 2:17||- (top)|
“Reuel.” “Reuel” is the family name of the father of Zipporah, Moses’ wife, and thus is the name of Moses’ father-in-law, while “Jethro” is the man’s priestly name (see commentary on Judg. 4:11).(top)
|Exo 2:19||- (top)|
|Exo 2:20||- (top)|
|Exo 2:21||- (top)|
|Exo 2:22||- (top)|
|Exo 2:23||- (top)|
“remembered.” The word “remember” is used in the Semitic language in both a straightforward and idiomatic sense. Here it is used in the idiomatic sense, where “remember” means to pay attention to something and act. See commentary on Genesis 8:1.(top)
“and God knew.” The word “know” is used in the Semitic language in both a straightforward and idiomatic sense. The exact nuance is determined by the context. Here in Exodus 2:25, it is used in the idiomatic sense, and “know” means to pay attention to something, plan, and act. In the previous verse, Exodus 2:24, the word “remembered” is used in an idiomatic sense.(top)