Book of Exodus Chapter Two Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Verse 1—"Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi." The "man" was named "Amram" (exalted people) and his wife was "Jochebed" (Yahweh's glory), as revealed in Exodus 6:20. They were aunt and nephew, but this was a time before God's law against such unions was revealed. The two, along with all their children, were of the tribe of Levi—they were Levites.
As seen in Verse 2, "The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months." It was not the first child of this union, but the third, the first one born after the Pharaoh's edict. The oldest child was Miriam, the second was Aaron, who was three years older than this baby who was to given the name "Moses" by the Egyptians. Isn't it interesting how God does things? The mother would likely have saved the child anyway, but God "fearfully and wonderfully" made this child to be "beautiful" to the point where the mother had no choice at all—she would save her son.
Try to imagine the desperation of these parents as Verse 3 continues, "But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile." She took the risk of keeping her child hidden and alive and then placed him into a pitch-covered basket, reminiscent of the ark of Noah, so much a subject of recent history to those in that time. And to make sure of the child's safety, she sent Miriam along the riverbank to keep an eye on the boy..."His sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him" (Verse 4).
There are no accidents with God. Things happen because He causes them. When bad events occur He turns them into good. The events of Verses 5-6 were no coincidence—"The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. 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.'" Again this "beautiful" child was carefully chosen by God for events that the participants could not possibly have forseen. And it's true for us all—we are chosen for God's purposes, which have better outcomes than our own.
Miriam, Moses' sister, had been carefully coached by her mother for this moment. Verses 7-9 report, "Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, 'Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for you?' Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, 'Go ahead.' So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 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." Incredibly, in a scenario orchestrated by Almighty God, the baby Moses was now adopted by the daughter of the Pharaoh of all Egypt, and would be nursed by his own Hebrew mother until he was weaned. And she was paid for it, too. God can do—anything. The narrative continues in Verse 10—"The child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. And she named him Moses, and said, 'Because I drew him out of the water.'" The word "Moses" is Egyptian, not Hebrew in origin and it is best translated, "drawn forth."
Stephen said about Moses in Acts 7:22, "Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds." His education was deep and thorough. The Egyptians, for example, knew the distance of the earth from the sun. He was an educated man, and note Stephen's words that Moses was both eloquent and strong. He knew who he was and was filled with confidence about his purpose in life. Verses 11-14 acquire extra significance in the light of Stephen's words: "Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, 'Why are you striking your companion?' But he said, 'Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?' Then Moses was afraid and said, 'Surely the matter has become known.'" In Acts 7:24-25 we catch a glimpse of Moses' feelings about all this: "He supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand." Moses, for years, had considered his background, training, and as a member of Pharaoh's household, he was convinced that his mission in life was to deliver the Hebrew people from bondage. But they didn't want him! It was a shock! Though it had seemed reasonable to dispatch the Egyptian who was "beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren," things hadn't worked out like he thought—and he was in trouble.
Indeed he was in trouble, for in Verse 15, "When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well." The man literally ran for his life, traveling east across the Sinai Peninsula to "Midian" (strife), founded by another son of Abraham through Keturah (Genesis 25:2). As Moses sat by a well in that place, he considered what had happened and he was deeply concerned. Have you ever had the thought, "How could I be so stupid?" His must have felt his life was over—he had ruined—everything!
The "priest of Midian" was named Jethro (excellent), and we meet him in Verse 16: "Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock." Again these are not random events. The "daughters" were not there by accident, and in Verse 17, "the shepherds (who) came and drove them away" did what they did for God's purposes, as "Moses stood up and helped them and watered their flock." Yes, Moses' life of the preceding 40-years was over, but another unexpected life was about to begin.
It was often the case that people had more than one name, just like today, and "When they came to Reuel (friend of God) their father, he said, 'Why have you come back so soon today?'" (Verse 18). "Reuel" was likely the same man as the "Jethro" of Exodus 3:1. The narrative continues in Verses 19-21: "So they said, 'An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock.' He said to his daughters, 'Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.' Moses was willing to dwell with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses. Then she gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, 'I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.'" Moses was dressed like an Egyptian, spoke like one and that's what these daughters called him—"An Egyptian." "Gershom" translates as "exile."
Back in Egypt and probably years, possibly decades after he left that place, events occurred that Moses knew nothing about: Verse 23—"Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God." The Pharaoh was dead, and isn't it interesting that the people didn't pray significantly for deliverance until after they saw the possibility that it could actually happen? The most meaningful prayers, from God's perspective, are when circumstances seem the worst. But He hears all our prayers as seen in Verses 24-25: "So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them." He sees you, hears you, and is aware of your need, just as He was aware of theirs...He remembers His covenant with all who accept redemption through the cross of Christ.
Father, You remembered Your people Israel, and You especially remember all who have faith in the Lord. Forgive us for the times we have failed to trust in You, and we place our faith in You right now. We are Yours. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.