Summary: Even when we are unaware of it, God is at work.
The Birth of Moses
Moses is one of the great characters in the Old Testament along with Abraham and David. He is often quoted and referred to by Jesus and the Apostles. A study of his life sheds light upon the entire Bible. He was the writer of the first five books of the Bible and was called by God to lead the Children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. This week we will look t the circumstance concerning his birth.
Chapter 1 of Exodus sets the stage for the birth of Moses. When the children of Israel (Jacob) first came to Egypt, they were received with honor and given choice pastureland. Hundreds of years passed and the children of Israel multiplied. The Hebrew word for exceedingly is actually repeated for emphasis. The Greek translation (sphodra) is also repeated. The word means “exceedingly” by itself, so it translates “exceedingly exceedingly.” The LORD had been faithful to his promise to Abraham that his descendants would be like the dust of the earth or the sand on the seashore in number. The LORD had also told Abraham that his descendants would serve in hard bondage for four hundred years. A Pharaoh rose up that did not know Joseph. The favor in which the Israelites were held in honor was replaced by utter disfavor.
The Egyptians feared for the number of Israelites living in the land. They were large enough in number to overthrow the Egyptians. The leaders needed to preserve their race and culture from this perceived cultural threat. There does not seem to be any indication that the Israelites desired to overthrow them, although another group of Semites, the Hyskos, had previously conquered them and ruled over them. So they had to devise was way to subjugate Israel. So they subjugated them and assigned taskmasters over them. They felt that this would keep the Israelites occupied so they would not have leisure to think about rising up. Also, they would be too weary.
Despite the hardships, the children of Israel continued to multiply. Pharaoh thought that more needed to be done. So he tried to get the Hebrew midwives to kill the male children as the mothers gave birth. They needed to reduce the number of males who could fight against them. It was not to reduce the population as a whole. For that, they would have killed the girls. They liked their servant and slaves. But the elite needed to retain control.
There must have been many midwives to serve the large population of Israel. Two would not have been enough. But two of them, Shiphrah and Puah disobeyed the command. I would suppose that others disobeyed as well. So those of Pharaoh came to them and asked for an explanation as there were too many male children escaping the edict. These two women lied to Pharaoh by saying thet the Israelite women were “lively” and had already given birth before they got there. These women were especially honored of the midwives by the LORD for protecting the male infants. Some see lying as a sin, but the LORD showed respect for these women who lied. Rahab lied as well to protect the two spies who had come to Jericho. She too was honored by the LORD and made an Israelite and married a descendant of Judah. She is also included in the genealogy of both David and Jesus. If we understand that God honored the faith of these women, then we understand that it isn’t lying to be condemned but rather faith in action.
The Children of Israel continued to prosper. So Pharaoh took matters into his own hands. He could not trust the Israelites to commit infanticide. So he tasked the Egyptians to search the male children out and throw them in the river.
Chapter 2 begins by saying that a Levite man married a Levite woman. As the Levites would become the tribe assigned to the priesthood, the text points out that both of Moses’ parents were from that tribe. It says that she conceived and bore a son. This son would be named Moses later on. He was not the first child. There was his sister Miriam and his brother Aaron. Miriam as a female would have been exempted from the edict of Pharaoh. Aaron was three years older than Moses. The question I would ask was if he was saved because of the midwifes’ disobedience to the edict. God preserved Aaron as much as He would preserve Moses. The LORD had plans for them.
Moses’ mother saw something special in her second son. Instead of exposing her son and throwing him into the river or having him discovered and thrown into the river by the Egyptians, she chose to hide him. she lived among other Israelites in close quarters with other Israelites. She lived in fear that one of them might snitch her out to the Egyptians. After three months, she felt he could not be hid any longer.