Delivered to Be a Deliverer

1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. And 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. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” – Exodus 2:1-10 ESV

It’s interesting to consider the fact that, Moses, the author of the book of Exodus, is actually writing his autobiography. In the opening verses of chapter 2, he chronicles the earliest days of his life, as most likely told to him by his mother and sister, Miriam. The timing of his birth and its close proximity to Pharaoh’s edict that ordered the deaths of all the Hebrew male babies (Exodus 1:22), would not have escaped Moses. Over time, his mother and sister would have shared the events surrounding his birth and their efforts to preserve his life.

Moses’ recollections of his own birth narrative would have been a constant reminder of his own preordained role in the salvation of God’s people. There would have been plenty of times when he was forced to consider the sovereign will of God in his life. His very existence was God-ordained and sovereignly orchestrated.

Despite Pharaoh’s zealous attempts to liquidate the male infant population of the Hebrews, Moses had been born. No midwife terminated his life at birth. And no Egyptian citizen did their civic duty by throwing him into the Nile as a kind of sacrifice to one of their many false gods. No, Moses had lived because his God had ordained it and Jochebed, Moses’ mother had played her part in bringing it about.

We know very little about Moses’ parents, except that they were both from the tribe of Levi. Exodus 6 provides some of the only details we have regarding this couple whom God used to birth the eventual deliverer of the people of Israel.

Amram took as his wife Jochebed his father’s sister, and she bore him Aaron and Moses…  – Exodus 6:20 ESV

Exodus 6::18 tells us that Amram was one of the four sons of Kohath. According to the book of Numbers, which Moses also wrote, Kohath was the chief of one of the Levitical clans.

This is the record of the Levites who were counted according to their clans:

The Gershonite clan, named after their ancestor Gershon.
The Kohathite clan, named after their ancestor Kohath.
The Merarite clan, named after their ancestor Merari.

The Libnites, the Hebronites, the Mahlites, the Mushites, and the Korahites were all subclans of the Levites. – Numbers 26:56-57 NLT

For some undisclosed reason, Moses chose to leave out the names of his parents as he penned the details surrounding his birth. It’s almost as if he wants to use their anonymity to emphasize God’s sovereignty. Who they were was immaterial. What was important was what God accomplished through them. Together, this unidentified couple gave birth to an unnamed Hebrew child. They are simply listed as “a man” and “his wife.”

When Moses wrote, “the woman conceived and bore a son” (Exodus 2:2 ESV), he meant for it to create an uncomfortable dissonance within the hearts and minds of his original audience. With the birth of their son, this couple, like so many others, was immediately confronted with the very real possibility that their little boy may not live to celebrate his first birthday. The proverbial deck was stacked against him. The forces of evil, in the form of Pharaoh and his all-pervasive power, were aligned against their newborn baby boy. And to make matters worse, “she saw that he was a fine child” (Hebrews 2:2 ESV).

Moses was born healthy and whole. He suffered from no physical flaws or disabilities. There is nothing in the text that would suggest that Amram and Jochebed had been informed by God of the role their son was to play in Israel’s deliverance. But the book of Hebrews records that they greatly desired that their son might live, so they placed their faith in God and implemented a plan to save his life.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. – Hebrews 11:23 ESV

It was not Moses’ faith that saved him. It was the faith of his mom and dad, revealed by their loving determination to do whatever was necessary to protect their boy from Pharaoh’s edict. They knew that if they did nothing, the infant in their care would become yet another innocent victim of Pharaoh’s barbaric pogrom of infanticide.

Imagine the anxiety and stress this couple must have endured as they attempted to keep the birth of their baby a secret. They couldn’t let anyone know he existed. So, every time he cried, they must have shuddered with fear. They were unable to display their pride and joy by introducing their friends and neighbors to their newborn son. No one could know. And, according to Moses’ recollection, the time came when Jochebed realized that she could no longer keep their secret hidden. So, she took drastic measures. Moses reveals that his mother fabricated a waterproof floating bassinet, “put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank” (Exodus 2:3 ESV).

Moses does not indicate how his mother came up with this ingenious, but somewhat risky, idea. There is nothing in the text that indicates she received a divine visit from an angel or experienced a dream or vision from God with instructions to build a “baby boat” to rescue her at-risk child. No, it appears that Jochebed came up with this outlandish solution on her own, but in full compliance with God’s sovereign will.

Hidden in the reeds along the shore of the Nile, little Moses remained under the watchful eye of his older sister, Miriam. She “stood at a distance to know what would be done to him” (Exodus 2:4 ESV). As the book of Hebrews indicates, Jochebed and Amram exhibited faith by doing what they did. By placing Moses in that basket and setting it afloat on the waters of the Nile, they were putting their baby in the hands of God. Only Yahweh could protect their child now. Miriam could watch, but she was incapable of delivering her little brother from certain death by exposure or from being eaten by a crocodile. She was forced into the uncomfortable and unenviable position of having to wait and see.

But she didn’t wait long.

Soon Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the river, and her attendants walked along the riverbank. When the princess saw the basket among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it for her. When the princess opened it, she saw the baby. – Exodus 5:6 NLT

It just so happened that the basket holding the baby, Moses, floated down the Nile and came to rest in the very place where the daughter of Pharaoh took her daily bath. Was this Jochebed’s hope all along? Had she intended for the basket to pass by this very spot? It would seem odd for the mother of this newborn infant to see his discovery by any Egyptian, let alone Pharaoh’s daughter, to be a good thing. After all, “Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile’” (Exodus 1:22 NLT).

But as “fate” would have it, as the princess waded into the water to take her bath, she spied the basket and ordered one of her servants to retrieve it. Upon removing the lid, she was startled to find a crying baby boy, whom she immediately recognized as a Hebrew.

“This must be one of the Hebrew children,” she said. – Exodus 2:6 NLT

Rather than exhibiting a loathing for this Hebrew infant, the princess showed pity. It may be that the sight of this innocent little baby tugged at her heartstrings. Finding him relegated to a handmade wicker basket and cast afloat in the Nile must have informed her of the desperate mother’s last-ditch effort to save her son’s life. This helpless mother had been willing to abandon her son to the fate of the Nile rather than see him suffer at the hands of the sadistic Pharaoh.

As the princess battled with her emotions, struggling to decide what to do, Miriam appeared seemingly out of nowhere. She carefully approached the princess and her royal retinue, offering to provide assistance.

“Should I go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” she asked. – Exodus 2:7 NLT

Almost sensing the princess’ indecision, Miriam provided an immediate solution to the problem of what to do with the child. She would find a nursemaid to care for the child while the princess decided what to do next.

Miriam’s quick action played a significant role in the sparing of Moses’ life. With the princess’ permission, Miriam ran home and returned with her mother. What the princess failed to understand was that this “nursemaid” was actually the infant’s own mother.

In a powerful illustration of God’s sovereignty, Jochebed was given the privilege of nursing and eventually weaning her own son. But, eventually, she was forced to give up possession of her child to the princess, “and he became her son” (Exodus 2:10 NLT). In an amazing turn of events, the little boy who had been under a death sentence was adopted into the very family of the man who had issued the call for his death. The princess named her newly adopted son, Môsheh or Moses, which means, ”drawn out of water” or “one born of water.” 

Unbeknownst to the princess, the name she gave to her new son was prophetic in nature. This little child would grow up to be the deliverer of the people of Israel who would “draw out” God’s children and lead them through the waters of the Red Sea. But for now, little Moses would find himself growing up in the pomp and splendor of Pharaoh’s palace. The boy that should have been cast into the Nile and left to die, was saved by a “boat” prepared by the hands of his loving mother. God had sovereignly saved Moses so that he might become the future savior of the children of Israel.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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