11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.
16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock. 18 When they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come home so soon today?” 19 They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20 He said to his daughters, “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” 21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. 22 She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”
23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. – Exodus 2:11-25 ESV
Moses fast-forwards this section of his biography by skipping from his infancy to his young adulthood as a member of Pharaoh’s household. As the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses enjoyed the privileges and prerogatives that came as a grandson of the most powerful man in the land of Egypt. He was raised in an atmosphere of opulence and wealth. He would have received a first-class education and had access to all the trappings that come with his royal rank.
But while it appears that Moses grew up in relative isolation as a member of the royal family, he was not ignorant of his Hebrew heritage. His mother had played a role in the early years of his life, acting as his nursemaid on behalf of Pharaoh’s daughter. It seems likely that Moses continued to have contact with his parents, Amram and Jochabed, as well as his sister Miriam and his brother Aaron. This means he would have been aware of his heritage and the conditions under which his fellow Hebrews were living as a result of his adopted grandfather’s policies.
So, Moses relates a day came when he ventured outside the walls of the royal palace in order to observe the situation among his people, the Hebrews. It is not clear if this was a first for Moses or whether he made these excursions on a regular basis. But on this particular occasion, he witnessed “an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people” (Exodus 2:11 ESV). Perhaps Moses had seen this kind of harsh treatment before and chosen to ignore it. But in this instance, he decided to take matters into his own hands and teach the offending Egyptian a lesson he would not soon forget.
Moses killed the man and buried his body in the sand, and the only witness was the Hebrew whose life he had protected. But somehow, word got out. The very next day, Moses attempted to insert himself in the middle of a confrontation between two Hebrews, but they did not appreciate his interference in their affair.
“Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Are you planning to kill me like you killed that Egyptian?” – Exodus 2:14 NLT
Suddenly, Moses realized that his little secret from the day before was anything but secret. This thought petrified and rightfully so, because Pharaoh got wind of Moses’ little stunt playing judge, jury, and executioner and was livid. His grandfather had no love affair with the Hebrews and when he heard that his adopted Hebrew grandson had taken the life of an Egyptian, he was livid. So much so, that he put a bounty on Moses’ head.
So Moses fled from Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he settled by a certain well. – Exodus 2:15 NLT
Moses fled for his life. It appears that he took no time to say goodbye to his adoptive mother or his biological parents and siblings. He simply ran and he didn’t stop until he got all the way to Midian. This proved to be quite a trek and it covered territory that would become very familiar to Moses in the days ahead. To get to Midian, Moses had to cross the Sinai Peninsula, a path that would take him through the wilderness of Shur, Paran, and, possibly Sin. It would have been a long and arduous journey, made even more difficult by the knowledge that Pharaoh could have sent a posse in hot pursuit of his runaway grandson/murderer.
At this point in the narrative, it is important to consider how the author of the book of Hebrews describes Moses’ flight to Midian. In chapter 11 of his book, the author includes Moses in his “hall of faith,” a compilation of Old Testament characters whose lives exhibited faith in God. Of Moses, he writes:
By faith, when he grew up, Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be ill-treated with the people of God than to enjoy sin’s fleeting pleasure. He regarded abuse suffered for Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for his eyes were fixed on the reward. By faith he left Egypt without fearing the king’s anger, for he persevered as though he could see the one who is invisible. – Hebrews 11:24-27 NLT
This gives a whole new perspective on what was going on behind the scenes and within Moses’ heart during this critical period of his young life. According to the author of Hebrews, Moses had long ago made the conscious decision to reject his royal status and embrace his true ethnic roots. He had heard about Jehovah, the God of his people, from his mother, and he had embraced the promises of God that made been passed down from Abraham all the way to Jacob. The author of Hebrews suggests that Moses knew about all the promises concerning the land of Canaan. He knew that Egypt was just a temporary holding place for the people of Israel, the descendants of Jacob. Moses was aware of the promise that Jehovah had made to Abraham.
“You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth.” – Genesis 15:13-14 NLT
And Moses had been willing to jeopardize his standing in the royal court in order to align himself with the much-maligned and hated Hebrews. They were his people and he was willing to give up his status, wealth, and life of privilege in order to secure the better future God had in store for them. It even states that he “left Egypt without fearing the king’s anger” (Hebrews 11:17 NLT). He didn’t leave Egypt in a state of fear, but in a state of hopeful anticipation that God was going to do something for his people. He had no idea what the future had in store, but he was willing to give up all he had to be part of whatever God was going to do.
Moses eventually arrived in Midian, where he came into contact with seven daughters of the priest of Midian. These people were descendants of Abraham through Keturah, the wife he took after the death of Sarah. So, they were blood relatives of Moses. And in this distant land, Moses would meet his wife and settle down to a much different life than the one he led back in Egypt.
God was preparing Moses for something significant, but this young exile from Egypt was unaware of all that God had in store for him in the days ahead. And while Moses was settling into his new life in Midian, God was busy orchestrating things back in Egypt.
During that long period of time the king of Egypt died, and the Israelites groaned because of the slave labor. They cried out, and their desperate cry because of their slave labor went up to God. God heard their groaning; God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the Israelites, and God understood. – Exodus 2:23-25 NLT
Moses was living in relative peace and security, oblivious to the conditions his family back in Egypt was having to endure. The persecution of the Hebrews had only increased in intensity. A new Pharaoh on the throne did not bring about any change in their conditions. Moses could not hear their cries, but God was listening and watching, and He had a plan in place that was going to radically alter their lives forever. And soon, Moses would know the role he was going play in God’s grand redemptive plan for the people of Israel.
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.