Exodus 2:1‑25


            Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi.  2 And the woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. (Exodus 2:1-2).


It has been observed that this is a story of a ghetto family.  A ghetto is a place of hopelessness and despair, of poverty and violence.  Once can hardly imagine a worse place in which to raise a child.  But God is able to bring hope to the ghetto.  It was from such a place that Moses was to come.


Goshen had once been a wonderful place.  Now it had been turned into a ghetto.  It had once been a place of life; now it was a place of death.  It had once been a place of hope; now it was a place of hopelessness.


Into this place a child was born to a Levite couple.  Being a Levite at this time was nothing special as this was before the Levitical blessings had been given.  They were just a normal man and a normal woman who married and who had a child.  It was a son.  He was not their firstborn, but that is not mentioned here.


Verse 2 says that she saw that he was beautiful — literally, “she saw that he was good.”  This might merely be a reference to the fact that he was healthy.  Or it might be that he was noteworthy in his appearance as a baby.  In any case, the mother hid her “good child” for a period of three months.





            3 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.  4 And his sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him. (Exodus 2:3-4).


There came a time when it was impossible to further hide the child.  The mother carefully placed him into a wicker basket that had been covered with tar and pitch.  The description of this basket it meant to remind the reader of that with which he is already familiar from a reading of the book of Genesis.  It calls to mind the story of Noah and the Flood.




Ordered to build an ark

His mother gets a basket

It is made of gopher wood

It is made of wicker

It will protect Noah and his family and the animals from the destruction of the flood.

It will protect Moses from the destruction mandated by the pharaoh’s orders.

Noah is delivered from the waters of the flood.

Moses is delivered from the waters of the Nile.


Note the word “basket.”  The Hebrew text refers to it as a tebath.  This is the same word that is used for Noah’s Ark.  This is the only other usage of the word in the entire Bible.  What does this basket have in common with Noah’s ark?

• They save lives

• They are meant to float

• They are covered with pitch

One is very big and the other is very small.  Moses assumes that you will make the connection with the previous TEBAH.


What other phrases or words from the first part of Exodus are reminiscent of the book of Genesis?

• She saw that he was good (2:2).

• God saw that it was good (seen all throughout Genesis 1).

• They multiplied and the land was filled with them (Ex 1:7).

• Multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28).


Moses is bringing forth the language of Genesis.  Why?  Because he wishes to give a creation motif.  Instead of the creation of the earth, now we are seeing the creation of the nation of Israel.

The same sort of motif is seen in the birth of Jesus.
           The king tries to put him to death.
           Other children are killed in the process.
           He is hidden from the king.
           He is taken to Egypt.
           He becomes the savior of the nation.

This is the story of a birth of a nation.  Thus it is appropriate to use creation language.  He is telling you that the two most important events in his world are the creation of the world and the creation of the nation of Israel.


We no longer live in a literary world, so we are not used to picking up literary details.  Today we are more used to movies.  People watch the same movie over and over and often pick up the tiny details.  In the ancient world, those who listened to the same passage would pick up these tiny details in the repeated readings.


The baby Moses is placed into the carefully constructed basket and placed among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.  He is not merely cast adrift, but is placed in the midst of protective reeds that will keep the basket from drifting.  There is in this simple narrative a touch of humorous irony.  The edict of the pharaoh was that all newborn Hebrew males were to be thrown into the Nile and this baby has been placed into the Nile in keeping with that edict.  The baby is even given a babysitter in the person of his older sister.


We know from later in the book of Exodus that her name is Miriam, but it is not given here.  I want to suggest there is a specific reason for this omission.  Similarly, when our passage opened, we were told about the parents of Moses, but we were not given their names.  They are named later in Exodus, but their names are absent here.  There is instead an air of anonymity to the entire story.  The content of the story is that the parents are trying to be secretive.  In doing so, the story takes on the mode of secrecy so as to take the reader into the same sort of anonymity.


The same sort of thing is seen in the story of Judah and Tamar and in the story of Ruth and Boaz.  When the sexual incidents are seen in secret, the personal pronouns are used instead of their actual names.


This brings us to a question.  To whom does Moses owe his life in the first two chapters of Exodus?


• His sister

• His mother

• The midwives

• Pharaoh’s daughter

• The maidservant who goes and fetches the basket


They are all women.  God is barely mentioned in the passage and the father of Moses is barely mentioned.  This is a story in which women are the heroes.  Men are associated with death.  Women are associated with life.


In an oral delivery, alliterative usage often kicks in.  An excellent example of this is seen in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “Fourscore and seven years ago our forefathers brought forth...”  The same thing takes place in Exodus 1-2 with the word for “daughter.”  The Hebrew word is bath.  There is an alliteration with the word for “house” at the end of chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 2.  Every daughter was to be put to death, but there was a child born in the house of Levi that would see life.





            5 Then 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.  6 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.”  7 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?”  8 And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, “Go ahead.” So the girl went and called the child's mother.  9 Then Pharaoh's daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me and I shall give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. (Exodus 2:5-9).


The baby is discovered by the daughter of Pharaoh who takes the child into protective custody, ultimately adopting the child as her own.  Though she recognizes the child as a Hebrew child, she decides to have the boy raised as her own and when the sister of Moses offers to obtain a Hebrew nurse for the child, the daughter of the Pharaoh agrees and even pays wages to the mother of Moses for nursing her own child.


This story serves as a reminder that the Lord is able to take the worst possibly situation and to turn it into something wonderful.  Out of this story of treachery and murder, a little baby is saved so that he can grow up to be the deliverer of an entire nation.  Out of that nation will come forth a little baby who can grow up to be the deliverer of the entire world.


We know from the rest of the story that Moses got a lot from his mother.  Parents have a great influence upon their children.  There are two lessons here.


           It is possible to overestimate the influence of culture.

           It is possible to underestimate the influence of parenting.


Though it has been portrayed differently in various Hollywood movies, there is no hint in the biblical text that the heritage of Moses was hidden from him.  Indeed, his name speaks to his origins and therefore would have told him the story of his rescue from the Nile.





            10 And 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.” (Exodus 2:10).


The name of Moses is given as wordplay.  It has meaning and significance in both Hebrew as well as in the language of the Egyptians.


           Its Hebrew meaning is seen here where we read that he is named Moses because the

The fact that there is no mention of either Moses or the Exodus from Egypt in any of the extant inscriptions should not surprise us.  The Egyptians did not record their own defeats and would have carefully edited anything in the way of the exodus event.  A similar sort of denial was seen in the 2003 American invasion of Iraq when the Iraqi minister of propaganda stood before the newsmen and announced that the American forces had all been defeated in the desert.  Two minutes later, the American tanks rolled down the same street where he stood.

Pharaoh’s daughter drew him out of the water.  This is the feminine form of the very rare Hebrew verb mashah, meaning “to draw out.”  Our Anglicized version of the name is taken from the Greek that cannot allow a masculine name to end in a vowel and which therefore adds a final “s.”  The problem is that the name Mosheh mean, “to draw out” and does not describe “one who is drawn out.”


           This same name also is significant in the language of the Egyptians and describes a child (ms is the Egyptian for “child”) or “one who has been given birth.”  It is common to see this name as a part of other names such as Thutmose or Rameses or Ahmoses.  In each of these cases, the idea is that this is a child of whichever name it precedes.  Thus Rameses means “child of Ra” and Thutmoses means “child of Thut.”





            11 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.  12 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. (Exodus 2:11-12).


A period of close to 40 years pass in verse 11.  We need not take the later references to Moses’ age as being exact.  It is entirely possible that those numbers were rounded either up  or down.  But he was close to 40 years of age when an incident takes place that is to have great impact, not only on his own life, but to the nations of Israel and Egypt.


There is only one verse in all of the Bible which even mentions the education of Moses in Egypt.  “And Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.” (Acts 7:22).


Moses was given the finest education available in what was at that time the most advanced nation on earth.  This would have included math, astronomy, engineering, literature and military science.  His teachers had all of the learning of the engineers who designed the pyramids and the sphinx.  Notice that the fame of Moses was both “in words and deeds.”


Josephus, the Jewish historian who lived in the days of the New Testament, tells a story of an invasion of Ethiopian tribes to the south which threatened to over­whelm the land of Egypt.  According to Josephus, it was Moses who led the armies of Egypt southward to meet the Ethiopian hordes, driving them back to their own lands.


The Exodus account known nothing of such stories.  Instead, it begins with a time when he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors.  This seems to have been a deliberate journey undertaken to evaluate the situation of the Israelites and their labors under their Egyptian taskmasters.  The supposition is that Moses was already identifying himself as a Hebrew rather than as an Egyptian.  This is underscored in the epistle to the Hebrews:


            By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;  25  choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:24-26).


Moses made a decision to reject his Egyptian heritage. This man was “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”  Though it is doubtful that he was in line for the throne of Egypt, it was nevertheless a position of high honor.  And yet, he gave it all up.  And for what?  To be identified with a group of slaves without homes or possessions    a people who had nothing but a promise.


Now, he comes upon an injustice.  An Egyptian is beating a Hebrew.  Moses makes another decision.  He decides to stop the injustice permanently.


            “And he supposed that his brethren under­stood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand.” (Acts 7:25).


Somehow Moses had come to recognize that God was going to use him in delivering the Israelites.  He had heard the promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that the people of Israel would be delivered from Egypt. He recognized that God had chosen him and protected him. He figures that this is as good a time as any to begin the work of deliverance.


Do you see what he was doing?  He was trying to do God’s work in his own way. He was very sincere.  But he was sincerely wrong.  Being sincere is never a substitute for righteousness.  It is true that God is going to use Moses to deliver the people of Israel.  But it will not be by Moses’ strength or power or wisdom that this will be accomplished.





            13 And 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?"  14 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." (Exodus 2:13-14).


On the following day, Moses intervenes once more in an altercation.  This time it is not between an Egyptian taskmaster and a Hebrew slave.  This time it is between two Hebrews.  We are not told why they were fighting, but one is described as the offender.  Rather than be corrected by Moses, he challenges the right of Moses to exercise any moral leadership.  Who made you a prince or a judge over us?”  The striking thing that we can see from our perspective that it was God who made Moses both a prince and ultimately a judge.


It is bad enough to be accused when it is a false accusation, but this accusation was true.  Moses had committed a murder and that undermined any moral authority he may have had.


Notice also that Moses had thought the sin to be hidden and now he finds out that it has become known.  Sin is like that.  It has a way of coming to the surface.  It has a way of going public.





            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. (Exodus 2:15).


Moses had thrown in his lot with the Israelites and no longer had the throne of Egypt to protect him.  The Biblical account specifically states that “when Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses” (Exodus 2:15).


            “That the pharaoh himself took note of what would otherwise have been a relatively minor incident suggests that this particular pharaoh had more than casual interest in ridding himself of Moses.” (Eugene Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, Page 62, 1987).


It is possible that the pharaoh of Egypt saw Moses as a possible rival to the throne and therefore sought to use this opportunity to he rid of him?  It would not be until after the death of the Egyptian pharaoh that Moses would feel free to return to Egypt (Exodus 2:23).

Moses was forced to flee Egypt.   He sought refuge in Midian, the wilderness lands to the east of the Gulf of Aqaba.


The Anastasi Papyri are made up of official reports from the Egyptian border authorities and demonstrate the tight control which the held over the Egyptian border.


  • Anastasi III records the daily border crossings of immigrants during the reign of Pharaoh Mernptah.
  • Anastasi VI records the passage of an entire tribe from Edom into Egypt during a drought.
  • Anastasi V describes the escape of two slaves from the royal palace at Pi-Rameses.  The Egyptian commander of the boarder writes the following:


In life, prosperity, health!  In the favor of Amon-Re, King of the gods, and of the ka of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt...  I was sent forth... at the time of evening, following after these two slaves... When I reached the fortress, they told me that the scouts had come from the desert, saying that they had passed the walled place north of the Migdol of Seti Merne-Ptah. (BAR Jan/Feb 1999).


Though these letters date after the 18th Dynasty, they reflect the control over the borders of Egypt in that was evident in Biblical times.





                    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.  17 Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.  18 When they came to Reuel their father, he said, “Why have you come back so soon today?”  19 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.”  20 And 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.” (Exodus 2:16-20).


We are given just enough details to this narrative that we can exercise and perhaps entice our imaginations.  We are introduced to a man with seven daughters.  The implication is that he has no sons.  There were none who might carry on the family name and none who would be strong enough to stand up to his enemies.  This was a man in need of a son-in-law.

Moses comes upon the scene and plays the part of a deliverer.  This time no one is killed.  Or at least the record makes no mention of any deaths.  This time Moses is recognized as a deliverer.  If he has not been able to deliver the Israelites, he has at least been able to deliver a handful of shepherd girls.


The girls describe Moses as an Egyptian.  They are unaware that he is really a Hebrew.  Indeed, it is doubtful that they even know what is a Hebrew.  They are familiar with Egyptians and Moses speaks and dresses the part of an Egyptian.





            21 And Moses was willing to dwell with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses.  22 Then she gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” (Exodus 2:21-22).


Moses decides to live with the priest of Midian.  This was to become his new life.  He would become a desert-dwelling shepherd.  Accordingly, he took a wife for himself and they had a son.  Moses named his son Gershom because Moses had become a sojourner.




A foreign king tried to have him put to death along with all the other Hebrew male children

A foreign king tried to have him put to death along with all the other male children of Bethlehem

He was adopted by the daughter of pharaoh

He was the Son of God but was raised as the son of Joseph

He determined to be identified with the people of God

He identified Himself with all who trust in the Lord

He murdered an Egyptian taskmaster in an attempt to defend an Israelite

He gave His own life, not only for the Jews, but for all the world

He became a sojourner in a foreign land

He left heaven to tabernacle with us





            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.  24 So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  25 And God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them. (Exodus 2:23-25).


God has not been mentioned in this chapter until now.  It may have seemed to both the Israelites as well as to Moses that God had gone on vacation.  But the truth is that the Lord had been at work preparing Moses to be the leader that would be needed to deliver the Israelites.  This is significant because it tells us the Lord is often at work answering our prayer before we have even prayed it.


Exodus 1

Exodus 2

Tells of the Israelites and their general bondage in Egypt

Focuses upon a specific family and their dealing with the Egyptian bondage

Israelites multiply

A man and woman have a son

The pharaoh appoints taskmasters to afflict the Israelites

Moses sees a taskmaster beating an Israelite

The pharaoh orders male children to be thrown into the river

The pharaoh’s daughter draws Moses out of the river

Pharaoh’s plan for Israelite extinction

God’s plan for Israelite deliverance


Moses was not qualified to lead the people of God.  He was a murderer.  An escaped convict.  A wanderer in the wilderness.  A failure.  It has become a cliché to say that God does not call the qualified; He qualifies the called.  That was the case with Moses.


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