The book of Exodus begins with a summary of the activities which took place during the time when the children of Israel were in captivity in the land of Egypt. Chapter one chronicles the names of those who came out of the land of Canaan into Egypt with Jacob, culminating with the attempt of Pharaoh to kill all newborn male children. Moses was born at a time when the Hebrews had become a troublesome problem by flourishing amidst the Egyptian nation and the new Pharaoh decided on this cruel and satanic solution to restrict the fledgling nation. The mighty deeds worked by God through Joseph were now forgotten by the dynasty of Egypt, for we read (Exodus 1:6-81):
6 And Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them. 8 Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
In Exodus 1:11 we learn that Israelite slaves helped build Pithom and Rameses, the latter the old Hyksos capital, Avaris, in the Nile delta (the same as Zoan in Numbers 13:22), and we know it was rebuilt by Pharaoh Sethos I for his capital using forced labour. Since he was Rameses II's immediate predecessor, reigning between about 1305-1290 B.C., he was probably the king who "did not know Joseph." 2,3
The narrative of the life of Moses and his endeavours as the life founder of the theocratic state begins in chapter two. His father Amram, of the tribe or house of Levi (Exodus 2:11), had married the sister of his father, Jochabed, who was therefore of the same house of Levi, and also his aunt. Miriam was born first, then Aaron, before the birth of Moses in 1526 B.C.
There is no way of knowing how many infants were slain as a consequence of Pharaoh's cruel order. But, hard as it may seem to the Bible reader unaware of the importance of God's Abrahamic covenant, this is not of primary importance. What is important is that God is present in the most awful circumstances and thus an infant vital to the continuance of Israel survived. Jochabed saved the baby she loved (Exodus 2:21 - "when she saw that he was beautiful she hid him for three months") through the kindness of the daughter of the Pharaoh - but we see that God was in this salvation through water, for we read in Acts 7:201:
And it was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God; and he was nurtured three months in his father's home.
Placing her infant son in a little boat constructed of a basket of papyrus reeds, coated with tar and pitch, she took him down to the Nile where she was supposed to "expose him" (Acts 7:19-21) so that he died, but instead hid him in the reeds by the bank where Pharaoh's daughter was accustomed to bathe. We read that Moses sister, Miriam, "stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him" (Exodus 2:4). The princess discovered the baby and adopted him as her son, naming him Moses. The Biblical account informs us that she named him Moses, from the Egyptian verb alluding to the way "she drew him out of the water" (Exodus 2:101). But Moses possible future position in the courts of Pharaoh was also spelt out in the use of this name, for it was well known among Egyptians, having been a part of the name of several Pharaohs, namely, Thutmosis and Rameses.2,3 The watching Miriam was able to suggest a nursemaid from among the Hebrew women and thus Moses was brought up in the midst of Egypt's royal family while also learning the values of the people of God from his own mother, Jochabed.
We must also note the important role, the sheer faithfulness, of the Israelite midwives who did everything they could to help ensure that Hebrew babies survived this attempt of Pharaoh - the first of many historical efforts to annihilate the Jews - did not meet with success. How different this attitude is to the sin-devastated society of today that aborts so many babies for purely "social" reasons, the desire for material things, and holidays in the sun:
Exodus 1:171 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live. 18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said to them, "Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?" 19 And the midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous, and they give birth before the midwife can get to them." 20 So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. 21 And it came about because the midwives feared God, that He established households for them.
The fear of God is missing in a mighty way from the church of today!
We learn from Acts 7:22, that Moses was skilled in all of the knowledge of the Egyptians in his education, military experience, culture, and entire lifestyle. As he approached the age of forty Moses probably had great potential as a leader and even ability to be Pharaoh in Egypt. We learn from Acts 7:23ff something not recorded in the book of Exodus - Moses, even at that relatively early age, believed himself to be the God-sent deliverer of the Hebrew nation. However, his life was about to change dramatically because, as he visited his Hebrew brethren, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew (Exodus 2:11) and, in the heat of the moment, he struck the Egyptian and killed him. This rash act in the flesh brought trouble for Moses when Pharaoh heard about it and, although God had indeed chosen him for this great task, he had to flee for his life from Egypt. The folly of man acting in his own strength without waiting on God's instruction is clearly demonstrated in the fact that we read (Exodus 2:13-141) that Moses now found out that his own people knew of his crime and probably would not trust him:
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." 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.
Thus Moses fled to the region of Midian, in the peninsula between the branches of the Red Sea. There he met and married Zipporah, the daughter of Reuel (or Jethro), who is described as a "priest of Midian." (Exodus 2:16; 3:1)
(Continued on page 487)