JOCHEBED: THE MOTHER OF MOSES.
The children of Israel were still in Egypt, but they were no longer honoured by the Egyptians as the people of their great deliverer, Joseph. “There arose up a new king over Egypt,” or rather a new dynasty, “which knew not Joseph” (Exd 1:8.), and which, consequently, knew not the God of Joseph. This Pharaoh was an oppressor; he made the children of Israel to “serve with rigour.” “They made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.” The government of Egypt saw with fear and trembling the increase of the seed of Abraham in their midst. They “were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them;” and the Egyptians marked with consternation that “the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.” (Exd 1:7-12.) God had declared to Abraham that his seed should be “as the dust of the earth” (Gen 13:16), and no earthly power could hinder their increase.
The reigning Pharaoh, however, was determined to stamp out this people from his dominions; and he conceived the cruel and unjust plan of destroying all the male children, and issued his command to the Hebrew midwives, that they should destroy all the newborn sons of the Hebrews, but let the infant daughters live. But these women “feared” God, and they “saved the men children alive.” (Exd 1:17.)
It was in circumstances such as these that Amram, the grandson of Levi, married Jochebed, the daughter of Kohath, and she bore a son. (Exd 6:20.)
There was something unusual about this child; Stephen in speaking of him (Acts 7:20, marg.), says that he was “fair unto God;” Paul speaks of him as “a proper child” (Heb 11:23.), and in (Exd 2:2.) we read of him as “a goodly child.” There may have been many goodly children amongst the little babes which were in danger from the persecution of Pharaoh, but this expression, “fair unto God,” must mean something beyond beauty of countenance or intelligence.
Moses was a faith child. We may infer that his parents had borne upon their hearts the burden of the state of their people, and, probably, they had cried to God for a deliverer; and it may be that, as John the Baptist’s mission was in direct answer to the prayers of Zacharias and Elizabeth, his parents, so the mission of Moses was a direct answer to the prayers of his Levite parents.
Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.” (Hbr 11:23.)
In the first place Jochebed hid her child for three months, but it was a difficult course to pursue. The cry of a healthy child soon betrayed his whereabouts, and the day arrived when she could hide him no longer. What could she do? Probably she prayed about it, and may have been led distinctly by her God to make for him an ark of bullrushes, and to daub it with slime and with pitch, and to put the child therein, and then to lay him in the flags by the river’s brink. (Exd 2:3.) When the water was calm, the little vessel might ride safely there; but any flood or even rise of the water might float it to the mid‐current, and carry it and its precious burden down the stream. It would have been a venturesome experiment, if Jochebed had been unable to trust her God. She stationed Miriam, Moses’ elder sister, to watch on the river side what should become of the little ark and the beloved child.
God had His own plan for the future deliverance of Egypt. Just at this time, the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe in the river, and her maidens walked along by the river side. Probably some movement of the child, or some cry, may have drawn her attention to the ark. It was a covered vessel. She sent her maid to fetch it, and the little burden was easily borne. The royal princess opened it, and saw the child, and “the babe wept.” It was an appeal to all the woman in her heart. She instinctively perceived the state of the case. There must be somewhere a weeping mother, an anxious family. This child belonged to somebody. Pharaoh’s daughter had compassion upon him, and said: “This is one of the Hebrew’s children.” (Exd 2:6.)
THIS WAS NO ACCIDENT.
The princess was but an instrument ordained of God to provide for the future education and position of this, His chosen instrument. Nothing happens by chance. God makes all things work together for good to them that love Him. (Rom 8:28.) He can make princes and princesses serve His purpose with His own children.
Miriam, seeing what had happened, approached Pharaoh’s daughter, saying:
“Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?”
“And the maid went and called the child’s mother.” (Exd 2:7-8.) It was another provision from the hand of God. Little Moses was to be brought up in a heathen court: O, how he needed a counteracting influence, and what influence could equal that of a praying mother? In early morning and late night, when he was still of tender years, the prayers of his mother went up for him. He would remember the old teaching at that mother’s knee, how God had been the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. He would have learnt the story of the Creation, of the Flood, and the wondrous vision of Jacob. His early impressions of the God of his fathers would be of a real, true, living God, who spoke, and acted, loved and cared for His people. From his early childhood, he would know that the gods of Egypt were but myths and shadows; and so, above all the learning he would get in the Egyptian schools, there was the mightier influence of the God his mother knew, to deliver him from superstition and error, and certainly he learned early to know God for himself.
Christian mother, does your home influence counteract the sin, the untruth, the impurity, the hollowness of the world, so that your son finds the home life a haven of rest from temptation and shame? Is there so much of God in your life that it more than outweighs other influences which surround him? Blessed mother, if it is so!
Pharaoh’s daughter said to Jochebed:
“Take this child away and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages.” (Exd 2:9.)
This is the last we hear of Jochebed, Moses’ mother.
THE RESULT OF HER LIFE’s WORK
was the man Moses. The true mother lives again in her son. There is the answer to her prayers; there is the result of her watchfulness; there is the true correction of her own faults reproduced in her son. Moses might never have been the man he was had it not been for Jochebed.
Who knows how many a leader of God’s people may be at the present time in course of training by some pious mother? Who knows but that the little James or John or William, who is playing with the kitten on the hearth, may some day become a man to whom hundreds or thousands may look for help and direction? Oh let every mother who reads these pages understand her vocation when a higher than Pharaoh’s daughter says to her: “Take this child and nurse it for Me, and I will give thee thy wages.”
But the wages of Jochebed were not to be given by the princes of this world. To be the mother of a Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, like whom there arose not since in Israel (Deu 34:10): this was an honour which none but God could give.