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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Exodus 2

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Moses' Birth and Early Career

A. Moses' birth and childhood.

1. (Exo 2:1-2) Moses is born - a beautiful child, of the tribe of Levi.

And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi. So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months.

a. So the woman conceived and bore a son: The baby Moses opened his eyes to an unfriendly world. He was born in a superpower of a nation, but was of an alien, oppressed race during a time when all babies such as himself were under a royal death sentence. Nevertheless, Moses had something special in his favor: he was the child of believing parents.

b. A man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi: Exodus 6:20 tells us the names of Moses' parents: Amram and Jochebed. Jewish legends say that Moses' birth was painless to his mother, that at his birth his face was so beautiful that the room was filled with light equal to the sun and moon combined, that he walked and spoke when he was a day old, and that he refused to nurse, eating solid food from birth.

c. She hid him three months: The parents of Moses did not do this only because of the natural maternal instinct; they did it also out of faith in God. Hebrews 11:23 describes the faith of Moses' parents: By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's command.

2. (Exo 2:3-10) Pharaoh's daughter finds Moses.

But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river's bank. And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him. Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river. And her maidens walked along the riverside; and when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, and said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children." 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?" And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Go." So the maiden went and called the child's mother. Then 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. And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, saying, "Because I drew him out of the water."

a. Laid it in the reeds by the river's bank: In a literal sense, Moses' mother did exactly what Pharaoh said to do: put her son into the river (Exodus 1:22). However, she took care to put him in a waterproofed basket and strategically floated him in the river.

i. But more so, this is a great example of trusting the child's welfare and future to God alone. When Moses' mother let go of that ark made of bulrushes, she was giving up something precious, trusting that God would take care of it, and perhaps find a way to give it back to her.

b. So she had compassion on him: In God's providence, Pharaoh's daughter finds baby Moses, and then hires Moses' own mother to take care of him. Not only does Moses' mother get to still be with her child, now she gets paid for it.

i. God greatly rewarded the faith of Moses' mother, both as she trusted Him as she hid Moses for three months, and as she trusted Him by setting Moses out on the river.

c. And he became her son: Being the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter, Moses was in the royal family. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus says Moses was heir to the throne of Egypt and that while a young man, Moses lead the armies of Egypt in victorious battle against the Ethiopians.

i. Certainly, he was raised with both the science and learning of Egypt. Acts 7:22 says, Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds. Egypt was one of the most academic and scientific societies on the earth at that time. It is reasonable to think that Moses was instructed in geography, history, grammar, writing, literature, philosophy, and music.

ii. Since he was of the royal family, we expect that as Moses went anywhere, he went in a princely chariot and his guards cried out "bow the knee!" If he floated on the Nile, it was in a magnificent yacht, with musical accompaniment - he lived the royal life. We also know that Moses' Hebrew mother had an influence on his life, so he was certainly raised in the Hebrew heritage of his mother.

d. An ancient Christian writer named Origen had a fanciful allegorical way of interpreting the Scriptures, and what he does with this account of Moses and Pharaoh's daughter is a good example of the peril of over-allegorizing the Scriptures. In Origen's take on this passage:

- Pharaoh represents the devil
- The male and female Hebrew children represent the animal and rational aspects of the soul
- The devil wants to kill the rational character of man, but keep alive his animal character
- The two midwives are the Old and New Testaments
- Pharaoh wants to corrupt the midwives so that the rational character of man will be destroyed
- Because the midwives were faithful, God builds houses of prayer all over the earth
- Pharaoh's daughter represents the church, and gives refuge to Moses - who represents the law
- The waters of the Nile represent the waters of baptism
- When we come to the waters of baptism and take the law into our heart - the royal palaces - then the law grows up into spiritual maturity

i. Clarke says well of this kind of interpretation: "Every passage and fact might then be obliged to say something, any thing, every thing, or nothing, according to the fancy, peculiar creed, or caprice of the interpreter."

B. Moses' escape from Egypt.

1. (Exo 2:11-14) Moses kills an Egyptian and his crime is discovered.

Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, "Why are you striking your companion?" Then he said, "Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" So Moses feared and said, "Surely this thing is known!"

a. When Moses was grown: Acts 7:23 says this happened when Moses was forty years old. Up until then, he was trained and groomed to become the next Pharaoh of Egypt, all the while aware of his true origins because of his mother.

b. He killed the Egyptian: Moses was certainly right in preventing the beating of one of his brethren; yet at the same time this was perhaps a premature attempt to fulfill his destiny. Moses tried to make himself Israel's deliverer in a way that made sense to the way man thinks and plans.

i. Acts 7:23-25 shows us exactly where Moses' heart was: Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian. For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand.

ii. If Moses ever sat down and decided to deliver his people from their Egyptian bondage, he would never plan it this way: "My brother Aaron and I will go to Pharaoh with a special stick that turns into a snake. We'll ask him to let us go back to Canaan, and if he says no, we'll bring plagues of blood in the Nile River, frogs, mosquitoes, flies, cattle disease, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness. If all that doesn't work, we'll kill all the firstborn of Egypt and escape across the Red Sea, which will part for us and flow back to drown the Egyptians. Then we'll cross the wilderness and come to Canaan."

iii. Moses planned the deliverance of Israel the way any man would, and logically saw himself as the key man - because of his accepted leadership among the Egyptians. The only problem was that God was going to deliver Israel and use Moses in a way that no man would ever dream of.

iv. Moses had no idea of it at the time, but he was too big for God to use. Moses tried to do the Lord's work in man's wisdom and power. It wouldn't work. After 40 years of seemingly perfect preparation, Moses had another 40 years of seemingly meaningless waiting to perfect God's preparation.

c. Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian? Moses' leadership was not accepted by the Jewish masses, even though God had made him a prince and a judge over them. Moses, like Jesus, was rejected by Israel at his "first coming."

i. Both Moses and Jesus were:

- Favored by God from birth
- Miraculously preserved in childhood
- Mighty in words and deed
- Offered deliverance to Israel
- Rejected with spite
- Rejected in their right to be ruler and a judge over Israel

ii. Just like Jesus, Moses could not deliver when he lived in the palaces of glory. He had to come down off the throne, away from the palace and into a humble place before he could deliver his people.

2. (Exo 2:15-19) Moses escapes to Midian.

When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father's flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. When they came to Reuel their father, he said, "How is it that you have come so soon today?" And they said, "An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and he also drew enough water for us and watered the flock."

a. Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh: Moses, fleeing for his life, probably felt that God's plan for his life was completely defeated. He probably believed that every chance he ever had to deliver his people was now over and there was nothing he could do. At this point, Moses was right where God wanted him.

b. Dwelt in the land of Midian: If Moses went into the area of Canaan and Syria, he would have found no refuge - there was a treaty between Rameses II and the Hittite king to the effect that fugitives along the northern route to Syria would be arrested and extradited. So Moses went southeast instead, to Midian.

i. In that day Midian described the area on both the west and east sides of the Reed Sea, land that today is both Saudi Arabia (on the east of the Reed Sea) and Egypt (on the Sinai Peninsula, on the west of the Reed Sea).

c. The priest of Midian had seven daughters: Finally coming to Midian, Moses met the daughters of a priest of Midian - likely a descendant of one of Abraham's other children through Keturah named Midian (Genesis 25:1-2).

i. Because of this connection with Abraham, we have good reason to believe he was a true priest, and worshipped the true God. God led Moses to this specific family at this specific time.

d. Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock: In Egypt Moses enjoyed life as one of the royal family and was waited on hand and foot. In the distant desert of Midian, Moses finally had an opportunity to be a servant and he did a good job, working hard to help water the flocks of Jethro's daughters.

3. (Exo 2:20-22) Moses is accepted into the family of the priest of Midian.

So he said to his daughters, "And where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread." Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. And she bore him a son, and he called his name Gershom; for he said, "I have been a stranger in a foreign land."

a. Moses was content to live with the man: By taking a wife and having a son, Moses seems to give up on Egypt and his hope of being a deliverer for Israel. Moses was content with where God put him, even though Midian was very different from Egypt.

b. We make a mistake when we think that the years in Midian were a "waiting" time for Moses. They were instead, working years; he had never worked this hard in his life! God trained him, shaping him for his future calling, but Moses was certainly not "on the shelf."

4. (Exo 2:23-25) God remembers Israel and turns His attention to them.

Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.

a. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered: If Moses "forgot" about Israel in Egypt (in the sense of turning his active attention away from them), God did not. God remembered (again, in the sense of turning His active attention towards them) Israel and their affliction.

b. God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob: God did not turn His attention to Israel because they were such good people, but because of the covenant He made with them. He gives His love and attention to us on the same basis - the covenant relationship we have with God through Jesus.

©2004 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

Study Guide for Genesis 1 ← Prior Book
Study Guide for Leviticus 1 Next Book →
Study Guide for Exodus 1 ← Prior Chapter
Study Guide for Exodus 3 Next Chapter →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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