The Birth of Moses

Today we start a new study.  While we’ve looked at some shorter books before, we are going to try tackling a longer book in the book of Exodus.  I have no idea how long this will take, only that we’ll break from it for Christmas for about a month.  We won’t look at every verse in detail and there might even be some chapters that we quickly go through or even skip over.  Other places it might take a few weeks to get through a chapter, it will all depend on what the topic is.

Exodus has something for everyone, so to speak.  It contains some well known children’s stories like the plagues of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, and the giving of the Ten Commandments.  It contains the giving of the law and is therefore a book of law with both the Ten Commandments and numerous ceremonial laws given to the Israelites.  It is also a book of theology.  There are many things in the book of Exodus which point to Jesus and salvation.

Perhaps most applicable of all is that Exodus is a story about a group of people and their relationship with God.  The two most commonly used keywords in the book are Yahweh (that’s LORD in all capital letters in your Bible), which appears 406 times in the book, and Israel/ites, which appears 168 times.

Also appearing numerous times are other key themes in the book which are command/ed/s/ments, land, and tabernacle which appear 61, 59, and 55 times respectively.

AUTHOR:  The book of Exodus is Moses just as the other first five books of the Old Testament were written by him.  Liberal scholars like to attribute the book to numerous authors, saying that there are different parts of the book that are written differently and have different themes.  Jesus however alludes to the book of Exodus and calls it the book of Moses.  If Jesus attributes Exodus to Moses, then that is good enough for me.

DATE:  Exodus is likely written shortly after the exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Ten Commandments, and the yearlong encampment at Mt. Sinai.  This puts the writing around 1446 BC.  Aside from this date being generally accepted by Biblical scholars, how do we arrive at this?  For that, we go to 1 Kings 6:1 which says:

In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the LORD.

Historically we know from other events that the building of the temple and the fourth year of Solomon’s reign was 966 BC.  If we go back 480 years we’ll arrive at 1446 BC.  While most of the events of Exodus occur in 1446 BC, we actually open the book 80 years earlier in Exodus 1:1-7.

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. 5 The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.

6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7 but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.

The book of Genesis closes with Joseph and his brothers living in Egypt.  Between his brothers and their wives and children there is a group of seventy Israelites who take up residency in Egypt.  The Pharaoh shows them favor and gives them an area of land to live in known as Goshen.  God likewise blesses them.

Time passes and God continues to bless them but the Pharaoh who showed them favor dies and they grow so large as a people that they are believed to be a threat to the Egyptians.  God has not forgotten them through this time however as it is all a part of His plan.  They will spend 430 years in Egypt – to the day! – until they leave.  This is not a coincidence but an obvious work of God.  Exodus 12:40-41 tells us

Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt.

Even after enslaving the Israelites, they continued to be prosperous to the point that the Pharaoh ordered the death of any baby boy born to the Israelites.  If this continued the Israelites would die out within a generation.

Ex 2:1-4

1 Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

With the birth of Moses we have our first parallel to Christ.  Ironically Jesus would be brought to Egypt for safety when Herod ordered the deaths of babies under two years of age.  The wickedness of man cannot and will not thwart God’s plans.

Obviously this is an act of defiance against the authority of Pharaoh by keeping her baby alive.  In Exodus 1 the midwives also defied Pharaoh’s order to kill the baby boys.  As Christians we are told to obey the authorities which God has established above us.  However this does not apply when we are expected to do something in violation of God’s law.  As Peter once told the authorities above him, “We must obey God rather than men.”

Exodus 2:5-10

5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

8 “Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

There’s no good explanation as to why the daughter of Pharaoh would have pity on an Israelite baby boy who should have been thrown into the Nile River nor is there an explanation as to why Pharaoh would allow such a thing to take place.  The Egyptians did not hold the Israelites in high regard since they were slaves and likely wouldn’t even lower themselves to associate with an Israelite if given the opportunity.

It is obviously the hand of God at work that causes Pharaoh’s daughter to have mercy on the baby and for Pharaoh to ignore his own law.  God doesn’t do anything half way however.  Not only is the baby rescued but Moses’ sister is quick on the draw and bold in asking Pharaoh’s daughter if she could assist by finding a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby.

Consider the time and the situation.  Nobody could go to the store and buy formula.  In order for the baby to survive, he had to be breast fed and it is unlikely that an Egyptian would lower themselves to feeding an Israelite.

Moses’ mother not only is able to raise her own son in the open but with the blessing of the Pharaoh and she is even paid by Pharaoh’s daughter for doing so.  Moses remains with his mother until he is weaned – likely 2-3 years old.  He is named by Pharaoh’s daughter.  His name is very Egyptian as at least four pharaoh’s have some form of “mose” in their name.  As the passage explains, he is named Moses because he was drawn out of the water.  Moses will eventually draw out the Israelites from Egypt however.

Just like with Jesus, we aren’t given any details as to how Moses is raised.  As the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, he would have most likely grown up in the court of Pharaoh and raised as a prince of Egypt.  He would have been given the best education and also taught how to use weaponry of the time.

Moses would live as a prince of Egypt for the first 40 years of his life.  We learn that the next event in Exodus 2 occurs when Moses is 40 thanks to Acts 7:23.  Exodus simply says “one day after Moses had grown up.”  Moses has lived with the best that life has to offer and he’s received the best education that was available in all of the world at that time.  But God is not ready to use him yet.  While Moses has learned all he can in the house of Pharaoh, he has not learned about God yet.  He will spend another 40 years learning the ways of the Lord before he is ready to lead the Israelites from Egypt.

Exodus 2:11-12

11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

Despite being raised in Pharaoh’s household, Moses’ identity was not hidden from him.  He knew that he was a Hebrew.  Seeing one of his people being mistreated he decides to defend them.  This is premeditated murder though.  He looks to see if anyone is watching.  This is a fit of rage but it is not based solely on emotion, he knows what he is doing.

Moses isn’t looking to start a revolution.  He didn’t even want anyone to know what he had done.  Moses has no thoughts of leading the Israelites away from Egypt.  If Moses’ training were complete at this time and he were to lead the Israelites from Egypt, he would do so using earthly wisdom.  He would use strategy and force and lead the Israelites into an uprising.  But this is not God’s way.  Moses has to grow more because God can use him.  When the time is right, Moses will lead the Israelite’s using God’s wisdom and not earthly wisdom.

Exodus 2:13-14

13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”

14 The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

It’s hard to imagine the flurry of emotions that must go through Moses’ mind in this short amount of time.  Initially he might feel confused or even frustrated.  The Hebrews had things hard enough and were under enough oppression.  They didn’t need to make things worse by fighting with each other.

The next emotion that Moses might have is indignation.  When the man said “who made you ruler and judge over us?” there’s a number of ways to become angry.  Positionally, Moses was above the Hebrews as a prince of Egypt.  It would have been his right to intervene and judge if he so desired.  More to the point though, Moses is trying to help.  He doesn’t want to see his own people fighting, especially when they have things hard enough already.

Moses has no desire to exercise authority over the Hebrews.  He is not commanding them to do anything aside from show common courtesy to each other.  Expecting people to act civilized is hardly lording anything over anyone.

In this way Moses is also a picture of Jesus.  Jesus did not want to be a ruler over the people and He did not seek to enact judgment on anyone.  He came for the benefit of all people and they rejected Him just as Moses’ people rejected him.  With Jesus however, there will be a day that he will be ruler over all and He will judge according the God’s laws.  But that was not His purpose in His first coming and He was still rejected on a mission of peace so to speak.

Moses’ third emotion is most likely fear and maybe some anger.  He has been found out and that is cause for fear.  But there is also a place for anger.  One can imagine that he is a bit angry over the man’s reaction to him when he was just trying to help.  But the obvious question is how did people find out.  Since Moses looked for witnesses before killing the Egyptian, the most likely culprit for leaking the fact that Moses killed the man is the Israelite whom Moses saved.  Rather than having gratitude for being saved, he placed Moses in a great deal of trouble and probably danger.

Exodus 2:15-20

15 When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. 16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.

18 When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so early today?”

19 They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.”

20 “And where is he?” he asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.”

Undoubtedly, it wasn’t God’s plan to use murder to remove Moses from Egypt and put him in a place to gain his spiritual education.  But God uses even the worst of situations and makes the best of them.  Joseph recognized this in Genesis 50:20

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Exodus 2:21-25

21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 22 Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom,[b] saying, “I have become an alien in a foreign land.”

23 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

Chapter 2 closes with Moses exactly where God needs him to be.  God’s purposes are accomplished in many ways.  It is accomplished by people standing up and doing what is right like the midwives did and Moses’ mother did.  It is sometimes accomplished miraculously as the hand of God certainly guided Pharaoh’s daughter to find Moses and have him raised in the Pharaoh’s household.  And God can even accomplish His will in the midst of terrible sin as with Moses’ murder of the Egyptian.

The take home from this sermon is probably best summarized with the thought that God’s will will be accomplished whether we want to go along for the ride or not.  In times like these it is easy to feel like life is out of control.  Certainly we experience hardships as a part of life.  But God’s hand is on the rudder while we sail the storms of life.  He will not fail as His will is always accomplished.

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