Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.
The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses,* ‘because’, she said, ‘I drew him out* of the water.’ ________________________________________________
The story of Moses in the bulrushes is a marvelous drama . . .much loved by Sunday School children and adults alike. It has everything: danger, suspense, even a happy ending. Here’s the context: The Hebrews were living in Egypt, and although they had been favored by the royal court for years (ever since Joseph had impressed the Pharaoh with his interpretation of dreams), the Bible reports that “a new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph.” Fearful that the Hebrews have become too populous, he orders that all of their male children are to be thrown into the Nile. This is the point at which Jochabed (though she isn’t named in this passage) takes her baby and puts him in a basket and sets him adrift in the Nile. He is subsequently found and taken in by Pharaoh’s daughter who orders that a wet nurse be found from among the Hebrews to care for the child. And, almost as if this were a Dickens novel, the woman chosen turns out to be Jochabed!
I’m particularly mesmerized by that moment when Jochabed places the basket holding her son into the river. Some questions come to mind:
- What must it have been like to put one’s own child at such risk?
- In your life, what has been the greatest test of your trust/faith in God?
- What do you know about Moses’ later life that is prefigured in this story of his infancy?
- What do you find in this story that is instructive for your life?
Rev. Dr. James Gertmenian