The Birth of Moses

Thursday: God’s Providence: Exodus 2:1-10

Exodus 2:1-10 In this week’s lessons, we look at the details of Moses’ birth, and remember that God is providentially directing the events of Moses’ life for His glory, just as He does in ours.
God’s Providence

F. B. Meyer, who I mentioned earlier, has an application here that applies to Christian parents. He writes of Jochebed’s decision with Moses:

There is abundant warrant, afforded by this narrative, for Christian parents to cast their children upon God. The mother, whose child goes to earn her living among strangers; the father whose son must leave the quiet homestead for the great city; the parents, who, as missionaries, are unable to nurture their children on the mission field because of the pernicious moral climate, more harmful than the heat of the plains of India; or those who on their deathbeds must part with their babes to the care of comparative strangers—all these may learn a lesson from the faith that cast the young child on the providence of God even more absolutely than on the buoyancy of the Nile. God lives, and loves, and cares. More quick and tender than Miriam’s, His eye neither slumbers nor sleeps.1

Now at this point of the story, something very interesting happens. This woman is touched by the cries of the baby. She recognizes at once that it’s a Hebrew child, and knows why it has been placed there in the basket by the reeds of the river. She decides that she is going to save it. Yet she has an immediate problem because the baby is crying, and when babies are crying they are usually hungry. What do you do when a baby is hungry? You don’t go out to the market to buy formula.

About this time Miriam, who was watching this, goes and says to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Would you like me to go and see if I could find a wet nurse for you from among the mothers of the Hebrews?” Well there were probably a lot of them because their babies have been killed. Pharaoh’s daughter understands that. She says “Yes, that’s a good idea.” And so Miriam goes off and, not surprisingly, comes back with Moses’ mother. You have the wonderful picture there of Moses’ mother about to receive her baby back, not letting on at all what’s gone on. You have Pharaoh’s daughter standing there, not understanding the full situation, but only know that she needs the mother. The princess then says to Moses’ mother, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.”

Thus, Jochebed got her son back again, the very thing she wanted, even though she had given him up to God. And God even saw that she got paid for doing what she really wanted to do. It’s as if she said to God, “Not my will but thine be done. He is your child, and I give him to your hands.” And God gave her back the thing she wanted and paid her for doing it.

The last verse of our passage explains to us where Moses got his name. Verse 10 says that he was named Moses because, as she says, “I drew him out of the water.” Now, there is controversy about the meaning of the name. The Hebrew name is Moshe, and in that form is probably a play on words related to the verb meaning “to draw out,” and hence “drawn out of the water.” But who is the “she” in verse 10 who named him? It is a Hebrew name, which suggests that Moses’ mother was the source of the baby’s name; and yet the text appears to indicate that Pharaoh’s daughter chose the name.

On the other hand, if you look at it from the Egyptian point of view, there are Egyptian words, mes and mesu, which mean “one born” or “a child,” and they are quite common in other Egyptian names. For example, the pharaoh Ahmose’s name means “the one born of Ah,” or “the son of Ah.” Ah was the moon god. There is also the name Kamose, which means “the one born of ka.” This was the deified soul in Egyptian mythology. Thutmose means “one who was born of Thoth,” one of the gods. In the Egyptian language seh means “lake,” and can also refer to the Nile. Moses may be a shortened form of the word meseh, which means, “one born of the Nile.” It’s also possible that he had a longer name, which were common in Egypt. If that’s the case, then when he later refused to be identified as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, it may mean that he rejected the name in its full form, taking it down to Moses so he wouldn’t be identified with one of the Egyptian gods.

There are a few applications that I want to emphasize. First is the workings of God’s providence. There are many miracles in Moses’ story, and God is working through it to deliver the people. There are more miracles associated with Moses and in his lifetime than with any other Bible character, except for Jesus. But it is striking that there are no miracles here at the beginning of the story. But notice what happened. The providence of God ordered the steps of Pharaoh’s daughter as she came to the Nile to bathe. The providence of God allowed the baby to cry, and at just the right time. God’s providence moved the heart of the princess to want to save the baby, and finally arrange to have the baby raised by his own mother even though the princess didn’t suspect it.

Now the point is that God was as much at work here as He was later in the story. God is at work in the circumstances of your life, too. That’s what it means to believe in a God of providence. You say, “But I haven’t seen any miracles in my life.” No, and there is no reason why you should. God is a God of providence, not just the God of miracles. That means that He has been operating in all of the details and all of the circumstances of your life. Shouldn’t you recognize that if you believe in a providential God? And shouldn’t you thank Him for it? You say, “Well, I don’t like my circumstances.” Yes, but we have to learn to thank God in whatever state in which we are. That’s what the Apostle Paul learned to do. And furthermore you need to trust Him in those circumstances, even when things don’t seem to be going well. Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, to those who have been called according to his purpose.” Yes, even in sickness, even when you lose your job, even when sorrows come into your life, even in times of death.

1F. B. Meyer, “Devotional Studies in the Sunday School Lessons,” in Record of Christian Work, vol. 32, edited by William Revell Moody (East Northfield, MA: W. R. Moody, 1913), 394-95.

Study Questions
  1. What immediate problem arises for Pharaoh’s daughter because of Moses’ crying?
  2. What wonderful thing does the Lord do that solves the princess’ problem and helps Moses’ parents at the same time?
  3. What are the Hebrew and Egyptian possibilities for the name of Moses?
  4. How do we see God’s providence at work along the way thus far in Moses’ life?

Application: Have you been praying and waiting on the Lord in regard to a particular matter of great importance, and have yet to receive a definitive response? Ask the Lord for patience and help to trust Him during this uncertain and difficult time.

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Philip Ryken’s message, “The Birth of a Savior.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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