|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:1-4 Observe the order of Providence: just at the time when Pharaoh's cruelty rose to its height by ordering the Hebrew children to be drowned, the deliverer was born. When men are contriving the ruin of the church, God is preparing for its salvation. The parents of Moses saw he was a goodly child. A lively faith can take encouragement from the least hint of the Divine favour. It is said, Heb 11:23, that the parents of Moses hid him by faith; they had the promise that Israel should be preserved, which they relied upon. Faith in God's promise quickens to the use of lawful means for obtaining mercy. Duty is ours, events are God's. Faith in God will set us above the fear of man. At three months' end, when they could not hide the infant any longer, they put him in an ark of bulrushes by the river's brink, and set his sister to watch. And if the weak affection of a mother were thus careful, what shall we think of Him, whose love, whose compassion is, as himself, boundless. Moses never had a stronger protection about him, no, not when all the Israelites were round his tent in the wilderness, than now, when he lay alone, a helpless babe upon the waves. No water, no Egyptian can hurt him. When we seem most neglected and forlorn, God is most present with us.
Verse 3. - She took for him an ark of bulrushes. The words translated "ark" and "bulrushes" are both of Egyptian origin, the former corresponding to the ordinary word for "chest," which is feb, teba, or tebat, and the latter corresponding to the Egyptian kam, which is the same in Coptic, and designates the papyrus plant. This is a strong-growing rush, with a triangular stem, which attains the height of from 10 to 15 feet. The Egyptian paper was made from its pith. The rush itself was used for various purposes - among others for boat-building (Plin. 'H. N.' 6:22; 7:16; Theophrast, 4:9; Pint. 'De Isid. et Osir.' § 18, etc.), as appears from the monuments. It would be a very good material for the sort of purpose to which Jochebed applied it. She daubed it with slime and with pitch. The word translated "slime" is the same as that used in Genesis 11:3, which is generally thought to mean "mineral pitch" or "bitumen." According to Strabo and Dioderus, that material was largely used by the Egyptians for the embalming of corpses, and was imported into Egypt from Palestine. Boats are sometimes covered with it externally at the present day (Ker Porter, Travels, vol. 2. p. 260; Layard,'Nineveh and its Remains,' pt. 2. ch. 5.); but Jochebed seems to have used vegetable pitch- the ordinary pitch of commerce - for the purpose. Here again the Hebrew word is taken from the Egyptian. She laid it in the flags. "Suph," the word translated "flags," is a modification of the Egyptian tuff, which has that meaning. Water-plants of all kinds abound in the backwaters of the Nile. and the marshy tracts communicating with it. The object of placing the ark in a thicket of reeds probably was, that it might not float away out of sight. The river's brink. Literally, the lip of the river - an Egyptian idiom.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And when she could no longer hide him,.... Because of her neighbours, who might hear the crying of the child, or because of the diligent search made by Pharaoh's officers, which some think was made every three months: the Jews (a) have a notion that his mother was delivered of him at six months' end, and therefore when the other three months were up women usually go with child, she could hide him no longer, a birth of a child being then expected, and would be inquired about:
she took for him an ark of bulrushes; the word, according to Kimchi (b), signifies a kind of wood exceeding light, so Gersom and Ben Melech; an Arabic writer (c) calls it an ark of wood; it is generally taken to be the "papyrus" or reed of Egypt, which grew upon the banks of the Nile, and of which, many writers say, small vessels or little ships were made; see Gill on Isaiah 18:2.
and daubed it with slime and with pitch; with pitch without and slime within, as Jarchi observes; which being of a glutinous nature, made the rushes or reeds stick close together, and so kept out the water:
and put the child therein; committing it to the care and providence of God, hoping and believing that by some means or another it would be preserved; for this, no doubt, was done in faith, as was the hiding him three months, to which the apostle ascribes that, Hebrews 11:23.
and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink; among the sedge, weeds, and rushes, that grew upon the banks of the river Nile; there she laid it, that it might not be carried away with the stream of the river, and that it might be seen and taken up by somebody that would have compassion on it, and take care of it: the Arabic writers (d) say, that Jochebed made an ark of the papyrus, though in the law it is said to be of cork, and pitched within and without, and put the child into it, and laid it on the bank of the Nile, where the water was not so deep, by the city Tzan (or Zoan, that is, Tanis), which was the metropolis of the Tanitic nome; but very wrongly adds, that it might be killed by the dashing of the waves, and she might not see its death.
(a) Targum Jon. & Jarchi in loc. (b) Sepher Shorash. rad. (c) Elmacius apud Hottinger. p. 402. (d) Patricides, p. 25. Elmacinus, p. 46. apud Hottinger. Smegma, c. 8. p. 400.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. she took for him an ark of bulrushes—papyrus, a thick, strong, and tough reed.
slime—the mud of the Nile, which, when hardened, is very tenacious.
pitch—mineral tar. Boats of this description are seen daily floating on the surface of the river, with no other caulking than Nile mud (compare Isa 18:2), and they are perfectly watertight, unless the coating is forced off by stormy weather.
flags—a general term for sea or river weed. The chest was not, as is often represented, committed to the bosom of the water but laid on the bank, where it would naturally appear to have been drifted by the current and arrested by the reedy thicket. The spot is traditionally said to be the Isle of Rodah, near Old Cairo.
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