Exodus 2:3
And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink.
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(3) An ark of bulrushes.—Literally, a chest of the papyrus plant. The words used are both of Egyptian origin. Teb, teba, or tebat, is a “box” or chest in Egyptian, and is well Hebraised by tebah, or, as it is here vocalised, têybah. The papyrus plant was in Egyptian kam, as in modern Coptic, whence probably the Hebrew gôme. It was a material frequently used by the Egyptians for boats and even larger vessels (Isaiah 18:2; Theophrast. Hist. Plant, iv. 8, §4; P1in. H. N. 13:11).

Slime and pitoh.—By “slime” seems to be meant bitumen, or mineral pitch, as in Gen. ad. 3; by “pitch” (zaphath), the ordinary vegetable pitch of commerce. Mineral pitch, though not a product of Egypt, was imported into the country from Mesopotamia, and was largely used for embalming (Brugsch, History of Egypt, vol. i. p. 361).

In the flags.—A rank aquatic vegetation abounds on the Lower Nile, and in all the back-waters and marshy tracts connected with it. Jochebed placed her child “in the flags,” that the ark might not float away down the river, and so be lost to her sight. The word used for “flag”—suph—seems to be a Hebraised form of tufi, a common Egyptian word, having this sense.

Exodus 2:3. When she could no longer hide him — For fear of being informed against by some of her Egyptian neighbours, with whom the Israelites lived intermixed, Exodus 3:22. Thus Moses, who was afterward to be the deliverer of Israel, was himself upon the point of falling a sacrifice to the fury of the oppressor; God so ordered it, that being told of this he might be the more animated with zeal for the deliverance of his brethren out of the hands of such bloody men. She took for him an ark of bulrushes — A small basket made of rushes, and water-proof by being coated within and without by a kind of bitumen and pitch. Or, perhaps, it might be formed of the tree called papyrus, of which the Egyptians made their paper, and which grew especially on the banks of the Nile. This ark or basket Moses’s mother laid in the flags by the river’s brink — That it might not be carried away by the stream, intending, we may suppose, to come by night to suckle the child. God undoubtedly put it into her heart to do this, to bring about his own purposes: that Moses might, by this means, be brought into the hands of Pharaoh’s daughter, and that, by his deliverance, a specimen might be given of the deliverance of God’s church.

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.The ark was made of the papyrus which was commonly used by the Egyptians for light and swift boats. The species is no longer found in the Nile below Nubia. It is a strong rush, like the bamboo, about the thickness of a finger, three cornered, and attains the height of 10 to 15 feet. It is represented with great accuracy on the most ancient monuments of Egypt.

Slime and pitch - The "slime" is probably the mud, of which bricks were usually made in Egypt, and which in this case was used to bind the stalks of the papyrus into a compact mass, and perhaps also to make the surface smooth for the infant. The pitch or bitumen, commonly used in Egypt, made the small vessel water-tight.

In the flags - This is another species of the papyrus, called tuff, or sufi (an exact equivalent of the Hebrew סוּף sûph), which was less in size and height than the rush of which the ark was made.

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.

She could not longer hide him, with safety to herself, because they now grew more violent in executing that bloody decree, and the child growing up was more likely to be discovered, especially seeing the Egyptians dwelt among them, Exodus 3:22. That boats were made of such materials as

bulrushes in those parts, is evident from Isaiah 18:2, and from the testimonies of Herod, Pliny, and others.

Slime and pitch; slime within, and pitch without.

She hid it in the flags, which grew near the river’s side; partly that the vessel might not be carried away, and overturned by the violence of the winds and water, and partly that the child might be sooner discerned, and more easily taken out thence by any kind hand, which she hoped for.

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.

And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and {b} put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink.

(b) Committing him to the providence of God, whom she could not keep from the rage of the tyrant.

3. an ark] i.e. a chest. The Heb. is tçbâh (only used besides of the ‘ark’ of Noah, Genesis 6-9), an Egypt, word, têbet, a ‘chest.’

papyrus (RVm.)] Heb. gômĕ’ (Job 8:12; Isaiah 18:2; Isaiah 35:7 †: deriv. uncertain). A tall reed, consisting of a bare stem, 6 ft. or mon in height, with a large tuft of leaves and flowers at the top (see ill. in NHB. 434, EB. iii. 3557), extinct now in Egypt, and found only by the banks of the ‘Blue’ and ‘White’ Nile, but abundant in ancient times along the banks of the lower Nile. The pith of the stem was cut into thin strips, which were then laid together side by side to form a sheet; and two such sheets, with the strips in one at right angles to those in the other, placed one upon another, and glued together, were used by the ancients as writing material; the stems themselves, also, bound together and caulked, were used to form light boats (Isaiah 18:2, ‘vessels of gômĕ’’; probably also Job 9:26 : Theophr. H.P. iv. 8, 4; Pliny H.N. vii. 57, &c.)1[98]. Here a small chest, or ‘ark,’ is made of it.

[98] Cf. Wilkinson-Birch, Anc. Egyptians (1878), ii. 179–82 (with transl. of Pliny’s description, H.N. xiii. 11, 12), 205 f., 208; Erman, pp. 12, 235, 236, 447, 479 f.

daubed it with bitumen (Genesis 11:3; Genesis 14:10 †) and pitch (Isaiah 34:9 †)] to make it water-tight. Bitumen, or asphalt, was brought into Egypt from the Dead Sea; it was used particularly for embalming (Diod. Sic. xix. 99).

flags] or reeds: Heb. suph, usually of the water-growth (see on Exodus 13:18), which gave the ‘Red Sea’ its Heb. name, once (Jonah 2:6) of sea-weed; here, v. 5, and Isaiah 19:6, of some water-growth along the banks of the Nile, or, in Isaiah 19:6 (see RVm.), of the Nile-canals (see on Exodus 7:19). What suph was, is not certainly known. It is commonly supposed to have been some kind of reed. At the present time, the banks of the Nile in the S. half of the Delta are completely bare: but reed-growths are abundant in the Delta, in disused canals in which the level of the water does not change—for instance, in those running through the site of Goshen—and in pools and ponds (see an ill. in R. T. Kelly’s Egypt (1902), opp. to p. 154): Forskål, also, Flora Aeg.-Arab. (1775), p. 24, attests for his time the abundance of the Arundo donax (see ill. in NHB. 436) on the banks of the Nile, apparently in general; and J. Russegger, Reisen (1841), i. 122 (both referred to by Kn.) speaks of the ‘impenetrable reeds’ on its bank, where the canal from Alexandria to Cairo joins the river. Compare the illustrations in Ebers, Egypt, i. 112, ii. 20 (if the artist may be trusted not to have idealized his picture). What we require is some water-growth which will (1) suit Exodus 2:3; Exodus 2:5, Isaiah 19:6; (2) explain reasonably the name ‘Sea of suph’ (see on Exodus 13:18); and (3), unless the late passage Jonah 2:6 is not to be pressed, sufficiently resemble ‘sea-weed’ to be called by the same name. Careful observation in Egypt itself might result in the required plant being found2[99].

[99] Might it be the sari of Theophr. H.P. iv. 9, Pliny, H.N. xiii. 45? Cf. Dillm. on xiii. 18.

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. Exodus 2:3She placed the infant in an ark of bulrushes by the bank of the Nile, hoping that possibly it might be found by some compassionate hand, and still be delivered. The dagesh dirim. in הצּפינו serves to separate the consonant in which it stands from the syllable which follows (vid., Ewald, 92c; Ges. 20, 2b). גּמא תּבת a little chest of rushes. The use of the word תּבה (ark) is probably intended to call to mind the ark in which Noah was saved (vid., Genesis 6:14). גּמא, papyrus, the paper reed: a kind of rush which was very common in ancient Egypt, but has almost entirely disappeared, or, as Pruner affirms (gypt. Naturgesch. p. 55), is nowhere to be found. It had a triangular stalk about the thickness of a finger, which grew to the height of ten feet; and from this the lighter Nile boats were made, whilst the peeling of the plant was used for sails, mattresses, mats, sandals, and other articles, but chiefly for the preparation of paper (vid., Celsii Hierobot. ii. pp. 137ff.; Hengstenberg, Egypt and the Books of Moses, pp. 85, 86, transl.). ותּחמרה, for תּחמרהּ with mappik omitted: and cemented (pitched) it with חמר bitumen, the asphalt of the Dead Sea, to fasten the papyrus stalks, and with pitch, to make it water-tight, and put it in the reeds by the bank of the Nile, at a spot, as the sequel shows, where she knew that the king's daughter was accustomed to bathe. For "the sagacity of the mother led her, no doubt, so to arrange the whole, that the issue might be just what is related in Exodus 2:5-9" (Baumgarten). The daughter stationed herself a little distance off, to see what happened to the child (Exodus 2:4). This sister of Moses was most probably the Miriam who is frequently mentioned afterwards (Numbers 26:59). תּתצּב for תּתיצּב. The infinitive form דּעה as in Genesis 46:3.
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