Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.
Ex 2:1-10. Birth and Preservation of Moses.
1. there went a man of the house of Levi, &c. Amram was the husband and Jochebed the wife (compare Ex 6:2; Nu 26:59). The marriage took place, and two children, Miriam and Aaron, were born some years before the infanticidal edict.
And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.
2. the woman … bare a son, &c.—Some extraordinary appearance of remarkable comeliness led his parents to augur his future greatness. Beauty was regarded by the ancients as a mark of the divine favor.
hid him three months—The parents were a pious couple, and the measures they took were prompted not only by parental attachment, but by a strong faith in the blessing of God prospering their endeavors to save the infant.
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.
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.
And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.
4. his sister—Miriam would probably be a girl of ten or twelve years of age at the time.
And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.
5. the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river—The occasion is thought to have been a religious solemnity which the royal family opened by bathing in the sacred stream. Peculiar sacredness was attached to those portions of the Nile which flowed near the temples. The water was there fenced off as a protection from the crocodiles; and doubtless the princess had an enclosure reserved for her own use, the road to which seems to have been well known to Jochebed.
walked along—in procession or in file.
she sent her maid—her immediate attendant. The term is different from that rendered "maidens."
And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews' children.
6-9. when she had opened it, she saw the child—The narrative is picturesque. No tale of romance ever described a plot more skilfully laid or more full of interest in the development. The expedient of the ark, the slime and pitch, the choice of the time and place, the appeal to the sensibilities of the female breast, the stationing of the sister as a watch of the proceedings, her timely suggestion of a nurse, and the engagement of the mother herself—all bespeak a more than ordinary measure of ingenuity as well as intense solicitude on the part of the parents. But the origin of the scheme was most probably owing to a divine suggestion, as its success was due to an overruling Providence, who not only preserved the child's life, but provided for his being trained in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Hence it is said to have been done by faith (Heb 11:23), either in the general promise of deliverance, or some special revelation made to Amram and Jochebed—and in this view, the pious couple gave a beautiful example of a firm reliance on the word of God, united with an active use of the most suitable means.
Then said his sister to Pharaoh's daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?
And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother.
And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it.
And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.
10. she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter—Though it must have been nearly as severe a trial for Jochebed to part with him the second time as the first, she was doubtless reconciled to it by her belief in his high destination as the future deliverer of Israel. His age when removed to the palace is not stated; but he was old enough to be well instructed in the principles of the true religion; and those early impressions, deepened by the power of divine grace, were never forgotten or effaced.
he became her son—by adoption, and his high rank afforded him advantages in education, which in the Providence of God were made subservient to far different purposes from what his royal patroness intended.
she called his name Moses—His parents might, as usual, at the time of his circumcision, have given him a name, which is traditionally said to have been Joachim. But the name chosen by the princess, whether of Egyptian or Hebrew origin, is the only one by which he has ever been known to the church; and it is a permanent memorial of the painful incidents of his birth and infancy.
And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.
Ex 2:11-25. His Sympathy with the Hebrews.
11. in those days, when Moses was grown—not in age and stature only, but in power as well as in renown for accomplishments and military prowess (Ac 7:22). There is a gap here in the sacred history which, however, is supplied by the inspired commentary of Paul, who has fully detailed the reasons as well as extent of the change that took place in his worldly condition; and whether, as some say, his royal mother had proposed to make him coregent and successor to the crown, or some other circumstances, led to a declaration of his mind, he determined to renounce the palace and identify himself with the suffering people of God (Heb 11:24-29). The descent of some great sovereigns, like Diocletian and Charles V, from a throne into private life, is nothing to the sacrifice which Moses made through the power of faith.
he went out unto his brethren—to make a full and systematic inspection of their condition in the various parts of the country where they were dispersed (Ac 7:23), and he adopted this proceeding in pursuance of the patriotic purpose that the faith, which is of the operation of God, was even then forming in his heart.
he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew—one of the taskmasters scourging a Hebrew slave without any just cause (Ac 7:24), and in so cruel a manner, that he seems to have died under the barbarous treatment—for the conditions of the sacred story imply such a fatal issue. The sight was new and strange to him, and though pre-eminent for meekness (Nu 12:3), he was fired with indignation.
And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.
12. he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand—This act of Moses may seem and indeed by some has been condemned as rash and unjustifiable—in plain terms, a deed of assassination. But we must not judge of his action in such a country and age by the standard of law and the notions of right which prevail in our Christian land; and, besides, not only is it not spoken of as a crime in Scripture or as distressing the perpetrator with remorse, but according to existing customs among nomadic tribes, he was bound to avenge the blood of a brother. The person he slew, however, being a government officer, he had rendered himself amenable to the laws of Egypt, and therefore he endeavored to screen himself from the consequences by concealment of the corpse.
And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?
13, 14. two men of the Hebrews strove together—His benevolent mediation in this strife, though made in the kindest and mildest manner, was resented, and the taunt of the aggressor showing that Moses' conduct on the preceding day had become generally known, he determined to consult his safety by immediate flight (Heb 11:27). These two incidents prove that neither were the Israelites yet ready to go out of Egypt, nor Moses prepared to be their leader (Jas 1:20). It was by the staff and not the sword—by the meekness, and not the wrath of Moses that God was to accomplish that great work of deliverance. Both he and the people of Israel were for forty years more to be cast into the furnace of affliction, yet it was therein that He had chosen them (Isa 48:10).
And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.
Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.
15. Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh—His flight took place in the second year of Thothmes I.
dwelt in the land of Midian—situated on the eastern shore of the gulf of the Red Sea and occupied by the posterity of Midian the son of Cush. The territory extended northward to the top of the gulf and westward far across the desert of Sinai. And from their position near the sea, they early combined trading with pastoral pursuits (Ge 37:28). The headquarters of Jethro are supposed to have been where Dahab-Madian now stands; and from Moses coming direct to that place, he may have travelled with a caravan of merchants. But another place is fixed by tradition in Wady Shuweib, or Jethro's valley, on the east of the mountain of Moses.
sat down by a well—(See on Ge 29:3).
Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock.
16-22. the priest of Midian—or, "prince of Midian." As the officers were usually conjoined, he was the ruler also of the people called Cushites or Ethiopians, and like many other chiefs of pastoral people in that early age, he still retained the faith and worship of the true God.
seven daughters—were shepherdesses to whom Moses was favorably introduced by an act of courtesy and courage in protecting them from the rude shepherds of some neighboring tribe at a well. He afterwards formed a close and permanent alliance with this family by marrying one of the daughters, Zipporah, "a little bird," called a Cushite or Ethiopian (Nu 12:1), and whom Moses doubtless obtained in the manner of Jacob by service [see Ex 3:1]. He had by her two sons, whose names were, according to common practice, commemorative of incidents in the family history [Ex 18:3, 4].
And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.
And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon to day?
And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock.
And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread.
And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter.
And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.
And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.
23. the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage—The language seems to imply that the Israelites had experienced a partial relaxation, probably through the influence of Moses' royal patroness; but in the reign of her father's successor the persecution was renewed with increased severity.
And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.