“What are you doing, Jochebed?” She must have thought as she carried the basket to the river. Miriam followed close behind, eager to help her mother in this task.
I have two young children, the youngest still a baby. I cannot fully comprehend all the emotions that were going through this momma as she laid that basket with her beautiful three-month old inside, turned around and walked away.
Would I ever see my little baby again? What if he drowned? The Nile did have crocodiles. What would the Egyptians do if they found a live Hebrew baby boy?
Let’s read the story:
Exodus 1:22-2:3 NLT
Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Throw all the newborn Israelite boys into the Nile River. But you may spare the baby girls.” During this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw what a beautiful baby he was and kept him hidden for three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she got a little basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the edge of the Nile River.
These verses tell us why Pharaoh gave the order to kill the boys.
Exodus 1:8-10 NLT
Then a new king came to the throne of Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He told his people, “These Israelites are becoming a threat to us because there are so many of them. We must find a way to put an end to this. If we don’t and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.”
Skip a few verses, and we have Pharaoh giving the order to kill the boys… sound familiar? Our culture is patterning this movement. Our nation alone has killed millions and millions of babies since 1973, when abortion became legal. And our government is still saying it’s OK.
I find it funny that Pharaoh let the girls live, when it was the women who defied his law the most of all. The Hebrew midwives wouldn’t kill the boys, Jochebed hid her baby for three months because she wasn’t afraid of Pharaoh’s edict. Then Pharaoh’s own daughter took baby Moses as her own.
Let’s take a quick look at just who Jochebed was before we explore any further. She was from the tribe of Levi, and married a man from the tribe of Levi. The bible tells us she noticed that her new son was a special child – or as this version states, a beautiful child. She hid him for three months. This momma saw something in her child that caused her to disobey the evil law and not murder her child. Maybe she felt Gods calling on his life, maybe she just thought murdering babies was worse than offending the king. Whatever it was, it caused her momma-bear heart to gather courage and hang onto her little baby in hiding… until she could no longer hide him.
She might have considered continuing to hide him at home – but maybe some Egyptian landlord had discovered him already? Maybe she was afraid someone would turn her in to the authorities. Then what would become of her son – let alone the rest of her family. There were the lives of Miriam and Aaron to think about, as well as her own.
What choice did she have?
The fact that we read how carefully she made the little basket ark waterproof for her son indicated to me that she wasn’t willing to just throw him into the Nile, assuring his death. Maybe she didn’t really know what would happen. All she had was an idea and faith in a God who can do anything.
For most of us, walking in faith doesn’t look very clear – like we know all the answers. In fact, it can seem pretty cloudy. It sounds more like, “God, I don’t know what You’re doing, and I sure don’t know what I’m doing – but I’m willing to trust You and do my part. Now You do Yours.”
So she placed the basket in the water among reeds and walked away. She didn’t get mad at God for allowing this to happen. She didn’t accuse Him of being harsh or unfaithful. She simply acted in faith and trusted God, who gave her that baby in the first place. Miriam watched in the distance to see what would happen. And something did happen.
Exodus 2:5 -10 NIV
Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.
Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”
“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”
I find it so intriguing that Pharaohs daughter just happened to come down to the Nile that day, that time to bathe. She saw the basket and was filled with compassion for the baby.
Do you see how typical of God this is? He is known for making situations fall right in place for the benefit of His Kingdom. And I have a hunch that little baby Moses might have been hungry, which prompted her to think about finding a nurse for him. Moms, you know what a hungry babies cry sounds like. I can imagine young Pharaoh’s daughter picking him up, and he’s rooting around trying to find milk. She knew he needed milk – and fast.
In steps Miriam, who had been watching the whole story unfold. What a smart and bold little girl. Playing the part of the innocent bystander, she comes to the rescue – asking to find a Hebrew nurse for the baby. Of course, who does she get but her own mother, the woman who had just walked away from her baby. Crying and feeling guilt – then she hears the news. She runs behind her daughter, wondering at these fortunate turn of events. She hastily hurries back to the Nile, where moments ago she left her boy.
I wonder if Pharaoh’s daughter knew this was Moses mommy. I’ve heard somewhere that if you put a child in a room full of women, you can tell who the mother is just by looking at her – she has a look on her face. A steady concentration on the one that came straight from her. She might have. Maybe she didn’t notice at all. All we do know is that she told her to take the baby and nurse him, and that she would be paid. What?
I can imagine Mrs. Amram quickly wiping away fresh tears of joy from her already tear streaked face, as her jaw dropped in unbelief. She not only got her baby boy back, alive, but she was going to be paid to the priceless job of being mom. What a turn of events!
But, there was one catch: once he was weaned, she would have to bring him to the palace and he would become Pharaoh’s daughters child. She would have to give baby Moses up – again- for the purposes of God.
Giving Up a Son
I see similarities to this story and a few others in the bible:
• Abraham sacrificing Isaac
• Hannah’s promise to God about Samuel
• Father God giving His own Son, Jesus
They all had to give up their children in one way or another. I believe God gives us these stories not only so we can marvel at the courage these parents exuded, but to paint a picture of what it would feel like to give His only Son for the salvation of the whole world.
Isaiah 53 says that it actually pleased the Father to crush His son. Now, before we accuse God of being morbid, we have to understand what a great thing this was. This is not just giving mankind a get-out-of-hell free card. This is the redemption and freedom of the whole world. This is taking back the authority that was given over to the prince of the air, and giving it back to His children. This is about defeating death itself, and us never dying again – so we will live forever.
God understood that if you need deliverance, there must be a deliverer. And His choice for ancient Israel was Moses.
Mothering a Deliverer
At this point in the story, Moses mommy fades in the background, as we continue to read how he grew in the palace. But, we see the legacy she left lived on in him. I’m not sure how long that weaning period went on, but we read that he did not forget about his Hebrew heritage.
Exodus 2:11,12 NLT
One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking around and seeing no one, he struck and killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. Yet he tried to keep two Hebrews from fighting. This tells me that Moses knew something was not right about the Hebrew’s slavery. He certainly didn’t learn that in the palace.
Maybe all Moses’ Hebrew mom did was pray for her son every day, asking the lord to fulfil His purpose for him while she held him in her arms. I believe she did, and it certainly happened. Moses not only became Israel’s great deliverer and leader, but he was also known as the one whom the lord spoke face to face with as a friend. He was the meekest man in the earth.
Wow, mom – what an encouragement for those of us with young children. We can pray over our children that God will use them in His story, and fulfil His purpose for them in their lives, and He will do it. We can pray that He would keep them safe from the spirit of the age, and trust that He is hearing and answering those prayers. He will give us the wisdom in how to train them even as infants and toddlers.
I hope you’ve found this story as encouraging as I have. The vision of this lady laying her baby in the river kept burning in my mind, and I felt that it was time to write about her. I don’t want to ever experience the gripping pain that Jochebed must have felt. But I can imitate her faith by giving my children to God every day – so that His ultimate glory would be seen from their lives.