Month: May 2020

Three Women and a Baby

Joy Bible Institute Chapel • Thursday, 7 May 2020
J. Gary Ellison

NIVO Exodus 2:1-11 Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. 5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. 6She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. 7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” 8 “Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 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. 10 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.”

11 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.

INTRODUCTION

What is it like to raise a child in difficult times? How do you keep your children safe when the world is not a safe place? Where do parents get the resources to raise godly children in an ungodly world?

We find in this second chapter of Exodus the story of three women and a baby.

1. A Mother

The first woman’s name is Jochebed. We get her name from

ESV Exodus 6:20 Amram took as his wife Jochebed his father’s sister, and she bore him Aaron and Moses, the years of the life of Amram being 137 years.

We know that Aaron was three years older than Moses.

ESV Exodus 7:7 Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

So when we come to Exodus 2, Aaron would have been about three years old. It does not seem that he had been in danger of the Pharaoh’s order.

We have seen in chapter 1

  • how God’s blessing had multiplied the children of Israel
  • how the Egyptians had seen this population growth of the Israelites as a growing threat,
  • how Pharaoh had put cruel taskmasters over the Israelites to try to work them to death,
  • how the blessing of God had thus made life bitter,
  • how Pharaoh then instituted his gender selection policy to have all the male children killed by the midwives and how that did not work.

Then we come to the end of chapter 1 where we read,

ESV Exodus 1:22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

It was in this context that we read that Jochebed became pregnant.

What was it like for a Hebrew woman to be pregnant in Egypt at this time? What was it like for Jochebed to realize that she was pregnant? Jochebed and Amran had been married for several years. They already had a young daughter, and three years before Jochebed had given birth to a son whom they named Aaron. But that was before Pharaoh’s edict to kill the newborn males. Pharaoh’s ethnic cleansing policy, his command to all his people to throw newborn Hebrew males into the Nile river, was new.

  • It had been bad enough that the slave masters had made life bitter for the Israelites. But they had been able to endure it.
  • It was worse that the midwives had been instructed to kill the male children. Those women feared God and not the king.
  • But now, Pharaoh had commanded all his people to take the male babies of the Hebrews and to throw them into the river.

What was it like for Amran and Jochebed to know that she was pregnant? In other circumstances, the awareness that they were going to have another child would have been a subject of great joy. They would have seen this as the blessing of the Lord even as God had been multiplying the nation. Now God would be using them to fulfill His promises.

But what it if were a boy? How had they prayed during those months of waiting? Had they prayed that God would give them a girl and not a boy? Had Pharaoh’s edict turned a subject of great joy into a great worry?

And then the day came. Jochebed gave birth to a baby boy. What would this mother do? What did she say when the midwives announced to her that it was a boy? “Oh, no! Not a boy!” Was she fearful? What would she do? What would they do?

It would be very dangerous to defy the king’s edict. If it were discovered that they were hiding a male child, the penalty could be very severe.

Was Amran on the same page with her? Were they in complete agreement about the child, about running the risk of keeping the baby boy?

How are we to face uncertain days? How did Amran and Jochebed face an uncertain future? With fear? Or with faith?

The writer to the Hebrews gives us the answer:

ESV Hebrews 11:23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

They were not fearful, nor were they foolish. They did not parade the baby boy around for everyone to see, singing, “We are not afraid.”

They were motivated, not by fear but by faith. By faith, they hid the child for three months. They hid him to protect him.

Faith Sees What Fear Cannot See

Verse 2 tells has a strange explanation in it:

ESV Exodus 2:2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months.

Translators hardly know how to translate this verse.

  • ESV: a fine child (NIV, NIVO)
  • NAU: beautiful (CSB)
  • NET: a healthy child
  • NLT: a special child
  • FR: beau (all French versions)
  • BSL: i gud tumas

Maybe that’s the best translation. The word in Hebrew is טוֹב, tov and is used 300 times in the Old Testament, seven times in Genesis 1 where God saw that it was “good.”

Again, Hebrews 11:23 says, “they saw that the child was beautiful.”

Steven in his final sermon in Acts 7 tell us:

ESV Acts 7:20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house,

Did you see that? Hebrews tells us that the parents “saw that the child was beautiful.” Steven tells us that “he was beautiful in God’s sight.” That tells us that the parents saw what God saw.

The parents saw what God saw.

  • God saw that the child was beautiful.
  • The parents saw what God saw.

When you look at your child, do you see what God sees?

God says things like this:

ESV Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Believers through the ages have said things like this:

ESV Job 10:8 Your hands fashioned and made me…

ESV Job 10:11 You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews.

ESV Psalm 71:6 Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.

ESV Psalm 119:73 Your hands have made and fashioned me…

ESV Psalm 139:13-14 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

When you look at a child, what do you see? When you look at your child, what do you see? Do you see what God sees? Do you see that God has created that child with purpose and destiny?

It is clear from the Scriptures that abortion is a terrible sin against God. The child in the womb is God’s handiwork. However that child was conceived, it is God Himself who is making that child in His image.

Amram and Jochebed saw what God saw. And because they saw what God saw, they did everything they could to protect that child from the evil king.

2. Child in the Nile, Baby in the Boat

Jochebed and her husband hid him until they could hide him no longer. In case you did not know it, babies have a tendency to cry. Little babies have a little cry, but big babies make a big noise. This baby would soon be discovered. They baby’s life was in danger, and so were the lives of Amram and Jochebed. Something had to be done.

Pharaoh had commanded, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile” (1:22). So this baby would be put into the Nile! But not without protection.

NIVO Exodus 2:3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.

The baby was protected from the elements. He was placed in a safe place among the reeds. Now the child was completely in God’s hands.

There are times when a parent has done all that he or she can do. You have taken care of your child. You have protected it, fed it, nourished it and done everything to insure its health and success, but then you can do no more. How many times have you taken your little one to the doctor because you could do nothing else? You entrust your child to God and to others to do what you cannot do, to heal what you cannot heal, to fix what you cannot fix. This too is part of faith.

With a heavy heart she must have made the basket and made it waterproof. How difficult was it for Jochebed to put her baby in that basket? How did her heart break to leave him there in the waters of the Nile?

I imagine that she nursed her baby boy one last time and put him in the basket made of bulrushes or papyrus. She took him to the place and mixed her tears with the waters of the Nile.

The word here used for basket is tébâ ‎תֵּבַת (Exodus 2:3 WTT). It is only used here and one other place in the Bible. It is found in Genesis 6:14 where God instructed Noah to build an ark. Noah built the world’s largest ark and covered it inside and out with pitch. Jochebed build the world’s smallest ark and covered it with tar and pitch. Noah’s ark would save the human family from the judgment of God. Jochebed’s ark would save the baby who would deliver the people of God from Egypt.

3. Big Sister

We now read that the baby boy has a big sister, not very big, but bigger than him. This is the first time we see this sister, but it will not be the last time. We read about this family in Numbers:

ESV Numbers 26:59 The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed… And she bore to Amram Aaron and Moses and Miriam their sister.

It is estimated that Miriam was six to twelve years old. How often had big sister helped her mother with the baby boy? Had she changed him? Had she bathed him? Had she held him and rocked him to sleep?

What had her mother told her about Pharaoh’s decree? Did Miriam know that her baby brother was in danger? How many times had she asked her mother, “What’s going to happen to him?”

Miriam would be part of the plan. She would be the first Israeli spy!

NIVO Exodus 2:4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Miriam was old enough to carry on a conversation, and she was able to do it in Egyptian, a second language. But she was young enough not to stir up suspicion. Who would suspect a little girl walking along the river bank of being a spy?

No doubt she was following her mother’s instructions and her heart as she stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

4. A Daughter Who Was a Princess

Miriam, the daughter of Jochebed, was soon to meet the daughter of Pharaoh.

NIVO Exodus 2:5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it.

The waters of the Nile were considered sacred. This princess, the daughter of Pharaoh, had probably come to the river to a ceremonial cleansing rather than simply a bath.

But then she saw something strange. Something in the reeds. A floating basket. She sent one of her attendants to get it.

NIVO Exodus 2:6 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.

This is not what she was expecting. She had not come to the Nile to find a basket with a baby, but a crying baby in front of her feminine eyes provoke motherly instincts and feelings of compassion for the child.

Why was it here? Why was it in this basket? Who had put it here? There could only be one answer. This had to be one of the Hebrew babies. Someone had hidden this baby in the basket to protect it from her very own father! It was her father who had ordered the killing of the Hebrew baby boys.

This princess no doubt knew of her father’s concerns. She no doubt knew of his edict that Hebrew baby boys were to be cast into the river. Well, here was a Hebrew baby boy in the river, just as her father had commanded. Immediately there was a bonding with this infant. But what to do? She could hardly take the baby boy home. “Dad, look what I found in the river!” “Throw it back!”

Just then, in steps Miriam.

NIVO Exodus 2:7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

Where did this come from? Where did Miriam get these words? Had she rehearsed them with her mother? Were they expecting the princess?

Or were these words given by the Spirit’s inspiration? After the crossing of the Red Sea, Miriam will be called “the prophetess”:

NIVO Exodus 15:20 Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing.

“Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you”?

If her words were not according to the careful plan and instruction of her mother, then her inward prompting must have come from God—not a moment too soon or too late, with not a word too many or too few!”[1]

Perhaps it was these very words of Miriam that put the idea of adoption in the heart of the princess.

“Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“One of the Hebrew women.” Did the princess see through this? Did she discern that this little girl was not just any little girl walking along the river bank, but perhaps the baby’s own sister? Did she understand that Miriam would bring back not just any Hebrew woman, but the boy’s very own mother? Did the princess willingly go along?

One word in the Hebrew: “Go.” “Yes, go.”

I can imagine Miriam trying to maintain her composure. She walks home, quickly, without running. She gets to the house, “Mom! Mom! You’ll never believe what just happened! Come, you’ve got to come!”

She tells her Mom the whole story while they hurry to the river.

ESV Exodus 2:9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him.

Jochebed tries to act normal. “Sure, I can babysit for you. I’ll nurse the child for you. Salary? Oh, right. Whatever the going rate is, that will be fine.”

“The woman took the child.” Not “the mother.” Of course, it was his mother, but did the princess know that? Does she know that she is paying wages to the child’s mother to nurse him?

Steven tells us:

ESV Acts 7:21-22 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.

Now the big question is: How do you get a deliverer for the Hebrews from a boy who is brought up as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians? How does that happen?

The Nurturing of a Deliverer

Notice these two phrases side by side:

ESV Exodus 2:9-10 …So the woman [Jochebed] took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son…

How much time elapsed between the time when Jochebed took the child and brought him back to Pharaoh’s daughter? How much time did Jochebed have with her son as “the child grew older”?

The princess would have to wait until the boy was older. She would have to wait until her father, the Pharaoh, would be able to accept it. How much time did the boy’s mother have to invest in this baby boy?

All indications are that Jochebed did not have much time, perhaps a very few years. But Steven is clear:

Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son.

Verse 11 is very instructive.

NIVO Exodus 2:11 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.

Steven tells us that he was forty years old when this happened:

ESV Acts 7:23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel.

“His own people.” “His brothers.” “It came into his heart…”

I thought that he was Egyptian. I thought that he was raised as an Egyptian. He was “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). Later when he flees to Midian, the daughters of Reuel refer to Moses as an Egyptian:

NIVO Exodus 2:19 They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.”

He must look and dress like an Egyptian. But no, he is a Hebrew. How is it that Moses, forty years after being fished out of the Nile and brought up as an Egyptian, identifies with “his own people,” “his brothers”?

I will tell you in one word. It was his mother.

During those few short years, while nursing little Moses, she would sing him songs about the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. This is not written in the text, but this is what must have happened.

  • Jochebed told her son how God had called his many times great grandfather Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees and had promised him a land and a family that would be like the dust of the earth and the stars of the heavens.
  • She told him that God had told Abraham that his descendants would be strangers in a country not their own, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years (Genesis 15:13)
  • She told him how according to God’s promise, his many times great grandmother Sarah gave birth to Isaac when she was 90 years old!
  • She told him how that God had put his grandfather Abraham to the test when he was about 116 years old and was told to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice, and how that by faith Abraham offered up Isaac, knowing that God would provide a lamb.
  • She told him how that God had led Abraham’s servant Eliezer to find Rebekah, a wife for Isaac.
  • She told him how that God had answered Isaac’s prayer for Rebekah who had been barren, but God gave her two sons, Esau and Jacob.
  • She told her young son about the LORD appearing to Abraham’s son Isaac and renewing the covenant and promising to multiply his offspring as the stars of the heavens and to give them the land of Canaan. He promised that in his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 26:3-4).
  • She told him about Jacob and his twelve sons and how his great Uncle Joseph had become the Prime Minister of Egypt, and how the LORD had used Joseph to saved all the descendants of Abraham.
  • She told him about Joseph’s last words:
  • ESV Genesis 50:24-25 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”

  • She explained to him how God had been fulfilling His promise to Abraham by multiplying his descendants there in the land of Egypt, and that the four hundred years would soon be coming to an end, that the exodus from Egypt would take place in his lifetime.

Over and over again, Jochebed told little Moses of the promises and the faithfulness of God. And when he had grown up, Moses knew who he was and who his people were and who his God was because he had a mother who instilled faith in his heart.

ESV Hebrews 11:24-25 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.

Mothers have a limited time but a powerful influence on their children. Tell your children the story of Jesus. Tell them the stories of His wonderful works. Tell them of His love and His plan for their salvation.

Then the time will come when you will have to let them go. Trust God to bring back to their mind and hearts the Word of God that you have planted and watered through the years.

In these first two chapters of Exodus, God uses women to preserve the line of Israel and defy the wicked king who is dead-set on killing the Hebrew male children.

  • The midwives Shiphrah and Puah fear God and not the king.
  • A mother: the mother of Moses is moved by faith in God rather than fear of the king.
  • A sister: Miriam, the sister of Moses. She helps save her brother by her courageous suggestion to Pharaoh’s daughter.
  • And the princess: the daughter of Pharaoh has the compassion and courage to adopt a baby boy that her father was intent on killing.

Never underestimate what God can do through you, man or woman, boy or girl.

The daughter of Pharaoh named the boy “Moses.” “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water” (Exodus 2:10).

This baby boy who was drawn out of the waters of the Nile, would draw out from Egypt the children of Israel.

1,400 years later, a tyrannical king named Herod the Great, like Pharaoh before him, would order that all the baby boys in Bethlehem be killed. Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus, believed the promises of God and fled to Egypt.

“Just as God saved Moses to save his people,
so God saved baby Jesus to save his people…
He delivered Moses so that he could deliver the Israelites.
1,400 years later, he would deliver Jesus so that he could deliver us.”[2]


[1] Kaiser, Exodus (EBC), p. 309.

[2] Kevin DeYoung, https://www.universityreformedchurch.org/sermons/three-women-and-no-funeral/