“And there went a man of the house of Levi, and he took to wife a daughter of Levi” (Ex. 2:1).
THE PARENTS OF MOSES
Moses was a member of the tribe of Levi. He was the seventh from Abraham. Abraham was the seventh from Heber and Enoch the seventh from Adam. Miriam and Aaron were already born when Moses was born. Jochebed was his mother, with Amran being his father.
Concerning the birth of Moses, Ellicott’s Commentary said: “Note the extreme simplicity of this announcement, and compare it with the elaborate legends wherewith Oriental religions commonly surround the birth of those who were considered their founders, as Thoth, Zoroaster, Orpheus. Even the name of the father is here omitted as unimportant. It is difficult to conceive anyone but Moses making such an omission.”
The phrase, daughter of Levi, doesn’t mean that Jochebed was actually the daughter of Levi, who, in fact, had been dead many years, but rather that she was of the tribe of Levi.
Concerning Moses, Arthur W. Pink said: “From Adam to Christ there is none greater than Moses. He is one of the few characters of Scripture whose chorus is sketched from his infancy to his death. The fierce light of criticism has been turned upon him for generations, but he is still the most commanding figure of the ancient world.
“In character, in faith, in the unique position assigned him as the mediator of the Old Covenant, and in achievements, he stands first among the heroes of the Old Testament.
“All of God’s early dealings with Israel were transacted through Moses. He was a prophet, priest, and king in one person, and so united all the great and important functions which later were distributed among a plurality of persons. The history of such an one is worthy of the strictest attention, and his remarkable life deserves the closest study.”
I.M. Haldeman said of this man: “The life of Moses presents a series of striking antithesis. For instance, he was the child of a slave, and the son of a queen. He was born in a hut, and lived in a palace. He inherited poverty, and enjoyed unlimited wealth. He was the leader of armies, and the keeper of flocks. He was the mightiest of warriors, and the meekest of men. He was educated in the court of Egypt, and yet dwelt in the desert. He had the wisdom of Egypt, and the faith of a child. He was fitted for the city, and yet wandered in the wilderness. He was tempted with the pleasures of sin, and endured the hardships of virtue. He was backward in speech, and yet talked with God. He had the rod of a shepherd, and the power of the Infinite. He was a fugitive from Pharaoh, and an ambassador from Heaven. He was the giver of the Law, and the forerunner of grace.
“He died alone on Mount Moab, and appeared with Christ in Judea. No man assisted at his funeral, yet God buried him.”
THE FAITH OF JOCHEBED
“And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.
“And when she could no 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.
“And his sister stood afar off, to witness what would be done to him” (Ex. 2:2-4).
That which stands out so vividly in this account is the faith of Jochebed, the mother of Moses.
I have no doubt that the Lord moved upon Jochebed from the time of the conception of Moses in her womb, in that she sensed there was more here than meets the eye. I also believe that feeling not only persisted but grew in intensity unto the time of her delivery. When the child was born, she knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that there was something extensively unique about this baby; hence, she would go to any length to save its life.
Not being successful in attempting to force the midwives to kill the boy babies when they were born, Pharaoh issued another edict, which demanded that all boy babies be drowned in the Nile River at the time of their birth.
As we follow the narrative throughout the Scriptures, we see that Satan does everything within his power to kill those who are truly called of God. Concerning Christ and Satan, the Scripture says: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He (Christ) also Himself likewise took part of the same (became flesh and blood); that through death (the Crucifixion) He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the Devil” (Heb. 2:14).
The death which Pharaoh demanded was typical of the eternal death which Satan brought upon the human race as a result of the Fall.
THE POWER OF DEATH
What did Paul mean by the term, the power of death, and that the Devil had this power?
Satan’s power lies in the realm of sin. The Scripture says, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Sin gives Satan the legal right to hold men in captivity, which leads to spiritual death and ultimately means eternal separation from God. In fact, the power of sin and death is so strong that before the Cross, every saint of God who died, which included all the Old Testament saints, did not go to Heaven. Rather, they were taken down into Paradise, in the heart of the earth, and actually held captive there by Satan. While they were not over in the burning side of Hell, with a great gulf separating the Paradise side from the burning side (Lk. 16:26), still, they were held captive by the Evil One. In other words, the sin debt still hung over them simply because the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins. However, that was all that existed before the Cross, and I speak of the sacrificial system, which was a stopgap measure until Christ would come (Heb. 10:4).
HE LED CAPTIVITY CAPTIVE
All of the Old Testament saints were waiting for Christ, who had been promised, to become a partaker of flesh and blood, and we refer to the Incarnation. It would be the perfect human body that He would offer up in sacrifice on the Cross, which would atone for all sin. When that happened, and it most definitely did happen, Jesus Christ then went down into Paradise, and the Scripture says, “He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” (Eph. 4:8).
The term He led captivity captive is a strange term, but yet it holds a wealth of meaning. The word captivity refers to all the Old Testament saints held in captivity by Satan, even though he could not put them into the burning side of Hell. However, when Jesus died on the Cross, He then went down into Paradise and liberated every single one of these individuals, thereby, making them His captives, and took them with Him to Heaven. This was all because of the Cross, the price there paid, and, thereby, all sin being atoned. Now, when a believer dies, and we speak of all time since the Cross, the saint immediately goes to Heaven to be with Christ because there is no more sin debt hanging over the head of any child of God (Phil. 1:23).
Through death, which refers to the crucifixion, Jesus destroyed Satan’s power of death because all sin was atoned. While the wages of sin still is death, because of what Jesus did at the Cross, any person who comes to Christ, expressing faith in Him, can have every single sin washed away, which thereby destroys the power of death.
If it is to be noticed, it was through death that Jesus accomplished this. It was not the Resurrection or going down into the burning side of Hell and suffering there as a sinner, as some teach such foolishness! It was through death that Christ accomplished this great thing, which refers to the Cross, and the Cross alone.
So, the death that Pharaoh proposed was actually Satan’s motif. However, through this proposed death, the Lord would turn Pharaoh’s edict into victory.
Jochebed hid baby Moses for three months, and, incidentally, his name at the time was not Moses. We have no idea as to the name that Jochebed gave him, if any, because the name Moses was actually given to him by the Egyptian princess who adopted him.
Led by the Holy Spirit and evidencing faith in God, and great faith at that, Jochebed made a little ark for baby Moses, laid him in the ark, and pushed it out into the Nile. She told his sister, Miriam, to watch from a distance to see what would happen. I think that Jochebed had at least an inkling of knowledge as to what the Lord was going to do. I doubt that she understood it completely, but I believe the Lord told her exactly where to put the ark into the water, which was where the daughter of Pharaoh came to wash herself daily.
THE DAUGHTER OF PHARAOH
“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” (Ex. 2:5).
The Holy Spirit worked all of this out, even down to the minute details. He told Jochebed exactly what to do and had something in mind that Jochebed could not have possibly dreamed.
As we said in one of the headings, God works in little things as well as He does in the great things. In fact, He takes little things, such as this before us, and turns it into great things; however, all that God does is by and large done according to the faith of an individual. God seldom works beyond or without our faith. Jochebed had faith. She heard the voice of the Lord, and she obeyed the voice of the Lord. All of this requires faith.
The Holy Spirit had everything timed just right — the place, the person, and the progress. The little ark was floating among the flags where the princess would bathe, and her eyes fell upon this which would prove to be such a major part in the great kingdom of God - Moses.
“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” (Ex. 2:6).
The great power of God that particular day, at least, in this instance, was brought down to the tears on a baby’s cheeks.
Concerning this moment, George Williams writes: “Great events have hung upon a tear, but never greater than those which were brought to pass by the tears of this baby! The defeat of Satan, the salvation of Israel and of the nations, the trustworthiness of God’s Word, and the salvation of the world through an Incarnate Saviour — all these lay hidden in the tears that wetted that infant cheek upon that day.”
Let’s once again look at faith as it regards the entirety of these actions, and especially that of Jochebed and her husband, Amran.
Though faith vanquished fear as it regards this couple, yet lawful means were used to overcome danger: the mother hid the child and later had recourse to the ark. It is not faith but fanaticism which deliberately courts danger. Faith never tempts God. Even Christ, though He knew full well of the Father’s will to preserve Him, yet withdrew from those who sought His life (Lk. 4:30; Jn. 8:59). It is not lack of faith to avoid danger by legitimate precautions. It is no want of trust to employ means, even when assured by God of the event (Acts 27:31). Christ never supplied by a miracle when ordinary means were at hand (Mk. 5:43).
Another important truth which here receives illustration and exemplification is that civil authorities are to be defied when their decrees are contrary to the expressed Word of God. The Word of God requires us to obey the laws of the land in which we live and exhorts us to be “subject unto the powers that be” (Rom., Chpt. 13), and this, no matter how wise and just or how foolish and unjust those laws appear to us.
Yet, our obedience and submission to human authorities is plainly qualified. If a human government enacts a law and compliance with it by a saint would compel him to disobey some command or precept of God, then the human must be rejected for the divine. The cases of Moses’ parents, of Daniel (Dan. 6:7-11), and of the apostles (Acts 5:29), establishes this unequivocally. However, if such rejection of human authority be necessitated, let it be performed not in the spirit of carnal defiance but in the fear of God, and then the issue may safely be left with Him. It was by faith that the parents of Moses “were not afraid of the king’s commandment.” May divine grace work in us “like precious faith,” which overcomes all fear of man.
(The author is indebted to Arthur W. Pink for the statement on faith and civil authorities.)
“Then said his sister to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and call to you a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?
“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 you your wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it” (Ex. 2:7-9).
Evidently the baby was beautiful because, immediately, the daughter of Pharaoh fell in love with the little fellow. Of course, we know the Lord had something to do with this as well.
At about the time that Pharaoh’s daughter picked up the child, for she, no doubt, did so, Moses’ sister Miriam, who had been standing nearby, asked those there if she could get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the child. Miriam, as well, was led by the Lord in this.
Pharaoh’s daughter instantly agreed that this would be the thing to do and told Miriam, with whom she was not acquainted, to go find a nurse. Guess what? Miriam went straight to her mother, who, as well, was the mother of the child. She immediately came to the riverbank.
Pharaoh’s daughter told her to take the child and care for it, and she would pay her wages to do so. Of course, she never dreamed that the lady to whom she gave the child was actually the child’s mother.
So Jochebed would take care of baby Moses and be paid by the state for doing so. I wonder what Satan thought of this! His plans to defeat the great plan of God were foiled, with the Lord even playing a little trick on the Evil One. Getting the court of Pharaoh, which had given instructions for the boy babies to be killed, to rather pay Jochebed to care for the child presents itself not only as a defeat for Satan but, also, an insult to the Evil One. I think from this we have to come to the conclusion that God also has a sense of humor.
Can you imagine what Satan said to the demon spirits who were supposed to have been attending the funeral of little Moses!
Though Moses was brought to the place of death, he was made secure in the ark. This speaks to us of Christ, who went down into death for us. The righteousness of God made imperative the payment of sin’s awful wages, and so His spotless Son died “ … the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God … ” (I Pet. 3:18).
It was faith which placed baby Moses in the ark, and it is faith which identifies us with Christ. Again, just as Moses was brought out of the place of death, when Christ rose again, so we rose with Him (Rom. 6:3-5; Eph. 2:5-6).
As well, as the heavenly Father arranged for the tender care of the baby, He also arranges the same care for us.
All of the events that took place that day were in no way chance happenings. All were designed by the Holy Spirit, as all are always designed by the Holy Spirit, at least, as it regards those who follow the Lord. From this, we can take a lesson as to how minutely the Lord leads and guides, how He plans every detail, and under grace, we can be certain that His protection and care are certainly no less.
1. Ellicott’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, pg. 195.
2. Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings in Exodus, 2002, pg. 16.
3. I.M. Haldeman, Friday Night Papers, New York, 1901, pg. 241.
4. George Williams, The Student’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Grand Rapids, Kregel Publications, 1949, pg. 44.