As an introduction to Exodus 2 it is good to read Acts 7:17-29 and Hebrews 11:23-27 first:
17 “But as the time of the promise was approaching which God had assured to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt, 18 until THERE AROSE ANOTHER KING OVER EGYPT WHO KNEW NOTHING ABOUT JOSEPH. 19 It was he who took shrewd advantage of our race and mistreated our fathers so that they would expose their infants and they would not survive. 20 It was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God, and he was nurtured three months in his father’s home. 21 And after he had been set outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away and nurtured him as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. 23 But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. 24 And when he saw one [of them] being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. 25 And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand. 26 On the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?’ 27 But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, ‘WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND JUDGE OVER US? 28 YOU DO NOT MEAN TO KILL ME AS YOU KILLED THE EGYPTIAN YESTERDAY, DO YOU?’ 29 At this remark, MOSES FLED AND BECAME AN ALIEN IN THE LAND OF MIDIAN, where he became the father of two sons.
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.
1 - 2 Birth of Moses
1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months.
While the people sigh under the hard slave service, God starts to work for their liberation. Without the people being aware of this, the savior is born. Moses is born into the family of Amram and Jochebed (Exo 6:19), both of whom are from the family of Levi. This is an important lesson for anyone who desires a spouse: it can only become a marriage that is to God’s glory if both spouses are children of God, that is, they are both members of God’s family.
It is an act of faith in that time, when every little boy is a child of death, to conceive a child. But this couple does not fear the king’s commandment (Heb 11:23). When Moses is born, Jochebed sees with the eye of faith that this is a special child, that God has a plan with this child (Acts 7:20). In this way we may also see our children whom we receive from God.
3 - 6 Moses Dropped Off
3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set [it] among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him. 5 The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it [to her]. 6 When she opened [it], she saw the child, and behold, [the] boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”
What is beautiful to God cannot remain hidden. Jochebed brings Moses just to the place where the king of Egypt wanted this child, the place of death! But how does she do that? Faith never lacks resources. She puts it in a wicker basket (or box) that she makes waterproof by covering it with tar and pitch.
The basket is reminiscent of Noah’s ark. The word for ‘basket’ and for ‘ark’ is the same word in Hebrew. Both the basket and the ark save who is in it for the dangers of water. The word for pitch, which is also used to seal the ark (Gen 6:14), has to do with reconciliation. With her action Jochebed recognizes as it were the judgment of death that rests on her child. But in the basket she has made a provision, so that the judgment does not affect her child. When Jochebed puts Moses in the basket, she puts a whole people in that basket and saves a whole people.
If we have to entrust our children to the world, if we have to let them go, we can pray for them, that is to entrust them to God. God has given the Lord Jesus to be safe in Him. Certainly, the child must come to personal faith in the Lord Jesus. But as parents we can pray for it.
Exactly according to God’s planning the daughter of Pharaoh comes down at the river. He uses the tears of the baby to arouse pity in the daughter of Pharaoh.
7 - 10 Moses Comes to Court
7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for you?” 8 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go [ahead].” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9 Then 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. 10 The child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. And she named him Moses, and said, “Because I drew him out of the water.”
Miriam, Moses’ sister, plays an indispensable role. It is also striking how many women play a role in the birth of Moses. First the midwives. Then the mother of Moses who prepares everything to put Moses in the Nile. Then Miriam goes on guard with her little brother and brings him back to his mother. Finally, the daughter of Pharaoh who finds Moses when she has gone to the Nile with her servants. She lets her female slave take him out of the water.
Miriam supports the intention of her parents and can be used by God to fulfill His plan with Moses. Through her efforts, Moses received his first years of upbringing from his God-fearing parents. This upbringing does not miss its purpose: later Moses refuses to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Heb 11:24).
Moses is accepted as a son by the daughter of Pharaoh. She wants to raise him up as her own son (Acts 7:21). In the same way the world asserts a right on our children and wants to shape them according to its own model. But God makes sure that Moses is formed by his own parents before the daughter of the Pharaoh can exert her influence. It shows how important the first years of a child's upbringing are.
God in this way mocks all the power of Pharaoh. He makes the wisdom of the world foolish (1Cor 1:20b). He uses Pharaoh’s wicked command to bring Moses to his court. That is God’s wisdom. God’s plan with His people is fulfilled not only in spite of Pharaoh, but even with the cooperation of Pharaoh, without his will or knowledge.
11 - 14 Moses Goes out to His Brethren
11 Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one [around], he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, “Why are you striking your companion?” 14 But he said, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Surely the matter has become known.”
All the splendor of Pharaoh’s garden cannot prevent the heart of Moses from being with his oppressed brethren. One day, he goes to his brethren. His love for his people burns in all its intensity. He does not come to tell them what they have done wrong, but to see their “hard labors”. He does not do this to judge it or only out of pity, but to share in it.
In the same way the Lord Jesus did not come on earth to judge, “but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn 3:17). Because men “share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Heb 2:14-15).
When Moses sees one of his brethren being overwhelmed, he cannot control himself. He avenges his brother who is abused (Acts 7:24). The description here shows that the flesh is active in Moses. In an honest case, someone doesn’t have to “look this way and that” to see if someone sees him. This is not an example of a simple eye. The Lord Jesus never acted like this.
What Moses did not remain hidden. This is evident when he goes back to his brethren and now sees that two brothers are fighting. When he addresses the culprit, this one throws his actions with the Egyptian at him. On that word Moses flees to Midian (Acts 7:29). The reaction of his brother is a bitter disappointment for Moses. He thought his brothers would realize that God would deliver them by his hand, “but they did not understand” (Acts 7:25).
It goes Moses in the same way as it went earlier for Joseph, when Joseph investigates the prosperity of his brothers: Joseph was also rejected by his own. Both Joseph and Moses are in this respect a type of Christ, Who is not accepted by His own either (Jn 1:11). Christ is hated by His own, degenerated, denied and finally killed. It is prophetic, therefore, the reproach of Christ that Moses takes upon him when he looks after his brothers and wants to share in their destiny (Acts 11:26).
The rejection of Moses is clearly expressed in the words of the Israelite who wrongs his neighbor: “Who made you a prince or a judge over us (verse 14)? This protest is quoted twice by Stephen (Acts 7:27,35), which accentuates its seriousness. The sin of this one man who rejects Moses is considered by Stephen to be a collective sin of the whole people: “This Moses whom they disowned, saying, ‘WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND A JUDGE (Acts 7:35)? This is an impressive illustration of the rejection of Christ, the Prince of life, by the Jewish people (Acts 3:14-15; 4:10-12).
15 - 22 Moses Flees to Midian
15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well. 16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them and watered their flock. 18 When they came to Reuel their father, he said, “Why have you come [back] so soon today?” 19 So they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock.” 20 He said to his daughters, “Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.” 21 Moses was willing to dwell with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses. 22 Then she gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”
What is presented as on a flee in Exodus is presented as an act of faith in Hebrews 11 (Heb 11:27). We can draw a parallel with the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus was rejected by His people on the one hand; on the other, He left, back to heaven, waiting for the time when His people will accept Him as their Savior. The same goes for the time that Moses is in Midian and he gets a pagan woman as a bride. This is comparable to the Lord Jesus Who at this time, while His people Israel has rejected Him, receives the church as a bride. In the name Moses gives to his son, it appears that he has not forgotten his people, even in the foreign land.
The providence of God brought Moses to the court, faith brings him out. Moses might have been able to reason that God has given him his position at court to use it for the benefit of His people. But then the people would owe their enlightenment or even liberation to Pharaoh. This is not God’s way of freeing His people.
God’s intention with the time Moses spent at Pharaoh’s court, with all he learned there and all the riches he possessed there, is that Moses would give it up all again. What Moses gives up is more than any other member of the people will ever give up. God often uses men as leaders who have given up more than anyone else. They must have suffered more than others. Thus Moses consciously chose to “endure ill-treatment with the people of God” (Acts 11:25). He did not allow himself to be blinded by the beautiful appearance of what had surrounded him at the court. He has an eye for things that are only seen by faith.
When he arrives in Midian, his first act is again an act of salvation. This time he redeems seven shepherdesses from shepherds who claim certain rights. Moses went into the school of God to learn the shepherd’s job. All the lessons he receives will soon be needed to lead God’s people as a flock (Psa 77:20). The Lord Jesus is “the good Shepherd” (Jn 10:11), “the great Shepherd” (Heb 13:20) and “the chief Shepherd” (1Pet 5:4). From Him we can learn how to be a shepherd among His people.
During the forty years he spent at the court of Pharaoh, he “was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians” and became “a man of power in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22). In the next forty years (Acts 7:30) God will make him a man of whom He can say that he is a man characterized as “very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Num 12:3). Before a work can be done by Moses, a work must first be done in Moses. Also with other servants God has a time of preparation. Thus Joseph was slave in Egypt for thirteen years, and Paul stayed in the wilderness of Arabia for three years.
23 - 25 God Remembers His People
23 Now it came about in [the course of] those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of [their] bondage rose up to God. 24 So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice [of them].
These verses are the introduction to the service of Moses. While Moses is prepared by God for his task, God remembers his people. This does not mean that God has forgotten His people and is now thinking about them again. When God remembers, it means that He decides that the time for action has come. It does not say that the people are calling to God. Yet this is said later by Moses (Num 20:16).
In contrast to the four words that indicate the intensity of the suffering of the Israelites: ‘sigh’, ‘cry out’, ‘cry for help’ and ‘groan’, we find four words in verses 24-25 that indicate God’s reaction: ‘hear’, ‘remember’, ‘see’ and ‘take notice’. God perceives and is involved in the suffering of His people. He cares about the suffering of his people and goes to work to change this. He has the foundation for this in His covenant with the patriarchs.