Exodus, 1

BeFunky_Moses baby.jpg

We begin a survey of the second book of the Old Testament, Exodus. The name of the book comes from the Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint (LXX). This was the version of the Scriptures used during the time of Christ. The actual Hebrew name was the first few words of the opening verse: “Now these are the names of.” The word “exodus” is not only the name of the book but it is the main theme of the first half of the book, in which we read about the mass exodus of the Hebrews from the land of Egypt. As most Bible readers know, the first half of Exodus is pretty exciting, while the second half is not nearly so. It concerns the establishment of the Jewish faith, its institutions, the laws, and the rules of worship.

It’s accepted in all but the most liberal of Christian circles that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, of which Exodus is the second.

The story of Moses is the the story of deliverance. By the time Moses was born, some time around 1520 BC, the Hebrews had been stuck in Egypt for hundreds of years. Originally, the handful of Hebrews, the family of Jacob really, went to Egypt to escape a terrible famine. At that time, Joseph, the favored and Godly son of Jacob, was a ruler in Egypt and the plan to spare his family the effects of the famine was his idea. Little did he know that their sojourn in Egypt would turn into a burdensome captivity with the descendants of Joseph reduced to slave labor.

The question is often asked why it took God so long to deliver His people from their Egyptian bondage. It goes back to something God told Abraham in Genesis 15–

Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Genesis 15:13-16 NIV84)

What does that phrase, “for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” mean? The Amorites were an evil, morally depraved people living in the land of Canaan. For the 400 years the Hebrews were stuck in Egypt, God allowed the Amorites to live in the Promised Land of Canaan without judging them. He did this in His grace until their sin was irreversible. So, we could say that God’s people suffered for the sake of the godless. God is absolutely sovereign.

God prepares a deliverer, Exodus 2:1-25

Moses’ parents, verses 1-3

Moses was born during a bad time for the Hebrews living in Egypt. They were cruelly oppressed by Thutmose 1, the famous “empire builder” of Egyptian history. His edict spelled out the extinction of Israel. With every male child drowned in the Nile, there was no way the Hebrew race could survive. Since all the people were commissioned to assist in this horrendous plot, there seemed no way out for the people of God.

But God is always working in the background, even when it seems like He is absent.

Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, 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. 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. (Exodus 2:1-3 NIV84)

God had a man and woman of the house of Levi whom He could trust with the task of bearing, raising, and keeping alive His deliverer. Moses wasn’t their first child, Miriam was, and it was she who watched over baby Moses for a time. And Moses had an older brother, Aaron. Obviously the edict was enacted after his birth.

Moses’ parents seem to be bit players in this grand story, but they were definitely people of great faith in God.

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. (Hebrews 11:23 NIV84)

It took great courage to do what they did; from hiding the baby to letting him go. It took courage and faith. Faith always results in action, even when that action appears risky.

Providential discovery, verses 4-6

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. 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. (Exodus 2:5-6 NIV84)

Miriam was charged with watching over Moses; another indication of faith: her mother knew her baby Moses would be rescued from the Nile by someone. She couldn’t know Moses’ deliverer would be the Pharaoh’s daughter! Here was, perhaps, the greatest demonstration of faith of all: entrusting her son to the daughter of Egypt! This mother, like Hannah and Mary centuries later, believed that her child was chosen by God and she was willing to trust him to God’s will. John C. Broger observed:

As parents, you may confidently rear your children according to God’s Word. While bringing up your children, you are to remember that your children are not your possessions but instead are the Lord’s gift to you. You are to exercise faithful stewardship in their lives.

A nurse and a princess, verses 7-10

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. And 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. 10When 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.” (Exodus 2:7-10 NIV84)

Co-incidence? No way! This is God’s grace revealed! What God had required of Moses’ mother was almost more than any mother could bear. The Pharaoh’s daughter revealed her compassionate side, which in turn revealed the sovereignty of God. God used this princess to save the baby, and in a stroke of irony, she turned the baby over to his mother to raise him! Of course, the princess couldn’t have known this Hebrew woman was the baby’s real mother.

The providence of God in action! Moses’ mother let her baby go, the baby was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, who claimed him as her own, but she wanted a Hebrew woman to do the work of raising him, so she unknowingly hired Moses’ mother as the nanny! You couldn’t write a screenplay like this! In a stroke of genius, Moses, raised by his real mother, would be entitled to the riches of Egypt on account of his adopted mother. And not only that, Moses’ mother was being paid to raise her own son!  It’s incredible how God works.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 (NIV84)

On the run, verses 11-22

For 40 years, Moses was raised in the courts of Egypt. He received the best education money could by. He looked like an Egyptian, talked like an Egyptian, thought like an Egyptian, and walked like an Egyptian. His knowledge must have been extensive; from history, to religion, to military training, Moses’ upbringing prepared him to be the deliverer Israel needed. Whom God calls, He prepares in ways that we would never imagine. In essence, God used the tools of the Egyptians against them.

But even with the knowledge of Egypt in his head, Moses needed something more.

Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.” (Exodus 2:12-14 NIV84)

Deep down inside, Moses was connected to his people. He tried to help them in a small way, but the time wasn’t right for a deliverer. There was still more for Moses to learn. He knew Egypt’s way, but now he needed to learn God’s way.

When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock. (Exodus 2:15-17 NIV84)

We’re seeing God’s providence and sovereignty in action again. Jerry Bridges comments:

God’s providence is His constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people.

Just who was this priest of Midian? The founder of the Midianites was Midian, the son Keturah, the wife of Abraham in later years. The land of the Midianites was a far cry from the metropolis of Egypt. Here was a rocky, dry desert; the kind of place Moses would lead his people through. For the next 40 years, Moses remained in this area, living as a shepherd. The knowledge he gained here, combined with what he learned in Egypt, made Moses the ideal deliverer.

God calls Moses, Exodus 3:1-22

“So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10 NIV84)

God’s call to Moses came in an unexpected manner involving bushes that burned but didn’t burn up. God certainly got Moses’ attention. The call came to him near the end of his 40 career as a shepherd in the wilderness of Midian. It’s interesting how Moses’ life divided up into four 40 year periods:

First 40 years: training and education in Egypt, while watching the oppression of the Hebrews;
Second 40 years: life of seclusion in the Midian desert, where Moses learned and prayed;
Last 40 years: years of deliverance and the formation of a nation.

Our deliverer was pushing 80 as God called him to the work he was born for. There is no retirement age in the service of the Kingdom!

God’s plan for the deliverance of His people had finally been revealed. To His people in Egypt, it must have seemed as though God had waited an awfully long time. But God moves in and out of human history at His discretion, not ours. He made it clear to Moses that He knew all about the suffering of His people. In fact, note verse 8:

So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey–the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. (Exodus 3:8 NIV84)

Even though He had called Moses to be a deliverer, it would be God’s personal involvement that guaranteed success. So complete would be the deliverance, that God even had a home prepared for the once they left Egypt.

Even though God could have have made all this happen by merely speaking it, He chose His servant through whom He would work.

“So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10 NIV84)

Moses, once an emotional, self-appointed deliverer, would go to the arrogant, proud, and profane king of Egypt and lead Israel out of their bondage under God’s direction.


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