Week Thirteen: Exodus 1–6
Mushi was the name of the father of my first childhood friend. The Silvers lived through the gate Mushi put in the fence separating our backyard on Cherry Street from theirs on Chestnut Street. Once I asked where his funny nickname came from and was surprised when he said, “from the Bible.” Years later, after living in Israel, I figured Mushi must be a modified form of Moshe which is Hebrew for “Moses.”
Sometimes you read a chapter of scripture and witness the sweeping vistas of God’s plan for all of us. Other times you read and receive a personal love-letter from our Heavenly Father. Exodus 6:14-30 delivered some of both. It reminded me that, through study of the scriptures, we can experience being known and recognized in a way only God can know and recognize us. These encounters offer comfort and clues to help us unravel the mysteries of our own lives. There were clues for both Moses and me in these 16 verses.
Exodus 6:16 begins by listing names of Levi’s posterity. Fathers who begat sons and the sons of those sons, follow. There isn’t time to explore the dramas of each featured descendent of Levi, but one, a grandson of Levi, was there just for me. This name brought back cherished memories and reminded me of my very first conscious encounter with our Savior’s love.
What a surprise! Reading closely in Genesis 16:19, I discovered Mushi is the last of Levi’s grandsons listed in Exodus. Mushi is a REAL Biblical name, legit in its own right, NOT an Americanization of Moshe. Recently, I called my childhood friend, Shelly, to share this revelation; it was a rewarding reconnection. She also did not know Mushi was a real name. We laughed and cried together as we remembered her wonderful parents.
Like Mushi; Moshe or Moses, is a direct descendent of Levi, the son of Israel from whom sprang the priesthood holding tribe of Levi. The patriarchal lineage in Exodus 6 offers important information about Moses’ family before his adoption. We learn in 6:20 that “Amram (a son of Kohath, who was a son of Levi,) took him Jochebed ( a Levite)…to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses.” Moses was a Levite on both sides of the family tree.
Again, pieces of paradoxical patriarchal/ matriarchal history emerge. Lists of MEN’S names reveal that Moses; his father, Amram; his mother, Jochebed; his brother, Aaron; and Aaron’s sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar are all direct descendants of Levi. The legitimacy of Moses’ calling as prophet, and the callings of Aaron and his sons as priests are reinforced as the tribe of Levi was the tribe chosen and affirmed by God to administer priesthood responsibilities for the house of Israel (Numbers: 17:8.)
But we also learn, in the Exodus narrative, it is through WOMEN Moses is preserved, protected and nurtured to assume his position, first in the royal court of Egypt and ultimately as the leader who would, as he heeded God’s commandments, deliver his people from bondage and secure them a land of their own.
In Exodus 2, his mother, Jochebed, follows the lead of the Hebrew midwives and, instead of heeding the royal mandate to throw all Hebrew baby boys into the river, Jochebed rather hides Moses in a basket boat and places it in the river. Moses’ sister Miriam, boldly and obediently watches The floating hideaway. Pharaoh’s daughter finds and protects him, his mother nurses him, Pharaoh’s daughter adopts the Hebrew child, and the daughters of Jethro meet him, worn and a fugitive at the well, and take him home to their father. The entire saga of Moses’ preservation from the wrath of Pharaoh rests on the courageous choices of women.
Though we learn of his priesthood lineage and that of Aaron and his sons Eleazer, Phineas and others… through their patriarchal forebears, we know that the choices of women facilitated the calling of this mouthpiece of the Lord, the great prophet Moses.
Which brings me back to our neighbors: the Silvers. Dorothy, Shelly’s mother, was an amazing lady. She always looked like a model but ironed and cooked and cleaned and loved me and made me feel special even though I visited much more than was polite. Once, Dorothy took me to her church. We sang “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” and were given teeny tiny boxes of colored pencils with a picture of Jesus to color. Though only three, I never forgot the feeling of love radiating from that stately standing figure with his arms outstretched.
A warm, friendly man, Mushi didn’t go to church, but he did import cool stuff from Japan. I remember going with Mushi and Shelly to his warehouse near the San Francisco Bay where he gave me a woven straw tube that would trap your fingers if you stuck one in on each side and pulled. I thought Mushi was a fun man with a funny nickname. He was, in fact, a great neighbor with a name that has a place in history.
Reading this passage on Valentine’s Day was a love letter from Heavenly Parents who wanted me to remember a few things:
1) The importance of understanding our family history. Like Moses, we each have an important calling on earth and knowing who we are and who we came from can clarify that calling.
2) We women have vital roles to play in the unfolding of history.
3) Like Dorothy and Mushi, being a good neighbor…a REALLY good neighbor….can make a lifetime, maybe even an eternity, of difference to one little person.