Week thirteen: Exodus 1–6
Moses was one of the “mightiest men of God in all time…. He walked and talked with God, received of divine glory while yet in morality, was called a son of God, and was in the similitude of the Only Begotten.”[i] Moses’ life was graced by righteous women who would protect, teach, and save him from destruction.
His birth was full of legend and similarities to the Savior’s birth. Both were miraculously rescued from death as infants and grew to become saviors of their people. Moses led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and guided them to the Promised Land. Our Savior leads us out of our slavery in the natural world into the rebirth of a new heart and eternal exaltation. In Jewish tradition, Egyptian astrologers saw signs in the heaven predicting that the liberator of the children of Israel was to be born. They did not know whether this liberator would be of Jewish or Egyptian descent, so all male children born that day were thrown into the water by order of King Pharoah. Another tradition at the birth of Moses was that the “house was filled with radiant light.”[ii] Jochebed, his mother, and Amran, his father, were both from the tribe of Levi. Moses was born into the high priestly Levitical line. The signs in the heavens and the light at Moses’ birth were similar to the birth of the Savior, who is our eternal High Priest.
Jochebed and Amran had to hide baby Moses from Pharaoh, similar to how Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt to escape King Herod’s attempt to slay baby Jesus. After three months, Moses’ mother knew that she could not hide Moses much longer and made a small, water-proof basket into which she put her child so that he would float unharmed in the papyrus reeds near the banks of the Nile River. The basket is a symbol of safety from destruction similar to Noah’s ark. Noah and Moses were made secure in their arks, just as we are made safe through Jesus Christ.[iii]
The baby Moses was found and raised by Pharaoh’s daughter as her own son. The name Moses comes from the Hebrew word which means “drawn out of the water.” His name also had symbolic significance. Just as Moses was drawn out of the water as a baby, the Israelites would be brought out of Egypt miraculously through the water of the Red Sea. When we are baptized, we are also drawn out of the water into a new life as a member of Christ’s church.
Moses’ sister Miriam offered Pharaoh’s daughter to fetch a nurse to care for him. Of course, the nurse was Jochebed, his biological mother. Jochebed taught him of his Hebrew heritage while he was being raised in the royal Egyptian court.
Another legend of Moses’ childhood tells of Moses as a toddler, playing on Pharaoh’s lap, grabbing his shiny crown, and placing it on his own head. Pharaoh, who was very superstitious, asked his counselors what this action by the infant could mean. Some said that it was an omen that Moses was a threat to Pharaoh’s crown and that the child should be put to death. One counselor suggested that they should give the child a test to see if he was just grasping for something shiny or if his actions were more sinister. Pharaoh agreed and placed two bowls before the young Moses. One was filled with gold and jewels and the other contained glowing coals. An angel directed Moses’ hand and he snatched the coal and put it to his lips. He burnt his hand and tongue, but this painful choice saved his life from the Pharaoh’s superstitious jealousy. This legend is used as a possible explanation why Moses suffered from a slight speech defect.[iv]
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, Paul highlighted the faith Moses had in pursuing his Hebrew heritage, rather than continuing in luxury as a prince of Egypt: “By faith, Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasure in Egypt…”[v]
The women in Moses’ life played an essential role in supporting him as a Hebrew prophet. Rabbinic tradition commemorates the valor of Miriam, implying that without her there would have been no Jewish people, let alone a Moses or an exodus from Egypt.[vi] Moses’ wife Zipporah also had a tremendous influence on his life for good. Jochebed’s love for her son, Moses, and the understanding she had of his future potential, was the foundation of Moses’ life. The influence of these righteous women, especially his mother, caused Moses to become the Christlike leader he was. As President Joseph F. Smith said, “The love of a true mother comes nearer [to] being like the love of God than any other kind of love.”[vii]
May we find joy in the Lord this week and seek for his love in our lives and communicate that love to others.
[i] Mark E. Peterson, Moses: Man of Miracles, 1977, 49
[ii] Jacob Isaacs, “The Birth of Moses, Chabad.org, Kehot Publication Society, https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1829/jewish/The-Birth-of-Moses.htm
[iii] Jack Zavada, “The Birth of Moses Bible Story Study Guide,” Learn Religions, https://www.learnreligions.com/birth-of-moses-bible-story-summary-700060
[iv] Jacob Isaacs, “The Birth of Moses, Chabad.org, Kehot Publication Society, https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1829/jewish/The-Birth-of-Moses.htm
[v] Hebrews 11:24-26
[vi] Jacob L. Wright, The Birth of Moses: Between Bible and Midrash, The Torah.com https://www.thetorah.com/article/the-birth-of-moses-between-bible-and-midrash
[vii]Joseph F. Smith, “The Love of Mother,” Improvement Era, Jan. 1910, 278