John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
INTRODUCTION TO EXODUS 2
This chapter relates the birth of Moses, and his preservation in an ark of bulrushes, Exodus 2:1. His being found by Pharaoh's daughter, took up, and put out to nurse by her, and adopted for her son, Exodus 2:4, some exploits of his when grown up, taking the part of an Hebrew against an Egyptian whom he slew, and endeavouring to reconcile two Hebrews at variance, when one of them reproached him with slaying the Egyptian, Exodus 2:11, which thing being known to Pharaoh, he sought to slay Moses, and this obliged him to flee to Midian, Exodus 2:15 where he met with the daughters of Reuel, and defended them against the shepherds, and watered their flocks for them, Exodus 2:16, which Reuel being informed of, sent for him, and he lived with him, and married his daughter Zipporah, by whom he had a son, Exodus 2:18 and the chapter is concluded with the death of the king of Egypt, and the sore bondage of the Israelites, and their cries and groans, which God had a respect unto, Exodus 2:23.
And there went a man of the house of Levi,.... This man was Amram, the son of Kohath, and grandson of Levi, as appears from Exodus 6:18.
and took to wife a daughter of Levi; one of the same house, family, or tribe; which was proper, that the tribes might be kept distinct: this was Jochebed, said to be his father's sister; see Gill on Exodus 6:20, her name in Josephus
And the woman conceived, and bare a son,.... Which was not her first child, nor indeed her first son, for she had both Aaron and Miriam before this: this son, which was Moses, was born, as the Jews say
and when she saw him that he was a goodly child; exceeding fair and beautiful, as Stephen expresses it, Acts 7:20, the Jews say
she hid him three months; in her bedchamber, some Jewish writers say
And when she could no longer hide him,.... Because of her neighbours, who might hear the crying of the child, or because of the diligent search made by Pharaoh's officers, which some think was made every three months: the Jews
she took for him an ark of bulrushes; the word, according to Kimchi
and daubed it with slime and with pitch; with pitch without and slime within, as Jarchi observes; which being of a glutinous nature, made the rushes or reeds stick close together, and so kept out the water:
and put the child therein; committing it to the care and providence of God, hoping and believing that by some means or another it would be preserved; for this, no doubt, was done in faith, as was the hiding him three months, to which the apostle ascribes that, Hebrews 11:23.
and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink; among the sedge, weeds, and rushes, that grew upon the banks of the river Nile; there she laid it, that it might not be carried away with the stream of the river, and that it might be seen and taken up by somebody that would have compassion on it, and take care of it: the Arabic writers
And his sister stood afar off,.... This was Miriam, as the Targum of Jonathan expresses it; who is supposed to be about ten or twelve years of age, others say seven: she was placed
to wit what would be done to him; to know, take notice, and observe, what should happen to it, if anyone took it up, and what they did with it, and where they carried it, for, "to wit" is an old English word, which signifies "to know", and is the sense of the Hebrew word to which it answers, see 2 Corinthians 8:1.
And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river,.... Her name, in Josephus
and her maidens walked along by the river's side; while she washed herself; though it is highly probable she was not left alone: these seem to be the maids of honour, there might be others that might attend her of a meaner rank, and more fit to do for her what was necessary; yet these saw not the ark, it lying lower among the flags, and being nearer the bath where Pharaoh's daughter was, she spied it from thence as follows:
and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it; the maid that waited on her while the rest were taking their walks; her she sent from the bath among the flags to take up the ark: the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, and R. Eliezer
And when she had opened it,.... The ark, for it was shut or covered over, though doubtless there were some apertures for respiration:
she saw the child in it, and, behold, the babe wept; and which was a circumstance, it is highly probable, greatly affected the king's daughter, and moved her compassion to it; though an Arabic writer says
and she had compassion on him, and said, this is one of the Hebrews' children; which she might conclude from its being thus exposed, knowing her father's edict, and partly from the form and beauty of it, Hebrew children not being swarthy and tawny as Egyptian ones: the Jewish writers
Then said his sister to Pharaoh's daughter,.... Miriam the sister of Moses, who observing the ark taken up, and the maidens that were walking upon the bank of the river, and other women perhaps, gathering about it to see it; she made one among them, and after hearing their discourse about it, proposed what follows to Pharaoh's daughter: Jarchi says, that Pharaoh's daughter tried several Egyptian women to suckle it, but it would not suck of them: Josephus
shall I go and call for thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee? for she perceived that she was desirous of having the child brought up as her own.
And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, go,.... She fell in at once with the proposal, being, no doubt, overruled, by the providence of God, to agree to have such a person called:
and the maid went and called the child's mother; and her own, whose name was Jochebed the wife of Amram, as observed in Exodus 2:1.
And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her,.... Being come, having made all possible haste:
take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages; by which means she had not only the nursing of her own child, but was paid for it: according to a Jewish writer
And the child grew,.... In stature and in strength, thriving under the care of its mother and nurse, through the blessing of God:
and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter; when grown up and weaned, and needed a nurse no longer: a Jewish chronologer
and he became her son; by adoption, for though she was a married woman, as some say, yet had no children, though very desirous of them, which accounts the more for her readiness in taking notice and care of Moses; so Philo the Jew says
and she called his name Moses, and she said, because I drew him out of the water; by which it appears, that this word is derived from the Hebrew word משה, "Mashah", which signifies to draw out, and is only used of drawing out of water, 2 Samuel 22:17 which Pharaoh's daughter gave him, he being an Hebrew child, and which language she may very well be thought to understand; since there were such a large number of Hebrews dwelt in Egypt, and she was particularly conversant with Jochebed her Hebrew nurse; and besides, there was a great affinity between the Hebrew and the Egyptian language, and therefore there is no need to derive the word from the latter, as Philo
And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown,.... To man's estate; some of the Jewish writers say he was eighteen, others twenty years of age
that he went out unto his brethren the Hebrews: whom he knew to be his brethren, either by divine revelation, or by conversing with his nurse, who was his mother; who, doubtless, instructed him while he was with her, as far as he was capable of being informed of things, and who might frequently visit her afterwards, by which means he became apprised that he was an Hebrew and not an Egyptian, though he went for the son of Pharaoh's daughter, which he refused to be called when he knew his parentage, Hebrews 11:24 now he went out from Pharaoh's palace, which in a short time he entirely relinquished, to visit his brethren, and converse with them, and understood their case and circumstances:
and looked on their burdens; which they were obliged to carry, and were very heavy, and with which they were pressed; he looked at them with grief and concern, and considered in his mind how to relieve them, if possible:
and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren; the Egyptian was, according to Jarchi, a principal of the taskmasters of Israel, who was beating the Hebrew for not doing his work as he required, and the Hebrew, according to him, was the husband of Shelomith, daughter of Dibri, Leviticus 24:11, though others say it was Dathan
And he looked this way, and that way,.... All around, to observe if there were any within sight who could see what he did; which did not arise from any consciousness of any evil he was about to commit, but for his own preservation, lest if seen he should be accused to Pharaoh, and suffer for it:
and when he saw that there was no man; near at hand, that could see what he did, and be a witness against him:
he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand; in a sandy desert place hard by, where having slain him with his sword, he dug a hole, and put him into it; See Gill on Acts 7:24. Of the slaughter of the Egyptian, and the following controversy about it, Demetrius
And when he went out the second day,.... The day following:
behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together; which the Jewish writers
and he said to him that did the wrong; who was the aggressor, and acted the wicked part in abusing his brother:
wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? friend and companion; signifying, that it was very unbecoming, unkind, and unnatural, and that brethren and friends ought to live together in love, and not strive with, and smite one another, and especially at such a time as this, when they were so oppressed by, and suffered so much from their enemies; See Gill on Acts 7:26.
And he said, who made thee a prince and a judge over us?.... God had designed him for one, and so he appeared to be afterwards; but this man's meaning is, that he was not appointed by Pharaoh's order then, and so had nothing to do to interfere in their differences and quarrels; though Moses did not take upon him to act in an authoritative way, but to exhort and persuade them to peace and love, as they were brethren:
intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? if this was Dathan, or however the same Hebrew that he had defended and rescued from the Egyptian, it was very ungenerous in him to upbraid him with it; or if that Hebrew had made him his confident, and acquainted him with that affair, as it was unfaithful to betray it, since it was in favour of one of his own people, it was ungrateful to reproach him with it:
and Moses feared; lest the thing should be discovered and be told to Pharaoh, and he should suffer for it: this fear that possessed Moses was before he fled from Egypt, and went to Midian, not when he forsook it, and never returned more, at the departure of the children of Israel, to which the apostle refers, Hebrews 11:27 and is no contradiction to this:
and said, surely this thing is known; he said this within himself, he concluded from this speech, that either somebody had seen him commit the fact he was not aware of, or the Hebrew, whose part he took, had through weakness told it to another, from whom this man had it, or to himself; for by this it seems that he was not the same Hebrew, on whose account Moses had slain the Egyptian, for then the thing would have been still a secret between them as before; only the other Hebrew this was now contending with must hereby come to the knowledge of it, and so Moses might fear, that getting into more hands it would come out, as it did; See Gill on Acts 7:27. See Gill on Acts 7:28. See Gill on Acts 7:29.
Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses,.... Both for his killing the Egyptian, which by the laws of Egypt
but Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh; not through want of courage, but through prudence, to avoid danger, and preserve his life for future usefulness; and no doubt under a divine impulse, and by the direction of divine Providence, the time for him to be the deliverer of Israel not being yet come:
and dwelt in the land of Midian: a country so called from Midian, one of Abraham's sons by Keturah, Genesis 25:2. Jerom
and he sat down by a well; weary, thoughtful, and pensive. It may be observed, that it was usual with persons in such like circumstances, being strangers and not knowing well to whom to apply for assistance or direction, to place themselves at a well of water, to which there was frequent resort, both for the use of families and of flocks; see Genesis 24:11. This well is now called, as some say, Eyoun el Kaseb, fourteen hours and a half from Magare Chouaib, or "the grot of Jethro"
Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters,.... Who being a descendant of Abraham might have retained the knowledge of the true God, and might be a priest of his, as Melchizedek was, or otherwise it may be thought improbable that Moses would have married his daughter, as he afterwards did; and so Aben Ezra says, he was a priest of God; though the word is sometimes used of a prince, ruler, and governor; and is so rendered here by the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan; and Artapanus
and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock; which is no contradiction to their being daughters either of a priest or a prince, which were both high titles and characters; since it was usual in those early times, and in those countries, for the sons and daughters of considerable persons to be employed in such services; See Gill on Genesis 29:9.
And the shepherds came and drove them away,.... The daughters of the priest of Midian, and their flock likewise; these were shepherds of some neighbouring princes or great men, who were so rude and slothful, and to save themselves a little trouble of drawing water, brought up their flocks to drink of the water those virgins had drawn, and to do this forced them and their flocks away:
but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock; moved to see such rude and uncivil treatment of the weaker sex, rose up from the ground on which he sat, and took their parts, and obliged the shepherds to give way, and brought up their flock to the troughs, and drew water for them, and gave them it; either he did this alone, or together with the servants that waited upon the priest's daughters, perhaps alone; and if it be considered that shepherds being usually not of a very martial spirit, and these also in a wrong cause, and Moses a man of an heroic disposition, and had doubtless the appearance of a man of some eminence and authority, they were the more easily intimidated and overcome.
And when they came to Reuel their father,.... Or Ragouel, as the Septuagint; and so Artapanus
how is it that you are come so soon today? it being not only sooner than they were wont to come, but perhaps their business was done in so short a time; that it was marvellous to him that it could be done in it, so quick a dispatch had Moses made, and they through his assistance; and especially it might be more strange, if it was usual, as it seems it was, to be molested by the shepherds.
And they said, an Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds,.... A man, who by his habit and by his speech appeared to them to be an Egyptian, and upon their inquiry he might tell them so, being born in Egypt, though of Hebrew parents:
and also drew water enough for us; or "in drawing drew"
and watered the flock; by which means their business was done, and they returned home earlier than usual.
And he said unto his daughters, and where is he?.... By the account Reuel's daughters gave of Moses, of his courage and humanity, he was very desirous of seeing him:
why is it that ye have left the man? behind them at the well, and had not brought him along with them; he seemed to be displeased, and chides them, and tacitly suggests that they were rude and ungrateful not to ask a stranger, and one that had been so kind to them, to come with them and refresh himself:
call him, that he may eat bread; take meat with them, bread being put for all provisions.
And Moses was content to dwell with the man,.... After he had been called and brought into the house, and had had some refreshment, and after some conversation had passed between them, and perhaps after some days' stay in Reuel's house; Reuel having observed his disposition and behaviour, and being delighted therewith, proposed to him to take up his residence with him, with which motion Moses was well pleased, and accepted of it:
and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter; to be his wife. It is not to be supposed that this was done directly; though both Philo
And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom,.... Which signifies a "desolate stranger"; partly on his own account, he being in a foreign country, a stranger and sojourner; but not by way of complaint, but rather of thankfulness to God for providing so well for him in it; and partly on his son's account, that when he came to years of maturity and knowledge, he might learn, and in which Moses no doubt instructed him, that he was not to look upon Midian as his proper country, but that he was to be heir of the land of Canaan, and which he might be reminded of by his name:
for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land; so Midian was to him, who was born in Egypt, and being an Hebrew, was entitled to the land of Canaan; this looks as if he had been at this time some years in Midian.
And it came to pass in process of time that the king of Egypt died,.... According to Eusebius, Orus reigned in Egypt when Moses fled from thence, and that two more reigned after him, Acenchres and Achoris, who both died before the deliverance of the children of Israel; but according to Bishop Usher
and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage; the severity of it, and its long duration, and seeing no way for their escape out of it:
and they cried, and their cry came up unto God; they not only sighed and groaned inwardly, but so great was their oppression, that they could not forbear crying out aloud; and such was the greatness and vehemency of their cry, that it reached up to heaven, and came into the ears of the Almighty, as vehement cries are said to do, whether sinful or religious; see Genesis 18:20.
by reason of the bondage; which may either be connected with their "cry", that that was because of their bondage; or with the "coming" of it unto God, he was pleased to admit and regard their cry, because their bondage was so very oppressive and intolerable.
And God heard their groaning,.... The petitions they put up to him with groans and cries:
and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob; that he would bring their seed out of a land not theirs, in which they were strangers, and were afflicted, into the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession.
And God looked upon the children of Israel,.... With an eye of pity and compassion, and saw all the hardships they laboured under, and all the injuries that were done unto them:
and God had respect unto them; had a favourable regard to them; or "knew"
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