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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 2

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-5

The names of Moses’ parents were Amram and Jochebed (Exodus 6:20).

"At this point Scripture’s aim is to inform us that from an ordinary man, . . . and from an ordinary woman, . . . whose names there was no need to mention [at this point], God raised up a redeemer unto his people." [Note: Cassuto, p. 17.]

It is not clear from the text if Moses was an unusually beautiful child physically or if he was distinctive in some other respect (Exodus 2:2). Some commentators translated "beautiful" as "healthy." [Note: E.g., Brevard Childs, The Book of Exodus, p. 18; The NET Bible note on 2:2.] The phrase used to describe him in Hebrews 11:23, as well as the Hebrew word used here, can have a broader meaning than physical beauty. Josephus claimed that God had revealed to Amram in a dream that Moses would humble the Egyptians. [Note: Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 2:9:3.] There is no scriptural support for this tradition; it may or may not be true.

Jochebed and Amram hid Moses because they trusted God (Exodus 2:3; Hebrews 11:23-26). The same Hebrew word translated "wicker basket" in this verse (tehvah) reads "ark" or "boat" in English translations of Genesis 6:14. As Noah’s ark was God’s instrument for preserving one savior of the human race, Moses’ ark proved to be His means of preserving another savior of the Israelites. Moses’ parents obeyed Pharaoh and put Moses in the river (Exodus 1:22), but they also trusted God who delivered their baby.

"Ironically Jochebed, putting her son into the Nile, was in one sense obeying the Pharaoh’s edict to ’throw’ baby boys into the river! (Exodus 1:22)" [Note: Hannah, p. 109.]

"There is abundant warrant, afforded by this narrative, for Christian parents to cast their children upon God." [Note: Meyer, p. 26.]

Moses’ older sister was probably Miriam. She is the only sister of Moses mentioned in Scripture (Exodus 2:4; Numbers 26:59).

The daughter of Pharaoh (Thutmose I) was probably Hatshepsut who was a very significant person in Egyptian history (Exodus 2:5). She later assumed co-regency with Thutmose III and ruled as the fifth Pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty (1503-1482 B.C.). The ruling class in Egypt was male dominated, and it took a very forceful woman to rise and rule. Queen Hatshepsut adopted certain male mannerisms to minimize objections to her rule including the wearing of a false beard that appears on some Egyptian pictures of her. [Note: See Merrill Unger, Archaeology and the Old Testament, pp. 144-45; Joseph Free, Archaeology and Bible History, p. 86, n. 9; and Francis Nichol, ed., The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, 1:502.]

It was not uncommon for Pharaohs and other Egyptians to bathe ceremonially in the sacred Nile River, as many Indians do today in the Ganges River. The Egyptians believed that the waters of the Nile possessed the ability to impart fruitfulness and to prolong life.

Several women were involved in the events surrounding Moses’ birth: the midwives, Pharaoh’s daughter, her maid, Moses’ sister, and Jochebed. How ironic it was that women, whom Egyptian and Israelite men looked down on as less significant than themselves, should have been responsible for saving Israel’s savior! Truly the hand of God is evident. The Gospel writers also recorded that several women ministered to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, during His first advent.

Verses 1-10

3. Moses’ birth and education 2:1-10

"Whilst Pharaoh was urging forward the extermination of the Israelites, God was preparing their emancipator." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 1:426.]

". . . among other things, the Pentateuch is an attempt to contrast the lives of two individuals, Abraham and Moses. Abraham, who lived before the law (ante legem), is portrayed as one who kept the law [Genesis 26:5], whereas Moses, who lived under the law (sub lege), is portrayed as one who died in the wilderness because he did not believe [Numbers 20:12]." [Note: John H. Sailhamer, "The Mosaic Law and the Theology of the Pentateuch," Westminster Theological Journal 53 (Fall 1991):243.]

Verses 6-10

As the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses enjoyed the highest privileges in his education. In commenting on Moses’ training Stephen said that he became, "a man of power in words and deeds" (Acts 7:21-22). Josephus wrote that Moses was a general in the Egyptian army that defeated the Ethiopians and that he married the daughter of the king of Ethiopia. [Note: Josephus, 2:10:1.] We cannot prove the accuracy of this statement, but it suggests that Moses may have risen high in Egyptian society before he fled Egypt.

Moses’ name was probably Egyptian, but it became a popular Hebrew name. It relates obviously to the names of other great Egyptians of that period (e.g., Ahmose, Thutmose, et al.). The "mose" part of the name means "one born of," and "mo" means "water."

"The phrase ’drew him out’ (Exodus 2:10) is a Hebrew pun on the name, emphasizing the baby’s rescue from the waters of the Nile." [Note: Youngblood, p. 30.]

This name became even more appropriate as Moses’ great life work of drawing the Israelites out of Egypt took shape. Ancient Near Easterners regarded the waters of the sea as a very hostile enemy because they could not control them. The Egypt of Moses’ day was such a hostile foe for the Israelites. In this sense Moses’ name proved prophetic. Moses’ name may have been longer and may have had some connection with the name of an Egyptian god, as the other "mose" compound names referred to above did. If this was the case, "in refusing to ’be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter’ Moses was actually refusing reference to an Egyptian deity." [Note: Nichol, 1:504.]

The fact that Moses later chose to identify with the Israelites rather than the Egyptians is remarkable in view of his Egyptian privileges and background. His parents must have had a strong influence on him beginning very early in his life (cf. Joseph). We should never underestimate the power of parental influence even early in life. Note too that the faith of a child can grow stronger when tested by an ungodly environment.

Verses 11-15

4. Moses’ flight from Egypt to Midian 2:11-15

Moses was "approaching the age of 40" (Acts 7:23) when he took his stand for his Hebrew brethren (Exodus 2:11). The reference to the Hebrew man as "one of his brethren" suggests that Moses’ motivation in acting as he did was love that sprang from faith in God’s promises to the patriarchs. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews stated this motivation explicitly in Hebrews 11:24-26.

Moses’ desire to help his brethren was admirable, but his methods were deplorable (Exodus 2:12; cf. Acts 7:23-29). He trusted in his own ability to liberate the Israelites and sought to bring this about by natural means. He even resorted to sinful means and seized authority rather than waiting for God to bestow it on him.

". . . there is in the [Hebrew] text no suggestion that Moses meant to kill the Egyptian, any more than that the Egyptian or the Hebrew man was attempting to kill his adversary." [Note: Durham, p. 19.]

"You can never redress a nation’s wrongs by offering brute force to brute force, or by a number of rash, violent acts." [Note: Meyer, p. 32.]

God had to teach Moses that he must not trust in his own ability but rely on God’s strategy and strength and obey His commands. God drove Moses out of Egypt to the desert of Midian where He proceeded to teach His servant these lessons. He made him "a prince" and "a judge" (Exodus 2:14) eventually. Here Moses rescued an Israelite from an Egyptian who was beating him, but later he rescued all the Israelites from the Egyptians who were oppressing them (Exodus 3:10).

The Pharaoh referred to here was probably Thutmose III ( Exodus 2:15; 1504-1450 B.C.) whose reign included a period of 21 years as co-regent with Hatshepsut. Pharaoh probably tried to kill Moses by having him brought to justice through normal legal channels.

The land of Midian lay to the east of the Sinai Peninsula and probably flanked the Gulf of Aqabah on both sides. [Note: On the difficulty of locating Midian exactly, see Durham, p. 20.] Moses ran a long way. The Midianites were descendants of Abraham through Keturah (Genesis 25:1-2).

"Midianites were employed in the copper mines of the Sinai Peninsula by Egyptian kings since the very first dynasties." [Note: Schwantes, p. 158.]

Moses’ faith is obvious in his desire to identify with God and His people. He probably struggled in his younger years with whether he could do more for the Israelites by working for them within the Egyptian hierarchy or without. He chose to identify with the faithful and relied on the power of God to a limited extent rather than on the power of Pharaoh to accomplish his goals. It was Moses’ faith in God that led him to give up Egypt (Hebrews 11:24-26).

God commands all who trust Him to separate from the world system that opposes and excludes Him (Romans 12:2; et al.). This may or may not involve physical separation, depending on God’s will. For Moses it involved physical separation, but for Joseph and Daniel it did not. The will of God is not the same for everyone in this respect.

Verses 16-25

5. Moses’ life in Midian 2:16-25

This section introduces some of the secondary characters in Exodus and sets the stage for Moses’ call. Its purpose is primarily transitional.

Moses provided water for Jethro’s daughters and their sheep in the wilderness (Exodus 2:16-17). Later he provided water for God’s people and their flocks in the wilderness (cf. Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:7-11). This was the third time Moses sought to deliver others from harm (Exodus 2:17; cf. Exodus 2:12-13).

As "the priest of Midian" (Exodus 2:16) Reuel ("friend of God," Exodus 2:18) was the spiritual head of his branch of the Midianites. Moses’ father-in-law had at least two names: Reuel (or Raguel, Exodus 2:18; Numbers 10:29) and Jethro (or Jether, Exodus 3:1; Exodus 4:18; Exodus 18:1-2; Exodus 18:5-6; Exodus 18:9-10; Exodus 18:12). He appears to have been a worshipper of the true God (cf. Exodus 18:12-23). At this time he may simply have been a God-fearing Semite.

Moses’ years in Midian were years of bitter humiliation. He gave expression to his feelings by naming his first son Gershom (Exodus 2:22), meaning "banishment."

"The pride and self-will with which he had offered himself in Egypt as the deliverer and judge of his oppressed brethren, had been broken down by the feeling of exile." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 1:435.]

Moses lived in Midian "many days" (Exodus 2:23) before Pharaoh (Thutmose III) died. Stephen said it was a period of 40 years (Acts 7:30).

". . . Moses is at home in the author’s view because he has come at last to a people who worship the God of his fathers. The Moses-Midian connection is theological. Suggested deftly in this climactic section of the narrative of chap. 2, that connection will be affirmed in chaps. 3-4 and 18." [Note: Durham, p. 22.]

The prayers of the Israelites in their bondage touched God’s heart, and He began anew to act for them (cf. Exodus 3:7-9). This is another of the many references in Scripture that indicate that prayer affects some of God’s actions. Remembering His covenant with the patriarchs, God acted for the Israelites by commissioning Moses.

God graciously and sovereignly used Moses’ sin (evidently manslaughter, Exodus 2:12) to bring ultimate blessing for His chosen people (cf. Romans 5:20). This is important to observe as we seek to understand God’s ways.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Exodus 2". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/exodus-2.html. 2012.
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