Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Exodus 1:22-2:10 The Birth of Moses

God saves Moses from Pharaoh

Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, "Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live."

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, "This must be one of the Hebrews' children," she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?" Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Yes." So the girl went and called the child's mother. Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages." So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, "because," she said, "I drew him out of the water."

The story of Moses and the murder of the Hebrew children is a “foundational story”. A similar story was part of the foundational history of Assyria. Sargon, a king of Assyria has a similar story of his birth and saving by a princess of Assyria in 7th century BC. This does not make the story of Moses untrue. It makes this story part of a way of claiming how Moses was destined to be the leader of his people.

This passage is paralleled in Matthew with the story of Herod’s murder of the Innocents from yesterday’s passage. In Matthew the story becomes a way to identify Jesus as the New Moses.

Scripture is not mere history of the post-Enlightenment type. Scripture often uses literary devices to catch the believer’s eye and show how important this person is. I do not doubt that Moses was a powerful leader of what became the Hebrew people. It is interesting that in Egyptian, the word Mose means ‘son’, a common name in Egyptian.

These little tidbits of information add to how I understand the story of Moses. It tells me that special things happened to this leader of the Hebrew people and it lead to his becoming a holy law giver for the people. It shows how God was understood as having acted in the life of this important leader of the Hebrew people. Did it happen exactly this way? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. The story tells of how the generations after Moses understood how God acted in the life of one who was such a great leader. And it parallels with how God had drawn me out of the hot waters of my life.

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