“So Pharoah commanded all his people saying, ‘Every son who is born you shall cast into the river and every daughter you shall save alive.’ And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him. But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank.”
There are many aspects to Abraham and the Israelite story that illustrate what will happen when the Messiah is born. Shortly after His birth, a death decree was issued. Just as Israel escaped the deadly famine in Egypt, the Messiah fled to Egypt to escape wicked Herod’s death threat.
We are way ahead of the story. Pharoah had decreed for all male children who were born to be killed. The mother refused and so placed her son in an ark made of bulrushes. Then set her daughter afar off to keep watch to see what would happen.
As I ended the last post, can you imagine what was going through the mind of the baby’s sister? But the link is made that the ark saved Noah and his family. Now another ark saved a baby. Something extraordinary was about to happen. Could this boy, condemned to die, save his people? Was the Baby about to be kept alive in a unique way?
The Bible is full of miracle stories. All of them are impressive, none more special than this.
“Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river. And her maidens walked along the riverside; and when she saw the ark among the reeds she sent her maid to get it.”
The Pharoah had no sons, only a daughter. She was heir to the throne. A woman as Pharoah was unusual but not unheard of. What is essential to understand is she had no children.
Pharoah’s daughter is nameless like everyone else in this story, except as we are about to see in verse 10, Moses. But she is not ignorant, for she well knew what Pharoah’s command was and why the baby was among the bulrushes. Biblical Archeology names her Hatshepsut, who is the daughter of Thutmoses the first.
It is upon seeing the ark that she calls for her maid to get it. “And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, and said, ‘this is one of the Hebrew’s children.’” Then the sister said to Pharoah’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?” And the Pharoah’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the maiden went and called the child’s mother (Exodus 2:6-8).
The breathless sister can hardly get the words out that the baby, who was placed so lovingly in the ark by its mother, has been found. Can you imagine the excitement and fear as the sister explains to her mother that the Pharoah’s daughter wants the baby and wants a nurse for him? Trembling with fear and joy, the mother approaches Pharoah’s daughter. She can hardly believe the words, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.”
In a way, this signifies Moses is being enslaved into a situation beyond our comprehension. It means this son of Hebrew parents was, after a time to be indoctrinated in all things concerning Egypt. Its history, its literature, its manner of warfare, and naturally its religion. But for a time, the mother was to nurse him and train him.
How long a period was this before Pharoah’s daughter asked for the baby to be brought to the palace to live? We do not know. What we do know is that Hebrew mothers typically nursed their children for three years. Over the years, I have heard arguments presented that support three, seven, or twelve years. However long it was, the Bible does not tell us. But what the Bible does say, “The woman took the child and nursed him. And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharoah’s daughter, and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, sayings, “Because I drew him out of the water” (Exodus 2:9b-10).
What is the lesson for each of us in this story? Well, the lesson will surprise you. Al the women in this story choose to disobey commands and cross both kinship and ethnic boundaries. The mother decided to hide her baby, eventually placing him in an Ark, the symbol of salvation. Pharoah’s daughter knew the law concerning Hebrew baby boys but chose to disregard it to save the baby. She was the means through which salvation occurred. For the sister to watch over the baby placed her in a position of danger. She could have been killed or forced into servitude by those who found the baby. By these women choosing to disobey commands and cross kingship and ethnic boundaries, it brought the hope of salvation, symbolized in the ark of bulrushes which became the means through which salvation came. Salvation was coming for the Hebrews. Yet, strangely, symbolized by these women crossing of kinship and ethnic boundaries, it was coming for the Egyptians as well.
There is one more aspect that should be explored because it applies to us today. Today, we are the chosen of God to be the vehicles by which the message of salvation is given to the world. We, too, may need to cross kinship and ethnic boundaries for the salvation message to be brought to all the world’s people.