Exodus 2: Moses is born, grows up, and flees the country
Because of Joseph’s wise leading of the country, the Israelites were initially very happy in Egypt, and the Egyptians liked them. Unfortunately, as we read in the last chapter, that didn’t last—when the next generation came along, a new king came in power, who didn’t know about Joseph, and didn’t like the fact that there were so many Hebrews in his country. So he decided to take care of that problem by killing every Hebrew boy who was born.
During this time, two Levites have a baby, and the mother can’t bear to kill him. (Pfft. Mothers, eh? Always wanting their children to live…) So she hides him for three months, until she just isn’t able to hide him anymore. Finally, she gets a papyrus basket, and coats it with tar and pitch to make it a little more waterproof. She puts the baby in it, and sets it floating down the river, with the baby’s sister following along, to see what will happen. As luck (read: providence) would have it, the basket floats by the Pharaoh’s daughter, who is in the river bathing. When she sees it, she realizes that it must have been one of the Hebrew babies, and feels sorry for it.
The baby’s sister goes and asks Pharaoh’s daughter if she wants one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby. The Pharaoh’s daughter agrees, so the sister goes and gets the baby’s actual mother, and Pharaoh’s daughter hires her to nurse the baby. So she does, until the child grows up a bit, at which point the Pharaoh’s daughter takes him as her child. She names him Moses—which sounds like the Hebrew for “draw out”—since she drew him out of the water (verse 10).
Later on, when Moses grows up, he comes across an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. (Verse 11 says he saw the Egyptian beating “a Hebrew, one of his own people”, which indicates to me that, although he was raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter, he was told that he was a Hebrew.) He kills the Egyptian and buries him in the sand.
The next day, he goes out again, and sees two Hebrews fighting. He asks the one in the wrong why he is hitting his fellow Hebrew, and the man asks “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” (verse 14b) This scares Moses, because he realizes that what he did must have become known.
And he’s right to be afraid. When the Pharaoh hears about what’s been going on, he tries to kill Moses, who flees, and goes to live in Midian. He ends up living in Midian for quite a while, and during this time he marries a Midianite woman named Zipporah, and has a son, whom he names Gershom, which means “an alien there”, since Moses is an alien in the land of Midian.
Eventually, the king of Egypt dies, but the Israelites remain slaves, and cry out to God. Verses 24–25 say:
God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.
I seem to recall mentioning something similar before, but when it says that God “remembers his covenant with Abraham”, we shouldn’t take this to mean that He forgot about it in the first place. The Bible is using the word “remember” in a sense which implies direct action. He’s not just saying “oh yeah, those Israelites, they still have their covenant with me”, He’s actually getting ready to fulfil that covenant. The Old Testament uses this phrase, in this way, numerous times; the Israelites will start sinning, and God will punish them, and when they cry out to Him, He will “remember” them, and restore them to a good relationship with Him.
We all know what’s going to happen: God is going to use Moses to rescue the Hebrews from Egypt, and save them out of their bondage. (I’m sure any time most people hear the name “Moses”, the first thing they think of is the parting of the Red Sea, and the 10 Commandments being brought down the mountain on stone tablets.) However, it’s important to remember the way that He is going to do it. He could have simply left Moses in the Pharaoh’s household, and used Moses in that respect, to talk the Pharaoh into letting the Israelites go. But instead, God is going to save the Israelites in such a way that there will be no question it was done by Him, and Him alone. Which is why he allowed Moses to be forced to flee the country—when he comes back to help the Israelites out of the country, Moses will have no official power anymore. It will be evident that it’s all done by God.
God saving the Israelites out of Egypt will become a symbol of his power, for the nation of Israel, for the rest of the Old Testament. Very often, as we go forward, you’ll hear God using phrases like “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt”. (A search in Bible Gateway for the phrase “brought you out of Egypt” brings up a bunch of hits. There may be more, with slightly different phrasings, too.)
Christians, of course, will be very familiar with this concept, because the same thing happened with our salvation. God could just as easily say to me “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of your sin.”