Exodus 2





Some years before the Pharaoh issued his edict for the general destruction

of the Hebrew male children, Amram of the tribe of Levi, had married

Jochebed, his kinswoman (ch. 6:20). They had already had two

children — Miriam, a daughter, born probably soon after the marriage, and

Aaron, a son, born some twelve years later. Soon after the issue of the

edict, Jochebed gave birth to her third child, a son, who therefore came

under its terms. Knowing as she did what fate was in store for him, if his

existence became known to the Egyptians, she “hid him three months.”

Then, despairing of being able to keep him concealed much longer, she

devised the plan related in vs. 3-4, which proved successful.


1 “And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter

of Levi.”  There went a man. The Hebrew language is deficient in tenses,

and cannot mark pluperfect time. The meaning is, that “a man of the house

of Levi had gone, some time before, and taken to wife a daughter of Levi.

Miriam must have been fourteen or fifteen at the time of the exposure of

Moses. By a daughter of Levi, we must not understand an actual

daughter, which is irreconcilable with the chronology, but one of Levi’s

descendants — “a wife of the daughters of Levi,” as the Septuagint translates.


2 “And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw

him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.”   

And the woman conceived. Not for the first time, as appears

from v. 4, nor even for the second, as we learn from ch. 7:7; but

for the third. Aaron was three years old when Moses was born. As no

difficulty has occurred with respect to him, we must regard the edict as

issued between his birth and that of Moses. When she saw that he was a

goodly child. Perhaps Jochebed would have done the same had Moses

been ill-favored, for mothers have often loved best their weakest and

sickliest; but still it naturally seemed to her the harder that she was called

upon to lose a strong and beautiful baby; and this is what the writer means

to express — the clauses are not “simply co-ordinate.” She hid him i.e,

kept him within the house — perhaps even in the female apartments.

Egyptians were mixed up with the Israelites in Goshen — not perhaps in

any great numbers, but still so that no Hebrew felt himself safe from



The Birth of Moses (vs. 1-2)


In the providence of God, great men are raised up

from time to time, for the express object of working out His purposes. Here is the

founder of the Jewish nation, Moses, the originator of its independence, its lawgiver,

historian, prophet, for the first time introduced to our notice; and not one word is

said to exalt him, to challenge to him special attention, to show that he is the

foremost man of his age, greater than Pentaour the poet, or Seti, or Rameses.

“There went a man of the house of Levi, and  took to wife a daughter of Levi;

 and the woman conceived and bare a son.” (v. 1) His father and mother not

even named — “a man” — “a daughter of Levi” — no rank assigned

them, no epithet used — nothing recorded but the bare facts: a marriage, a birth, the

child a male child, a son.”  The last verse of ch. 1. had told of the barbarous edict

issued by the cruel despot who wielded the scepter of Egypt.  Will the poor babe

born under such circumstances perish at once, or will he escape? Can it be possible

to elude or defy the express order of an absolute monarch? And if so, how? The

sequel shows, relating as it does Moses’escape from death through the faithful, bold,

and loving action of his mother. We learn from ch. 6:20 that some years before the

Pharaoh issued his edict for the general destruction of the Hebrew male children,

Amram of the tribe of Levi, had married Jochebed, his kinswoman . They had already

had two children — Miriam, a daughter, born probably soon after the marriage, and

Aaron, a son, born some twelve years later. Soon after the issue of the edict, Jochebed

gave birth to her third child, a son, who therefore came under its terms. Knowing as

she did what fate was in store for him, if his existence became known to the Egyptians,

she “hid him three months.”  (v.2)  Then, despairing of being able to keep him

concealed much longer, she devised the plan related in vs. 3-4, which proved




                                                The Beauty of Moses (v. 2)


Moses was “a goodly child” — beautiful to  took upon — “fair to God,” or

exceeding fair,” as Stephen expresses it (Acts 7:20).  Though beauty be but

“skin-deep,” and if unaccompanied by loveliness of character is apt to be a

snare and a curse, yet, in its degree, and rightly employed, it must be regarded

as a blessing. The beauty of Old Testament saints is often mentioned. Moses

was “goodly.” David ruddy and of a beautiful countenance” (I Samuel 16:12),

Daniel fair and well-favored (Daniel 1:4, 15), Esther fair and beautiful (Esther 2:7),

Solomon was comely and “the chiefest among ten thousand” (Song of Solomon

5:10); One greater than Solomon was “fairer than the children of men” (Psalm 45:2).

It is an affectation to ignore beauty, and the influence which it gives. Those

who possess it should be taught that they are answerable for it, as for other

gifts, and are bound to use it to God’s glory. Esther’s example may help them

in the details of conduct.  Regardless, Moses’ mother  “saw that he was a

goodly child. Perhaps Jochebed would have done the same had Moses

been ill-favoured, (unlike many women, I can’t say mothers, of the twentieth

and twenty-first centuries who abort such children – remember Tim Tebow)

for mothers have often loved best their weakest and sickliest; but still it

naturally seemed to her the harder that she was called upon to lose a strong

and beautiful baby; and this is what the writer means to express — the clauses

are not “simply co-ordinate.”


3 “And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of

bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child

therein; and she laid it in the flags by the  river’s brink.”

She took for him an ark of bulrushes. The words translated

“ark” and “bulrushes” are both of Egyptian origin, the former

corresponding to the ordinary word for “chest,” which is feb, teba, or

tebat, and the latter corresponding to the Egyptian kam, which is the same

in Coptic, and designates the papyrus plant. This is a strong-growing rush,

with a triangular stem, which attains the height of from 10 to 15 feet. The

Egyptian paper was made from its pith. The rush itself was used for

various purposes — among others for boat-building (Plin. ‘H. N.’ 6:22;

7:16; Theophrast, 4:9; Pint. ‘De Isid. et Osir.’ § 18, etc.), as appears from

the monuments. It would be a very good material for the sort of purpose to

which Jochebed applied it. She daubed it with slime and with pitch. The

word translated “slime” is the same as that used in Genesis 11:3, which

is generally thought to mean “mineral pitch” or “bitumen.” According to

Strabo and Dioderus, that material was largely used by the Egyptians for

the embalming of corpses, and was imported into Egypt from Palestine.

Boats are sometimes covered with it externally at the present day (Ker

Porter, Travels, vol. 2. p. 260; Layard,’Nineveh and its Remains,’ pt. 2. ch.

5.); but Jochebed seems to have used vegetable pitch, the ordinary pitch of

commerce — for the purpose. Here again the Hebrew word is taken from

the Egyptian. She laid it in the flags. “Suph,” the word translated “flags,”

is a modification of the Egyptian tuff, which has that meaning. Waterplants

of all kinds abound in the backwaters of the Nile. and the marshy

tracts communicating with it. The object of placing the ark in a thicket of

reeds probably was, that it might not float away out of sight. The river’s

brink. Literally, the lip of the river — an Egyptian idiom.


4 “And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.”

His sister. There can be no reasonable doubt that this is the “Miriam” of the later

narrative (ch. 15:20-21; Numbers 20:1), who seems to have been Moses’ only

sister (Numbers 26:59). She was probably set to watch by her mother


5 “And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her

maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among

the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.”   The daughter of Pharaoh. Probably a

daughter of Seti I and a sister of Rameses the Great. Josephus calls her Thermuthis;

Syncellus, Pharia; Artapanus, Merrhis, and some of the Jewish commentators, Bithia

— the diversity showing that there was no genuine tradition on the subject.

There is nothing improbable in an Egyptian princess bathing in the Nile, at

a place reserved for women. (See Wilkinson, ‘Manners and Customs of

Ancient Egyptians,’ vol. 3. p. 389.) The Nile was regarded as sacred, and

its water as health-giving and fructifying (Strab. 15. p. 695). Her maidens.

Egyptian ladies of high rank are represented on the monuments as attended

to the bath by a number of handmaidens. As many as four are seen in one

representation (Wilkinson, 1.s.c.). Her maid is her special personal

attendant, the others being merely women attached to her household.


6 “And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept.

And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”

The princess herself opened the “ark,” which was a sort of covered basket.

Perhaps she suspected what she would find inside; but would it be a living or a

dead child? This she could not know. She opened, and looked. It was a living babe,

and it wept. At once her woman’s heart, heathen as she was, went out to the child —

its tears reached the common humanity that lies below all differences of race and

creed — and she pitied it. “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

This is one of the Hebrews’ children. Hebrew characteristics were perhaps

stamped even upon the infant visage. Or she formed her conclusion merely from

the circumstances. No Egyptian woman had any need to expose her child, or

would be likely to do so; but it was just what a Hebrew mother, under the

cruel circumstances of the time, might have felt herself forced to do. So she

drew her conclusion, rapidly and decidedly, as is the way of woman.


7 “Then said his sister to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse

of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?  8  And Pharaoh’s

daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child’s mother. 

9  And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for

me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the women took the child, and nursed it.” 

Then said his sister. Miriam had watched to some purpose.

She had seen everything — she had drawn near as she beheld the “maid”

go down to the water’s edge, and take the ark out. She had heard the

words of the princess; and thereupon she promptly spoke — “Shall I go

and call thee a nurse of the Hebrew women?” No doubt, all had been

prepared beforehand by the mother, who had selected the place and time of

the exposure from a knowledge of the habits and character of the princess,

had set her daughter to watch, and — so far as was possible — instructed

her what she was to say. But Miriam at least carried out the instructions

given her with excellent judgment and tact. She did not speak too soon,

nor too late. She did not say a word too much, nor too little. “Surely,”

exclaimed the princess, “this is one of the Hebrews, children.” “Shall I

fetch thee then a Hebrew mother to nurse him? is the rejoinder. Egyptians,

it is implied, cannot properly nurse Hebrews — cannot know how they

ought to be treated; an Egyptian nurse would mismanage the boy — shall I

fetch one of his own nation? And the princess, feeling all the force of the

reasoning, answers in one short pregnant word — “Go.” “Yes,” she

means, “do so; that will be best.” And then the result follows — The

maid (Miriam) went and called the child’s mother.” So the scheming of

the loving mother, and the skilful performance of the part assigned her by

the clever sister, were crowned with success — Moses’ life was saved, and

yet he was not separated from his natural guardian, nor given over to the

tender mercies of strangers: the child went back to his own home, to his

own apartment, to his own cradle; continued to be nourished by his own

mother’s milk; and received those first impressions, which are so indelibly

impressed upon the mind, in a Hebrew family. Pharaoh’s daughter said,

“Take this child away, and nurse it for me.” “Take him with you —

take him to your own home for a while — and there nurse him for me, as

long as he needs nursing.” And to mark that he is mine, and not yours —

to silence inquiry — to stop the mouths of informers — I will give thee

thy wages.” Jochebed was more than content, and took the child and

nursed it.”



The Infancy of Moses (vs. 1-9)





We come down from the general statement of the first chapter to the

particular instance of the second. Moses was born, in all likelihood, just at

the very height of Pharaoh’s exasperation, and when the command of

ch.1:22 was in process of being carried out. His servants, ever

becoming more savage and brutal in disposition, as the very consequence

of the harshness and severity they had daily to exercise, would be going

about, watching the midwives and hanging round the abodes of the

Israelites to listen for the first faint cry of the newborn child. In such

circumstances, the work of the midwives most likely fell into abeyance; for

the midwife became the unwilling herald of the murderer. Thus mothers in

the crisis of their greatest need might be left without any ministry or

sympathy whatever; their greatest safety in solitude, their greatest comfort

to know that the newborn infant’s existence was utterly unknown to any

Egyptian. No hour could well be darker, no circumstances more

provocative of despair. We may depend upon it that God meant much to

be suggested to Israel in after generations, by the birth of Moses just at this

time. “In which time Moses was born” (Acts 7:20). May we not well

imagine that when in later years Moses stole away from time to time, out

of the splendors and luxuries of his royal home, to spend an hour or two

with his own mother, she would tell him that, for all his relation to

Pharaoh’s daughter and all his privileges about the court, he had been

once, with many another helpless babe, the object of Pharaoh’s bitterest

animosity. Things were in a very bad state when Moses was born. Bad for

Israel in point of present suffering; bad for Egypt itself, seeing what a

merciless and unscrupulous man sat upon the throne; bad for the prospects

of Moses and all the coming generation. And so we cannot but feel that the

whole world was in a very bad state when Jesus was born. He was exposed

to the risk of a Herod; and Herod was but one of many like-minded

oppressors. And worse than any cruelty and oppression from without was

the state of the people in their hearts. Jew and Gentile were alike utterly

departed from God. Romans, ch. 1., does as much as human language can

do to give us the measure of the universal corruption and degradation. We

shall do well to mark in the New Testament the many things that show

what unregenerate, vile, and apostate hearts were those with whom Christ

and His apostles came in contact. Then, when we have the dark, repulsive

picture of the times well before us, we may imitate Stephen, and say — “in

which time Christ was born.”




RELATION. “When she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him

three months.” This can hardly mean that if he had been a puny dwarfling,

she would have cast him aside as not worth anxiety. We know that it is

precisely the weakest, the least attractive to a stranger’s eye, who most

draws forth the mother’s love; thus furnishing a sweet suggestion of that

Divine affection which yearns, with the greatest tenderness, over those

who may seem to others hopelessly lost. But as Moses was a goodly child,

she was bound by this fact to give all available chances for the promise that

was in him. Who can tell what anxieties and alarms filled her thoughts

during these terrible three months, and how often she skirted the extreme

edge of disaster, always feeling that with each succeeding week her task

became more difficult? How keen must have been the struggle before she

brought her mind to face the dread necessity of exposure! We can imagine

her being driven to decisive action at last, by seeing the agonies of some

neighboring mother, as the servants of Pharaoh discover her child and

ruthlessly extinguish its delicate life. Here, in the sufferings of the mother

of Moses, and of all the rest whom she but represents, we have something

like the full significance set before us of that curse which first rested upon

Eve. There may have been a measure of truth in what the midwives said

concerning the case with which the mothers in Israel had been delivered;

but not so were they going to escape the curse. Their trouble only began

when the man-child was born into the world. Not to them at least was the

birth to be an occasion of joy, but the beginning of unspeakable solicitude

(Matthew 2:16-18; 24:19; John 16:21). This poor woman exposed her tender

infant, not because she was callous of heart, unnatural, and lacking in love;

but because of the very intensity of her love. So wretched had the state of

Israel become that its infants found no place so dangerous as THE


bosom of the mother.  (What an indictment on America and the

world, that we have come back to this via the ABORTION INDUSTRY!

CY – 2017)



WOMANLY SYMPATHY. The Scriptures, true to their character as

being the fullest revelation not less of human nature than of the Divine

nature, abound in illustrations of the demonstrativeness of womanly

sympathy. To go no further afield, we have such an illustration in the

previous chapter (the conduct of the midwives). But here there is an

instance which is peculiarly impressive. It was the daughter of Pharaoh

who showed the much-needed sympathy. She knew well how the babe

came to be forsaken, and how, though it was forsaken, this waterproof ark

had been so carefully provided for it. Somewhere in Israel she could see a

mother anxiously speculating on the fate of this child; and she knew that all

the strange discovery she had made came out of the stern, unrelenting

policy of her own father. Some women indeed in her circumstances would

have said, “Sad it may be that an infant should thus perish, but my father

knows best. Leave it there.” But compassion rose to flood-tide in her

heart, and choked all thoughts of selfish policy, if they even so much as

entered into her mind. Jesus says to His disciples, concerning one of the

difficulties and pains of discipleship, that a man’s foes shall be they of his

own household. And the principle seems to hold good in the carrying out

of worldly plans. If a man wants to be downright selfish, he also may find

foes in his own household, not to be conquered, bribed, or persuaded.

Pharaoh thinks he is closing-up the energies of Israel in a most effective

fashion; but his own daughter opens a little window only large enough for

an infant three months old to get through it, and by this in the course of

time all the cunning and cruelty of her father are made utterly void.


  • We have, in all these events connected with the infancy of Moses, A


PROVIDENCE. Notice that there is not a word about God in the

narrative; indeed, he is not mentioned as having anything directly to do

with Moses, until the interview, long after, at Horeb. There is plenty of

mention of human beings, in the play of their affections, their desires, and

their ingenuity. The mother, the child, the sister, the nurse, the mother by

adoption, all come before us, but there is no mention of God. Yet who

does not feel that the Lord of Israel, unmentioned though He be, is yet the

central, commanding, and controlling figure in all that takes place!


Ø      It was He who caused Moses to be born at that particular time.

Ø      It was He who sheltered the infant during these three months,

when perhaps others were being snatched away in close proximity

on the right hand and the left.

Ø      It was He who put into the heart of the mother to dispose of her

child in this particular way, and taught her to make such a cradle

as surely never was made before.

Ø      It was He who gave the sister wisdom to act as she did — a

wisdom possibly beyond her years.

Ø      It was He who turned the feet of Pharaoh’s daughter (of her

and no one else) in that particular direction, and not in some other.


All His excellent working in this matter is hidden from those who do not

wish to see it; but how manifest it is, how wonderful and beautiful, to those

whose eyes He Himself has opened! How different is His working here

from the working of the Deus ex machina (ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός - apò mēkhanês

theós), meaning 'god from the machine' - The term has evolved to mean a

plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly

resolved by the inspired and unexpected intervention of some new event,

character, ability or object. Its function can be to resolve an otherwise

irresolvable plot situation, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to

a happy ending – Wikipedia),in the tanglements and complications of

classical fable. There when things get to all appearance, hopelessly

disordered, a deity comes in visible form and puts them right. But in this

real deliverance of Moses, the God who is the only true God works in a

far different way. He works through natural means, and so silently, so

unobtrusively, that if men wise in their own conceits are determined

to ignore His presence, there is nothing to force it upon them.


  • This narrative, along with that of the midwives, has A VERY


WOMEN. We have here in the compass of twenty-five verses a

most encouraging instance of what women are able to do. So far, in this

book of the Exodus, God is seen exalting the woman and abasing the man.

Man, so far as he appears, is set before us a weak, thwarted creature; cruel

enough in disposition, but unable to give his cruelty effect. Even a king

with all his resources is baffled. But weak women set themselves to work,

to shelter a helpless infant, and they succeed. Here as on other occasions

the hand of God is manifest, taking the weak thing? of the world to

confound the strong. What a lesson, what an appeal and warning to

women! We are all only too readily inclined to say, “What can I do?” -

women perhaps more than others, because of their inability to share in the

bustle and strain of public life. Think then of what God enabled these

women to do, simply following out the dictates of natural affection and

pity. They did far more than they were conscious of. Might not women ask

very earnestly if they are doing anything like what they ought to do, and

have the opportunity to do, in bringing up children in the nurture and

admonition of the Lord? Christian women, those who are themselves new

creatures in Christ Jesus, able to have all the love and wisdom and every

spiritual grace that belongs to the new creature, might do a work for the

world, compared with which the work of these women whom we have

been considering would look a small matter indeed.




The Escape of Moses (vs. 3-9)


The escape of Moses teaches three things especially:


1. God’s over-ruling providence, and His power to make wicked men work

    out His will;

2. The blessing that rests upon a mother’s faithful love and care; and

3. The fact that natural virtue is acceptable in God’s sight.


·         GOD’S OVER-RULING PROVIDENCE turned the cruel king’s edict to

the advantage of the child whom he designed for great things. Had it not

been for the edict, Moses would never have been exposed, and Pharaoh’s

daughter would probably never have seen him. Had she not come down

to the river when she did — had any little circumstance occurred to

prevent her, as might easily have happened, the child might have died

of hunger or exposure before she saw it, or might have been found by an

      unfriendly Egyptian and thrown from the ark into the water. Moreover, had

      the child not happened to be in tears when she opened the ark, it might not

      have moved her compassion, or at any rate not have so stirred it as to make

      her take the boy for her son. In any of these contingencies, Moses, even if

            saved by some further device of his mother’s, would not have had the

            education which alone fitted him to be the nation’s leader and guide, nor

            the familiarity with court life which enabled him to stand up boldly before

            the Pharaoh of his time and contend with him as an equal. Thus Pharaoh’s

            pet weapon, the edict, was turned against himself, and brought about that

            Exodus of the Israelites which he was so anxious to hinder (Exodus 1:10).

            It was an aggravation of his punishment that the hand by which his

            designs were frustrated was that of his own daughter, who unwittingly

            preserved the child which, of all others, he was most concerned to destroy.



      “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his

            parents” (Hebrews 11:23). Disobedience to the edict of the king would

            in Egypt, if detected, have been punished either by death or mutilation.

            Amram and Jochebed, but especially Jochebed, who must have been the

            main agent in the concealment, braved these penalties — did not allow

            their fear of them to influence their conduct — had faith in God that He

            would, somehow or other, give success to their endeavors to preserve

            their child, and either save them from .punishment or reward them in

            another world. (Maybe this is where Moses first learned to have “respect

            unto the recompence of the reward” – [Hebrews 11:26] – CY – 2010)

            And it was done to them according as they believed. The concealment of

            the birth was undetected for the long space of three months — the ark was

            placed, no one perceiving, among the flags at the edge of the river — the

            daughter of Pharaoh made her appearance at the time expected — “had    

            compassion” on the babe — accepted without hesitation Miriam’s suggestion

            that she should fetch a nurse — accepted without demur or suspicion the

            mother as the nurse-gave him back to her care for a space of nearly two

            years — and finally assigned the child the highest position possible, almost

            that of a prince of the blood royal — allowed him to be called and considered

            her son — and had him educated accordingly.  Jochebed’s utmost hope had          

            probably been to save her child’s life. God’s blessing brought it to pass that

            she not only obtained that result, but procured him the highest social rank

            and the best possible cultivation of all his powers, whether of mind or body.         

            Mothers should lay this lesson to heart, and — whatever danger threatens

            their children — hope for the best, plan for the best, work for the best; they

            may not always, like Jochebed, find all their plans crowned with success; but

            they may trust God to .bless their endeavors in His own way and in His own

            good time, if only they be made in faith, and with due submission of their

            own wills to His.  Moses’ life was saved, and yet he was not separated from

            his natural guardian, nor given over to the tender mercies of strangers: the

            child went back to his own home, to his own apartment, to his own cradle;            

            continued to be nourished by his own mother’s milk; and received those first        

            impressions, which are so indelibly impressed upon the mind, in a Hebrew




            through both the Old and the New Testament a continual protest against

            the view that God is “a respecter of persons” in the sense of confining His

            favor to those who have been brought by the appointed mode into actual

            covenant with Him. The lesson is taught with frequent iteration, that “in

            every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted

            with Him” (Acts 10:35). Here it is an Egyptian Pharaoh’s daughter —

            that is evidently regarded favorably. Elsewhere it is Rahab of Jericho, or

            Ruth the Moabitess, or Arannah the Jebusite, or Darius the Mede, or Cyrus

            the Persian, or Artaxerxes, or the Syro-Phcenician woman, or Cornelius

            the centurion — all of whom are examples of the same universal law,

            which is, that God looks graciously upon all His creatures, and accepts

            every sincere effort towards good that is made by any of them. In His house

            are “many mansions” — in His future kingdom are many gradations. No

            one is shut out of his kingdom by the circumstances of his birth or

            profession. Let a man but seek honestly to do His will according to his

            lights, and persevere to the end, he will obtain acceptance, whatever the

            belief in which he has been brought up, and whatever his professed

            religion. His profession will not save him; but his love of goodness, his

            efforts to do what is right, his earnest cleaving to truth, and right, and

            virtue, will be accepted, through the merits of Christ, and counted to

            him for righteousness.


10 “And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and

he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because

I drew him out of the water”.  The child grew. Compare Genesis 21:8, where

the full phrase is used — “The child grew, and was weaned. Jocbebed had saved

her son’s life by a transfer of her mother’s right in him to Pharaoh’s

daughter. She had received him back, merely as a hired nurse, to suckle

him. When the time came, probably at the end of the second year, for him

to be weaned, she was bound, whatever the sufferings of her heart may

have been, to give him up — to restore him to her from whom she had

received him, as a child put out to nurse. And we see that she made no

attempt to escape her obligations. No sooner was the boy weaned, than

she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter — as it would seem, of her

own accord. And he became her son. (I should think that as Christ said

that the Queen of Sheba shall arise in judgment to condemn “this generation”

(Matthew 12:42) that Pharaoh’s daughter will do the same in not condemning

the babe to death, like contemporary mothers and abortion doctors, lawyers,

and so called statesmen, do today in promoting the abortion industry.  CY – 2017)

There is no evidence that formal “adoption” was a custom of the Egyptians;

and probably no more is here meant than that the princess took the child into

her family, and brought him up as if he had been her son, giving him all the

privileges of a son, together with such an education as a princess’s son usually

received. We obtain the best general idea of what such an education was from

the words of Stephen (Acts 7:21) — “Now Moses was learned in all the wisdom

of the Egyptians.” This “wisdom,” though not perhaps very deep, was

multiform and manifold. It included orthography, grammar, history,

theology, medicine, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and engineering.

Education began, as in most countries, with orthography and grammar.

The hieroglyphical system was probably not taught, and the knowledge of

it remained a special privilege of the priest-class: but the cursive character,

known as the hieratic, was generally studied, and all tolerably educated

persons could read it and write it. Style was cultivated, and though no

great progress was made in the graces of finished composition, the power

of expressing thought and relating facts in a simple and perspicuous prose

was acquired by the greater number. Much attention was paid to letter writing;

and models of business and other letters were set before the pupil

as patterns which he was to follow. By the more advanced, poetry was

read, and poetic composition occasionally practiced. Arithmetic and

geometry, up to a certain point, were studied by all; and a plain morality

was inculcated. But history, theology, astronomy, medicine, and

engineering, were viewed as special studies, to be pursued by those

intended for certain professions, rather than as included within the

curriculum of an ordinary education; and it may well be doubted whether

Moses’ attention was much directed to any of them. He may indeed have

been initiated into the mysteries, and in that case would have come to

understand the esoteric meaning of the Egyptian myths, and of all that most

revolts moderns in the Egyptian religion. But, on the whole, it is most

probable that he was rather trained for active than for speculative life, and

received the education which fitted men for the service of the State, not

that which made them dreamers and theorists. His great praise is, that “he

was mighty in words and deeds “(ibid.); and he was certainly

anything rather than a recluse student. We should do wrong to regard him

as either a scientific man or a philosopher. His genius was practical; and his

education was of a practical kind — such as fitted him to become the

leader of his people in a great emergency, to deal on equal terms with a

powerful monarch, and to guide to a happy conclusion the hazardous

enterprise of a great national migration. And she called his name Moses.

The Egyptian form of the name was probably Mesu, which signifies “born,

brought forth, child,” and is derived from a root meaning “to produce,”

“draw forth.” Egyptian has many roots common to it with Hebrew,

whereof this is one. The princess’s play upon words thus admitted of being

literally rendered in the Hebrew — “he called his name Mosheh (drawn

forth); because, she said, I drew him forth (meshithi-hu) from the water.”

Mesu is found in the monuments as an Egyptian name under the nineteenth




A Child of Providence (vs. 1-10)


This section recounts the birth, deliverance, and upbringing at the court of

Pharaoh, of the future Deliverer of Israel. In which we have to notice:



faith of Moses’ parents is signalized in the Epistle to the Hebrews

(Hebrews 11:23). Observe:


Ø      The occasion of its trial. The king’s edict threatened the child’s life. The

case of Moses was peculiar, yet not entirely so. No infancy or childhood

but lays a certain strain upon the faith of parents. The bark of a child’s

existence is so frail, and it sets out amidst so many perils! And we are

reminded that this strain is usually more felt by the mother than the father,

her affection for her offspring being in comparison deeper and more tender

(compare Isaiah 49:15). It is the mother of Moses who does all and dares all

for the salvation of her babe.


Ø      Its nature. Both in Old and New Testaments it is connected with

something remarkable in the babe’s appearance (Acts 7:20;

Hebrews 11:23). Essentially, however, it must have been the same faith

as upholds believers in their trials still — simple, strong faith in God, that

He would be their Help in trouble, and would protect and deliver the child

whom with tears and prayers they cast upon His care. This was sufficient to

nerve Jochebed for what she did.


Ø      Its working. Faith wrought with works, and by works was faith made

perfect (James 2:22).


o        It nerved them to disobey the tyrant’s edict, and hide the child for

three months. Terrible as was, this period of suspense, they took

their measures with prudence, calmness, and success. Religious faith

is the secret of self-collectedness.


o        It enabled them, when concealment was no longer practicable, to make

the venture of the ark of bulrushes. The step was bold, and still bolder

if, as seems probable, Jochebed put the ark where she did, knowing that

the princess and her maidens used that spot as a bathing-place. Under

God’s secret guidance, she ventured all on the hope that the babe’s

beauty and helplessness would attract the lady’s pity. She would put

Pharaoh’s daughter as a shield between her child and Pharaoh’s



Ø      Learn:


o        Faith is not inconsistent with the use of means.

o        Faith exhausts all means before abandoning effort.

o        Faith, when all means are exhausted, waits patiently on God.

o        Pious parents are warranted in faith to cast their children on

God’s care.


It was a sore trial to Jochebed to trust her child out of her own arms,

especially with that terrible decree hanging over him. But faith enabled her

to do it. She believed that God would keep him — would make him His

charge — would provide for him, — and in that faith she put the ark

among the rushes. Scarcely less faith are parents sometimes called upon to

exercise in taking steps of importance for their children’s future.

Missionaries in India, e.g., parting with their children, sons leaving home,

etc. The sorest trial of all, when parents on their deathbeds have to part with

little ones, leaving them to care of strangers. Hard, very hard, to flesh and

blood; but:


o        God lives,

o        God cares,

o        God will provide,


He will watch the ark of the little one thus pushed out on the waters of the

wide, wide world.



faith of Moses’ parents met with its reward. Almost “whiles” they were yet

“praying” (Daniel 9:20), their prayers were answered, and deliverance

was vouchsafed. In regard to which observe:


Ø      How various are the instrumentalities employed by Providence in

working out its purposes.


o        A king’s edict,

o        a mother’s love,

o        a babe’s tears,

o        a girl’s shrewdness,

o        the pity of a princess,

o        Egyptian customs, etc.


Ø      How Providence co-operates with human freedom in bringing about

desired results. The will of God was infallibly accomplished, yet no

violence was done to the will of the agents. In the most natural way

possible, Moses was:


o        rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter,

o        restored to his mother to nurse,

o        adopted by the princess as her son, and

o        afterwards educated by her in a way suitable to his position.


Thus was secured for Moses:


o        protection.

o        a liberal education.

o        experience of court-life in Egypt.


Ø      How easily the plans of the wicked can be turned against themselves.

Pharaoh’s plans were foiled by his own daughter. His edict was made the

means of introducing to his own court the future deliverer of the race he

meant to destroy. God takes the wicked in their own net (Psalm 9:15-16).


Ø      How good, in God’s providence, is frequently brought out of evil. The

People might well count the issuing of this edict as the darkest hour of

their night — the point of lowest ebb in their fortunes. Yet see what God

brought out of it! The deliverance of a Moses — the first turning of the

tide in the direction of help. What poor judges we are of what is really for

or against us!


Ø      How greatly God often exceeds our expectations in the deliverances He

sends. He does for us above what we ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)

The utmost Moses’ parents dared to pray for was doubtless that his life

might be preserved. 


o        That he should be that very day restored to his mother,

and nursed at her bosom;

o        that he should become the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;

o        that he should grow to be great, wise, rich, and powerful —


this was felicity, happiness that they had not dared to dream of.  BUT

THIS IS GOD’S WAY!   He exceeds our expectations. He gives to faith

more than it looks for. So in Redemption, we are not only saved from

PERISHING, but receive:


o        “everlasting life” (John 3:16)

o        honor,

o        glory,

o        reward.



By Works was Faith Made Perfect (vs. 1-10)


Bad times; harsh decrees against the Israelites; doubts and misgivings

which must have occurred to one in Amram’s position; was a hard experience

and a dark prospect. Still the man believed in God, remembered the

promises, and knew that God also must remember them; he did not see how

they were to be fulfilled, but he was content to do his own duty AND LEAVE





Ø      His marriage. Under all the circumstances he might well have been

excused if he had decided to remain unmarried. Such advice as that of

Paul to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 7:25-28) would seem to apply to

such a time. The matter, however, was not to be so easily settled. Faith

will not permit marriage without prudence and due forethought, but neither

will Faith permit abstinence from marriage merely because marriage will

bring “trouble in the flesh.” Improvidence and a too-calculating abstinence

both prompted by selfishness. (The Bible teaches  “Now The Spirit

speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the

faith.......forbidding to marry.” - I Timothy 4:1, 3 – CY – 2017)   Faith

looks forward and looks around, but she looks up also, and is guided by the

result of that upward look. Theories of political economists, etc., are not to be

despised, none the less Faith will act — her actions regulated to some extent,

but not fettered, by calculation. Paul’s teaching is to be qualified by Amram’s

example; Amram knew the times, foresaw the rocks ahead, yet he “took to

wife a daughter of Levi.”


Ø      His choice of a wife. It is clear from narrative that the woman was the man’s

true helpmeet. Of the same family, they must have been well acquainted,

and her conduct shows that her faith equaled his. Faith not only prompted

marriage, but also directed choice. Amram and his wife did not marry

merely for the sake of marrying, but “for the mutual society, help, and

comfort which the one ought to have of the other both in prosperity and



Ø      Conduct in the face of trial. The two, man and wife, now as one: though

the woman comes to the fore, no doubt her faith represents that of both.

Aaron and Miriam, reared before the trial reached its height; then “a

goodly child,” just at the season of greatest danger. Note the action

prompted by faith; how different from that which might have been

suggested by fatalism. Fatalism would have said, “Let things be; if he must

be killed he must.” Compare the Eastern proverb, “On two days it skills not

to avoid death, the appointed and the unappointed day.” Faith, on the other

hand, is ready and courageous, holding that God helps those who help

themselves, or rather that he helps them through self-help. But notice:




Ø      The conduct of the wife justified her husband’s choice. She was the

help-meet he hoped she would be. God gave her wisdom to comfort and

strengthen him; His blessing added the third strand to that threefold cord

which is not quickly broken.  (Ecclesiastes 4:12)


Ø      Their united efforts for the preservation of their children were crowned

by God with complete success. [Illustrate from the history — all

happening, all ordained to happen, just as they hoped.] They had prepared,

by carrying out the plan which faith prompted, a channel through which

God’s gracious and ready help might reach them; and God used the

channel which they had prepared. The whole narrative shows how faith,

when it is living, proves its life by works, and how in response to a living

faith GOD SHOWS THAT HE IS A LIVING GOD!  If Amram had walked

by sight and not by faith,


o        Moses might never have been born,

o        Jochebed never have been married;


as it was he walked by faith and not by sight, doing his duty and trusting

God,  and through him came redemption unto Israel — the child “taken out of”

the water became the leader who should “take”  his people “out of” bondage.




A Picture of True Faith (vs. 1-10)




Ø      There was obedience to a Divine impulse: her heart was appealed to, she

saw he was a goodly child, and she hid him three months. She read in the

child’s appearance an intimation of future greatness, and that God did not

mean him to die in accordance with the king’s commandment. The work

of faith begins in obeying the Spirit’s prompting in the heart.


Ø      She was not daunted by difficulties. She might have asked what could

this temporary concealment do but only prolong her misery. Faith is

content if it has light but for one step.


Ø      Faith is fertile in expedients. The safety which is no longer to be had in

the home may be found on the waters.


Ø      When it has done all, it waits, as with girded loins, for the dawning light.

Miriam stood afar off.


  • HOW GOD JUSTIFIES OUR TRUST. When we have done all, and,

knowing it is nothing, look unto Him, THEN GOD APPEARS FOR US!


Ø      The child’s life was saved.

Ø      He was given back into his mother’s arms.

Ø      The very might which before was raised to slay was now used to guard


Ø      He was freed from the unhappy lot of his countrymen, and set among

the princes of the land. Our trust prepares a place where God may

manifest Himself. He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above

all that we ask or think.”




The Child of the Water (vs. 1-10)


“And she called his name Moses... water.” (v. 10). Save Jesus,

Moses is the greatest name in history. Compare with it Mahomet, or even

that of Paul. As the founder of the Jewish religion — under God — his

influence is felt today, not only by 6,000,000 Jews, but throughout the

Christian Church. Here is the beginning of his career. This mighty stream

of influence we can trace to its source; not like the Nile, whose origin is

still in debate, a mystery. The text gives the name and its reason. The

derivation is either Hebrew, and then = “Drawing out,” so designating the

act of the princess; or Egyptian, and then = “Saved from the water.” The

name a memorial of salvation. Happy, when children bearing distinguished

names, shame them not in the after-years. We treat the subject in the order

of the story: so its suggestiveness for heart and life will appear.


  • THE FAMILY OF THE CHILD. Amram and Jochebed, the father and

mother; Miriam, much older, and Aaron, three years older, than Moses.

Note: Moses owed:


Ø      Little to his family. Look at v. 1. But the pre-eminence of Levi was

not yet. The tribe did not make Moses; rather Moses (with Miriam and

Aaron) the tribe. “Blue blood?’ Yes! and No! There is a sense in which

we may be proud of ancestry, a sense in which not. What to me that I

descend from a Norman baron? Everything to me that I come from

able, gifted, saintly parentage.


My boast is not that I deduce my birth

From loins enthron'd, and rulers of the earth;

But higher far my proud pretensions rise—

The son of parents pass'd into the skies.

                                                                                                (My Mother’s Picture Cowper)



Ø      Little to his home. Only a slave but; the scene of toil, poverty, suffering,

fear. Out of it brought one thing — sympathy with suffering.


Ø      Little to his parents. Biographers usually give us the attributes and

history of ancestors, and show how they account for the career of the

child. Nothing of that here. Even the names of the parents do not

appear.  Note the omission in v. 1. “A man,” etc. “A daughter,” etc.

No doubt there is here a mental and moral heritage; but little training,

because of little opportunity.  Generally, there is, under this head,

a lesson of encouragement for those who have, or fancy they have,

hard beginnings in life. Some of earth’s noblest have risen out of



  • THE APPEARANCE OF THE CHILD. For traditions of predictions

of his birth see  below:


2. While the affairs of the Hebrews were in this condition, there was this occasion offered itself to the

Egyptians, which made them more solicitous for the extinction of our nation. One of those sacred scribes,  

who are very sagacious in foretelling future events truly, told the king, that about this time there would a

child be born to the Israelites, who, if he were reared, would bring the Egyptian dominion low, and would

raise the Israelites; that he would excel all men in virtue, and obtain a glory that would be remembered

through all ages. Which thing was so feared by the king, that, according to this man's opinion, he

commanded that they should cast every male child, which was born to the Israelites, into the river,

and destroy it; that besides this, the Egyptian midwives should watch the labors of the Hebrew

women, and observe what is born, for those were the women who were enjoined to do the office

of midwives to them; and by reason of their relation to the king, would not transgress his commands.

He enjoined also, that if any parents should disobey him, and venture to save their male children

alive, they and their families should be destroyed. This was a severe affliction indeed to those that

suffered it, not only as they were deprived of their sons, and while they were the parents themselves,

they were obliged to be subservient to the destruction of their own children, but as it was to be

supposed to tend to the extirpation of their nation, while upon the destruction of their children,

and their own gradual dissolution, the calamity would become very hard and inconsolable to them.

And this was the ill state they were in. But no one can be too hard for the purpose of God, though

he contrive ten thousand subtle devices for that end; for this child, whom the sacred scribe foretold,

 was brought up and concealed from the observers appointed by the king; and he that foretold him

did not mistake in the consequences of his preservation, which were brought to pass after the

manner following: -


3. A man whose name was Amram, one of the nobler sort of the Hebrews, was afraid for his whole

nation, lest it should fail, by the want of young men to be brought up hereafter, and was very uneasy

at it, his wife being then with child, and he knew not what to do. Hereupon he betook himself to

prayer to God; and entreated him to have compassion on those men who had nowise transgressed

the laws of his worship, and to afford them deliverance from the miseries they at that time endured,

and to render abortive their enemies' hopes of the destruction of their nation. Accordingly God had

mercy on him, and was moved by his supplication. He stood by him in his sleep, and exhorted him

not to despair of his future favors. He said further, that He did not forget their piety towards Him,

and would always reward them for it, as He had formerly granted his favor to their forefathers, and

made them increase from a few to so great a multitude. He put him in mind, that when Abraham was

come alone out of Mesopotamia into Canaan, he had been made happy, not only in other respects,

but that when his wife was at first barren, she was afterwards by Him enabled to conceive seed,

and bare him sons. That he left to Ismael and to his posterity the country of Arabia; as also to

his sons by Ketura, Troglodytis; and to Isaac, Canaan. That by my assistance, said He, he did great

exploits in war, which, unless you be yourselves impious, you must still remember. As for Jacob,

he became well known to strangers also, by the greatness of that prosperity in which he lived,

and left to his sons, who came into Egypt with no more than seventy souls, while you are now

become above six hundred thousand. Know therefore that I shall provide for you all in common

what is for your good, and particularly for thyself what shall make thee famous; for that child,

out of dread of whose nativity the Egyptians have doomed the Israelite children to destruction,

shall be this child of thine, and shall be concealed from those who watch to destroy him: and

when he is brought up in a surprising way, he shall deliver the Hebrew nation from the distress

they are under from the Egyptians. His memory shall be famous while the world lasts; and this

not only among the Hebrews, but foreigners also: - all which shall be the effect of my favor to thee,

and to thy posterity. He shall also have such a brother, that he shall himself obtain my priesthood,

and his posterity shall have it after him to the end of the world.


4. When the vision had informed him of these things, Amram awaked and told it to Jochebed who

was his wife. And now the fear increased upon them on account of the prediction in Amram's dream;

for they were under concern, not only for the child, but on account of the great happiness that was

to come to him also. However, the mother's labor was such as afforded a confirmation to what was

foretold by God; for it was not known to those that watched her, by the easiness of her pains, and

because the throes of her delivery did not fall upon her with violence. And now they nourished the

child at home privately for three months; but after that time Amram, fearing he should be discovered,

and, by falling under the king's displeasure, both he and his child should perish, and so he should

make the promise of God of none effect, he determined rather to trust the safety and care of the child

to God, than to depend on his own concealment of him, which he looked upon as a thing uncertain,

and whereby both the child, so privately to be nourished, and himself should be in imminent danger;

but he believed that God would some way for certain procure the safety of the child, in order to secure

the truth of his own predictions. When they had thus determined, they made an ark of bulrushes, after

the manner of a cradle, and of a bigness sufficient for an infant to be laid in, without being too straitened:

they then daubed it over with slime, which would naturally keep out the water from entering between the

bulrushes, and put the infant into it, and setting it afloat upon the river, they left its preservation to God;

so the river received the child, and carried him along. But Miriam, the child's sister, passed along upon

the bank over against him, as her mother had bid her, to see whither the ark would be carried, where

God demonstrated that human wisdom was nothing, but that the Supreme Being is able to do

whatsoever He pleases: that those who, in order to their own security, condemn others to destruction,

and use great endeavors about it, fail of their purpose; but that others are in a surprising manner

preserved, and obtain a prosperous condition almost from the very midst of their calamities; those,

I mean, whose dangers arise by the appointment of God. And, indeed, such a providence was

exercised in the case of this child, as showed the power of God.

                                                                        (Josephus  Antiquities. 2:9. 2-4)


Moses was:


Ø      No common child. Skepticism objects that Miriam and Aaron are not

mentioned in vs. 1-2 by name. But the motive and impulse of inspiration

are to be taken into account. The object was to give the event which led

to the Exodus, and to the constitution of the Jewish Church. From this

point of view interest concentrates on Moses. Hence we infer the

extraordinary greatness of his character and career.


Ø      Born at a critical moment. See Acts 7:20. So the Jewish proverb:


“When the tale of bricks is doubled, then comes Moses.”




o       At the moment of deepest darkness God sends deliverance.

o       When He wants instruments He creates them.


Ø      Of no common beauty. Not only in his mother’s eyes, which would be

natural enough, but absolutely. See Acts 7:20, as well as v.2;

and for interesting illustration, see below:


Hereupon it was that Thermuthis imposed this name Mouses upon him, from what had

happened when he was put into the river; for the Egyptians call water by the name

of Mo, and such as are saved out of it, by the name of Uses: so by putting these two

words together, they imposed this name upon him. And he was, by the confession

of all, according to God's prediction, as well for his greatness of mind as for his

contempt of difficulties, the best of all the Hebrews, for Abraham was his ancestor

of the seventh generation. For Moses was the son of Amram, who was the son of

Caath, whose father Levi was the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was

the son of Abraham. Now Moses's understanding became superior to his age, nay,

far beyond that standard; and when he was taught, he discovered greater quickness

of apprehension than was usual at his age, and his actions at that time promised

greater, when he should come to the age of a man. God did also give him that tallness,

when he was but three years old, as was wonderful. And as for his beauty, there was

nobody so unpolite as, when they saw Moses, they were not greatly surprised at the

beauty of his countenance; nay, it happened frequently, that those that met him as he

was carried along the road, were obliged to turn again upon seeing the child; that

they left what they were about, and stood still a great while to look on him; for

the beauty of the child was so remarkable and natural to him on many accounts,

that it detained the spectators, and made them stay longer to look upon him.

                                                            ((Josephus  Antiquities. 2:9. 6)


All this the promise of a higher beauty of character that opened

out with the years.


  • THE DANGER OF THE CHILD. The child born to great issues, and

therefore must run the gauntlet of peril. Compare Jesus under the edict of

Herod with Moses under that of Pharaoh. No sooner born than a battle for

life. The two only infants, but full of possibilities. Pharaoh! the babe you

may crush; hereafter the man shall ruin you. A seeming law in the case, to

which witness the legends of many nations, e.g. Romulus and Remus,

Cyrus, King Arthur.




Ø      Of the mother.


o        Concealing. Hebrews 11:23. How by faith? Went right on in the

discharge of common duty to the child, not turning aside to observe the

king’s commandment. Then the love went to the other extreme:


o        Exposing. Here narrate the facts, for which see the text and

commentary above; e.g. impossibility of longer concealing a growing child,

form and material of the ark, laid in a place of comparative safety, “in the

flags” at “the lip of the river,” the elements of danger — starvation,

discovery — not crocodiles on the Tanitic branch of the river. But observe

the feeling behind the facts. A mother’s despair becoming hope, and then

faith; but a faith provident and workful, for, living in the neighborhood,

she could not fail to know where the childless (so says tradition) princess

was wont to bathe. Just there she placed the child.


Ø      Of the sister. Imagine her anxiety! The mother-heart in every girl. She



o        Watchful: over the ark, against an enemy, for the princess;

o        Active;

o        Clever, full of resource;

o        Successful;

o        Became eminent; a prophetess, ch. 15:20.

One of the three deliverers, Micah 6:4. The adored of the people,

Numbers 12:10-15. In childhood are laid the foundations of character.



the child, sister, parents, to Israel, and to the world to be blest through



  • THE DELIVERANCE OF THE CHILD. This of God, but note the

part played by each of the following instruments: —


Ø      The princess. Note the independent status of an Egyptian princess, the

custom then of bathing in the open river, the probable locality, Zoan

(Psalm 78:43), that compassion was inculcated by the Egyptian

religion, and the probable application to her of Acts 10:35.

Ø      The sister.

Ø      The mother.

Ø      The princess again; and possible lifelong parting from the mother.



Finally, observe:


Ø      The deliverances of God are wonderful. Only one person in all the land

of Egypt that could save Moses, and she came to the river.


Ø      The object of God’s deliverances does not center and rest on THE

DELIVERED.   It passes beyond:


o       Moses for Israel,

o       Israel for the Messiah,

o       Messiah for the world.


So Abraham, Genesis 12:2. So with elect spirits and elect nations in all ages.

None for himself.


Ø      So is it with THE GREAT SALVATION!   Wonderful! The benediction

thereof unresting, passing on from the first recipients.


Ø      But the retributions of God are just as MARVELOUS!   Moses was to

be the ruin of the house of Pharaoh, and deservedly so. But in the

providence of God the tyrant is made to pass by and even protect the

instrument of his future punishment.   (“.....for it is written, He

taketh the wise in their own craftiness.”  - I Corinthians 3:19 –

You can rest assured that God is able and still is doing this and



I recommend Ezekiel - Study of God’s Use of the Word Know - # 223

this website – CY – 2017)






Education is to fit us for the battle of life.  The first and most important point is that

a child be “virtuously brought up to lead a godly life” In Egypt morality was highly          

regarded; and some have gone so far as to say that “the laws of the Egyptian        

religion “ — in respect of morality at any rate — “fell short in nothing of the         

teachings of Christianity” (see Brugsch, ‘History of Egypt,’ vol. 1. p. 20). This

is, no doubt, an over-  statement; but it is the fact, that correct and elevated ideas

on the subject of morality were entertained by the Egyptian sages, and

inculcated on the young by Egyptian teachers. To “give bread to the hungry,

drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, set the wanderer in his path, resist the      

oppressor, and put a stop to violence,” were regarded as the first elements of

duty, the very alphabet of morality, which the most ignorant was expected to        

know and practise. To the more advanced such counsels as the following were      

given:  “If thou art become great after thou hast been humble, and if thou hast

amassed Riches after poverty, and art come to be the first man of thy city; if

thou art known for thy wealth, and hast become a great lord: let not thy

heart grow proud because of thy riches; for it is God who has given them

to thee.” “Despise not another who is as thou wast; be towards him as

towards thine equal.” “Happiness makes one content with any abode; but a

small disgrace darkens the life of a great man” “Good words shine more

than the emerald which the hand of the slave finds among a heap of

pebbles.” “The wise man is satisfied with what he knows; content dwells in

his heart, and his lips speak words that are good.” “The son who accepts

the words of his father will grow old in consequence; for obedience is of

God, disobedience is hateful to God.” “Let thy heart wash away the

impurity of thy mouth: fulfil the word of thy master.” Moses in the

household of a virtuous Egyptian princess, the wife probably of a respected

official, would be guarded from corrupting sights and sounds, would hear

none but “good words,” would learn courtesy, good manners, politeness,

affability, gentlemanly ease; while at the same time he would have

inculcated upon him the duties of activity, diligence, truthfulness,

benevolence, consideration for others, temperance, purity, courage. The

peculiar circumstances of his position, as a foreigner, a foundling, a mere

adopted child, would lay him open to many a reproach and innuendo on the

part of those who were jealous of his good-fortune. In this way his path

would be beset with difficulties, which would furnish the necessary

discipline that might otherwise have been lacking to one brought up by a

tender and indulgent mistress who assumed towards him the attitude of a

mother. He would learn the virtues of reticence and self-control. As he

grew to manhood, active duties would no doubt be assigned to him — he

would have to exercise a certain amount of authority in the household, to

undertake the management of this or that department, and thus acquire

experience in the direction and government of men. Altogether, it is easy to

see that the position wherein by God’s providence he was placed would

furnish an excellent training for the part which he was to be called upon to

play, would naturally tend to make him at once outwardly gentle and

inwardly firm and self-reliant; at once bold to rebuke kings and patient to

govern a stiff-necked and refractory people. To the moral training thus

furnished was added a mental training, on which we have already enlarged,

Book-learning is of little use towards the management of men. But when it

is superadded to a good practical education, which has already given active

habits and facility in dealing with all the various circumstances of life, it adds

a grace and dignity to its possessor which are far from contemptible. Moses,          

without his Egyptian “learning,” might have led his people out of Egypt and         

conducted them safely to Palestine; but he would have lost his most glorious

titles and offices; he would scarcely have been the great legislator that he was;

he could certainly not have been the great historian, or the great poet. Moses,

to obtain the knowledge and the powers that he shows in his writings, must

have been during his youth a most diligent student. In this respect he is a

pattern to all the young, and most especially to those high-placed youths

who are too apt to think that their wealth and rank put them above the

necessity of hard work and diligent application. The truth is, that such a

position lays its holder under a special obligation to diligence. “Noblesse

oblige.” Those who are highly placed, and will have many eyes on them,

should endeavor to make their acquirements such as will bear close

scrutiny and observation. “A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid”

(Matthew 5:14).





ITS FAILURE  (vs. 11-15)




After Moses was grown up — according to the tradition accepted by Stephen

(Acts 7:23), when he was “full forty years old” — having become by some means

or other acquainted with the circumstances of his birth, which had most probably

never been concealed from him, he determined to “go out” to his brethren and to

see with his own eyes what their treatment was, and do his best to alleviate it. He had

as yet no Divine mission, no command from God to act as he did, but only a natural

sympathy with his people, and a feeling perhaps that in his position he was bound,

more than any one else, to make some efforts to ameliorate what must have been

generally known to be a hard lot. It is scarcely likely that he had formed any definite

plans. How he should act would depend on what he should see.  The author of the

Epistle to the Hebrews seems to consider that his act in “going out” to “look upon the

burdens” of his people involved a renunciation of his court life — a refusal to be

called any more the son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Hebrews 11:24); a casting-in of his

lot with his brethren, so as thenceforth to be a sharer in their afflictions. If this were

so, we can well understand a long period of hesitation before the resolve was made

to take the course from which there was no retreating.


11 “And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he

went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an

Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.”  When Moses was grown.

“When he had become a man of vigor and intelligence” (Kalisch). He went out.

The expression is emphatic, and accords with the view above exhibited — that a

complete change in the life of Moses was now effected, that the court was quitted,

with its attractions and its temptations, its riches and its pleasures; and the

position of adopted child of a princess forfeited. He spied an Egyptian

smiting a Hebrew. It is not certain that this was one of the “taskmasters”

(ch. 1:11); but most probably he was either a taskmaster, or one of

the officers employed by them. Such persons are on the Egyptian

monuments represented as armed with long rods, said to be “made of a

tough pliant wood imported from Syria” (Chabas, ‘Voyage d’un Egyptien,’

p. 119). It was their right to employ their rods on the backs of the idle, a

right which was sure to degenerate in many cases into tyrannous and cruel

oppression. We may assume that it was an instance of such abuse of power

that excited the anger of Moses; “seeing one of them suffer wrong, he

defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed (Acts 7:24). For a

light fault, or no fault at all, a heavy chastisement was being inflicted.


12 “And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no

man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.”  He looked this way and

that way. Passion did not so move him as to make him reckless. He looked round

to see that he was not observed, and then, when he saw there was no man, slew

the Egyptian.  A wrongful act, the outcome of an ardent but undisciplined spirit;

not to be placed among the deeds “which history records as noble and magnanimous

(Kalisch), but among those which are hasty and regrettable. A warm

sympathetic nature, an indignant hatred of wrong-doing, may have lain at

the root of the crime, but do not justify it, though they may qualify our

condemnation of it. (See the remarks of St. Augustine quoted by Keil and

Delitzsch, ‘Commentary on the Pentateuch,’ vol. 1. p. 451: “I affirm that

the man, though criminal and really the offender, ought not to have been

put to death by one who had no legal authority to do so. But minds that are

capable of virtue often produce vices also, and show thereby for what

virtue they would have been best adapted, if they had but been properly

trained,” etc.) And hid him in the sand. There is abundant “sand” in the

“field of Zoan,” and in all the more eastern portion of the land of Goshen.

(See the ‘Quarterly Statement of the Palestine Exploration Fund’ for July,

1880, p. 140.)



Moses as a Would-Be Deliverer (vs. 11-12)


Moses, as a would-be deliverer, shows us how zeal may outrun discretion.  Actuated

by deep love for his brethren, he had quitted the court, resigned his high prospects,

thrown in his lot with his nation, and “gone out” to see with his own eyes their

condition. No doubt he came upon many sights which vexed and angered him, but

was able to restrain himself. At last, however, he became witness of a grievous — an

extreme — case of oppression. Some Hebrew, we may suppose, weaker than

the generality, delicate in constitution or suffering from illness, rested awhile        

from his weary labor under the scorching sun, and gave himself a few moments

of delightful, because rare, repose. But the eye of the taskmaster was on him.

Suddenly his rest was interrupted by a shower of severe blows, which were

rained pitilessly upon his almost naked frame, raising great wheals, from

which the blood streamed down in frequent heavy drops. Moses could no

longer contain himself. Pity for the victim and hatred of the oppressor

surged up in his heart. “Many a time and oft” had he wished to be a

deliverer of his brethren, to revenge their wrongs, to save them from their

sufferings. Here was an opportunity to make a beginning. He would save at

any rate this one victim, he would punish this one wrongdoer. There was

no danger, for no one was looking (v. 12), and surely the man whom he

saved would not betray him. So, having a weapon in his belt, or finding one

ready to his hand — a stone, it may be, or a working man’s implement —

he raised it, and striking a swift strong blow, slew the Egyptian. In thus

acting he was doubly wrong. He acted as an avenger, when he had no

authority from God or man to be one; and, had he had authority, still he

would have inflicted a punishment disproportionate to the offence. Such a

beating as he had himself administered the taskmaster may have deserved,

but not to be cut off in his sins; not to be sent to his last account without

warning, without time even for a repentant thought. The deed done,

conscience reasserted herself: it was a deed of darkness; a thing which

must be concealed: so Moses dug a hole in the sand, and hid the dreadful

evidence of his crime. It does not appear that the man whom he had

delivered helped him; he was perhaps too much exhausted with what he

had suffered, and glad to creep to his home. Moses, too, returned to his

own abode, well satisfied, as it would seem, on the whole, with what he

had done. Having struck the blow, and buried the body unseen, he did not

fear detection; and he probably persuaded himself that the man deserved

his fate. He may have even had self-complacent thoughts, have admired his

own courage and strength, and thought how he had at last come to be a

deliverer indeed. In reality, however, he had disqualified himself for the

office; he had committed a crime which forced him to quit his brethren and

fly to a distance, and be thus unable to do anything towards mitigating their

sufferings for the space of forty years! Had he been patient, had he been

content with remonstrances, had he used his superior strength to rescue the

oppressed without injuring the oppressor, he would have shown himself fit

to be a deliverer, and God might not improbably have assigned him his

mission at once. But his self-willed and wrongful mode of proceeding

showed that he needed a long course of discipline before he could properly

be entrusted with the difficult task which God designed him to accomplish.

Forty years of almost solitary life in the Sinaitic wilderness chastened the

hot spirit which was now too wild and untamed for a leader and governor

of men.



Moses, the Ardent But Mistaken Patriot (vs. 11-12)


We are not told much of Moses in the first forty years of his life, just as we

are not told much of Jesus before he began His public ministry; but as it is

with Jesus, so it is with Moses — what we are told is full of light

concerning their character, disposition, and thoughts of the future. Just one

action may be enough to show the stuff a man is made of. Moses, grown to

manhood, by this single action of killing the Egyptian makes clearly

manifest his spirit and his sympathies; shows to us in a very impressive way

much that was good, and much also that was evil.






Ø      Though he had been brought up amid Egyptian surroundings, he

remained an Israelite in heart. Very early he must have been made

acquainted, in some way or other, with the strange romance that belonged

to his infancy. Whatever Pharaoh’s daughter brought to bear on him in the

way of Egyptian influence one day, would be neutralized by what he heard

from his own mother the next. For it was not likely that, alter he was able

to understand it, his nurse would long conceal the fact that she was his true

mother. Perhaps the very ark of bulrushes had become one of his treasured

possessions. His name, once explained, was a continual memento of

infantile peril and deliverance. And as he grew onward to manhood, he

would be inclined to reproach himself again and again for living so easily

and comfortably with Pharaoh’s daughter, while her father was treating

with such harshness and injustice his own people, his own kinsfolk —

Aaron his own brother being probably among them. Thus there was

everything to keep the state of Israel incessantly in his mind; everything in

the way of good soil to make the seed of patriotism grow, if only the seed

were in his nature to begin with. And there it unquestionably was, growing

with his growth and strengthening with his strength.


Ø      It is very important to notice how clearly the vicarious element comes

out in the relation of Moses to Israel during the years he spent with

Pharaoh’s daughter. In one sense, he did not suffer himself. His life was

not made “bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all

manner of service in the field.” No taskmaster ever smote him. And yet, in

another sense, he suffered perhaps even more than any of the Israelites.

There are burdens of the spirit which produce a groaning and prostration

far worse than those of any bodily toil. There is a laceration of the heart

more painful, and harder to heal, than that of any bodily wound. Moses felt

the sorrows of Israel as if they were his own. Like Christ, In all their affliction

he was afflicted. (Isaiah 63:9)  Not one of them smarted more under a sense of

the injustice with which they were treated than he did. It is a most precious,

ennobling and fruitful feeling to have in the heart — this feeling which links

the unsuffering to the suffering in a bond not to be broken. It brings together

those who have the opportunity to deliver, and those who, fastened hand

and then can do nothing for themselves. We find this feeling, in its purest,

most operative, and most valuable expression in JESUS, in Him who knew

no sin, no defiling thoughts, no torture of conscience for His own wrongdoing;

and who yet came to feel so deeply the misery and helplessness of a

fallen world, that He descended into it for its deliverance, having an

unspeakably keener sense of its calamities than the most observant and

meditative of its own children. It is a grand thing to have this element of

vicarious suffering in our hearts; for the more we have it the more we are

able to follow Jesus in serving our needy fellow-men. Moses had this

element; the prophets had it; Paul had it; every true and successful apostle

and evangelist must have it (Romans 9:1-5). Every Christian in process

of salvation should have this element as he looks round on those still

ignorant and out of the way. The civilized should have it as he looks on the

savage; the freeman as he looks on the slave; the healthy as he looks on the

sick; the man as he looks on the brute creation. This element of vicarious

suffering has been at the root of some of the noblest and most useful lives

in all ages, and not least in modern times. A thousand times let us run the

risk of being called sentimental and maudlin, rather than lack the element

or cripple it in its vigorous growth. Certain it is, that we shall do but little

for Christ without it.


Ø      We have a very suggestive intimation of the superiority of Moses to the

people whom he was about to deliver; this superiority being not a mere

matter of greater social advantages, but arising out of personal character.

The brother whom he succored treated him but badly in return. He did

not mean to treat him badly; but simple thoughtlessness makes untold

mischief. He must have known that Moses wished the act kept a secret, yet

in a few hours it is known far and wide through Israel. Not all might have

been so inconsiderate, but assuredly most would; and so this man may be

taken as representative of his people. He had not the courage and energy to

return the Egyptian’s blow himself; nor had he the activity and forethought

of mind to shelter the generous champion who did return the blow. Israel

was in servitude altogether; not only in body, but in all the nobler faculties

of life as well. Hence, if Israel was to be saved, it must be by the

condescending act of a superior and stronger hand. And thus Moses

slaying the Egyptian shadows forth a prime requirement in the greater

matter of the world’s redemption. Unless the Son of God had stooped

from His brighter, holier sphere, to break the bonds of sin and death,

what could we poor slaves have done?





Moses, in respect of his ardent and sustained sympathy with Israel, was a

man after God’s own heart; but he had everything yet to learn as to how

that sympathy was to be made truly serviceable. His patriotism, strong and

operative as it had proved, was produced by entirely wrong considerations.

His profound and fervent interest in Israel was a right feeling, and an

indispensable one for his work; but it needed to be produced by quite

different agencies, and directed to quite different ends. How had the feeling

been produced? Simply by observing the cruelties inflicted on his brethren.

He slew the Egyptian simply because he smote his brother, not because

that brother belonged to the chosen people of God. The thing wanted was

that he should come to understand clearly the connection of Israel with

God, their origin and their destiny. He was to sympathize with Israel, not

only as his brethren, but first and chiefly as the people of God. Patriotism

is a blessing or a curse just according to the form it takes. If it begins to

say, “Our country, right or wrong,” then it is one of the greatest curses a

nation can be afflicted with. Arrogance, conceit, and exorbitant self-assertion

are as hideous in a nation as in an individual, and in the end

correspondingly disastrous. Our greatest sympathy with men is wanted in

that which affects them most deeply and abidingly. Sympathy has no full

right to the name till it is the sympathy of forgiven sinners who are being

sanctified and perfected, with those who are not only sinners, but still in the

bondage of sin, and perhaps hardly conscious of the degradation of the

bondage, and the firmness with which its fetters are fixed. Moses did not

know how much his brethren were losing, because he did not know how

much he himself was still lacking, even though in such comfortable

freedom at Pharaoh’s court. In his eyes, the main thing to be done for

Israel was to get them freedom, independence, self-control in this world’s

affairs. And therefore it was necessary for God to effect a complete and

abiding change in Moses’ way of thinking. He needed to be made better

acquainted with God, and with God’s past revelations, and expressed

purposes for Israel. Slaying the Egyptian did not advance the real interests

of Israel a whit, except as God wove the action in with His own far reaching

plans. Considered purely as a human action, it was an aimless

one, fruitful of evil rather than good. It was natural enough and excusable

enough; but the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God; they

that take the sword shall perish with the sword; and thus Moses in his

carnal impetuosity made clear how dependent he was to be upon God for a

really wise, comprehensive, practical plan of action. In the providence of

God he was to come back to Israel, not to deal with some obscure

subordinate, but with a Pharaoh himself; not to take the sword into his own

hands, but to stand still himself, and make the people stand still also, that

he and they together MIGHT SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD!



The Choice of Moses (vs. 11-12)


Underlying this episode of killing the Egyptian there is that crisis in the

history of Moses to which reference is made so strikingly in the eleventh of

the Hebrews — “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to

be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer

affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for

a season,” etc.  (Hebrews 11:24-27). Two views may be taken of the episode.

Either, as might be held, the elements of decision were floating in an unfixed

state in the mind of Moses, when this event happened, and precipitated a choice;

or, what seems more likely, the choice had already been made, and the

resolution of Moses already taken, and this was but the first outward

manifestation of it. In either case, the act in question was a deliberate committal

of himself to his brethren’s side — the crossing of the Rubicon, which necessitated

thereafter a casting-in of his lot with theirs. View this choice of Moses:



Moses was grown.” With years came thought; with thought “the

philosophic mind;” with this, power of observation. Moses began to think

for himself, to see things with his own eyes. What he saw made evident to

him the impossibility of halting longer between two opinions. He had not

before felt the same necessity of definitely making up his mind whether he

would be Hebrew or Egyptian. He had not seen in the same way the

impossibility of retaining a sort of connection with both — sympathizing

with the Hebrews, yet enjoying Egypt’s pleasures. Now there came

awakening. The two spheres of life fell apart to his vision in their manifest

incongruity — in their painful, and even, in some respects, hideous

contrast. He may now be Hebrew or Egyptian; he can no longer be both.

Up to this time choice could be staved off. Now it is forced upon him. To

determine now not to choose, would be to choose for Egypt. He knows his

duty, and it is for him to decide whether or not he will do it. And such in

substance is the effect of moral awakening generally.


Ø      In most lives there is a time of thoughtlessness, at least of want of

serious and independent reflection. It is not at this stage seen why religion

should require so very decided a choice. God and the world seem not

absolute incompatibles. It is possible to serve both; to agree with both.

Christ’s teaching to the contrary sounds strangely on the ears.


Ø      But an awakening comes, and it is now seen very clearly that this double

service is impossible. The friendship of the world is felt to be enmity with

God (James 4:4). The contrariety, utter and absolute, between what is

in the world and love of the Father (John 2:15) is manifest beyond

dispute. Then comes the need for choice.


o       God or the creature;

o       Christ, or the world which crucified Him;

o       God’s people or the friendship of those who deride and despise



There is no longer room for dallying. Not to choose is already to have

chosen wrongly — to have decided for the world, and rejected Christ.



victory over the temptations of his position for Moses to renounce all at

the call of duty, and cast in his lot with an oppressed and despised race. His

temptation was obviously a typical one, including in it everything which

tempts men still to refrain from religious decision, and to dissemble

relationship to Christ and connection with His people; and his victory was

also typical, reminding us of His who became poor that we might be rich

(II Corinthians 8:9), and who put aside “all the kingdoms of the world

and the glory of them,” when offered Him on sinful terms (Matthew

4:8-10). View it:


Ø      As a victory over the world. Moses knew his advantages at the court of

Pharaoh, and doubtless felt the full value of them. Egypt was to him the

world. It represented to his mind:


o       Wealth and position.

o       Ease and luxury.

o       Brilliant worldly prospects.

o       A sphere congenial to him as a man of studious tastes.


And all this he voluntarily surrendered at the call of duty — surrendered it

both in spirit and in fact. And are not we, as Christians, called also to

surrender of the world? Renouncing the world, indeed, is not monkery. It

is not the thoughtless flinging away of worldly advantages. But neither is it

the mere renouncing of what is sinful in the world. It is the renouncing of it

wholly, so far as use of it for selfish ends or selfish enjoyment is concerned:

the sinking of its ease, its pleasures, its possessions, in entire self-surrender

to Christ and duty. And this carries with it the ability for any outward

sacrifice that may be needed.


Ø      As a victory over the dread of reproach. In renouncing Egypt, Moses

chose that which the multitudes shun as almost worse than death itself, viz.


o       Poverty.

o       Reproach.


Yet how many stumble at reproach in the service of the Saviour! A

measure of reproach is implied in all earnest religious profession. And it

requires courage to face it — to encounter the moral crucifixion involved

in being flouted and scouted by the world. It is when “tribulation and

persecution ariseth because of the word” that “by and by” many are

“offended” (Matthew 13:21). Yet to be able to encounter reproach is

the true moral greatness — the mark of the spiritual hero.


Ø      As a victory over private feelings and inclinations. Not only was there

much about his life in Egypt which Moses dearly loved (leisure,

opportunities for self-culture, etc.); but there must have been much about

the Hebrews which, to a man of his courtly up-bringing, would necessarily

be repulsive (coarseness of manners, servility of disposition, etc.). Yet he

cheerfully cast in his lot with them, taking this as part of his cross. A lesson

for people of culture. He who would serve God or humanity must lay his

account for much he does not like. Every reformer, every earnest servant

of mankind, has to make this sacrifice. He must not be ashamed to call

those “brethren” who are yet in every way “compassed with infirmity,”

about whom there is much that is positively distasteful. Here also, “no

cross, no crown.”


  • AS AN ACT OF RELIGIOUS FAITH. The determining motives in

Moses’ choice were:


Ø      Patriotism. This people was his people, and his blood boiled with

indignation at the wrongs they were enduring. Only a nature dead to the

last spark of nobleness could have reconciled itself to look on their

sufferings and yet eat bread and retain favor at the court of their



Ø      Humanity. There was in him that nobleness of nature, which besides

tending to sympathy with the oppressed, revolts from all that is selfish and

cruel; and this nobleness was stirred up in him by seeing the state of his

kindred, and comparing it with his own. This was his faith. Faith saved him

from being content to be idle and useless, and gave him zeal and courage

to play the part of a man and a hero in the liberation of his people.


Ø      Religion. We fail of a right view of Moses’ conduct if we stop short of

religious faith proper. Moses knew something of the history of his people.

He knew them to be the people of God. He knew of the covenants and

promises. He knew of their religious hopes. And it was this which weighed

most of all with him in casting-in his lot among them, and enabled him to

count their reproach greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. His faith



o        Faith in God. He believed in the God of his fathers, and in the truth and

certainty of His promise.


o        Faith in the spiritual greatness of his nation. He saw in these Hebrews,

sweat-covered, down-trodden, afflicted as they were, the “people of God.”

Faith is not misled by the shows of things. It pierces to the reality.


o        Faith in duty. It is of the essence of faith that he who has, it feels

himself to be in a world of better things than pleasures, whether innocent

of sinful, which are only pleasures of sense; and in which to be right is

greater and better than to be mighty or to be rich — feels, in a word, that

the best of this life, and of all life, is goodness.


o        Faith in the recompense of reward. Moses believed in future

recompense — in immortality. A cardinal doctrine, even in Egyptian

theology, it can scarcely be supposed to have been absent from his. How

great was the reward of Moses, even in this life! He was happier as the

persecuted and despised worshipper of Jehovah, the avowed kinsman of

slaves, than as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and the admired proficient in

all Egyptian wisdom. He felt that he was richer, despoiled of the treasures

of Egypt. He felt that he was happier, divorced from the pleasures of sin.

He felt that he was freer, reduced to the bondage of his countrymen. He

was richer, because enriched with the treasures of grace; happier, because

blessed with the smiles of an approving conscience; freer, because

enfranchised with the liberty of the sons of God. The blessings he chose

were richer than all the advantages he cast away. How great has

been his reward in history! “For ages past his name has outshone all the

monarchs combined of the one-and-thirty dynasties. But THE ETERNAL

REWARD IS THE GREATEST OF ALL!  A glimpse of it in the glorious

reappearance of Moses on the mountain of transfiguration. Wise choice,

for honors like these to surrender riches and pleasures which were

perishable! Through faith in God, Christ, duty, and eternity, let the

same NOBLE CHOICE be repeated in ourselves!


13 “And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the

Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore

smitest thou thy fellow?”  The second day. i.e. “the following day.”

See Acts 7:26. Him that did the wrong. Literally, “the wicked one.” Wherefore

smitest thou thy fellow? Literally “thy neighbor.” In interposing here Moses

certainly did nothing but what was right. The strife was one in which blows

were being exchanged, and it is the duty of everyone in such a case, by

persuasion at any rate. to seek to stop the combat.


 14 “And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over

us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared,

and said, Surely this thing is known.”  Who made thee a prince and a judge

over us? It was not his interference now, but his wrongful act of the day before,

that exposed Moses to this rebuke. There was no assumption of lordship or of

judicial authority in the bare inquiry, “Why smitest thou thy neighhor?” nor in

the fuller phrase reported by Stephen, “Sirs, ye are brethren. Why do ye

wrong one to another?” (Acts 7:26), unless as coupled with the deed of

the preceding day. Thus the violence of today renders of no avail the loving

persuasion of to-morrow; the influence for good which the education and

position of Moses might have enabled him to exercise upon his nation was

lost by the very act to which he had been urged by his sympathy with them;

it was an act which could be thrown in his teeth, an act which he could not

justify, which he trembled to find was known. The retort of the aggressor

stopped his mouth at once, and made his interposition valueless.



Moses as a Peacemaker (vs. 13-14)


A great sin disqualifies a man for many a long year from setting himself up to be a

guide and teacher of others. It may at any time be thrown in his teeth, nothing could

be better intended than the efforts of Moses, on the day after his crime, to compose

the quarrels of his brethren, and set the disputants at one. Nor is he fairly taxable with

any want of equity, or even of tact, in the manner in which he set to work. He rebuked

“him that did the wrong.” His rebuke was mild in character — a mere     

expostulation; “Wherefore smitest thou,” etc. Nay, according to Stephen

(Acts 7:26), it was not even an expostulation addressed to an individual, but a      

general address which avoided the assignment of special blame to either    

disputant. “Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?” Yet

it had no effect; it failed utterly. The tables were at once turned on the

expostulator by the inquiry, “Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?

Intendest thou to slay me as thou didst the Egyptian?” Conscience makes

cowards of us all. Moses, hearing this, had no more to say; he had essayed

to pluck out the mote from his brother’s eye, and behold! the beam was in

his own eye. (Matthew 7:3) - His brethren were quarrelsome and injurious;

but he — he was a murderer.


15 “Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses

fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat

down by a well.” Pharaoh heard. If we have been right in supposing the

Pharaoh of the original oppression to have been Seti I., the present

Pharaoh, from whom Moses flies when he is “full forty years old” (Acts 7:23),

and who does not die till Moses is near eighty, must be his son, the

Great Rameses, Rameses II. This prince was associated by his father at the

age of ten or twelve (Brugsch, ‘History of Egypt,’ vol. 2. pp. 24-5), and

reigned sixty-seven years, as appears from his monuments. He is the only

king of the New Empire whose real reign exceeded forty years, and thus

the only monarch who fulfils the conditions required by the narrative of

Exodus supplemented by Stephen’s speech in Acts 7. He sought to

slay Moses. We need not understand from this expression that the

Pharaoh’s will was thwarted or opposed by anything but the sudden

disappearance of Moses. As Stephen says (Acts 7:29), “Then fled

Moses at this saying,i.e. at the mere words of the aggressor, “Wilt thou

slay me as thou didst the Egyptian?” Moses fled, knowing what he had to

expect, quitted Egypt, went to Midian; and the Egyptian monarch “sought

to slay him” too late. The land of Midian is a somewhat vague

expression, for the Midianites were nomads, and at different times

occupied distinct and even remote localities. Their principal settlements

appear to have been on the eastern side of the Elanitic Gulf (Gulf of

Akabah); but at times they extended northwards to the confines of Moab

(Genesis 36:35; Numbers 22:4, 7, etc.), and westward into the

Sinaitic peninsula, which appears to have been “the land of Midian whereto

Moses fled (see ch. 3:1). The Midianites are not expressly mentioned in the

Egyptian inscriptions. They were probably included among the Mentu, with

whom the Egyptians contended in the Sinaitic region, and from whom they

took the copper district north-west of Sinai.  And he sat down by a well. Rather

“and he dwelt by the well.” He took up his abode in the neighborhood of the

principal well belonging to the tract here called Midian. The tract was probably

one of no great size, an offshoot of the greater Midian on the other side of the gulf.

We cannot identify the well; but it was certainly not that near the town of Modiana,

spoken of by Edrisi and Abulfeda, which was in Arabia Proper, on the east of

the gulf.



Unfruitful Effort (vs. 11-15)


  • MOSES’ SELF-SACRIFICE (Hebrews 11:24-26).


Ø      He owned his relationship to the enslaved and hated people.

Ø      He cast in his lot among them. God calls for the same sacrifice today;

confession of Jesus and brotherhood with His people.

Ø      The result of a mother’s influence: from her he must have learned the

truth regarding his descent and the hope of Israel. The seed sown

outlived the luxury, temptations, ambitions of the court. God’s

blessing rests on these efforts of holiest love.




Ø      True desire to serve is not the only requisite for success. We may be

defeated by mistakes of judgment, an ungoverned temper, etc.

Ø      There can be no true service without the heart’s waiting upon God.

In order to guide we ourselves must follow.

Ø      The power which does not wait upon God comes to nothing. Contrast

the prince with the unknown wanderer in Midian. Not only were means

and influence lost, his very opportunity was gone. “Fret not thyself in

any wise to do evil.”  (Psalm 37:8)



Unpurified Zeal (vs. 11-15)


We must certainly attribute the killing of the Egyptian, not to Divine

inspiration, but to the natural impetuosity of Moses’ character. At this

stage Moses had zeal, but it was without knowledge. His heart burned with

indignation at the wrongs of his brethren. He longed to be their deliverer.

Something told him that “God by his hand would deliver them” (Acts 7:25).

But how to proceed he knew not. His plans had taken no definite

shape. There was no revelation, and perhaps one was not expected. So,

acting under impulse, he struck the blow which killed the Egyptian, but did

no service to the cause he had at heart. That he did not act with moral

clearness is manifest from the perturbation with which he did the deed, and

from his subsequent attempt to hide the traces of it. It completed his

discomfiture when, next day, he learned that the deed was known, and that

his brethren, instead of welcoming his interposition, were disposed to

resent it. He had involved himself in murder. He had sown the seeds of

later troubles. Yet he had gained no end by it. How true it is that violence

seldom leads to happy issues! “The wrath of man worketh not the

righteousness of God” (James 1:20). An exhibition of violence on our

own part is a bad preparation for interfering in the quarrels of others. He

that does the wrong will rarely fail to remind us of it. Learn lessons from

the narrative:


  • AS TO THE CHARACTER OF MOSES. Moses, like every man of

true, powerful, and loving nature, was capable of vehement and burning

anger. He was a man of great natural impetuosity. This casts light upon the

sin of Meribah (Numbers 20:10-11). An outbreak of the old, long-conquered

failing (compare ch. 4:13). The holier side of the same disposition is seen

in the anger with which he broke in pieces the Tables of the Law (ch. 32:19).

It casts light also on his meekness, and teaches us to distinguish meekness

from mere natural placableness and amiability. Meekness — the meekness

for which Moses is famed (Numbers 12:3) — was not a gift of nature, but

the result of passions, naturally strong, conquered and controlled — of

long and studied self-repression.




Ø      Unpurified zeal leads to hasty action. It is ungoverned. It acts from

impulse. It is not schooled to bearing and waiting. It cannot bide

God’s time, nor keep to God’s ways.


Ø      Unpurified zeal unfits for God’s service. It relies too much on self. It

takes events into its own hand. Hence Moses is sent to Midian to spend

forty years in learning humility and patience — in acquiring power of

self-control.  He has to learn that the work is not his, but God’s, and

that only God can accomplish it.


Ø      Unpurified zeal, by its hasty action, retards, rather than furthers, the

accomplishment of God s purposes. By driving Moses into Midian, it

probably put back the hour of Israel’s deliverance.




Moses was Grown (vs. 11-15)


According to the tradition he had already distinguished himself as a warrior

— was “a prince and a judge” amongst the Egyptians, if not over the

Hebrews (v. 14). He was learned, too, in all the wisdom of the day (compare

Acts 7:22). At his age, forty years, with his influence, surely if ever he was to do

anything for his people, now must be the time. Notice:




Ø      What he did, and why he did it. “It came into his heart to visit his

brethren.” In the seminaries of the priests, in the palace, with the army, he

had not forgotten his people; but he had scarcely realized the bitterness of

their trial. Now his heart burns within him as he looks upon their burdens.

He feels that he is the appointed deliverer trained for this very purpose.

What is so plain to him must, he thinks, be equally plain to others (Acts

7:25). A chance encounter gives him the opportunity of declaring himself;

defending a Hebrew, he kills an Egyptian. The supposition that his brethren

will understand proves to be a great mistake: “they understood not.”

Moses did that which we are all too ready to do: took it for granted that

other people would look at things from his standpoint. A man may be all

that he thinks himself to be; but he will fall in accomplishing his designs if

he makes their success depend upon other people taking him at his own

estimate; there is an unsound premise in his practical syllogism which will

certainly vitiate the conclusion. What we should do is to take pains to place

ourselves at the standpoint of other people, and before assuming that they

see what we see, make sure that at any rate we see what they see. Moses,

the courtier, could see the weakness of the oppressor, and how little power

he had if only his slaves should rise; the slaves, however, bowing beneath

the tyranny, felt and exaggerated the tyrant’s power — they could not see

much hope from the aid of this self-constituted champion.


Ø      What followed from his deed. Life endangered, compulsory flight, a

refuge amongst shepherds in a strange land, forty years’ comparative

solitude, life’s prospects blighted through impatience. “More haste worse

speed” is one of the world’s wise proverbial generalizations. Moses

illustrates the proverb — forty years’ exile for an hour’s hurry!



that shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will.” The apparently wasted

years not really wasted — no needless delay, only preparation and Divine

discipline. Moses had learned much, but he needed to learn more. God takes

him from the school of Egypt, and places him in the university of Nature,

with Time and Solitude and the Desert as his tutors. What did they teach



Ø      The value of the knowledge gained already. Well “to be learned in all

the wisdom of the Egyptians.” But wisdom improves by keeping — it

needs time and solitude to ripen it. Intellectually and spiritually we are

ruminants; silence and- solitude are needed to appropriate and digest



Ø      New knowledge. Few books, if any, of man’s making, but the books of

Nature invited study. The knowledge of the desert would be needed by and

by, together with much other knowledge which could be gained

nowhere else.


Ø      Meekness. He not merely became a wiser man, he grew to be also a

better man. The old self-confidence yielded place to entire dependence

upon the will of God. God had delivered him from the sword of Pharaoh

(compare v. 15 with ch. 18:3), and would help him still, though in a

strange land. Nothing makes a man so meek as faith; the more he realizes

God’s presence and confides in him, the more utterly does the “consuming

fire’ (Hebrews 12:29) burn out of him all pride and selfishness.


  • APPLICATION:  Turning the pages of the book of memory, what records of

delay occasioned by impatience! Yet how do the same pages testify to the

way in which all along God has shaped our ends! It is a mercy that we are

in such good hands, and not left to our own devices. Trusting in God, we

can hope to make the best even of our errors. He can restore — ay, more

than restore — even years which the locust hath eaten (Joel 2:25).




Mistake in Life’s Morning (vs. 11-15)


“He supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand

would deliver them:  but they understood not.” (Acts 7:25). The heart

abandonment of the throne must have taken place before Moses went out

from the palace of the princess to inquire, and therefore before the

enforced flight. Place therefore “the crisis of being” between vs.10 and 11.

Let no one fear to face this error in the life of the Lord’s servant. Admit frankly

that Moses was wrong. We are embarrassed by a notion that clings to us, that the

Bible is a repertory of good examples. It is not so. There is only One perfect,

Jesus Christ, the Righteous!   All other men and women in the Bible are

imperfect and sinful, the subjects of God’s grace, pardoning, correcting,

sanctifying, glorifying. Never lower the moral standard to defend a Bible

character. It gives occasion to the adversary, and brings no satisfaction to

the believer. In this chapter of the biography of Moses observe in his





Ø      Inquiry. No inclination to shrink from responsibility under the plea of

want of knowledge. See the striking passage, Proverbs 24:11-12.

Moses going out to investigate for himself, argues that either his

mother or his people, or both, had opened and maintained

communication with him, informing him of his origin, teaching

the doctrine of the true God, and awakening concern.


Ø      Sympathy. “He looked on their burdens.”


Ø      Indignation. We may be angry and sin; but it is also true that we may

not be angry, and sin even yet more deeply. For illustration cite

modern instances of cruel oppression.




Ø      Excess of indignant feeling.

Ø      Murder.


The “supposition” of Stephen is no justification, even if true; but it may not

be true, or may be only partially true; for the utterance of Stephen, based

on tradition, is not to be confounded with the inspired dictum of God. That

furtive look “this way and that way” does not indicate an assured

conscience. Note the true meaning and spirit of Romans 14:23.




Ø      Failure

Ø      Peril

Ø      Fear

Ø      Flight

Ø      Delay of Israel’s deliverance.


  • THE FINAL OVERRULING. God originates no wrong, but, being

done, lays on it the hand of the mighty. That enforced life in the desert

became as important a part of the training of Moses as life at Avaris;

it acquainted him with “the Wilderness of the Wandering,” its resources,

mode of life; those other children of Abraham — the Midianites; gave him

to wife a descendant of Abraham; led to an important policy for all the

future of Israel (ch.18.); and furnished an all-but-indispensable human

helper and guide (Numbers 10:29-31). Thus does the Eternal Mercy

overrule and countervail the errors, even the sins, of penitent believers.



Moses the Hater of All Oppression (vs. 13-15)






Ø      It is evident that his conscience did not accuse him, as touching the

slaying of the Egyptian. Wrong as the action was, he made it clear that he

had done it from a right motive. Although he had taken the life of a

fellowman, he had taken it not as a murderer, with malice in his heart

against the individual, but as a patriot. Hence the conscience that makes

cowards of us all — the consciousness, that is, of having done a wrong

thing — was absent from his breast. It is a very great matter indeed not to

go against conscience. Let conscience have life and authority, and God will

take his own time and means to cure the blinded understanding.


Ø      Moses felt continued interest in the state of Israel. He Went out the

second day. He did not say, upon reflection, that these visits to his brethren

were too perilous to be continued. He did not say, “I cannot trust my own

indignant feelings, and therefore I must keep away from these

oppressed countrymen of mine. His heart was wholly and steadily with

them. Interest may be easily produced while the exhibition of an injury is

fresh, or the emotions are excited by some skilful speaker. But we do not

want the heart to be like an instrument, only producing music so long as

the performer touches it. We want it to have such a continued activity

within, such a continued thoughtfulness, as will maintain a noble and alert

sympathy with men in all their varied and incessant needs.


Ø      The conduct of Moses here shows that he was a hater of all oppression.

His patriotic feeling had been excited by the Egyptian smiting the Hebrew,

and now his natural sense of justice was outraged by seeing one Hebrew

smiting another. He beheld these men the victims of a common oppression,

and yet one of them who happens to be the stronger adds to the already

existing sufferings of his weaker brother instead of doing what he can to

diminish them. The patriotism of Moses, even with all its yet unremedied

defects, was founded not only in community of blood, but in a deep and

ardent love for all human rights. We may conclude that if Moses had been

an Egyptian, he would not have joined Pharaoh in his remorseless

treatment of Israel, nor seconded a policy of oppression and diminution on

the plea that it was one of necessity. If the Egyptians had been under the

thraldom of the Hebrews, then, Hebrew though he was, he would have

sympathized with the Egyptians.



sad lesson Moses has now to learn, that the oppressed will be the

oppressors, if only they can get the chance. Here we are in the world, all

sinners together, with certain outward consequences of sin prevalent

amongst us in the shape of poverty and sickness, and all such trials onward

to death. Right feeling should teach us, in these circumstances, to stand by

one another, to bear one another’s burdens and do what we can, by union

and true brotherliness, to mitigate the oppressions of our great enemy.

While he is going about seeking whom he may devour, we, his meditated

prey, might well refrain from biting and devouring one another. But what is

the real state of things? The rich sinner afflicts the poor, and too often uses

him in his helplessness for his own aggrandisement. The strong sinner is

always on the look-out to make as much as he can out of every sort of

weakness among his fellow-sinners. And what is worse still, when the

sinner professes to have passed from death unto life, he does not always

show the full evidence of it in loving the brethren as he is bound to do

(I John 3:14). Some professed Christians take a long time to perceive,

and some never perceive at all, that even simple self-indulgence is not only

hurtful to self, but an ever-flowing spring of untold misery to others.




Ø      Notice the person whom Moses addresses. “He said to him that did the

wrong.” He does not pretend to come forward as knowing nothing of the

merits of the quarrel. He does not content himself with dwelling in general

terms on the unseemliness of a dispute between brethren who are also the

victims of a common oppressor. It is not enough for him simply to beseech

the disputants to be reconciled. One is clearly in the wrong, and Moses

does not hesitate by implication to condemn him. Thus there appears in

Moses a certain disposition towards the judicial mind, revealing the germs

of another qualification for the work of his after-life. For the judicial mind

is not only that which strives to bring out all the evidence in matters of

right or wrong, and so to arrive at a correct conclusion; it is also a mind

which has the courage to act on its conclusions, and without fear or favor

pass the necessary sentence. By addressing one of these men rather than

the other, Moses does in a manner declare himself perfectly satisfied that

he is in the wrong.


Ø      Notice the question which Moses puts. He smote the Egyptian; he

expostulated with the Hebrew. The smiting of one Hebrew by another was

evidently very unnatural conduct in the eyes of Moses. When we consider

what men are, there is of course nothing astonishing in the conduct of this

domineering Israelite; he is but seizing the chance which thousands of

others in a like temptation would have seized. But when we consider what

men ought to be, there was great reason for Moses to ask his question,

“Why smitest thou thy fellow?” Why indeed! There was no true reason he

could give but what it was a shame to confess. And so we might often say

to a wrong-doer, “Why doest thou this or that?” according to the particular

wrong he is committing. “Why?” There might be great virtue in this

persistent interrogation if only put in a spirit purged as far as possible from

the censorious and the meddlesome.  ("……speaking the truth in love.."

Ephesians 4:15) What a man does carelessly enough and with much satisfaction,

upon the low consideration of self-indulgence, he might come to forsake if only

brought face to face with high considerations of duty and love, and of

conformity to the will of God and example of Christ. Everything we do ought

to have a sufficient reason for it. Not that we are to be in a perpetual fidget over

minute scruples. But, being by nature so ignorant, and by training so bound-in

with base traditions, we cannot too often or too promptly ask ourselves whether

we have indeed a sufficient reason for the chief principles, occupations and

habits of life.


Ø      Notice that the question put to the Hebrew wrong-doer might just as

well have been put to the Egyptian. He also had been guilty of indefensible

conduct, yet he as well as the other was a man with powers of reflection,

and the timely question, “Why smitest thou this Hebrew?” might have

made him consider that really he had no sufficient reason at all to smite

him. We must not too readily assume that enemies will persist in enmity, if

only we approach them in a friendly manner. He that would change an

enemy into a friend must show himself friendly. The plan may not always

be successful; but it is worth trying to conquer our foes by love, patience

and meekness. We must ever strive to get the selfish people to think, their

thinking powers and all the better part of their humanity only too often get

crushed into a corner before the rush of pride, appetite and passion.



wrong-doer has no sufficient and justifying answer to give; and so he tells

Moses to his face that he is a mere meddler. When men are in a right

course, a course of high and generous aims, they hail any opportunity of

presenting their conduct in a favorable aspect. But when they are doing

wrong, then they make a pretence of asserting their independence and

liberty in order that they may fight shy of awkward confessions. If we wait

till we are never found fault with as meddlers we shall do very little to

compose quarrels and redress injuries, to vindicate the innocent or deliver

the oppressed. Men will listen to a general harangue against tyranny,

injustice and selfishness. They will look at us with great admiration as long

as we shoot our arrows in the air; but arrows are not meant to be shot in

the air; they are meant, at the very least, to go right into the crowd of men,

and sometimes to be directly and closely personal.



Moses as a Fugitive (v. 15)


Men’s sins are sure to “find them out.” (Numbers 32:23) - Moses had thought that

he would not be detected. He had carefully “looked this way and that way” ere he

struck the blow, and had seen “that there was no man.” He had at once hidden the

body of his victim underground. He had concluded that the Hebrew whom he had

delivered from the oppressor would keep silence; if from no other reason, yet at any

rate to save himself from being suspected.  But the man, it appears, had chattered.            

Perhaps from no ill motive, but simply from inability to keep a secret. He had

told his wife, or his daughter, or his neighbor; and at once “the thing was  

known.” While Moses imagined his deed shrouded in deepest secrecy, it was

the general talk. All the Hebrews knew of it; and soon the Egyptians knew also.   

Presently it came to the ears of the king, whose business it was to punish crime,    

and who, naturally and rightfully, “sought to slay Moses.” But he had fled

away; he had put seas and deserts between himself and the royal vengeance; he    

was a refugee in Midian. So, though he escaped the public execution which           

Egyptian law awarded to his crime, he had to expiate it by forty years of exile

and of hard service, a hireling shepherd tending the flock of another man.

He had forfeited the attractions, temptations, riches, pleasures and the

position of the adopted child of a princess in Egypt.



    Sitting by the Well: A Suggestive Comparison (v. 15)


The very expression, “He sat down by a well,” inevitably suggests that

conversation beside the well at Sychar, in which Jesus took so important a

part.  (John 4)  Note the following points of resemblance, and then say if they

can be considered as purely accidental. Are they not rather involved in the

profound designs of Him who presided over the construction of the Scriptures?


1. As we see Moses fleeing from the face of Pharaoh, so we see Jesus making

a prudent departure from Judaea into Galilee, on account of the Pharisees.


2. Both Moses and Jesus are found sitting by a well.


3. As Moses comes in contact with seven women of a different nation, so

Jesus with the woman of Samaria. And just as the daughters of Reuel

made the difference seem greater still by calling Moses an Egyptian, which

though a name partly appropriate, was yet particularly inappropriate at a

time when he was the object of Pharaoh’s bitterest hatred — so the woman

of Samaria laid emphasis on the fact that Jesus was a Jew, being altogether

ignorant how small a part was that of the truth concerning Him.


4. The very difference in number is significant. Moses could help a number

in the service that he rendered, because it was a mere external service. But

Jesus needed to have the woman of Samaria alone, that he might deal

effectually with her peculiar, individual need. There is a great difference in

respect of the things to be said and done, according as we are dealing with

one person or more than one.


5. The meeting of Moses with the daughters of Reuel led on to his

becoming acquainted with Reuel himself; gaining his confidence and

becoming his helper. So Jesus serving the woman of Samaria was led on to

serve, not one only, but many of those connected with her.


6. Moses soon entered into a nearer relation still with Reuel, and Jesus in

the course of His conversation with the woman asserted principles which

were to break down the barriers between Jew and Samaritan, and every

wall of partition separating those who should be united. Lastly, he who

helped these women became a shepherd; and his dying thought was of a

shepherd’s work, as he prayed God to give him a successor who should be

a true shepherd to Israel. And as to Jesus, we all know how He delighted to

set Himself before His disciples as the Good Shepherd, deeply concerned for

the nourishment and security of His flock, and concerned most of all to

seek and to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11-13; Luke 15:4; 19:10).





Fugitives from Egypt generally took the northern route from Pelusium or Migdol to

Gaza, and so to Syria, or the regions beyond. But in this quarter they were liable to

be arrested and sent back to the  Egyptian monarch. Rameses II put a special clause

to this effect into his treaty  with the contemporary Hittite king (Brugsch, ‘History

of Egypt,’ vol. 2 p. 73). It  was, perhaps, the fear of extradition which made Moses

turn his steps southeastward, and proceed along the route, or at any rate in the

direction, which he afterwards took with his nation. Though Egypt had possessions

in the Sinaitic peninsula, it was not difficult to avoid them; and before Sinai was

reached the fugitive would be in complete safety, for the Egyptians seem never

to have penetrated to the southern or eastern parts of the great triangle. “The well,”

by which Moses took up his abode, is placed with some probability  in the

neighborhood of Sherm, about ten miles north-east of Ras Mahommed, the southern

cape of the peninsula.


16 “Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came

and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock.”

The priest of Midian. Cohen is certainly “priest” here, and not “prince,” since

the father-in-law of Moses exercises priestly functions in ch. 18:12. His seven

daughters drew water for his flock, in accordance with Eastern custom. So Rachel

“kept the sheep” of her father Laban, and watered them (Genesis 29:9). Such a

practice agrees well with the simplicity of primitive times and peoples; nor would

it even at the present day be regarded as strange in Arabia.


17 “And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and

helped them, and watered their flock.” The shepherds came and drove them

away. There is not much “natural politeness” among primitive peoples. The right

of the stronger prevails, and women go to the wall. Even the daughters of their

priest were not respected by these rude sons of the desert, who would not

wait their turn, but used the water which Reuel’s daughters had drawn. The

context shows that this was not an accidental or occasional circumstance,

but the regular practice of the shepherds, who thus day after day saved

themselves the trouble of drawing. (See the next verse.) Moses stood up

and helped them. Ever ready to assist the weak against the strong (supra,

vs. 12-13), Moses “stood up” — sprang to his feet — and, though only

one man against a dozen or a score, by his determined air intimidated the

crowd of wrong-doers, and forced them to let the maidens’ sheep drink at

the troughs. His dress was probably that of an Egyptian of rank; and they

might reasonably conclude from his boldness that he had attendants within



18 “And when they came to Reuel their father, he said,  How is it that ye

are come so soon to day?”  Reuel their father. Reuel is called “Raguel” in

Numbers 10:29, but the Hebrew spelling is the same in both places. The word

means “friend of God,” and implies monotheisim. Compare ch. 18:9-12.


19 “And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the

shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock.”

An Egyptian. Reuel’s daughters judged by the outward

appearance. Moses wore the garb and probably spoke the language of

Egypt. He had had no occasion to reveal to them his real nationality. Drew

water enough for us. The shepherds had consumed some of the water

drawn by the maidens, before Moses could drive them off. He supplied the

deficiency by drawing more for them — an act of polite attention.



Moses a Second Time the Champion of the Oppressed (vs. 16-19)


His championship of an oppressed Hebrew, indiscreetly and wrongfully asserted, had

driven Moses from the country of his birth. No sooner does he set foot in the land

where he seeks a refuge, than his championship is again called forth. On the first

occasion it was a weaker race oppressed by one more powerful that made appeal

to his feelings; now it is the weaker sex, oppressed by the stronger, that rouses him.

His Egyptian civilization may have helped to intensify his aversion to this form of

oppression, since among the Egyptians of his time women held a high place,

and were treated with consideration. He springs forward therefore to maintain

the rights of Reuel’s daughters; but he has learnt wisdom so far that he

restrains himself — kills no one, strikes no one — merely “helps” the victims,

and has their wrong redressed. The    circumstances of life give continual   

occasion for such interference as this; and each man is bound, so far as he can,

to check oppression, and “see that they who are in need and necessity have

right.” If Moses is a warning to us in respect of his mode of action on the

former occasion, he is an example here. The protection of women, whensoever

and wheresoever they are wronged and ill-used, is a high Christian duty.


20 “And he said unto  his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye

have left the man?  call him, that he may eat bread.”   Where is he?

Reuel reproaches his daughters with a want of politeness — even of gratitude.

Why have they “left the man”? Why have they not invited him in? They must

themselves remedy the omission — they must go and “call him” — that he

“may eat bread,” or take his evening meal with them.



Moses in Midian (vs. 15-20)


Moses had to flee. The hard, unworthy reproach, humiliating as he must

have felt it to be, nevertheless gave him a timely warning. His flight seems

to have been instantaneous; perhaps not even the opportunity to bid

farewell to his friends. An utter rupture, a complete separation was his only

safety. Consider:




Ø      Possibly Pharaoh’s daughter was still alive. If so, we can imagine her

sorrow and utter perplexity over the son of her adoption, and the

reproaches she might have to bear from her own kindred. How often she

may have heard that common expression which adds insult to bitter

disappointment, “I told you so.” We may be tolerably sure as to one result

of the long sojourn of Moses in Midian, viz., that when he returned, she

would be vanished from the scene, spared from beholding the son of her

adoption the agent of such dreadful visitations to her own people. Yet even

with this mitigation, the agony may have been more than she could bear.

She had sheltered Moses, watched over him, and “nourished him for her

own son,” giving him the opportunity to become learned m all the wisdom

of the Egyptians; only to find at last that a sword had pierced through her

own soul (Luke 2:35; Acts 7:21-22).


Ø      He left his brethren in servitude. Any expectation they may have had,

from his present eminence and possibly greater eminence in the future, was

now completely crushed. It is well to effect a timely crushing of false

hopes, even if great severity has to be used.


Ø      He left behind all difficulties that came from his connection with the

court. Had he gone on staying in Egypt he would have had to make his

election, sooner or later, between the Egyptians and his own people. But

now he is spared having to decide for himself. We have to thank God that

he sometimes takes painful and difficult decisions out of our hands, so that

we have no longer to blame ourselves either for haste or procrastination;

for rashness and imprudence, or cowardice and sloth. God in His

providence does things for us, which we might find it very hard to do for



  • WHAT HE FOUND BEFORE HIM. He went out, hardly knowing

whither he went. The safest place was the best for him, and that safest

place might not immediately appear. Yet how plain it is that God was

guiding him, as really as He guided Abraham, though Moses was not

conscious of the guiding. He fled because he had slain a fellow-man, yet he

was not going forth as a Cain. Under the wrath of Pharaoh, he was not

under that wrath of God which rests upon murderers. He was going to a

new school, having learned all that could be learned in the old one.

He probably asked himself as he fled, “Where can I go? Who will

receive me? What story can I tell?” He would feel, now the homicide was

known, that it was impossible to say how far the news had reached.

Onward he sped — perhaps, like most fugitives of the sort, hiding by day

and traveling by night — until at last he reached the land of Midian. Here

he concluded to dwell although it may have been in his mind only a

temporary stage to a distant and safer abode. And now observe that with

this fresh mention of what happened to him after his flight, there is an

immediate and still further revelation of his character, all in the way of

showing his natural fitness for the great work of his life. He has made an

awful mistake in his manner of showing sympathy with Israel, and in

consequence has exposed himself to a humiliating rebuff; but all this does

not make him one whit less willing to champion the weak when the

occasion comes. He was a man always ready for opportunities of service;

and wherever he went there seemed to be something for him to do. He had

fled from a land where the strong oppressed the weak, and come into

another land where he found the same thing prevailing, and in one of its

most offensive forms; for the tyranny was that of man over woman. The

people of Midian had a priest who seems to have been himself a hospitable

man and a judicious and prudent one (ch. 18.); but there was so little

reality of religion among the people, so little respect for the priest’s office,

that these shepherds drove his daughters away from the well — whom

rather they should have gladly helped. It was not an occasional

misadventure to the daughters, but a regular experience (v. 18). None of

these shepherds perhaps had ever killed a man, but for all that they were a

pack of savage boors. Moses, on the other hand, even though he has slain a

man, is not a mere bravo, one who puts little value on human life. One

might have said of him as Chaucer says of one of his pilgrims in the

Canterbury Tales,’


“He was a veray parfit gentil knight.”


Then, when Moses had helped the women, his difficulties and doubts were

soon brought to an end. He had helped them, though they were utter

strangers, because he felt it his duty so to do. He was not looking to them

for a release from his difficulties, for how could a few weak women help

him, those who had just been the objects of his own pity? But as women

had been the means of protecting him in infancy, so they were the means of

providing for him now. He did not seek Reuel; Reuel sought him. He

needed no certificate of character, these daughters themselves were an

epistle of commendation to their father. He might safely tell all his story

now, for even the darkest chapter of it would be viewed in the light of his

recent generous action.


21 “And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses

Zipporah his daughter.”   Moses was content to dwell with the man.

Moses had fled from Egypt without any definite plan, simply to save his life,

and had now to determine how he would obtain a subsistence. Received into

Reuel’s house, or tent, pleased with the man and with his family, he consented

to stay with him, probably entered into his service, as Jacob into Laban’s

(Genesis 29:15-20), kept his sheep, or otherwise made himself useful

(see ch. 3:1); and in course of time Reuel gave Moses his daughter, accepted

him for his son-in-law, so that he became not merely a member of his household,

but of his family, was adopted probably into the tribe, so that he could not quit

it without permission (ch. 4:18), and, so far as his own intention went, cast in

his lot with the Midianites, with whom he meant henceforth to live and die.

Such vague ideas as he may previously have entertained of his “mission”

had passed away; he had been “disillusioned” by his ill-success, and now

looked forward to nothingbut a life of peaceful obscurity.


22 “And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he

said, I have been a stranger in a strange land”  Gershom. An Egyptian

etymology has been assigned to this name (‘Speaker’s Commentary,’ vol. 1.,

p. 488); but Moses in the text clearly indicates that his own intention was to

give his child a name significant in Hebrew. “He called his name Gershom,

for he said, a stranger (ger) have I been,” etc. The only question is, what

the second element of the name, shom, means. This appears to be correctly

explained by Kalisch and others as equivalent to sham “there “ — so that

the entire word would mean “(I was) a stranger there”i.e. in the country

where this son was born to me.



The Long Exile (vs. 15-22)


Moses took with him into Midian all the best elements of his character; he

left some of the faulty ones behind. He may be assumed to have left much

of his self-confidence, and to have been cured in part of his natural

rashness. His after growth in meekness would almost imply that he had

come to see the need of curbing his hot passions, and had, like David,

purposed in his heart that he would not transgress (Psalm 17:3; 32:1).

But he carried with him all his nobleness, all his magnanimity and courtesy.

This comes beautifully out in his defense of the women at the well (vs.16-17).


  • AN INSTANCE OF CHIVALRY. We have in the incident —


Ø      The weak pushed aside by the strong. Rude, ill-mannered fellows thrust

aside the daughters of the priest of Midian from the sheep-troughs, and

shamelessly appropriate the water with which they had diligently filled



Ø      Brave championship of the weak. Moses takes their part, stands up to

help them, and compels the shepherds to give way. Not content with this,

he gives the maidens what assistance he is able. The two dispositions stand

in fine contrast: the one all that is unmanly and contemptible, the other all

that is chivalrous and noble. The instance teaches:


o        That the chivalrous disposition is also helpful. The one grace sets off

the other. But the bully is a churl, helping nobody, and filching from the



o        That the bully is to boot a coward. He will insult a woman, but cringes

in the presence of her vindicator. No true man need be afraid to beard him.


o        That acts of kindness to the defenseless are often repaid in unexpected

ways. They are indeed their own reward. It revives one’s spirit to maintain

the cause of the needy. Moses, like Jesus, sat by the well; but this little act

of kindness, like the Saviour’s conversation with the woman of Samaria,

did more to refresh his spirit than the sweetest draught he could have taken

from it. It was good for him, defeated in resisting tyranny in Egypt, and

discouraged by the reception he had met with from his brethren, to have

this opportunity of reasserting his crushed manhood, and of feeling that he

was still useful. It taught him, and it teaches us:


§         Not to despair of doing good. Tyranny has many phases, and

when it cannot be resisted in one form, it may in another. And

it taught him:


§         Not to despair of human nature. Gratitude had not vanished from the

earth, because his brethren had proved ungrateful. Hearts were still

to be found, sensitive to the magic touch of kindness; capable of

responding to it; ready to repay it by love. For the little deed of

chivalry led to unexpected and welcome results. It prepared the

way for the hospitable reception of Moses by Reuel and found

for him a home in Midian; gave him a wife; provided him

with suitable occupation.


  • THE RESIDENCE IN MIDIAN. Notice on this:


Ø      The place of it. In or near the Peninsula of Sinai. Solitude and grandeur.

Fit place for education of thought and heart. Much alone with God — with

Nature in her more awful aspects — with his own thoughts.


Ø      The society of it. He had probably few companions beyond his

immediate circle: his wife; her father, sheikh and priest, — pious,

hospitable, kindly-natured; the sisters. His life simple and unartificial, a

wholesome corrective to the luxury of Egypt.


Ø      The occupation of it. He kept flocks (ch. 3:1). The shepherd’s

life, besides giving him a valuable knowledge of the topography of the

desert, was very suitable for developing qualities important in a leader —

watchfulness, skill, caution, self-reliance, bravery, tenderness, etc. So

David was taken “from the sheepcote, from following the sheep,” to be

ruler over God’s people, over Israel (II Samuel 7:8). It lets in light on

Moses’ character that he was willing to stoop to, and did not spurn, this

lowly toil. He that could so humble himself was fit to be exalted. By

faithfulnesss in that which was least, he served an apprenticeship for being

faithful also in much (Luke 16:10).


Ø      The duration of it. Forty years was a long time, but not too long for the

training God was giving him. The richest characters are slowest in coming

to maturity, and Moses was all this while developing in humility, and in

knowledge of God, of man, and, of his own heart. The whole subject

teaches us valuable lessons.


  • LEARN:


Ø      God’s dealings with His servants are often mysterious. Moses in Midian

seems an instance of the highest gifts thrown uselessly away. Is this, we ask

in surprise, the only use God can find for a man so richly gifted, so

remarkably preserved, and on whom have been lavished all the treasures of

Egypt’s wisdom? Any ordinary man might be a shepherd, but how few

could do the work of a Moses? Moses himself, in the meditations of these

forty years, must often have wondered at the strange irony of his life. Yet

how clear it was all made to him at last! Trust God to know better what is

good for you than you do yourself.


Ø      How little a man has, after all, to do with the shaping of his own

history! In one sense he has much, yea everything, to do with it. Had

Moses, e.g., not so rashly slain the Egyptian, his whole future would

doubtless have borne a different complexion. Man is responsible for his

acts, but once he has done them, they are taken in spite of himself out of

his hands, and shaped in their consequences by overruling Providence. He

who sent the princess to the river, sent also the priest’s daughters to the



Ø      It is man’s wisdom to study contentment with his lot. It may be humble,

and not the lot we like, or had counted on. It may be a lot to which we

never expected to be reduced. We may feel as if our gifts and powers were

being wasted in it. Yet if it is our lot — the one meanwhile providentialiy

marked out for us - our wisdom is cheerfully to accept of it, and make the

best of the tasks which belong to it.




Moses as a Husband and Father (vs. 21-22)


The Midianites were descendants of Abraham (Genesis 25:2-4); and marriage with

them was permitted, even under the Law (Numbers 31:18). Moses, in wedding

Zipporah, obeyed the primeval command, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28),

while at the same time he gave himself the solace so much needed by an exile,

of tender and loving lifelong companionship. “Moses was content to dwell

with the man” - Such vague ideas as he may previously have entertained of

his “mission” had passed away; he had been “disillusioned” by his ill-success,

and now looked forward to nothing but a life of peaceful obscurity.  That Reuel   

was willing to give him one of his daughters indicates that he had approved          

himself as a faithful servant in the good priest’s household, and was felt to            

deserve a reward. That Zipporah accepted him was perhaps mere filial

obedience, for which she was rewarded when the fugitive and exile became

the first man in a considerable nation. God blessed the marriage with male

issue, a blessing fondly desired by each true Israelite, and certainly not least by     

Moses, who knew so well that in some descendant of Abraham “all the

families of the earth should be blessed.” A shade of sadness shows itself,           

however, in the name which he gave his firstborn — Gershom, “a stranger           

there.” He himself had been for years, and, for aught that he could tell, his

son might always be “a stranger in a strange land” far from his true home,

far from his own people, a refugee among foreigners, who could not be

expected to love him as one of themselves, or treat him otherwise than with          

coldness.  Depression like this often assails us at moments of great joy, the

good obtained making us feel all the more sensibly that other goods have

been lost. Such depression, however, after a time, passes away, and the     

desponding cry of “Gershom” is followed (Exodus 18:3-4) by that of

“Eliezer,” or “my God helps.”



Gershom (v. 22)


Ø      The good man in this world is often lonely at heart.


o       When violence reigns unchecked.

o       When God’s cause is in a depressed condition.

o       When repulsed in efforts to do good.

o       When severed from scenes of former labor.

o       When his outward lot is uncongenial.

o       When deprived of suitable companionships, and when he can

find few to sympathize with him.


Ø      God sends to the good man alleviations of his loneliness. We may hope

that Zipporah, if not without faults, formed a kind and helpful wife to

Moses. Then, sons were born to him — the first, the Gershom of this

text.  These were consolations.


o       A wife’s affection, or

o       the prattle and innocence of children


have sweetened the lot of many all exile. Remember John Bunyan and

his blind daughter.




Life and Its Moods (v. 22)


“He called his name Gershom,” etc. (v. 22), compared with —

“And the name of the other was Eliezer,” etc. (ch. 18:3-4). Note the

isolation and misery of the earlier time, and the mercy of the later — each

begetting its own tone and mood of mind; and further, the desirability of

living above the mood of the passing day. Rev. O. Kingsley says (‘Life,’

1:82): “Let us watch against tones. They are unsafe things. The tone of a

man or woman’s mind ought to be that of thoughtful reverence and love;

but neither joy or sorrow, or activity or passiveness, or any other animal

tone, ought to be habitual.”





                                        ISRAEL’S PRAYERS —

                        GOD’S ACCEPTANCE OF THEM (vs. 23-25)



After a space of forty years from the time of Moses’ flight from Egypt, according to

the estimate of Stephen (Acts 7:30), the king whose anger he had provoked —

Rameses II., as we believe — died.  He had reigned sixty-seven years — about

forty-seven alone, and about twenty in conjunction with his father. At his death, 

the oppressed Israelites ventured to hope for some amelioration of their condition.

On his accession, a king in the East often reverses the policy of his predecessor,

or at any rate, to make himself popular, grants a remission of burdens for a certain

period. But at this time the new monarch, Menephthah I., the son of Rameses II.,

disappointed the hopes of the Israelites, maintained his father’s policy, continued

the established system of oppression, granted them no relief of any kind. They

“sighed,” therefore, in consequence of their disappointment, and “criedunto

God in their trouble, and made supplication to Him more earnestly, more heartily,

than ever before. We need not suppose that they had previously fallen away from

their faith, and “now at last returned to God after many years of idolatrous aberration”

(Aben Ezra, Kalisch). But there was among  them an access of religious fervor;

they “turned to God” from a state of deadness, rather from one of alienation, and

raised a “cry” of the kind to which GOD IS NEVER DEAF! God therefore

“heard their groaning,” deigned to listen to their prayers, and commenced

the course of miraculous action which issued in the Exodus.


23 “And it came to pass IN THE PROCESS OF TIME (what a somber

thought! – CY – 2010)  Literally, “in those many days.The reign

of Rameses II. was exceptionally long, as previously explained. He had

already reigned twenty-seven years when Moses fled from him (ch. 2:15).

He had now reigned sixty-seven, and Moses was eighty! It had

seemed a weary while to wait – “that  the king of Egypt died: 

and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they

cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.” 

The children of Israel sighed. If the time had seemed a weary while to Moses,

how much more to his nation! He had escaped and was in Midian — they toiled

on in Egypt. He kept sheep — they had their lives made “bitter” for them

“with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the

field” (ch. 1:14).  He could bring up his sons in safety; their sons were still

thrown into the river. No wonder that “an exceeding bitter cry” went up to God

from the oppressed people, so soon as they found that they had nothing to hope

from the new king.




  Death Comes at Last, Even to the Proudest Monarch (v. 23)


Rameses II left behind him the reputation of being the greatest of the

Egyptian kings. He was confounded with the mythical Sesostris, and

regarded as the conqueror of all Western Asia, of Ethiopia, and of a large

tract in Europe. His buildings and other great works did, in fact, probably

excel those of any other Pharaoh. His reign was the longest, if we except

one, of any upon record. He was victorious, by land or sea, over all who

resisted his arms. Yet a time came when he too “went the way of all flesh.”

(I Kings 2:20  “It is appointed unto all men once to die, and after that the

judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)  After eighty years of life and sixty-seven of regal

power, the Great Rameses was gathered to his fathers. Of what avail then was

all his glory, all his wealth, all his magnificence, all his architectural display, all

his long series of victories? Could he plead them before the judgment-seat of an

ALL-RIGHTEOUS GOD? He could not even, according to his own belief, have

pleaded them before the tribunal of his own Osiris. A modern writer says

that every stone in the edifices which he raised was cemented with the

blood of a human victim (Lenormant, ‘Manuel d’Histoire Ancienne,’ vol.

1. p. 423). Thousands of wretches toiled incessantly to add to his glory,

and cover Egypt with building, obelisks, and colossi, which still show

forth his greatness. But what is the result of all, what advantage has he

gained by it? On earth, he is certainly not forgotten; but History gibbets

him as a tyrant and oppressor - one of the scourges of the human race. In

the intermediate region where he dwells, what can be his thoughts of the

past? What his expectations of the future? Must he not mourn continually

over his misspent life, and unavailingly regret his cruelties? The meanest of

his victims is now happier than he, and would refuse to change lots with



24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant

with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  25 And God looked upon

the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them”. 

God heard their groaning. God is said to “hear” the prayers which He accepts and

grants; to “be deaf” to those which He does not grant, but rejects. He now “heard”

(i.e. accepted) the supplications of oppressed Israel; and on account of the covenant

which He had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — a covenant always

remembered by Him —He looked upon His people, made them the objects of His

special regard, and entered on a course, which was abnormal, irregular, miraculous,

in order to carry out His purposes of mercy towards them. It is observed that

anthropomorphic expressions are here accumulated; but this is always the

case when the love and tenderness of God towards man are spoken of,

since they form the only possible phraseology in which ideas of love and

tenderness can be expressed so as to be intelligible to human beings. And

God regarded them. Literally, “and God knew.” God kept the whole in

His thoughts — bore in mind the sufferings, the wrongs, the hopes, the

fears, the groans, the despair, the appeal to Him, the fervent supplications

and prayers — knew all, remembered all-counted every word and sigh —

gathered the tears into His bottle — noted all things in His book — and for

the present endured, kept silence — but was preparing for His foes a

terrible vengeance — for His people a marvelous deliverance




Moses and Christ (vs. 1-25)


Compare in circumstances of early life.


1. Obscurity of birth.

2. Peril in infancy.

3. Protection in Egypt.

4. Rejected by brethren

5. Humble toil. The carpenter’s shop — keeping sheep.

6. Long period of silent preparation.


The period was not so long in Christ’s case as in the case of Moses, but had a like

significance in preparation for future work.






The Hour of Help (vs. 23-25)


Ø      It was long delayed.


o       Till tyranny had done its worst.

o       Till the last hope of help from man had disappeared.

Improvement may have been looked for at death of king.


Ø      It came at last.


o       When the bondage had served its ends.

o       When the people, in despair of man, were crying to God.


Ø      When it did come!


o       The man was found ready who was to bring it.

o       God was found faithful to His promise.




             A Groaning Israel and an Observant God (vs. 23-25)



There was no supplication for help, no expression of confidence in a

helper; seeing there was no real sense of trust in One who could keep, and

therefore no possibility of real expectation from Him. These Israelites did

not wait as they that watch for the morning, sure that it will come at last

(Psalm 130:6), but rather as those who say in the morning, “Would

God it were even!” and at even, “Would God it were morning!”

(Deuteronomy 28:67). Their right attitude, if only they had been able to

occupy it, was that which Jesus is said to have occupied  - “Who in the

days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications

with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from

death, and was heard in that He feared.” (Hebrews 5:7).

They should have offered up prayers and supplications along with their

strong crying and tears to Him that was able to save them. But the God

who had been so near to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, seemed now removed

to a distance. No one appeared with whom the Israelites in their despair

could wrestle until they gained the blessing of deliverance. And thus it has

been in every generation, and still continues. The misery of the world

cannot be silent, and in it all the saddest feature is, that the miserable have

no knowledge of God, or, if they have, it is a knowledge without practical

use. They are WITHOUT HOPE in the world, because they are WITHOUT

GOD in the world. They go on groaning like a sick infant that neither knows

the cause of its trouble nor where to look for help. And in the midst of all this

ignorance, Jesus would lead men to true prayer — to intelligent and calm

dependence upon God for things according to His will.



CRYING. They sighed by reason of the bondage. Bodily restraint,

privation, and pain — in these lay the reasons for their groaning. Their pain

was that of the senses, not that of the spirit. Little wonder then that they

were not susceptible to the presence of God. Contrast their painful

experiences with those recorded in the following Psalms, 32., 38., 39, 51.,

119., 136. Jesus made it evident by His dealings with many of those who

came to Him that the bulk of men, like the Israelites of old, are sighing

because of some temporal bondage. They think that pain would vanish, if

only they could get all sensible comforts. The poor man thinks what a

comfort wealth and plenty must be, yet a rich man came to Jesus, still

unsatisfied in spite of his wealth, and was obliged to go away again, sad,

because of what Jesus had said, deeply disturbed and disappointed; and

all because he had great possessions. There was no chance of doing much

good to Israel, as long as they were sighing simply because of the bondage.

The pain of life which comes through the senses would sink into a matter,

of superficial insignificance, if only we felt as we ought to do the

corruption and danger which come through sin. We should soon come to

THE TRUE REMEDY for all our pains, if only we learned to cry for the

clean heart and the right spirit.




for the ignorance of the people. He knew what was wanted, even though

they knew not. The father on earth, being evil, has to make the best guess

he can at the interests of his children; our Father in heaven knows exactly

what we want. God does not expect from the ignorant what can only be

presented by those who know Him; and He was about to deal with Israel so

that they might know Him. And first of all they must be made to feel that

Egypt was in reality a very different place from what it appeared to Jacob

and his sons, coming out of famine-stricken Canaan. The time had long

past when there was any temptation to say, “Surely Egypt is better than

Canaan; we shall be able to take our ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”

There had not only been corn in Egypt, but tyrants and taskmasters. We

have all to find out what Egypt really is; and until we make the full discovery,

we cannot appreciate THE NEARNESS OF GOD AND PROFIT BY IT!

God can do much for us when we come to the groaning-point, when the dear

illusions of life not only begin to vacate their places, but are succeeded by

painful, stern, and abiding realities. When we begin to cry, even though

our cry be only because of temporal losses and pains, there is then a chance

that we may attend to the increasing revelations of THE PRESENCE OF

GOD and learn to wait upon Him in OBEDIENCE and PRAYER



    God is Never Deaf to Earnest Prayer for Deliverance (vs. 24-25)


It was eighty years since the cruel edict went forth, “Every son that is born

ye shall cast into the river” (ch. 1:22) — ninety, or perhaps a hundred, since the

severe oppression began (ibid. vs. 11-14). Israel had sighed

and groaned during the whole of this long period, and no doubt addressed

many a prayer to God, which seemed unheard. But no earnest faithful

prayer during the whole of the long space was unheard. God treasured

them all up in His memory. He was “not slack, as men count slackness”

(II Peter 3:9)  He had to wean His people from their attachment to Egypt

he had to discipline them, to form their character — to prepare them to endure

the hardships of the desert, and to face the fierce tribes of Canaan. When this

was done — when they were fit, He gave effect to their prayers — “heard

their groaning” — and just as they were on the point of despairing,

delivered them. The lesson to us here is, that we never despair, never grow

weary and listless, never cease our prayers, nor strive to make them more and

more fervent. We can never know how near we are to the time when God

will show forth His power to grant and accomplish our prayers.



Three Facts (vs. 23-25)



As in streams the water is attracted to and swirls round various centers, so here the

interest of the narrative circles about three facts. We have”


  • THE KING’S DEATH. Who the king was may be uncertain. [Some say

Aahmes I. . — see Canon Cook, in ‘Speaker’s Commentary;’ others,

Rameses II. — see R. S. Poole, In Contemporary Review,’ March, 1879.]

What he had done is sufficiently evident. Confronted with an alien people,

of whose history he knew little and with whom he had no sympathy, he had

treated them with suspicion and cruelty. Walking by sight he had

inaugurated a policy which was sufficiently clever but decidedly unwise; he

had hatched the very enmity he dreaded, by making those whom he feared

miserable. Nevertheless, he, personally, does not seem to have been the

loser in this life. He left a legacy of trouble for his successor, but probably

to the last he was feared and honored. Such lives were to the Egyptians,

and must still be, suggestive of immortality. If evil can thus prosper in the

person of a king, life must indeed be a moral chaos if it end with death and

there be no hereafter. “The king of Egypt died:” what about the King of

Heaven and Earth?


  • THE PEOPLE’S CRY. The inheritance of an evil policy accepted and

endorsed by the new king. Results upon an oppressed people:


Ø      Misery finds a voice. “They sighed” — a half-stifled cry, which

however gathers strength; “they cried. Forty years of silent endurance

seeks at length relief in utterance. The king’s death brings the dawn of

hope; the first feeling after liberty is the cry of anguish which cannot be

suppressed. Such a cry, an inarticulate prayer which needed no

interpreter to translate it — an honest and heartfelt prayer of which

God could take cognizance.


Ø      The voice of misery finds a listener. The cry was a cry with wings to it

— it “came up unto God.” Too many so-called prayers have no wings,

or at most clipped wings. They grovel on the earth like barnyard fowls,

and if they chance to pick up solace, it is, like themselves, of the earth

earthy.  Winged prayers, even when winged by sorrow, go up, and for

a time seem lost, but they reach heaven and find harbor there.




Ø      Attention secured and the covenant remembered. God had not been deaf

before, nor had He been forgetful of His promise. For practical memory,

however, there must be a practical claim upon that which is remembered.

So long as the people are indifferent, their indifference suspends the

fulfillment of the covenant. All the while God, by permitting the tyranny,

had been stirring up their memory that they might stir up His. When they

are aroused, He shows at once that He is mindful.


Ø      The children of the covenant beheld, and respect paid to their

necessities. So far, God had looked upon a people of slaves, trying hard

to make themselves content with servitude. Now that misery has aroused

them to remember who and what they are, He sees once more the

children of Israeloffspring of the wrestling Prince. People have to

come to themselves (Luke 15:17) before God can effectually look upon

them. Content with servitude, He sees them slaves.