Exodus 1 showed us a new devil attempting to take God’s place in the life of God’s people, and the chapter left us wondering what would come of his decree to drown the sons. The Lord will reveal something about himself in this chapter that none of us would ever have expected.
Observation of Exodus 2
As usual, though my list must be highly selective, I hope it still proves representative of the narrator’s intentions.
Most repeated words in ESV: Moses, said (each 10 times), child, daughter, when (each 8x), Pharaoh (7x), God, water (each 6x).
- Because “said” repeats so many times, dialogue will become much more important in this chapter.
- Pharaoh sought to stamp out the sons, but God will respond through the “child” of the “daughter.” Very sneaky.
- At first, I’m inclined to overlook “when” as being significant. But upon further investigation, the repetition clues me in on an important motif: When x, then y. In other words, the event sequence matters. There is an order to things here, and God is facilitating events to happen just so.
- It’s noteworthy that the narrator will later tell us the names of Moses’ parents (Ex 6:20) and sister (Ex 15:20). But for now, we’re meant to think of them only in terms of their literary roles: man, woman, mother, sister, and daughter.
- Paragraph 1 (Ex 2:1-10): A Hebrew woman delivers a fine child through the river and into the hands of Pharaoh’s daughter.
- Paragraph 2 (Ex 2:11-15): A Hebrew man rejects the deliverance Moses attempts, and Pharaoh’s vengeance squeezes Moses out of Egypt and into Midian.
- Paragraph 3 (Ex 2:16-22): Moses (thought to be “an Egyptian” – Ex 2:19) delivers seven Midianite daughters through well water. they cheerfully receive his deliverance by extending hospitality, a family, and a new identity as sojourner.
- Paragraph 4 (Ex 2:23-25): The king of Egypt dies, and the God of the living knows his people and remembers his duty to them.
Interpretation of Exodus 2
A few possible questions:
- What does it mean for baby Moses to be “fine”, and why does this fact motivate his mother to hide him and save his life?
- Why are we given no names except Moses, Reuel (priest of Midian), Zipporah (Moses’ Midianite wife), and Gershom (Moses’ son)?
- Why is deliverance such a repeated theme?
- Why is water such a repeated theme?
- So what must we conclude about Moses’ behavior in murdering the Egyptian?
Answers (numbers correspond to the preceding questions):
- A short jaunt into a Hebrew tool reveals that the word for “fine” is the same word in Genesis 1 translated “good.” The phrase is very similar to “And God saw that it was good”—”She saw that he was good.” So, as with Exodus 1, we see more connections back to Genesis. In addition, the word used for baby Moses’ “basket” is the same word used for Noah’s “ark,” and this word occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament. With the birth of Moses, God is making a new creation, a new beginning for his people, and Moses is the firstborn of this new creation. This new beginning includes a new deliverance from water through water, just like Noah. This causes us to expect something earth-shattering will soon take place.
- The point is not so much who these people are, but what role they play. Pharaoh targeted the sons, so the daughters (including his own) work to undermine him. And with a “man” and a “woman” conceiving and bearing a son, we can’t help but think of the first man and woman at the first creation. This leads us to see the “new creation” idea even more clearly in Moses. And interestingly, Reuel may mean “friend of God”—the priest of Midian, who invites Moses into his home and family, stands in stark contrast to both the Egyptian and Hebrew people.
- God foreshadows his intentions. He will, no he must, deliver his people—because of his promises to their ancestors. Moses’ role in the story of Israel will be to deliver in God’s name. He experiences deliverance himself and takes a first stab at it.
- Water contributes to the “new creation” theme (see answer to question #1).
- Many (most?) modern readers and commentators are quick to condemn Moses’ actions here as being rash and sinful. That might be true, but the text never draws attention to the rashness or sinfulness of these actions. In fact, the chief point of tension occurs not when Moses kills the Egyptian, but when the Hebrew rejects Moses as a prince or judge over him. It is that rejection, and not the murder itself, which causes Moses to flee from Egypt to Midian. What might have happened if Israel had trusted that “God was giving them salvation by his hand”? We should note that the first martyr Stephen interprets this episode in just this way (Acts 7:23-29). We would do well to follow Stephen’s lead on how to read this story.
Train of thought:
- Pharaoh’s decree to drown the sons has an unintended effect: the creation of a deliverer (aided and abetted by his own household!).
- But the people who need deliverance reject the potential deliverer.
- The deliverer must flee and take his deliverance to a different people-group, who, while outside the covenants of promise, are yet eager to receive God’s deliverance.
- But God is not yet done with his covenant people. The people who reject and thus don’t deserve deliverance will find that their God is a God who ever hears their groaning, remembers his covenant, and knows what to do.
Main Point: God will deliver his people through the hand of his appointed deliverer…just not yet.
Connection to Christ: He came to his own, and even his own did not receive him (John 1:11). And even those who have received him, who have become children of God (John 1:12), still must wait eagerly for him to appear a second time to truly, finally save them (Hebrews 9:28).
Application of Exodus 2
Application should be as varied as the people who put it into practice. Here is mine for today.
- Head: Do I believe that I am delivered from sin’s penalty, but must wait eagerly to be delivered from sin’s presence once and for all?
- Heart: Do I trust God’s appointed deliverer to be a prince and judge over me?
- Hands: Choose eagerness instead of disillusionment when I bump into rejection and the pain of life.
- Head: Teach my children to trust in Jesus through the pain they face today.
- Heart: Inspire my children to long to become agents of deliverance to the world around them, in the image of the firstborn Son of God.
- Hands: Talk with my children about how they can present Christ to some of their friends.
Click here to see what I’m doing with this sample Bible study and why I’m doing it.