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Let thy words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2

The Bible in fewer words

Episode 23: Introducing Moses

(Exodus 1-2)

Jacob's family moves to Egypt

1 Seventy members of Jacob's family moved to Egypt. 7 After arriving, they increased abundantly.

The new king of Egypt mistreats the Israelites

8 There was a new King of Egypt who didn't know Joseph. 9 He worried that the Israelites were getting too numerous and powerful, 11 so he enslaved them and mistreated them.

15 The king told the Hebrew midwifes, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, to kill all newborn males. 17 But they said to him,

19 The Hebrew women are lively, and they deliver their babies before we can get there.

20-21 So God treated the midwifes well, and built houses for them to live in.

22 Then the Pharaoh ordered the people to cast all their newborn sons into the river.

The birth and infancy of Moses

2 1 A man and woman, both from the tribe of Levi, had a son (Moses). 2 His mother hid him for three months. 3 Then she put him in an ark and floated him down the river. 5 Pharaoh's daughter found the ark and said,6 "This is a Hebrew child."

Moses being lowered by his mother into the waters of the Nile. Alexey Tyranov, c. 1839

7 The baby's sister (Miriam) happened by and said to Pharaoh's daughter,

Should I find a Hebrew woman to nurse the child?

8 Pharaoh's daughter said, "Yes."

So she went to find her (and Moses's) mother (Jochebed).

9 Pharaoh's daughter said to Jochebed, "Nurse him for me. I'll pay you for it."

So Miriam and Jochebed took Moses away and nursed him.

10 After Moses was weaned, his mother returned him to Pharaoh's daughter who adopted him as her son, and gave Moses his name.

Moses kills an Egyptian

11-12 When Moses was grown, he killed an Egyptian who was smiting a Hebrew, after making sure that no one was looking.

Moses kills an Egyptian, Sir Edward Poynter 1836-1919

Moses flees to Midian

13 The next day, Moses saw two Hebrews fighting, and said, "Why are you smiting this man?"

14 The man who was doing the smiting said to Moses,

Who made you a prince to judge us?

Are you going to kill us like you did the Egyptian?

So Moses knew that his murder was not well-hidden.

15 When Pharaoh heard about it, he decided to kill Moses. But Moses fled to the land of Midian. When he arrived, he sat down by a well.

Moses and Zipporah

16 While Moses was sitting at the well in Midian, seven sisters came to get water.

17 Some shepherds tried to drive the sisters away, but Moses intervened and helped them water their flock.

Moses Defends Jethro's Daughters at the Well, Sandro Botticelli, 1481-1482

18 The sisters told their father, Reul, about the Egyptian who helped them at the well. 20 He told his daughters to invite him to dinner. 21 So Moses went to dinner, and Ruel gave Moses his daughter, Zipporah. 22 And she had a son named Gershom.

The king of Egypt dies

23 The king of Egypt died, and the Israelites cried out to God.

24 God heard their groaning and remembered the deal he'd made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

A few more words about this episode

They increased abundantly (1:7)
The number of Israelites in Egypt went from seventy to several million (Numbers 1:45) in several hundred years. Now that's increasing abundandtly!
Kill all newborn males (1:15)

This seems like a strange thing for the Pharaoh to do. Why would he try to destroy his own slave labor force?

And if he did try to do that, why would he kill the male babies? It would be much more effective to kill the females.

Moses (2:2)
Although Moses isn't actually named until verse 10, that's the baby we're talking about here.

There is no evidence outside of the Bible for the existence Moses. But if he existed, he was born between 1600 to 1400 BCE.

But some have a much more precise date of birth for Moses: "Moses was born in Egypt on the 7th of Adar in the year 2368 from creation (1393 BCE)."

Miriam (2:7)

Moses's sister isn't named in this chapter. But a woman named Miriam, who is said to be his sister, shows up in Exodus 15:20, we'll assume that's who the sister is here.

Jochebed (2:8)
Moses's mother is also unnamed in this chapter. But she is later identified as the mother of Moses in Exodus 6:20.
When Moses was grown (2:11)
The Bible says absolutely nothing about Moses's childhood from when he was a baby to when he was a grown man. Except for this from the New Testament: "Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds." Acts 7:22
Moses fled to the land of Midian. (2:15)

The story in Exodus does't say how old Moses was when he fled to Midian - but the New Testament book of Acts does.

Moses ... was full forty years old [when] he ... smote the Egyptian. Acts 7:22-24

So Moses was forty years old when he left for Midian.

The land of Midian, by the way, was the home of the descendants of Midian, who was one of the son of Abraham and his concubine Keturah in Abraham's old age. (See Genesis 25:1-2)

Since the Midianites descended from one of Abraham's non-favorite sons, they were hated by the Israelites (and God), just as the Ishmaelites were.

To see how much they were hated see Drunk With Blood - The Midianite Massacre: Have you saved all the women alive?.

While Moses was sitting at the well in Midian, seven sisters came to get water. (2:16)

Wells are the places to meet women in the Bible.

That's where Abraham's servant found Isaac's wife, Rebekah. (Gen 24:11-26)

It's where Jacob met Rachel. (Gen 29:1-12)

And now it's where Moses meets Zipporah.

Ruel gave Moses his daughter, Zipporah. (2:21)
Moses's father-in-law goes by several names in the Bible. Later in Exodus he is called Jethro (3:1, 4:18:, 18:1, 18:5) and elsewhere he is called Hobab (Judges 4:11, Numbers 10:29).

Who was Moses's father-in-law?