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Birth and Youth of Moses


Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. 2The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. 3When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. 4His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

5 The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. 6When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. 7Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” 8Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Moses Flees to Midian

11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and saw their forced labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsfolk. 12He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13When he went out the next day, he saw two Hebrews fighting; and he said to the one who was in the wrong, “Why do you strike your fellow Hebrew?” 14He answered, “Who made you a ruler and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses.

But Moses fled from Pharaoh. He settled in the land of Midian, and sat down by a well. 16The priest of Midian had seven daughters. They came to draw water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17But some shepherds came and drove them away. Moses got up and came to their defense and watered their flock. 18When they returned to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come back so soon today?” 19They said, “An Egyptian helped us against the shepherds; he even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20He said to his daughters, “Where is he? Why did you leave the man? Invite him to break bread.” 21Moses agreed to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah in marriage. 22She bore a son, and he named him Gershom; for he said, “I have been an alien residing in a foreign land.”

23 After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. 24God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.

15. Now when Pharaoh heard. Moses acknowledges his fear, though it was not sufficient to withdraw him from the work to which he was called. We said before, that his zeal was mingled with infirmity, but yet prevailed; so that he performed the duty entrusted to him manfully, yet at the same time timidly. But this is another proof of his firmness, that he is not ashamed of what he had done, so as to endeavor to appease the king, but he betakes himself to exile; nor is he so alarmed in this critical time as to sink down in helplessness or despair, but he departs into the land of Midian, and prefers wandering in the Desert, to a reconciliation with the enemies of the chosen people. But although God appears by this circuitous course to decline from his purpose of delivering them, yet he marvelously carries on His work. We have already sufficiently perceived that Moses was certainly not yet ripe for the arduous contests which awaited him; that, having been brought up delicately and luxuriously in the Court, he was not yet accustomed to the great and continual anxieties of which the sequel of the history will shew him the conqueror. Therefore God in a manner withdrew him, that he might gradually render him fit and equal to undertake so difficult a task. For the experience of forty years in such a laborious and ascetic mode of life, did not a little avail to prepare him for enduring any hardships; so that the Desert may well be called the school in which he was taught, until he was invited to his more difficult charge. As to his “sitting down by a well,” I interpret it, that he sat down there to rest from his fatigue about sunset, that he might ask for hospitality from the people, who he hoped would come at eventide to draw water. From this unprosperous beginning he might conjecture what an uncomfortable reception he had to expect.

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