Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 2:12

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.

I already covered this verse with yesterday’s post, but as I was researching other commentaries I discovered a different read on it that I thought deserved some individual attention. When I first read the verse I only interpreted the phrase “he saw that there was no man,” as meaning Moses was checking for any other Egyptian guards who might witness and report his actions to the Pharaoh. However another interpretation that others have considered is that he was checking for any Israelite who was going to rise to the occasion and save their persecuted brother.

It could be that this verse is describing Moses coming to the realization that there was a void of leadership among the Israelite people. Perhaps he was realizing that they needed someone to fight in their behalf, and if no one else was going to fill that role then he would. This, of course, is another trait of great leaders. They do not elect themselves to greatness, rather they see a people in need, but none of them willing to stand up and do what needs to be done, and so the leader takes that responsibility out of necessity.

So which is it? Was Moses looking side-to-side out of caution, ensuring that he wouldn’t be caught, or was he merely looking to see if anyone else would help, and finding no one took the mantle upon himself? Frankly, I cannot tell, and in the greater scheme of things it probably doesn’t matter, but both interpretations do offer interesting possibilities for Moses’s development of character.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 2:11-12

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.

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.

Moses “went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burden.” Before Moses could be a force of change for his people, he first needed to understand what their afflictions were. This, again, is a type for Christ, who came personally to Earth and “hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Isaiah 53:4, Alma 7:12). It is also a hallmark for any good leader. If the problem is going to be fixed, if the situation is going to be improved, first one must care enough to really understand the nature of things as they currently are.

Moses then illustrates the second step of leadership that follows curiosity and concern. Attention to injustice naturally causes a compulsion to act. Having come to see the suffering, Moses saw a particularly egregious abuse occurring right then and there, and he was compelled to rush forward and slay the tyrant. Though, it should be noted, he was not perfectly bold. He did first pause to look “this way and that way,” and only acted “when he saw that there was no man.” Moses’s heart yearns for these people, but he has yet to grow into the totally fearless protector that he will ultimately become.

One final thought from this passage is that I wonder whether Moses knew at this point what his true lineage was. Did he go out to see the plight of the Israelites because he knew that they were his real people, or did he believe he was a genuine Egyptian, and was merely curious about these unfortunate people? The Biblical record never tells us when Moses first became aware of his true heritage. One thing is clear, though, even if he already knew where he came, he still had yet to throw in entirely with them. He was already a good man of conscience, but he had not arrived at his full destiny yet.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 2:10

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.

Moses’s mother kept her end of the bargain. Though Moses was really her own child, to save his life she gave him to the princess to live as if he were hers. There is something very symbolic in this passing of the child to another, and also in the phrase “drew him out of the water.” This is clearly a baptism. Moses’s infant life was surrendered to the water, then he was drawn out as someone new. The destiny to live merely as a slave was drowned, and the destiny to live as a ruler was raised. And in conjunction with this rebirth, this baptism, there even comes a new name: Moses.

Much has been speculated about the name of Moses. The word “mose” is an Egyptian suffix that means “son of.” Much like how in English “Robertson” means “son of Robert,” in Egypt there were names such as Ramose which meant “son of Ra.” At the same time, the word “moses” was a Hebrew verb meaning “draw out.” Thus, it might be that Moses’s name was bilingual, having appropriate meanings in both his Egyptian and Israelite homes, a name that was very befitting to his dual identity.

Moses has special parallels to two other men in the scriptures. Like the patriarch Joseph, he was both a man of Egypt and Israel. This foreshadows his destiny to save the Israelites in their time of need, just as Joseph did. Joseph was a man of dual identity who saved the Israelites by bringing them into Egypt, and Moses was a man of dual identity who saved the Israelites by bringing them back out of Egypt. And, of course, both Joseph and Moses are archetypes for Jesus, another man of dual identity (son of God and son of woman) who would again save the Israelites, and also the entire world. In fact, the way Moses came into his Egyptian home is further reminiscent of the birth of Christ. Moses was presented to the daughter of Pharaoh as a gift from God, brought to her outside of the usual procreative act. Like Jesus, Moses came to the Egyptians, seemingly as a virgin birth.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 2:7-9

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 woman took the child, and nursed it.

It seems a bold move for Moses’s sister to approach Pharaoh’s daughter and ask if she needs a wetnurse for the baby. This is quite a coincidence, an Israelite maiden appearing immediately after the discovery of an Israelite baby, recommending an Israelite woman who has an active milk supply. I have to assume that Pharaoh’s daughter was able to put two-and-two together and knew exactly what was going on. Apparently, though, she had made up her mind to save the child, and so she consented to the proposal.

And if that really was the mindset of Pharaoh’s daughter, then her order for Moses’s mother to “take this child away, and nurse it for me” was really an act of great benevolence. She was restoring Moses back to his proper mother, at least for a time, letting the woman care for him in her own home as her own son. Not only this, but she was even paying Moses’s mother for the service as well! Thus, it is conceivable that the women were pretending to one story on the surface, but with an understood meaning between them. The unspoken offer from Pharaoh’s daughter might have been “I will save your son, and I will let you still be his mother for the first part of his life, and I will provide you money to help you better provide for your family, but in return, they boy must eventually become my adopted son and live under my protection.”

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 2:5-6

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.

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.

Moses’s mother had surrendered her child to God’s mercy, committing her son to the unknown. One might think that being found an Egyptian, let alone the daughter of the very man who ordered the death of the Hebrew males, would be the worst possible outcome for that child! As we see in verse 6, the woman absolutely knew where this child came from, and it is inconceivable that she had forgotten her father’s directive. I would assume that she was able to put two-and-two together, and understood exactly why this baby had been abandoned to the river.

But then this situation took a surprising turn. She found compassion for the little boy, and I find it very endearing that the biblical record tells us why: the babe wept. I can only imagine the extreme prejudice that had been fostered in the Egyptians towards the Israelite people, the immense disdain with which they must have viewed these people who had been placed at the absolute bottom of the social ladder. Yet it would seem that all of that bigotry melted away when the daughter of Pharaoh was actually faced with a pure and innocent newborn in need.

One of the purposes for our sorrowful emotions is how they draw the kindness and compassion out of those around us. We see a person in distress and cannot help feeling moved to help them. Baby Moses’ helplessness and weakness ended up being his saving grace.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 2:2-4

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.

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.

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

Moses’s mother had to hide him because of the Pharaoh’s murderous decree. Every newborn male was to be killed by the Egyptians. I wonder how she managed to keep an infant, prone to sudden bouts of crying, unknown from the rest of the world. What terrifying days those must have been!

Of course, as the child grew he only became more and more difficult to conceal. Moses’s mother had a terrible choice to make: keep her child under her care and almost certainly consign him to death, or turn him over to God’s mercy. Her final gift to her son was a little ark, carefully sealed so no water could get inside. It seemed to be the last home she could provide him.

I think the final words in verse four illustrate the grim uncertainty with which Moses parted ways from his family. His sister watched to know “what would be done to him.” Starvation, drowning, being eaten by a wild animal, found and killed by an Egyptian guard…all manner of tragic endings were possible. As we will see tomorrow, though, God had other plans.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 2:1-2

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

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.

The Bible begins the story of Moses all the way at his conception! It might seem excessive for the record to provide such basic details, but I am personally quite pleased that this information was included. I feel that these details about Moses’s parents illustrate the hope inherent in every new birth. Though the hardships for Moses’s mother and father were immense, they still conducted themselves after the manner of love and hope: joining together in marriage, having a sexual union, and conceiving a new life. We often see such things as trifling because they are common, but every new birth is a miracle, with immense potential for good, and we should all be in awe of that. Moses’s parents would not themselves be the ones to free captive Israel, but just by living after the manner of love and intimacy they became the vessels that ushered in the one who would liberate their nation.

This refutes a concept that I find detestable in today’s society. Too often we hear the pessimistic view that people should not bring children into such a broken and pain-ridden world. What a depressing perspective, and one that ignores the virtually limitless potential force for good that children can be. Perhaps our world has severe problems, but these are only be made worse by humanity cutting short its future. Refusing to bring children into the world is to completely surrender, to say there could never be a solution in future generations, and to choose a miserable extinction rather than allow for potential change.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 50:7-9

7 And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,

8 And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen.

9 And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company.

Yesterday we saw how Joseph petitioned Pharaoh that he might leave Egypt and return to the land of his inheritance to bury his father. This is a foreshadowing of Moses commanding a future Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave slavery and also return to the land of their inheritance.

Today we continue to see a foreshadowing of that future Exodus. A great company leaves Egypt, with all the households of Israel represented, as well as the elders of Egypt. Of course, in Moses’s time the little children will be included as well, and instead of elders of Egypt, it will be their jewels and gold, taken as a spoil. And the chariots and horsemen will not be on the side of the Israelites in that day, they will belong to the pursuing army of Pharaoh, but Israel will be delivered from them.

I’ve been struck by how many symbols and reassurances God gave to the Israelites at the start of their time in Egypt, illustrating how they would leave it in the future. As they came in, so would they depart, even though it might have seemed impossible in the depths of their coming slavery.

Solemnity and Joy- Exodus 3:2, 4-5

And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.
And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.

COMMENTARY

Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground
Before Moses could fully approach the Lord he was instructed to remove his footwear. It was as if God was saying “this place is very delicate, so tread lightly!” Moses needed to show his respect by setting aside that which was callous and hard, and approach with caution instead.
This reminds me of times that I have opened up the most inner sections of my heart to God or another person. “This is a very delicate place we’re going to now, so please tread lightly!” In these moments a soft voice and carefully chosen words make all the difference.
Think also of how delicate God’s spirit is when we commune with it. Anything callous or hard will offend it away and we must take care to handle it gently.
Thus one definition for “solemn moments” would be times that call for being “delicate,” “gentle,” or “careful.”

Our Own Reality- Exodus 8:25, 28, 30-32

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
Only ye shall not go very far away: entreat for me.
And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and entreated the Lord.
And the Lord did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one.
And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

COMMENTARY

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

Pharaoh was a man who constantly bounced between the fear of God and an insistence to have his own way. When Moses first demanded that Pharaoh let the Israelites go he countered by having his own priests replicate the miracles being shown to him. Rather than accept the sovereignty of Jehovah, he was able to still rely on his own gods.
But then things began to escalate. Plagues arose that his priests could not counter nor reproduce. Having no alternative, he was forced to accept the reality that the Hebrew God was the only one who could be entreated for relief. And so he relented, in order that he could get the reprieve he desired.
But though he had come to accept a new reality in his mind, he was not converted to it in his heart. Rather he tested the Lord’s patience by recanting his promises, refusing to let the Israelites go, even after he had said that they could.
Yesterday we considered how we can be reluctant to fully embrace the reality that is staring us right in the face. Pharaoh is an excellent example of this. Like him, sometimes we try to have our cake and eat it, too. We point to God’s reality with one hand, but also hold to our own reality with the other. Of course things didn’t work out very well for Pharaoh when he tried this, and it won’t work for us either.