SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS)-Week 36 Exodus 2

Welcome to the SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS). This week we will be discussing Exodus2. Since the discussion can turn into a very broad and hijackable thread, we would like the following rules to be adhered to:

  1. These SDMBWBS threads are to deal with the books and stories in the Bible as literature. What I’m hoping to achieve is an understanding of the stories, the time in which they were written, context, and possibly its cultural relevance.

  2. While it is up to the individual to choose to believe or disbelieve any portion, that is not to be the discussion of the thread. If you must, please choose to witness/anti-witness in Great Debates.

  3. The intention is to go through the Bible from front to back in order. While different books are needed to be referred to in order to understand context, please try and keep the focus on the thread’s selected chapter(s)/verse(s).

  4. Since different religions have chosen which books to include or omit, the threads will use the Catholic version of 46 Old Testament Books and 27 New Testament Books. It’s encouraged to discuss why a book was included/omitted during the applicable threads only. BibleHub, as far as I know, is a good resource that compiles many different versions of the verses into one page.(Also the SDMB Staff Reports on Who Wrote the Bible). Please feel free to use whatever source you want, including-and even more helpfully-the original language.

  5. Hopefully we can get through these threads with little to no moderation. A gentle reminder that if a poster comes in and ignores these rules, please use the “report post” function instead of responding.

Links to previous threads:
Genesis 49 & 50 (this includes links to all previous Genesis threads)

Exodus 1

[Exodus 2

New International Version (NIV)](

The Birth of Moses

2 Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

8 “Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

Moses Flees to Midian

11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”

14 The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

15 When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. 16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.

18 When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so early today?”

19 They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.”

20 “And where is he?” Reuel asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.”

21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 22 Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.”

23 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.
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Some notes on Moses’ infancy narrative:
Vs. 2: “…a fine child” The Hebrew word here for fine is “tov”, translated in other versions as healthy, good, special and beautiful. The construction is parallel to phrases in the Creation narrative: as God look upon his creation and found it good, so the mother looks upon her son.

There is an Akkadian legend dating back to at least the 7th Century B.C. about King Sargon. According to this legend, Sargon was the illegitimate son of a priestess (older translations describe his mother as lowly). She brought him forth in secret and placed him in a basket of reeds on the river. He was found by Akki the irrigator who raised him as his own son.

There are difficulties with the Sargon comparison, not the least of which is the fact that the meaning and function of the Sargon story are unclear. Second, there is no outside threat to the child Sargon. The account simply shows how a child was exposed, rescued, nurtured, and became king (see B. S. Childs, Exodus [OTL], 8-12).

In the Moses story related by the Qur’an, Jochebed is commanded by God to place Moses in an ark and cast him on the waters of the Nile, thus abandoning him completely to God’s protection. Pharaoh’s wife Asiya, not his daughter, found Moses floating in the waters of the Nile. She convinced Pharaoh to keep him as their son because they were not blessed with any children.

Pharaoh’s Daughter: It is impossible, perhaps, to identify with certainty who this person was. For those who have taken a view that Rameses was the pharaoh, there were numerous daughters for Rameses. She is named Tharmuth in Jub. 47:5; Josephus spells it Thermouthis (Ant. 2.9.5 [2.224]), but Eusebius has Merris (Praep. Ev. ix. 27). E. H. Merrill (Kingdom of Priests, 60) makes a reasonable case for her identification as the famous Hatshepsut, daughter of Thutmose I. She would have been there about the time of Moses’ birth, and the general picture of her from history shows her to be the kind of princess with enough courage to countermand a decree of her father.

The occasion is thought to have been a religious solemnity which the royal family opened by bathing in the sacred stream. Peculiar sacredness was attached to those portions of the Nile which flowed near the temples. The water was there fenced off as a protection from the crocodiles; and doubtless the princess had an enclosure reserved for her own use, the road to which seems to have been well known to Jochebed.

During this period of Egyptian history the royal palaces were in the northern or Delta area of Egypt, rather than up the Nile as in later periods. The proximity of the royal residences to the Israelites makes this and the plague narratives all the more realistic. Such direct contact would have been unlikely if Moses had had to travel up the Nile to meet with Pharaoh. In the Delta area things were closer. Here all the people would have had access to the tributaries of the Nile near where the royal family came, but the royal family probably had pavilions and hunting lodges in the area.

Amram and Jochebed might, as usual, at the time of his circumcision, have given him a name, which is traditionally said to have been Joachim. But the name chosen by the princess, whether of Egyptian or Hebrew origin, is the only one by which he has ever been known to the church; and it is a permanent memorial of the painful incidents of his birth and infancy.

The naming provides the climax and summary of the story. The name of “Moses” (מֹשֶׁה, mosheh) is explained by “I have drawn him (מְשִׁיתִהוּ, mÿshitihu) from the water.” It appears that the name is etymologically connected to the verb in the saying, which is from מָשָׁה (mashah, “to draw out”). But commentators have found it a little difficult that the explanation of the name by the daughter of Pharaoh is in Hebrew when the whole background is Egyptian (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 20). Moreover, the Hebrew spelling of the name is the form of the active participle (“the one who draws out”); to be a precise description it should have been spelled מָשׁוּי (mashuy), the passive participle (“the one drawn out”).

The etymology is not precise; rather, it is a wordplay (called paronomasia). Either the narrator merely attributed words to her (which is unlikely outside of fiction), or the Hebrew account simply translated what she had said into Hebrew, finding a Hebrew verb with the same sounds as the name. Such wordplays on names (also popular etymology) are common in the Bible. Most agree that the name is an Egyptian name. Josephus attempted to connect the biblical etymology with the name in Greek, Mouses, stating that Mo is Egyptian for water, and uses means those rescued from it (Ant. 2.9.6 [2.228]; see also J. Gwyn Griffiths, “The Egyptian Derivation of the Name Moses,” JNES 12 [1953]: 225). But the solution to the name is not to be derived from the Greek rendering. Due to the estimation Egyptians had of the Nile, the princess would have thought of the child from the river as a supernatural provision. The Egyptian hieroglyphic ms can be the noun “child” or the perfective verb “be born.” This was often connected with divine elements for names: Ptah-mose, “Ptah is born.” Also the name Rameses (R’-m-sw) means “[the god] Re’ is he who has born him.”

If the name Moses is Egyptian, there are some philological difficulties (see the above article for their treatment). The significance of all this is that when the child was named by the princess, an Egyptian word related to ms was used, meaning something like “child” or “born.” The name might have even been longer, perhaps having a theophoric element (divine name) with it – “child of [some god].” The name’s motivation came from the fact that she drew him from the Nile, the source of life in Egypt. But the sound of the name recalled for the Hebrews the verb “to draw out” in their own language. Translating the words of the princess into Hebrew allowed for the effective wordplay to capture the significance of the story in the sound of the name. The implication for the Israelites is something to this effect: “You called him ‘born one’ in your language and after your custom, but in our language that name means ‘drawing out’ – which is what was to become of him. You drew him out of the water, but he would draw us out of Egypt through the water.”

The word used to describe the sister (Miriam probably) is עַלְמָה (’alma), the same word used in Isa 7:14, where it is usually translated either “virgin” or “young woman.” The word basically means a young woman who is ripe for marriage. This would indicate that Miriam is a teenager and so about ten-to-fifteen years older than Moses.

Professor Pepperwinkle:

My understanding is that the traditional sources say that the name his parents had given him was Yekusiel.

I find it curious that, given the importance the Bible places on people’s names, that neither of Moses’s parents are named in the text. Merely that they were (random?) Levite people. (That’s the priestly class, correct?)

After all, (spoiler alert) this is a pretty important figure.

I’ve been reading/hearing this story all my life and this is the first time I’ve realized that Moses had a son, Gershom. I find it interesting that he plays no further significance in Moses’ life story - if there is any other mention of him in the Bible, I don’t recall it.


Moses’s specific genealogy is not ignored, it’s listed in Exodus 6. But for the immediate narrative, what’s important is how he managed to get raised in the palace (yet still identified with the Israelites). And correct, the Levites were the priestly family.


Shameless self-promotion

In Exodus 6 we have a genealogy for Moses and Aaron, as this is the point when they are about to take their places in history. Amram and Jochebed are given due mention there.


ETA: ninja’d

Thanks! That’s a well-written article, although I must admit not completely satisfying. But that’s not your fault. :slight_smile:

This chapter is very complex, full of interesting literary echoes and meanings.

As the story starts, none of the characters are named (as noted by Redsland.) We have a man, a woman, a son, his sister, and Pharaoh’s daughter. Remember that naming is very important in the bible, and especially so in this book.) The first name we get is actually a naming, in verse 10. I’m not sure why the anonymity in the first verses.

Verse 2: As Prof P notes, the literal translation of “good” reminds us of Creation when God saw how things were good. Moses will, in sense, begin a new world. Similarly, the word used for the wicker basket is the same word as the ark of the Noah story. The basket is coated with tar and pitch, also used in the construction of Noah’s ark. Again, Moses is seen as founding a new era.

The only prior mention of a child being nursed is Isaac.

In Genesis, at every moment of succession, a woman plays a critical role. Sarah ensures the transition to Isaac rather than to Ishmael; Rebekah secures Jacob over Esau. And Rachel is dead, so the transmission to Joseph is not smooth. Thus, when Moses at his birth is surrounded by women (his mother, his sister, the princess, and the midwives in the last chapter), the literary motif says that this represents the transmission of the covenant.

Verse 10 “when the child grew older” implies the baby was three years old when weaned. Because infant mortality was so high, formal adoption and naming might be postponed until after weaning (which was later than in modern times.) Pharaoh’s daughter names him, that is, defines him, as drawn out of the water (implying a second birth.)

Two women save Moses from the water, which drowned the other babies and will later drown Pharaoh’s army (different body of water, but still water.) Water is one of the critical fluids in the bible (the others are blood, wine, milk, honey, and olive oil, each with symbolic meaning.) The third day of creation, the waters are split. So now Moses is taken from the waters, and Sea will be split later, all symbolizing birth.

In verse 11, Moses sees an Egyptian beating (literally, killing) one of his own people (literally, a brother.) He kills the Egyptian: this is a public test, he is identifying himself with his people, and but must be exiled for homicide.

He flees to the land of Midian, and sits down by a well. Again, water implies life and fertility, and the well has been the meeting place for lots of marriages: Rebekah and Isaac, Rachel and Jacob, and now Moses and Zipporah, all met at wells.

Moses protects the daughters of the priest of Midian. This is a second test, he’s again defending the weak.

The name of the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, is interesting and confusing. He’s called Reuel (“friend of God”) here, but in a few lines (Ex 3:1) he’s called Jethro. Those who believe in multiple authors find that the E-author is consistent in calling him Jethro. The J-tradition usually calls him Reuel. He is also sometimes him simply “a priest of Midian” without a name, which could reflect an earlier tradition. The Septuagint says he is Reuel in 2:16, called Jethro in 2:18, but this may be a gloss. It’s possible that Jethro is a title (“His Excellency”) rather than a name.

Reuel/Jethro offers hospitality. The entrance into the covenant is usually marked with hospitality, acts of kindness: Abraham is circumcised and then invites in three strangers, Rebekah offers hospitality to Abraham’s servant and is invited back to marry Isaac. So we have here Moses (symbolically) entering the covenant, Reuel worships the One God although he is not an Israelite.

Moses’ son’s name Gershom is probably from Ger Sham, “a stranger there.” However, the same stem g-r-sh meaning “to drive away” appears in verse 17.

Verse 23: The Israelites don’t know how to pray, they just cry out. They don’t remember God, but God remembers them. The last line of the chapter is literally “God knew them.” Remember that the verb “to know” will be a literary echo through the first part of this book, implying emotional knowledge, intimacy, and empathy. The NIV translation uses “was concerned” which is a reasonable reflection but they use other terms for the same Hebrew word in other sentences and so lose the literary parallelism/echo.

There are four terms used for the suffering: the Israelites groaning, cried out, cried for help, and moaned (the NIV unaccountably uses “groaning” twice), and God responds in four verbs: heard, remembered, looked on, and was concerned (i.e., knew.)

My dissatisfaction was due to that book not really existing. It sounds like a hoot, with the author actually knowing how ridiculous it is.

Link to thread for Exodus 3