BIBLE STUDY SERIES #71, 72 and 73

7 March, 1993

A FAMILY OF LEVI

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have thus far studied the Biblical account, found in Genesis, and in Exodus 1, of the unfolding progress of God's Great Plan for the Salvation and Redemption of His People. Today, we are looking at the opening passages of Exodus 2, and here we find some further confirmation of God's goodness in preparing a way of escape for His people of Israel from the bondage of Egyptian slavery.

On our last programme we saw how Pharaoh had begun a serious attempt to eradicate all male children in Israel, and how God had begun to thwart this process through the provision of midwives having the Godly wisdom and strength of character to evade and resist these attempts.

God will, before this episode is finished, exact a terrible retribution upon Pharaoh and that portion of the Egyptian populace which supports this attempt to murder all the sons born to families in Israel, for, as we shall see, one of the most effective of God's plagues upon the land will concern firstborn; not those of Israel which the account here shows as being sought by Pharaoh's officers, but those of Pharaoh himself, and of the Egyptians concerned.

We saw how, among the families of the Tribe of Levi, God was about to answer the cries of his people. Keil and Delitzsch put the matter thus: "Whilst Pharaoh was urging forward the extermination of the Israelites, God was preparing their emancipation. According to the divine purpose, the murderous edict of the king was to lead to the training and preparation of the human deliverer of Israel."

Exodus 2 begins with the account, perhaps all too brief, of the birth of Moses. Let us read this, starting at Exodus 2:1:

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.
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.
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.

Speaking of this same event, Stephen, in Acts 7:20 described the baby Moses at this time as "exceeding fair"; words which the Companion Bible, and the marginal rendering indicate to mean "fair to God".

The parallel to the Exodus account is found in Chapter LXVIII of the non-Biblical Book of Jasher, and it contains the interesting statement that Miriam, daughter of Amram and Jochebed, prophecied that one born of her parents would save Israel from the hands of Egypt. The Bible actually calls Miriam a prophetess. The New Bible Dictionary draws attention to this in an entry under the title "Prophetess". Near the beginning of the entry it lists prophetesses in the Bible, and of the first, Miriam, it says "Miriam, sister of Moses, who led a choral dance in celebration of Israel's deliverance from Egypt (Ex. xv.20)...".

The matter of Moses' birth apparently became known to Pharaoh's officers, and, before they arrived, Jochebed took bulrushes, slime and pitch and made an ark to float the baby Moses on the Nile waters. The Companion Bible tells us that the bulrushes would have been papyrus reeds, to which the New Bible Commentary adds the observation that such papyrus reeds formed "a material put to many uses in Egypt, even for the construction of large boats." Sails, mattresses, mats, sandles and paper are added to the list by Keil and Delitzsch. In a manner of speaking, this act of floating the baby on the Nile waters also complied to some extent, incidentally, with Pharaoh's order of Exodus 1:22, which proclaimed "Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river...".

Hebrews 11:27 states: "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment." Thus, as this reference shows us, this action by his mother was by an act of faith in the face of the dire threat from Pharaoh. It was also done in face of other dangers. By placing the ark among the reeds, the baby would not at once be swept down river, but at the bank of the river the baby might easily have been eaten by Nile crocodiles! The Companion Bible indicates that the instruction for constructing this ark would, as with Noah's ark, be of God, for faith follows hearing God's words. The New Bible Commentary tells us that the word `tebah', "a `box' or `chest' (probably an Egyptian word), is used only here and for Noah's ark."

Before moving on, we might add a few words regarding other members of Moses' family. If we consult Exodus 6:16-20 we find that a son of Levi, named Kohath, had a son, Amram who was father to Aaron, Miriam and Moses. The New Bible Dictionary, under the entry "Jochebed" states that "She was a daughter of Levi, and married her nephew Amram, although according to the LXX of Ex. vi.20 they were cousins."

The New Bible Commentary Second Edition explains the absence of any mention of Aaron in Exodus 2 by noting that Aaron was older than Moses, and "presumably was born before the edict of Pharaoh." The New Bible Dictionary, under the entry "Aaron" states that Aaron was "Probably the eldest son of Amram and Jochebed and three years older than his brother, Moses..." while it adds that "Miriam was proably the older sister of both... for she cared for the infant Moses...".

Can we for a moment, in our imagination stand silently at the bank of the Nile to watch the scene? Moses' older sister of verse 4 was presumably Miriam for she is the only sister mentioned in Scripture. The New Bible commentary says "To judge by her action here recorded, she must have been twelve years or older at this time." How many older sisters have cared for younger brothers in the history of mankind? It may be one of the most commonly shared experiences of family life.

Here we see her wait, perhaps with increasing trembling of her heart, as, probably after some minutes of tense silence, she spots the royal party moving down to the river's edge. While Moslem practice might frown upon it, such bathing in ancient Egypt would be honourable for a princess surrounded by her attendants, and possibly even devotional in nature, for to the Egyptians of that period the Nile was sacred.

The royal party nears where she stands. It moves closer to the silent ark, rocking gently amid swaying reeds as it is lapped by the water, and then by God's appointment, and no doubt with the wise planning of Jochebed, the princess spots the floating object amid the rushes. Her curiosity is at once aroused, and perhaps we hear the aristocratic tones of the royal command delivered in the Egyptian tongue. The nearest maid at once glancing to observe the direction of the princess's attention and then towards the dark outline amid the reeds wades out to grasp the object of her interest. Drawing it to shore, she presents it before the royal personage.

What earnest prayers must have ascended to the Throne of Grace as Amram and Jochebed pleaded for the safety of the tiny life within? What silent prayers may Miriam have said as that moment arrived?

In the remaining moments, perhaps we have just time to consider something of the next verses. The passage continues:

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 Hebrew's children.
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?

It was one of those supreme moments in the history of the world. Of the words "the babe wept", a most perceptive note in the Companion Bible makes this comment: "In that tear lay the defeat of the enemy, the preservation of the Nation, the faithfulness of Jehovah's word, the bringing to naught `the wisdom of Egypt', and the coming of `the seed of the woman'." This last is a reference to Genesis 3:15 which states God's words to the serpent: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel."

In the same royal family, love confounded the greatest fury of hatred as the daughter of Pharaoh drew the babe to herself, confounding the edicts of the great Pharaoh himself. Miriam must have trembled greatly at this point, for now the moment had come wherein she must interject her question, thus drawing the attention of the princess, and all the attendant maidens from that babe in the ark to herself.

Surely her own love for the infant and for the rest of her family too, must have been urgently pressing her to speak, and untold prayers upheld her for at that moment she must overcome the trembling of her body and the reluctance of her mind to speak. God was surely hearing the prayers of His own, and His purposes were moving forward to the saving of mankind. For Jochebed and Amram, God had planned not only the blessing of knowing that their son was to be saved from death, but now the further blessing of the answer given to Miriam by the daughter of Pharaoh which the next verses relate:

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.

What wonder and praise to Almighty God must have filled the home of Amram and Jochebed that night, for the saving of their beautiful baby and more. The answer of Almighty God to His Israel people who pleaded for salvation from their oppressors was being prepared this day. Even more than they could ever have expected had occurred. Now wages were to be provided to the mother by the daughter of Pharaoh to do what her heart had longed to do for nothing. Truly, The Mighty God was moving to save and bless His own. May we experience the thrill of such blessings as we also place ourselves in His keeping.

We shall have more to say on this matter in our next Bible study.

14 March, 1993

CHOOSING RATHER TO SUFFER

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been studying the Biblical account of God's Great Plan that will eventuate in the extension of His Kingdom to all the inhabitants of the earth, and we have now come to the second chapter of Exodus. Pharaoh and his court have been attempting to diminish the power of the Israelites in the land of Egypt through bondage with hard labour.

The Levitical family of Amram and Jochebed had been forced to yield their baby to the care of God and the dangers of the Nile River bank. The baby's older sister, presumably Miriam, has watched as Pharaoh's daughter, (named "Bathia" by the non-Biblical Book of Jasher), discovered the pitch-daubed basket, floating amid the reeds, bearing that Levitical baby as its precious cargo. As the Princess and her attendants gathered about the baby, his sister, Miriam broke in upon the scene as we saw at the end of our last programme. Let us, once again, review that account, beginning at Exodus 2:7.

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.

We noted on our last programme that this development went far beyond what might have been expected by Amram's family. Not only was the baby to be spared, he was to grow up in the household of the Pharaoh himself, and what was even more, God had so prepared the way that even greater blessings would be given. Jochebed, herself the true mother, would be permitted to nurse her own baby, and even more; she would be paid wages for so doing! The Book of Jasher, Chapter LXVIII:23 even notes the amount of those wages to have been "two bits of silver daily".

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.

It is stated in the Book of Jasher that Jochebed was able to nurse the baby until it had grown to two years of age, at which time she brought him to Bathia, who then called his name Moses. As I contemplated the span of time, amounting to some twenty-one months from the age of three months to the age of two years, that, according to the Book of Jasher, Moses was allowed to continue in his mother's care it occurred to me to calculate how many bits of silver would have been paid to Jochebed for her care of Moses during that span of time.

If we assume that there were 21 months of thirty days each, and two bits of silver per day, those payments which were paid by Pharaoh's daughter to Jochebed must have totalled about twelve hundred and sixty bits of silver. Twelve hundred and sixty is a number which, curiously, occurs elsewhere in scripture, being used in the last chapter of the Book of Daniel, and in the Book of Revelation and in these it likewise relates to the passage of time during which certain processes are to continue.

Moses was given his name by the daughter of Pharaoh and, as pointed out by Keil and Delitzsch, as she was the person who named him, "it must be an Egyptian name." That reference mentions the connection made by Josephus with the Egyptian word for water, "mo", and for those rescued therefrom, "uses."

A Hebrew rendition of the name apparently leads to the prophetic sense of Moses as the one who did, in fact, become the "drawer out" of the people of God from Egypt. In the Book of Acts we find that Stephen, in presenting his defence, mentions the course of Moses' life. Perhaps it would not be out of place to read part of what Stephen actually stated in Acts 7 regarding Moses. We might start at verse 17 and read to verse 22. That passage states:

17. But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt.
18. Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.
19. The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.
20. In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months:
21. And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.
22. And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.

So, as stated by Stephen in Acts 7:22, Moses received a thoroughly Egyptian training, being educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. The Companion Bible, in a note pertaining to that verse, mentions that "this included the mysteries of the Egyptian religion, as all education was in the hands of the priests." This was just the sort of training required to prepare Moses for the accomplishment of the task to which God would later call him.

We now come to the crucial aspect of today's study. For every time and every task in the implementation of His Mighty Plan, God always prepares the person of His choosing. God will never leave His people without the necessary person to effect His will in their midst, and to save them from destruction if they appeal to Him.

I am reminded of Mordecai's words to Queen Esther when the command of the Agagite, Haman, had gone forth to destroy the Jews. The Queen's word to King Ahasuerus might save them, but she hesitated, knowing that to appear before him when uncalled might result in her own immediate death. Mordecai's well-known reply was "...and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

However, Moses' training is not complete at this stage. He has many lessons yet to learn in a different, a wilder and harsher school; that of the wilderness. Let us return to Exodus 2:11-15 in order to see how God was about to move Moses to the next area of the required education:

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.
13. And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?
14. And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.
15. Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.

While Moses' life was developing in a manner which might have been considered the envy of most, he was apparently becoming more and more concerned about the treatment being received by his kinsfolk, the people of Israel. That he knew the story of his origin is quite apparent from verse 11, in the statement concerning his having spied an Egyptian smiting "one of his brethren." Other corroborative evidence, is found in the statement in Hebrews 11:24-25:

24. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
25. Choosing rather, to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season".

Probably the princess had, on more than one occasion, related the story of how she had found him in that basket at the edge of the Nile, and of the Israelite maid that had called Jochebed to nurse him. This would, no doubt, have raised his curiosity regarding his true parentage and his people, and he probably went to Goshen to research the facts on more than one occasion.

Again, the Book of Jasher supplies some details. It appears that, as a youth, Moses became quite a favourite among the Egyptians, and when he went out to visit his brethren in Goshen he was grieved to see them labouring without a day of rest. That account states that Moses was able to persuade Pharaoh to grant every seventh day as a day of rest to Israel. The statement is added that "this thing was from the Lord to the children of Israel, for the Lord had begun to remember the children of Israel to save them for the sake of their fathers."

The day arrived when an obvious injustice occurred which drew Moses to take immediate action. Moses slew the Egyptian who was smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. It was to result in Moses having to flee from Egyptian authority. On the occasion in question, a most serious breach of Pharaoh's law had occurred, and Moses knew it even as he did the deed, for he had glanced about to see if he was being observed before committing himself to act. The authorities would now be seeking everywhere to arrest him.

Moses had probably decided those loyalties which were to precipitate this sudden response in the inner resolution of his soul well before it happened. The pressure of the moment had simply revealed to others that which he had already resolved long since. Moses must have chosen his course well before that moment, perhaps years before. The challenge of the sudden emergency simply revealed what his commitment had been.

When people perform what is heralded as a sudden act of bravery in our own time, I believe that, in truth, such heroism is probably likewise the result of decisions taken, and commitments made long before, perhaps years before, the event itself actually occurs to reveal such decisions and commitments.

The famous Duke of Wellington is quoted as having stated that "The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton" and I perceive in that statement a realization of this truth. The loyalties and prior commitments, made as schoolboys in the years of youth were to result in the steadfast battlefield bravery of his troops even unto death itself.

As Hebrews 11:26-27 continues, saying that Moses had made his choice:

26. Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
27. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him Who is invisible.

May our choices likewise be decided in the meditative moments here and now. May we make secure our decision to serve Christ now, so that the crises of life will not reveal our failure as the Day of His Appearing approaches.

21 March, 1993

A FLOCK IN THE WILDERNESS

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

On our last programme we had brought our series of ongoing Bible studies to the point at which the family of Jacob, in the land of Goshen, has begun to grow, and the Egyptians have begun to oppress them. By Pharaoh's edict, male Iraelite babies were to be cast into the Nile, and Moses, set afloat in an ark of rushes daubed with pitch was taken up from the Nile by Pharaoh's daughter who adopted him as her own son, calling him by the name of Moses.

Now, in the Great Plan of Almighty God, Moses has finished the first part of his preparation, being brought up as the son of the Princess, and trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Most recently, having committed himself to defend his own people, he has slain an Egyptian, and in consequence he has had to flee into the wilderness.

There, he will be further prepared for the mighty work which God has planned that he shall accomplish, namely the leading of God's people, Israel, out of bondage by that migration of a whole nation, known as The Exodus.

We had read some verses from Exodus 2 and had come to verse 15. Let us pick up our account at that point.

15. Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.

It might be expected that, in leaving Egypt, Moses, having the knowledge acquired during the previous years of his life, would not lack for geographical understanding concerning the oases and trade routes leading eastward from the land of The Nile. He had apparently quite naturally headed for a source of water amid the desert and wilderness lands of Sinai, and has sought rest after his swift journey. As The New Bible Commentary notes, wells were the centre of social life in the Ancient Near East.

The Midian mentioned in this account is thought to be the south-east portion of the Sinai Peninsula inhabited by the semi-nomadic tribes of people who were, as Genesis 25:1-4 shows us, descendants of Abraham and Keturah. The fact that Moses had headed for the land of Midian may be further explained when we remember that the Midianites thus had some knowledge of, and possibly worshipped, the same true God as the Israelites.

Keil and Delitzsch state that the Midianites "...had their principal settlements on the eastern side of the Elanitic Gulf from which they spread northwards into the fields of Moab...and carried on a caravan trade through Canaan to Egypt..." They go on to explain, however, that considerations of distance appear to require that a branch of these people must have migrated to the south-eastern part of the Sinai Peninsula.

Moses does not yet know it, but Almighty God has a plan for his life which includes the taking of a wife and the raising of children. Let us continue:

16. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock.
17. And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.
18. And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon to day?
19. And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock.
20. And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread.

Typical hospitality is graciously expressed as Reuel seeks to extend kindness in return for the kindness which Moses has already shown. Reuel is the patriarchal head of his clan, and as such, like Jacob, he occupies the position of Priest. His name, according to the The New Bible Commentary, means "God is friend." It may help as we proceed if I mention that several references point out that the name of Reuel, the Priest of Midian and Moses' eventual father-in-law, equates to the name Raguel in Numbers 10:29, and to the name Jethro in Exodus 3:1. Keil and Delitzsch further point out that the name "Reguel", (friend of God) indicates that this priest served the old Semitic God "El."

In this passage we note the need to draw water, so it is not to be found as surface water in this vicinity, but only in the depths of a well to which a number of flocks are gathered by their shepherds. We note further that there is contention over the drawing of this water, so it is obviously sufficiently scarce to cause community problems over ownership and Reuel appears to have expected that other shepherds will have forced his own daughters to stand aside and wait while other flocks are given water before their flock. The lack of a man among his children must have caused stress for their father, and he must either have suffered some disability, or been of an age which precluded his active contention on behalf of his daughters.

Here, as elsewhere in the Near East, the supply of water is a central factor of life. Even today this problem is characteristic of Near Eastern affairs. The problem of water sufficiency may well give rise to greater contention than almost any other consideration in present-day Palestine for water means life.

Concerning the action which Moses takes, The New Bible Commentary draws attention to the fact that "Here again he acts in defence of the downtrodden, suggestive of the fact that God is already secretly preparing him in character and temperament for his life's work of rescuing slaves."

Let us continue, reading at verse 21:

21. And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter.
22. And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.

The name "Zipporah" means, according to Young's Concordance, "little bird". It may be closely connected to the English word "sparrow". The name Gershom, as we find upon consulting the New Bible Commentary, contains the Hebrew "Ger", meaning "stranger", and "sham", meaning "there".

Keil and Delitzsch point out that there exists an interesting parallel between the experience of Moses in this account and that of Jacob. They state "Here Moses secured for himself a hospitable reception from a priest of Midian, and a home at his house, by doing as Jacob had formerly done (Gen. xxix.10), viz. helping his daughters to water their father's sheep, and protecting them against the other shepherds."

Our time is about gone for today, but perhaps before we close there is just time to read one more passage, and to comment thereon. We continue at verse 23:

23. And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.
24. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
25. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.

The bondage was indeed severe if we are to believe the account in the non-Biblical Book of Jasher, for it explains that if an Israelite did not complete his tally of bricks in building his assigned portion for the day, the taskmasters would go to his wife, pull away her baby to push it into the wall whereupon they forced the weeping father to spread the mortar upon it. The account states "And the number of all the children killed in the building was two hundred and seventy, some whom they had built upon instead of the bricks which had been left deficient by their fathers, and some whom they had drawn out dead from the building."

As I pointed out, that is not a Biblical statement, but if there is even some small amount of truth in it, it would certainly go far towards explaining why the children of Israel began to offer desperate prayers to The Almighty for national deliverance from the Egyptian bondage under the Pharaoh of that time!

Moses was even then being prepared to carry out God's Plan to lead Israel out from Goshen into Sinai, and perhaps we might close with the thought that, while human sin can create great pain and sorrow, God always has an answer prepared for the exact moment when it is required and when His people are sufficiently willing to be led by Him.

We, of the British-Israel-World Federation believe that the modern day descendants of those ancient Israelites are now to be found in the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon lands, and if Israelites today are feeling a crushing pressure, whether it be economic, governmental or of some other category of sin, God has not changed. He still has the answer when we are prepared to accept His solutions. II Chronicles 7:14 puts the matter clearly:

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

Let me leave that meditation with you for today.

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