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Exodus: Chapter 2

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1A certain man of the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. 2The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw how beautiful he was, she hid him forthree months. 3When she could hide him no longer, she got a wicker basket for him and caulked it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child into it and placed it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. 4And his sister stationed herself at a distance, to learn what would befall him.

5The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe in the Nile, while her maidens walked along the Nile. She spied the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to fetch it. 6When she opened it, she saw that it was a child, a boy crying. She took pity on it and said, “This must be a Hebrew child.” 7Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, “Shall I go and get you a Hebrew nurse to suckle the child for you?” 8And Pharaoh's daughter answered, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child's mother. 9And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will pay your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, who made him her son. She named him Moses, a Heb. Mosheh from Egyptian for “born of”; here associated with mashah “draw out.” explaining, “I drew him out of the water.”

11Some time after that, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his kinsfolk and witnessed their labors. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsmen. 12He turned this way and that and, seeing no one about, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13When he went out the next day, he found two Hebrews fighting; so he said to the offender, “Why do you strike your fellow?” 14He retorted, “Who made you chief and ruler over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Moses was frightened, and thought: Then the matter is known! 15When Pharaoh learned of the matter, he sought to kill Moses; but Moses fled from Pharaoh. He arrived b Lit. “sat” or “settled.” in the land of Midian, and sat down beside a well.

16Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. They came to draw water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock; 17but shepherds came and drove them off. Moses rose to their defense, and he watered their flock. 18When they returned to their father Reuel, he said, “Howis it that you have come back so soon today?” 19They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds; he even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20He said to his daughters, “Where is he then? Why did you leave the man? Ask him in to break bread.” 21Moses consented to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah as wife. 22She bore a son whom he named Gershom, a Associated with ger sham, “a stranger there.” for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”

23A long time after that, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites were groaning under the bondage and cried out; and their cry for help from the bondage rose up to God. 24God heard their moaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. 25God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.


a Heb. Mosheh from Egyptian for “born of”; here associated with mashah “draw out.”

b Lit. “sat” or “settled.”

a Associated with ger sham, “a stranger there.”

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

1.1–2.22 :

Prologue. These chs set the stage for the exodus by telling how the family of Jacob grew into a people in Egypt and fell into bondage (as God foretold in Gen. 15.13 ), and how Moses, the human agent of their deliverance, arose. It is composed of a combination of early narrative sources (JE) and P material.

2.1–22 :

The origins of Moses.

2.1–10 :

Moses' infancy. The story of Moses' birth and Pharaoh's attempted infanticide may be a relatively late addition to the tradition; the following narratives about the exodus show no awareness of them (e.g., 2.23 and 6.6 are aware only of bondage), and they are never mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. This story has parallels in birth legends of other heroes, some of which pre‐date the Bible, such as Sargon of Akkad who in infancy was born in secret and exposed in a river in a reed basket sealed with pitch, but was found and later became king. In an Egyptian story, the god Horus was endangered as an infant by the god Seth and was hidden (but not abandoned) in a papyrus thicket of the Nile delta by his mother Isis to save him. In the biblical story, Moses is exposed as a ruse.

1 :

Moses' parents, nameless here, are identified in a different source ( 6.16–20 ; P) as Amram and his aunt Jochebed.

2–4 :

The woman conceived and bore a son: As the subsequent narrative indicates, this was not the couple's first child. This episode knows of an older sister, (v. 4ff.), and other passages recognize an older brother, Aaron (e.g., 4.14; 6.20; 7.7 ). All the actions to thwart Pharaoh's decree are taken by women—Moses' mother and sister, the midwives ( 1.17 ), and Pharaoh's daughter ( 2.5–10 ); the Hebrew men have been reduced to inactivity.

4 :

His sister, elsewhere named Miriam ( 15.20; Num. 26.59 ).

7–9 :

This sister contrives to return Moses temporarily to his mother's care by means of a wetnursing agreement (such agreements are known from ancient Near Eastern documents).

10 :

Moses is an Egyptian name meaning “gave birth”; it is a shortened form of names compounded with names of deities, such as Thut‐mose and Rameses, mean‐ ing “Thut/Ra gave birth (to this child).” Here, in a popular etymology typical of biblical and other ancient Near Eastern literature, it is interpreted as if it were derived from Heb “m‐sh‐h,” “draw out” (cf. Isa. 63.11 ).

2.11–22 :

Moses' young adulthood. In the first two episodes (vv. 11–12, 13–14 ) Moses plays the royal role of defending his people and adjudicating among them (cf. 1 Sam. 8.5, 20 ), and in the third he defends foreigners and strangers (vv. 16–17 ), showing that his passion for justice makes no distinctions between nations.

11 :

An Egyptian, presumably one of the taskmasters ( 1.11 ).

15 :

Midian, a region in northwest Arabia.

18 :

Their father Reuel, Moses' father‐in‐law is called Jethro in 3.1 (Jether in 4.18 ) and elsewhere, and Hobab son of Reuel in Num. 10.29 and Judg. 4.11 . These different names reflect different ancient traditions.

19 :

An Egyptian, so Moses must have seemed because of his clothing and speech.

22 :

Since Moses was raised as an Egyptian, it is only in Midian that he begins to feel the sense of alienness that his kinsfolk have experienced in Egypt.

2.23–25 :

Prelude to redemption.Pharaoh's death clears the way for Moses' return to Egypt ( 4.19 ). The Israelites' outcry rises up to God, who takes note of it and remembers His commitments to their ancestors. His covenant refers both to God's promise of nationhood and territory in Canaan and the promise to free Israel after a long period of servitude ( 12.1–3; 15.13–20; 17.1–14; Gen. 26.2–5; 46.3–4 ). God's resolve to carry out these commitments is put into effect immediately, starting with His appearance to Moses in the burning bush ( 3.7–10 ).

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