Exodus 2


Amram and Jochebed marry, 1.

Moses is born, and is hidden by his mother three months, 2.

Is exposed in an ark of bulrushes on the riser Nile, and watched

by his sister, 3, 4.

He is found by the daughter of Pharaoh, who commits him to the

care of his own mother, and has him educated as her own son, 5-9.

When grown up, he is brought to Pharaoh's daughter, who receives

him as her own child, and calls him Moses, 10.

Finding an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, he kills the Egyptian, and

hides him in the sand, 11, 12.

Reproves two Hebrews that were contending together, one of whom

charges him with killing the Egyptian, 13, 14.

Pharaoh, hearing of the death of the Egyptian, sought to slay

Moses, who, being alarmed, escapes to the land of Midian, 15.

Meets with the seven daughters of Reuel, priest or prince of Midian,

who came to water their flocks, and assists them, 16, 17.

On their return they inform their father Reuel, who invites Moses

to his house, 18-20.

Moses dwells with him, and receives Zipporah his daughter to wife, 21.

She bears him a son whom he calls Gershom, 22.

The children of Israel, grievously oppressed in Egypt, cry for

deliverance, 23.

God remembers his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and

hears their prayer, 24, 25.


Verse 1. There went a man] Amram, son of Kohath, son of Levi,

Ex 6:16-20.

A daughter of Levi, Jochebed, sister to Kohath, and consequently

both the wife and aunt of her husband Amram, Ex 6:20; Nu 26:59.

Such marriages were at this time lawful, though they were

afterwards forbidden, Le 18:12. But it is possible that

daughter of Levi means no more than a descendant of that family,

and that probably Amram and Jochebed were only cousin germans. As

a new law was to be given and a new priesthood formed, God chose a

religious family out of which the lawgiver and the high priest

were both to spring.

Verse 2. Bare a son] This certainly was not her first child,

for Aaron was fourscore and three years old when Moses was but

fourscore, see Ex 7:7: and there was a sister, probably Miriam,

who was older than either; see below, Ex 2:4, and see Nu 26:59.

Miriam and Aaron had no doubt been both born before the decree was

passed for the destruction of the Hebrew male children, mentioned

in the preceding chapter.

Goodly child] The text simply says ki tob hu, that

he was good, which signifies that he was not only a perfect,

well-formed child, but that he was very beautiful; hence the

Septuagint translate the place, ιδοντεςδεαυτοαστειον, Seeing

him to be beautiful, which St. Stephen interprets, ηναστειοςτω

θεω, He was comely to God, or divinely beautiful. This very

circumstance was wisely ordained by the kind providence of God to

be one means of his preservation. Scarcely any thing interests

the heart more than the sight of a lovely babe in distress. His

beauty would induce even his parents to double their exertions to

save him, and was probably the sole motive which led the Egyptian

princess to take such particular care of him, and to educate him

as her own, which in all likelihood she would not have done had he

been only an ordinary child.

Verse 3. An ark of bulrushes] tebath gome, a

small boat or basket made of the Egyptian reed called papyrus, so

famous in all antiquity. This plant grows on the banks of the

Nile, and in marshy grounds; the stalk rises to the height of six

or seven cubits above the water, is triangular, and terminates in

a crown of small filaments resembling hair, which the ancients

used to compare to a thyrsus. This reed was of the greatest use

to the inhabitants of Egypt, the pith contained in the stalk

serving them for food, and the woody part to build vessels with;

which vessels frequently appear on engraved stones and other

monuments of Egyptian antiquity. For this purpose they made it up

like rushes into bundles, and by tying them together gave their

vessels the necessary figure and solidity. "The vessels of

bulrushes or papyrus," says Dr. Shaw, "were no other than large

fabrics of the same kind with that of Moses, Ex 2:3, which from

the late introduction of planks and stronger materials are now

laid aside." Thus Pliny, lib. vi., cap. 16, takes notice of the

naves papyraceas armamentaque Nili, "ships made of papyrus and

the equipments of the Nile:" and lib. xiii., cap. 11, he observes,

Ex ipsa quidem papyro navigia texunt: "Of the papyrus itself they

construct sailing vessels." Herodotus and Diodorus have recorded

the same fact; and among the poets, Lucan, lib. iv., ver. 136:

Conseritur bibula Memphitis cymba papyro, "The Memphian or

Egyptian boat is constructed from the soaking papyrus." The

epithet bibula is particularly remarkable, as corresponding with

great exactness to the nature of the plant, and to its Hebrew name

gome, which signifies to soak, to drink up. See

Parkhurst sub voce.

She laid it in the flags] Not willing to trust it in the stream

for fear of a disaster; and probably choosing the place to which

the Egyptian princess was accustomed to come for the purpose

specified in the note on the following verse.

Verse 5. And the daughter of Pharaoh] Josephus calls her

Thermuthis, and says that "the ark was borne along by the

current, and that she sent one that could swim after it; that she

was struck with the figure and uncommon beauty of the child; that

she inquired for a nurse, but he having refused the breasts of

several, and his sister proposing to bring a Hebrew nurse, his own

mother was procured." But all this is in Josephus's manner, as

well as the long circumstantial dream that he gives to Amram

concerning the future greatness of Moses, which cannot be

considered in any other light than that of a fable, and not even a

cunningly devised one.

To wash herself at the river] Whether the daughter of Pharaoh

went to bathe in the river through motives of pleasure, health, or

religion, or whether she bathed at all, the text does not specify.

It is merely stated by the sacred writer that she went down to

the river to WASH; for the word herself is not in the original.

Mr. Harmer, Observat., vol. iii., p. 529, is of opinion that the

time referred to above was that in which the Nile begins to rise;

and as the dancing girls in Egypt are accustomed now to plunge

themselves into the river at its rising, by which act they testify

their gratitude for the inestimable blessing of its inundations,

so it might have been formerly; and that Pharaoh's daughter was

now coming down to the river on a similar account. I see no

likelihood in all this. If she washed herself at all, it might

have been a religious ablution, and yet extended no farther than

to the hands and face; for the word rachats, to wash,

is repeatedly used in the Pentateuch to signify religious

ablutions of different kinds. Jonathan in his Targum says that

God had smitten all Egypt with ulcers, and that the daughter of

Pharaoh came to wash in the river in order to find relief; and

that as soon as she touched the ark where Moses was, her ulcers

were healed. This is all fable. I believe there was no bathing in

the case, but simply what the text states, washing, not of her

person, but of her clothes, which was an employment that even

kings' daughters did not think beneath them in those primitive

times. Homer, Odyss. vi., represents Nausicaa, daughter of

Alcinous, king of the Phaeacians, in company with her maidens,

employed at the seaside in washing her own clothes and those of

her five brothers! While thus employed they find Ulysses just

driven ashore after having been shipwrecked, utterly helpless,

naked, and destitute of every necessary of life. The whole scene

is so perfectly like that before us that they appear to me to be

almost parallels. I shall subjoin a few lines. The princess,

having piled her clothes on a carriage drawn by several mules, and

driven to the place of washing, commences her work, which the poet

describes thus:-







ODYSS., lib. vi., ver. 90.

"Light'ning the carriage, next they bore in hand

The garments down to the unsullied wave,

And thrust them heap'd into the pools; their task

Despatching brisk, and with an emulous haste.

When all were purified, and neither spot

Could be perceived or blemish more, they spread

The raiment orderly along the beach,

Where dashing tides had cleansed the pebbles most."


When this task was finished we find the Phaeacian princess and

her ladies (κουρηδεκθαλαμοιοαμφιπολοιαλλαι) employed in

amusing themselves upon the beach, till the garments they had

washed should be dry and fit to be folded up, that they might

reload their carriage and return.

In the text of Moses the Egyptian princess, accompanied by her

maids, naarotheyha, comes down to the river, not to bathe

herself, for this is not intimated, but merely to wash,

lirchots; at the time in which the ark is perceived we may

suppose that she and her companions had finished their task, and,

like the daughter of Alcinous and her maidens, were amusing

themselves walking along by the river's side, as the others did by

tossing a ball, σφαιρηταιταρεπαιζον, when they as suddenly

and as unexpectedly discovered Moses adrift on the flood, as

Nausicaa and her companions discovered Ulysses just escaped

naked from shipwreck. In both the histories, that of the poet and

this of the prophet, both the strangers, the shipwrecked Greek and

the almost drowned Hebrew, were rescued by the princesses,

nourished and preserved alive! Were it lawful to suppose that

Homer had ever seen the Hebrew story, it would be reasonable to

conclude that he had made it the basis of the 6th book of the


Verse 6. She had compassion on him] The sight of a beautiful

babe in distress could not fail to make the impression here

mentioned; See Clarke on Ex 2:2. It has already been

conjectured that the cruel edict of the Egyptian king did not

continue long in force; see Ex 1:22. And it will not appear

unreasonable to suppose that the circumstance related here might

have brought about its abolition. The daughter of Pharaoh, struck

with the distressed state of the Hebrew children from what she had

seen in the case of Moses, would probably implore her father to

abolish this sanguinary edict.

Verse 7. Shall I go and call a nurse] Had not the different

circumstances marked here been placed under the superintendence of

an especial providence, there is no human probability that they

could have had such a happy issue. The parents had done every

thing to save their child that piety, affection, and prudence

could dictate, and having done so, they left the event to God. By

faith, says the apostle, Heb 11:23,

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. Because of the king's commandment they

were obliged to make use of the most prudent caution to save the

child's life; and their faith in God enabled them to risk their

own safety, for they were not afraid of the king's commandment-

they feared God, and they had no other fear.

Verse 10. And he became her son.] From this time of his being

brought home by his nurse his education commenced, and he was

learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, Ac 7:22, who in the

knowledge of nature probably exceeded all the nations then on the

face of the earth.

And she called his name] mosheh, because min

hammayim, out of the waters meshithihu, have I drawn him.

mashah signifies to draw out; and mosheh is the person

drawn out; the word is used in the same sense Ps 18:16, and

2Sa 22:17. What name he had from his parents we know not; but

whatever it might be it was ever after lost in the name given to

him by the princess of Egypt. Abul Farajius says that Thermuthis

delivered him to the wise men Janees and Jimbrees to be instructed

in wisdom.

Verse 11. When Moses was grown] Being full forty years of age,

as St. Stephen says, Ac 7:23,

it came into his heart to visit his brethren, i.e., he was

excited to it by a Divine inspiration; and seeing one of them

suffer wrong, by an Egyptian smiting him, probably one of the

task-masters, he avenged him and smote-slew, the Egyptian,

supposing that God who had given him commission, had given also

his brethren to understand that they were to be delivered by his

hand; see Ac 7:23-25. Probably the Egyptian

killed the Hebrew, and therefore on the Noahic precept Moses was

justified in killing him; and he was authorized so to do by the

commission which he had received from God, as all succeeding

events amply prove. Previously to the mission of Moses to deliver

the Israelites, Josephus says, "The AEthiopians having made an

irruption into Egypt, and subdued a great part of it, a Divine

oracle advised them to employ Moses the Hebrew. On this the king

of Egypt made him general of the Egyptian forces; with these he

attacked the AEthiopians, defeated and drove them back into their

own land, and forced them to take refuge in the city of Saba,

where he besieged them. Tharbis, daughter of the AEthiopian king,

seeing him, fell desperately in love with him, and promised to

give up the city to him on condition that he would take her to

wife, to which Moses agreed, and the city was put into the hands

of the Egyptians."-Jos. Ant. lib. ii., chap. 9. St. Stephen

probably alluded to something of this kind when he said Moses was

mighty in deeds as well as words.

Verse 13. Two men of the Hebrews strove together] How strange

that in the very place where they were suffering a heavy

persecution because they were Hebrews, the very persons themselves

who suffered it should be found persecuting each other! It has

been often seen that in those times in which the ungodly oppressed

the Church of Christ, its own members have been separated from

each other by disputes concerning comparatively unessential points

of doctrine and discipline, in consequence of which both they and

the truth have become an easy prey to those whose desire was to

waste the heritage of the Lord. The Targum of Jonathan says that

the two persons who strove were Dathan and Abiram.

Verse 14. And Moses feared] He saw that the Israelites were not

as yet prepared to leave their bondage; and that though God had

called him to be their leader, yet his providence had not yet

sufficiently opened the way; and had he stayed in Egypt he must

have endangered his life. Prudence therefore dictated an escape

for the present to the land of Midian.

Verse 15. Pharaoh-sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the

face of Pharaoh] How can this be reconciled with Heb 11:27:

By faith he (Moses) forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the

king? Very easily. The apostle speaks not of this forsaking of

Egypt, but of his and the Israelites' final departure from it, and

of the bold and courageous manner in which Moses treated Pharaoh

and the Egyptians, disregarding his threatenings and the

multitudes of them that pursued after the people whom, in the name

and strength of God, he led in the face of their enemies out of


Dwelt in the land of Midian] A country generally supposed to

have been in Arabia Petraea, on the eastern coast of the Red Sea,

not far from Mount Sinai. This place is still called by the Arabs

the land of Midian or the land of Jethro. Abul Farajius calls it

the land of the Arabs. It is supposed that the Midianites derived

their origin from Midian, the fourth son of Abraham by Keturah,

thus:-Abraham, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan and Midian, Raguel, Jethro;

see Ge 25:1. But Calmet contends that if Jethro had been of the

family of Abraham, either by Jokshan, or Midian, Aaron and Miriam

could not have reproached Moses with marrying a Cushite, Zipporah,

the daughter of Reuel. He thinks therefore that the Midianites

were of the progeny of Cush, the son of Ham; see Ge 10:6.

Verse 16. The priest of Midian] Or prince, or both; for the

original cohen has both meanings. See it explained at large,

See Clarke on Ge 15:18. The transaction here very

nearly resembles that mentioned Gen. xxix. concerning Jacob and

Rachel; see the notes there.

Verse 17. The shepherds-drove them] The verb yegareshum,

being in the masculine gender, seems to imply that the shepherds

drove away the flocks of Reuel's daughters, and not the daughters

themselves. The fact seems to be, that, as the daughters of Reuel

filled the troughs and brought their flocks to drink, the

shepherds drove those away, and, profiting by the young women's

labour, watered their own cattle. Moses resisted this insolence,

and assisted them to water their flocks, in consequence of which

they were enabled to return much sooner than they were wont to do,

Ex 2:18.

Verse 18. Reuel, their father] In Nu 10:29 this person is

called Raguel, but the Hebrew is the same in both places. The

reason of this difference is that the ain in is

sometimes used merely as vowel, sometimes as g, ng, and gn, and

this is occasioned by the difficulty of the sound, which scarcely

any European organs can enunciate. As pronounced by the Arabs it

strongly resembles the first effort made by the throat in

gargling, or as Meninski says, Est vox vituli matrem vocantis,

"It is like the sound made by a calf in seeking its dam." Raguel

is the worst method of pronouncing it; Re-u-el, the first syllable

strongly accented, is nearer to the true sound. A proper

uniformity in pronouncing the same word wherever it may occur,

either in the Old or New Testament, is greatly to be desired. The

person in question appears to have several names. Here he is

called Reuel; in Nu 10:29,

Raguel; in Ex 3:1,

Jethor; in Jud 4:11,

Hobab; and in Jud 1:16 he is called

Keyni, which in Jud 4:11. we translate Kenite. Some suppose that

Re-u-el was father to Hobab, who was also called Jethro. This is

the most likely; See Clarke on Ex 3:1.

Verse 20. That he may eat bread.] That he may be entertained,

and receive refreshment to proceed on his journey. Bread, among

the Hebrews, was used to signify all kinds of food commonly used

for the support of man's life.

Verse 21. Zipporah his daughter.] Abul Farajius calls her

"Saphura the black, daughter of Rewel the Midianite, the son of

Dedan, the son of Abraham by his wife Keturah." The Targum calls

her the granddaughter of Reuel. It appears that Moses obtained

Zipporah something in the same way that Jacob obtained Rachel;

namely, for the performance of certain services, probably keeping

of sheep: see Ex 3:1.

Verse 22. Called his name Gershom] Literally, a stranger; the

reason of which Moses immediately adds, for I have been an ALIEN

in a strange land.

The Vulgate, the Septuagint, as it stands in the Complutensian

Polyglot, and in several MSS., the Syriac, the Coptic, and the

Arabic, add the following words to this verse: And the name of

the second he called Eliezer, for the God of my father has been my

help, and delivered me from the hand of Pharaoh. These words are

found in Ex 18:4, but they are certainly necessary here, for it

is very likely that these two sons were born within a short space

of each other; for in Ex 4:20, it is said, Moses took his wife

and his SONS, by which it is plain that he had both Gershom and

Eliezer at that time. Houbigant introduces this addition in his

Latin version, and contends that this is its most proper place.

Notwithstanding the authority of the above versions, the clause is

found in no copy, printed or MS., of the Hebrew text.

Verse 23. In process of time-the king of Egypt died] According

to St. Stephen, (Ac 7:30, compared with Ex 7:7,) the death of

the Egyptian king happened about forty years after the escape of

Moses to Midian. The words vayehi baiyamim

harabbim hahem, which we translate And it came to pass in process

of time, signify, And it was in many days from these that the

king, &c. It has already been remarked that Archbishop Usher

supposes this king to have been Ramesses Miamun, who was succeeded

by his son Amenophis, who was drowned in the Red Sea when pursuing

the Israelites, but Abul Farajius says it was Amunfathis,

(Amenophis,) he who made the cruel edict against the Hebrew


Some suppose that Moses wrote the book of Job during the time he

sojourned in Midian, and also the book of Genesis. See the

preface to the book of Job, where this subject is considered.

Sighed by reason of the bondage] For the nature of their

bondage, See Clarke on Ex 1:14.

Verse 24. God remembered his covenant] God's covenant is God's

engagement; he had promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to

give their posterity a land flowing with milk and honey, &c. They

are now under the most oppressive bondage, and this was the most

proper time for God to show them his mercy and power in fulfilling

his promise. This is all that is meant by God's remembering his

covenant, for it was now that he began to give it its effect.

Verse 25. And God had respect unto them.] vaiyeda

Elohim, God knew them, i.e., he approved of them, and therefore

it is said that their cry came up before God, and he heard their

groaning. The word yada, to know, in the Hebrew Bible, as

well as γινωσκω in the Greek Testament, is frequently used in the

sense of approving; and because God knew-had respect for and

approved of, them, therefore he was determined to deliver them.

For Elohim, GOD, in the last clause of this verse, Houbigant

reads aleyhem, UPON THEM, which is countenanced by the

Vulgate, Septuagint, Chaldee, Coptic, and Arabic, and appears to

have been the original reading. The difference in the original

consists in the interchange of two letters, the yod and he.

Our translators insert unto them, in order to make up that sense

which this various reading gives without trouble.

THE farther we proceed in the sacred writings, the more the

history both of the grace and providence of God opens to our view.

He ever cares for his creatures, and is mindful of his promise.

The very means made use of to destroy his work are, in his hands,

the instruments of its accomplishment. Pharaoh orders the male

children of the Hebrews to be thrown into the river; Moses, who

was thus exposed, is found by his own daughter, brought up as her

own son, and from his Egyptian education becomes much better

qualified for the great work to which God had called him; and his

being obliged to leave Egypt was undoubtedly a powerful means to

wean his heart from a land in which he had at his command all the

advantages and luxuries of life. His sojourning also in a strange

land, where he was obliged to earn his bread by a very painful

employment, fitted him for the perilous journey he was obliged to

take in the wilderness, and enabled him to bear the better the

privations to which he was in consequence exposed.

The bondage of the Israelites was also wisely permitted, that

they might with less reluctance leave a country where they had

suffered the greatest oppression and indignities. Had they not

suffered severely previously to their departure, there is much

reason to believe that no inducements could have been sufficient

to have prevailed on them to leave it. And yet their leaving it

was of infinite consequence, in the order both of grace and

providence, as it was indispensably necessary that they should be

a people separated from all the rest of the world, that they might

see the promises of God fulfilled under their own eyes, and thus

have the fullest persuasion that their law was Divine, their

prophets inspired by the Most High, and that the Messiah came

according to the prophecies before delivered concerning him.

From the example of Pharaoh's daughter,

(See Clarke on Ex 2:5,) and the seven daughters of

Jethro, (Ex 2:16,) we learn that in the days of primitive

simplicity, and in this respect the best days, the children,

particularly the daughters of persons in the highest ranks in

life, were employed in the most laborious offices. Kings'

daughters performed the office of the laundress to their own

families; and the daughters of princes tended and watered the

flocks. We have seen similar instances in the case of Rebekah and

Rachel; and we cannot be too pointed in calling the attention of

modern delicate females, who are not only above serving their own

parents and family, but even their own selves: the consequence of

which is, they have neither vigour nor health; their growth, for

want of healthy exercise, is generally cramped; their natural

powers are prematurely developed, and their whole course is rather

an apology for living, than a state of effective life. Many of

these live not out half their days, and their offspring, when they

have any, is more feeble than themselves; so that the race of man

where such preposterous conduct is followed (and where is it not

followed?) is in a state of gradual deterioration. Parents who

wish to fulfil the intention of God and nature, will doubtless see

it their duty to bring up their children on a different plan. A

worse than the present can scarcely be found out.

Afflictions, under the direction of God's providence and the

influence of his grace, are often the means of leading men to pray

to and acknowledge God, who in the time of their prosperity

hardened their necks from his fear. When the Israelites were

sorely oppressed, they began to pray. If the cry of oppression

had not been among them, probably the cry for mercy had not been

heard. Though afflictions, considered in themselves, can neither

atone for sin nor improve the moral state of the soul, yet God

often uses them as means to bring sinners to himself, and to

quicken those who, having already escaped the pollutions of the

world, were falling again under the influence of an earthly mind.

Of many millions besides David it may truly be said, Before they

were afflicted they went astray.

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