saying, every son that is born ye shall cast into the river; the river Nile; not every son born in his kingdom, for this would have ruined it in time; but that was born to the Jews, as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan; and it is added in the Septuagint version, to the Hebrews:
and every daughter ye shall save alive; for the reasons given See Gill on Exodus 1:16.
INTRODUCTION TO Exodus 2
This chapter relates the birth of Moses, and his preservation in an ark of bulrushes, Exodus 2:1. His being found by Pharaoh's daughter, took up, and put out to nurse by her, and adopted for her son, Exodus 2:4, some exploits of his when grown up, taking the part of an Hebrew against an Egyptian whom he slew, and endeavouring to reconcile two Hebrews at variance, when one of them reproached him with slaying the Egyptian, Exodus 2:11, which thing being known to Pharaoh, he sought to slay Moses, and this obliged him to flee to Midian, Exodus 2:15 where he met with the daughters of Reuel, and defended them against the shepherds, and watered their flocks for them, Exodus 2:16, which Reuel being informed of, sent for him, and he lived with him, and married his daughter Zipporah, by whom he had a son, Exodus 2:18 and the chapter is concluded with the death of the king of Egypt, and the sore bondage of the Israelites, and their cries and groans, which God had a respect unto, Exodus 2:23.
and took to wife a daughter of Levi; one of the same house, family, or tribe; which was proper, that the tribes might be kept distinct: this was Jochebed, said to be his father's sister; see Gill on Exodus 6:20, her name in Josephus (s) is Joachebel, which seems to be no other than a corruption of Jochebed, but in the Targum in 1 Chronicles 4:18 she is called Jehuditha.
(s) Antiqu. l. 2. c. 9. sect. 4.
and when she saw him that he was a goodly child; exceeding fair and beautiful, as Stephen expresses it, Acts 7:20, the Jews say (w) his form was like an angel of God, and Trogus (x), an Heathen writer, says his beautiful form recommended him: this engaged the affections of his parents to him, and who, from hence, might promise themselves that he would be a very eminent and useful person, could his life be preserved:
she hid him three months; in her bedchamber, some Jewish writers say (y); others (z), in a house under ground, that is, in the cellar; however, it was in his father's house, Acts 7:20.
(t) Shatshalet Hakabala, fol. 5. 2. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 7. 1.((u) Annal. Vet. Test. p. 18. (w) Pirke Eliezer, c. 48. fol. 57. 2.((x) Justin e Trogo, l. 36. c. 2.((y) Chronicon Mosis, fol. 3. 2. (z) Pirke Eliezer, ut supra. (c.48. fol. 57.2)
she took for him an ark of bulrushes; the word, according to Kimchi (b), signifies a kind of wood exceeding light, so Gersom and Ben Melech; an Arabic writer (c) calls it an ark of wood; it is generally taken to be the "papyrus" or reed of Egypt, which grew upon the banks of the Nile, and of which, many writers say, small vessels or little ships were made; see Gill on Isaiah 18:2.
and daubed it with slime and with pitch; with pitch without and slime within, as Jarchi observes; which being of a glutinous nature, made the rushes or reeds stick close together, and so kept out the water:
and put the child therein; committing it to the care and providence of God, hoping and believing that by some means or another it would be preserved; for this, no doubt, was done in faith, as was the hiding him three months, to which the apostle ascribes that, Hebrews 11:23.
and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink; among the sedge, weeds, and rushes, that grew upon the banks of the river Nile; there she laid it, that it might not be carried away with the stream of the river, and that it might be seen and taken up by somebody that would have compassion on it, and take care of it: the Arabic writers (d) say, that Jochebed made an ark of the papyrus, though in the law it is said to be of cork, and pitched within and without, and put the child into it, and laid it on the bank of the Nile, where the water was not so deep, by the city Tzan (or Zoan, that is, Tanis), which was the metropolis of the Tanitic nome; but very wrongly adds, that it might be killed by the dashing of the waves, and she might not see its death.
(a) Targum Jon. & Jarchi in loc. (b) Sepher Shorash. rad. (c) Elmacius apud Hottinger. p. 402. (d) Patricides, p. 25. Elmacinus, p. 46. apud Hottinger. Smegma, c. 8. p. 400.
to wit what would be done to him; to know, take notice, and observe, what should happen to it, if anyone took it up, and what they did with it, and where they carried it, for, "to wit" is an old English word, which signifies "to know", and is the sense of the Hebrew word to which it answers, see 2 Corinthians 8:1.
(e) "collocata fuerat", Vatablus. (f) "Stiterat sese", Junius & Tremellius, "stitit sese", Piscator, Drusius.
and her maidens walked along by the river's side; while she washed herself; though it is highly probable she was not left alone: these seem to be the maids of honour, there might be others that might attend her of a meaner rank, and more fit to do for her what was necessary; yet these saw not the ark, it lying lower among the flags, and being nearer the bath where Pharaoh's daughter was, she spied it from thence as follows:
and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it; the maid that waited on her while the rest were taking their walks; her she sent from the bath among the flags to take up the ark: the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, and R. Eliezer (o), render it,"she stretched out her arm and hand, and took it;''the same word, being differently pointed, so signifying; but this is disapproved of, by the Jewish commentators.
(g) Antiqu. l. 2. c. 9. sect. 5. (h) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 432. (i) T. Bab. Megillah, fol. 13. 1. Derech Eretz, fol. 19. 1. Pirke Eliezer, c. 48. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 5. 2.((k) Apud Joseph. Contr. Apion, l. 2. sect. 2.((l) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 433. (m) Chronicon Mosis, fol. 3. 2. Ed. Gaulmin. (n) Targum Jon. in loc. Pirke Eliezer, ut supra. (c.48. fol. 57.2.) (o) Ibid. Vid. T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 12. 1.
she saw the child in it, and, behold, the babe wept; and which was a circumstance, it is highly probable, greatly affected the king's daughter, and moved her compassion to it; though an Arabic writer says (p), she heard the crying of the child in the ark, and therefore sent for it:
and she had compassion on him, and said, this is one of the Hebrews' children; which she might conclude from its being thus exposed, knowing her father's edict, and partly from the form and beauty of it, Hebrew children not being swarthy and tawny as Egyptian ones: the Jewish writers (q) say, she knew it by its being circumcised, the Egyptians not yet using circumcision.
(p) Patricides apud Hottinger. p 401. (q) T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 12. 2. Aben Ezra in loc.
shall I go and call for thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee? for she perceived that she was desirous of having the child brought up as her own.
(r) Antiqu. l. 2. c. 9. sect. 5. (s) T. Bab. Sotah, ut supra. (fol. 12.1)
and the maid went and called the child's mother; and her own, whose name was Jochebed the wife of Amram, as observed in Exodus 2:1.
take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages; by which means she had not only the nursing of her own child, but was paid for it: according to a Jewish writer (t), Pharaoh's daughter agreed with her for two pieces of silver a day.
(t) Dibre Hayamim; sive Chronicon Mosis, fol. 4. 1.
and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter; when grown up and weaned, and needed a nurse no longer: a Jewish chronologer (u) says, this was two years after his birth; and another says (w), that when he was three years old, Pharaoh sitting at table, and his queen was at his right hand, and his daughter, with Moses, at his left, and his mother before him, when Moses in the sight of them all took the crown from Pharaoh's head:
and he became her son; by adoption, for though she was a married woman, as some say, yet had no children, though very desirous of them, which accounts the more for her readiness in taking notice and care of Moses; so Philo the Jew says (x), that she had been married a long time, but never with child, though she was very desirous of children, and especially a son, that might succeed her father in the kingdom, or otherwise it must go into another family: yea, he further says, that she feigned herself with child, that Moses might be thought to be her own son: and Artapanus (y), an Heathen writer, says that the daughter of Pharaoh was married to one Chenephres, who reigned over the country above Memphis, for at that time many reigned in Egypt; and she being barren, took a son of one of the Jews, whom she called Moyses, and being grown up to a man's estate, was, by the Greeks, called Musaeus:
and she called his name Moses, and she said, because I drew him out of the water; by which it appears, that this word is derived from the Hebrew word "Mashah", which signifies to draw out, and is only used of drawing out of water, 2 Samuel 22:17 which Pharaoh's daughter gave him, he being an Hebrew child, and which language she may very well be thought to understand; since there were such a large number of Hebrews dwelt in Egypt, and she was particularly conversant with Jochebed her Hebrew nurse; and besides, there was a great affinity between the Hebrew and the Egyptian language, and therefore there is no need to derive the word from the latter, as Philo (z) and Josephus (a) do; who observe that "Mo" in the Egyptian language signifies "water", and "Yses", "saved"; besides, the Egyptian name of Moses, according to Aben Ezra, who had it from a book of agriculture in that language, is Momos: the Jewish writers (b) give to Moses many names, which he had from different persons, no less than ten: and Artapanns (c) says, that by the Egyptian priests he was called Hermes or Mercury, and probably was the Hermes of that people; he is called by Orpheus (d) "born in water", because drawn out of it.
(u) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 5. 2.((w) Chronicon. ib. Shalshal. ib. (x) De Vita Mosis, c. 1. p. 604, 605. (y) Apud Euseb, Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 432. (z) Ut supra. (x)) (a) Ut supra, (Antiqu. l. 2. c. 9.) sect. 6. (b) Vajikra Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 146. 3. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 5. 2. Chronicon Mosis, fol. 4. 1.((c) Apud Euseb. ut supra. (praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 432.) (d) De Deo, v. 23.
that he went out unto his brethren the Hebrews: whom he knew to be his brethren, either by divine revelation, or by conversing with his nurse, who was his mother; who, doubtless, instructed him while he was with her, as far as he was capable of being informed of things, and who might frequently visit her afterwards, by which means he became apprised that he was an Hebrew and not an Egyptian, though he went for the son of Pharaoh's daughter, which he refused to be called when he knew his parentage, Hebrews 11:24 now he went out from Pharaoh's palace, which in a short time he entirely relinquished, to visit his brethren, and converse with them, and understood their case and circumstances:
and looked on their burdens; which they were obliged to carry, and were very heavy, and with which they were pressed; he looked at them with grief and concern, and considered in his mind how to relieve them, if possible:
and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren; the Egyptian was, according to Jarchi, a principal of the taskmasters of Israel, who was beating the Hebrew for not doing his work as he required, and the Hebrew, according to him, was the husband of Shelomith, daughter of Dibri, Leviticus 24:11, though others say it was Dathan (f).
(e) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 5. 2.((f) lbid.
and when he saw that there was no man; near at hand, that could see what he did, and be a witness against him:
he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand; in a sandy desert place hard by, where having slain him with his sword, he dug a hole, and put him into it; See Gill on Acts 7:24. Of the slaughter of the Egyptian, and the following controversy about it, Demetrius (g), an Heathen writer, treats of in perfect agreement with the sacred Scriptures.
(g) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 19. p. 439.
behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together; which the Jewish writers (h) take to be Dathan and Abiram:
and he said to him that did the wrong; who was the aggressor, and acted the wicked part in abusing his brother:
wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? friend and companion; signifying, that it was very unbecoming, unkind, and unnatural, and that brethren and friends ought to live together in love, and not strive with, and smite one another, and especially at such a time as this, when they were so oppressed by, and suffered so much from their enemies; See Gill on Acts 7:26.
(h) Targum Jon. & Jarchi in loc. Shemoth Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 91. 4. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 5. 2. Pirke Eliezer, c. 48.
intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? if this was Dathan, or however the same Hebrew that he had defended and rescued from the Egyptian, it was very ungenerous in him to upbraid him with it; or if that Hebrew had made him his confident, and acquainted him with that affair, as it was unfaithful to betray it, since it was in favour of one of his own people, it was ungrateful to reproach him with it:
and Moses feared; lest the thing should be discovered and be told to Pharaoh, and he should suffer for it: this fear that possessed Moses was before he fled from Egypt, and went to Midian, not when he forsook it, and never returned more, at the departure of the children of Israel, to which the apostle refers, Hebrews 11:27 and is no contradiction to this:
and said, surely this thing is known; he said this within himself, he concluded from this speech, that either somebody had seen him commit the fact he was not aware of, or the Hebrew, whose part he took, had through weakness told it to another, from whom this man had it, or to himself; for by this it seems that he was not the same Hebrew, on whose account Moses had slain the Egyptian, for then the thing would have been still a secret between them as before; only the other Hebrew this was now contending with must hereby come to the knowledge of it, and so Moses might fear, that getting into more hands it would come out, as it did; See Gill on Acts 7:27. See Gill on Acts 7:28. See Gill on Acts 7:29.
but Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh; not through want of courage, but through prudence, to avoid danger, and preserve his life for future usefulness; and no doubt under a divine impulse, and by the direction of divine Providence, the time for him to be the deliverer of Israel not being yet come:
and dwelt in the land of Midian: a country so called from Midian, one of Abraham's sons by Keturah, Genesis 25:2. Jerom (k) calls it a city, and says it was on the other side of Arabia, to the south, in the desert of the Saracens, to the east of the Red sea, from whence the country was called Midian; and Philo (l) says, that Moses went into neighbouring Arabia; and which is confirmed by Artapanus (m) the Heathen historian, who says, that from Memphis, crossing the river Nile, he went into Arabia; and this country was sometimes called Cush or Ethiopia; hence Moses's wife is called an Ethiopian woman, Numbers 12:1.
and he sat down by a well; weary, thoughtful, and pensive. It may be observed, that it was usual with persons in such like circumstances, being strangers and not knowing well to whom to apply for assistance or direction, to place themselves at a well of water, to which there was frequent resort, both for the use of families and of flocks; see Genesis 24:11. This well is now called, as some say, Eyoun el Kaseb, fourteen hours and a half from Magare Chouaib, or "the grot of Jethro" (n); but if this was so far from Jethro's house, his daughters had a long way to go with their flock: but some other travellers (o) speak of a very neat and pleasant village, called Hattin, where they were shown the grave of Jethro, Moses's father-in-law; and in the neighbourhood of that place is a cistern, now called Omar, and is said to be the watering place where Moses met with the daughters of the priest of Midian. A late learned man (p) thinks, that Sharma, which is about a day and a half's journey southeast from Mount Sinai, is the place where Jethro lived. The Arabic geographer (q) says, at the shore of the Red sea lies the city Madian, greater than Tabuc, and in it is a well, out of which Moses watered the flocks of Scioaib, that is, Raguel.
(i) Diodor. Sicul. Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 70. (k) De locis Heb. fol. 93. A. B. (l) De Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 609. (m) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 433. (n) See a Journey from Grand Cairo to Mecca, in Ray's Travels, vol. 2. p. 468. (o) Egmont and Heyman's Travels, vol. 2. p. 29. (p) See the Origin of Hieroglyphics, at the end of a Journal from Cairo, to Mount Sinai, p. 55. Ed. 2.((q) Climat. 3. par. 5.
and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock; which is no contradiction to their being daughters either of a priest or a prince, which were both high titles and characters; since it was usual in those early times, and in those countries, for the sons and daughters of considerable persons to be employed in such services; See Gill on Genesis 29:9.
(r) Ut supra, (Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27.) p. 434.
but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock; moved to see such rude and uncivil treatment of the weaker sex, rose up from the ground on which he sat, and took their parts, and obliged the shepherds to give way, and brought up their flock to the troughs, and drew water for them, and gave them it; either he did this alone, or together with the servants that waited upon the priest's daughters, perhaps alone; and if it be considered that shepherds being usually not of a very martial spirit, and these also in a wrong cause, and Moses a man of an heroic disposition, and had doubtless the appearance of a man of some eminence and authority, they were the more easily intimidated and overcome.
how is it that you are come so soon today? it being not only sooner than they were wont to come, but perhaps their business was done in so short a time; that it was marvellous to him that it could be done in it, so quick a dispatch had Moses made, and they through his assistance; and especially it might be more strange, if it was usual, as it seems it was, to be molested by the shepherds.
(s) Ut supra. (Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 434.)
and also drew water enough for us; or "in drawing drew" (t); drew it readily, quickly and in abundance:
and watered the flock; by which means their business was done, and they returned home earlier than usual.
(t) "hauriendo bausit", Pagninus, Montanus, Piscator.
why is it that ye have left the man? behind them at the well, and had not brought him along with them; he seemed to be displeased, and chides them, and tacitly suggests that they were rude and ungrateful not to ask a stranger, and one that had been so kind to them, to come with them and refresh himself:
call him, that he may eat bread; take meat with them, bread being put for all provisions.
and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter; to be his wife. It is not to be supposed that this was done directly; though both Philo (u) and Josephus (w) intimate as if it was done at first meeting together; but it is not likely that Reuel would dispose of his daughter so suddenly to a stranger, though he might at once entertain an high opinion of him; nor would Moses marry a woman directly he had so slender an acquaintance with, so little knowledge of her disposition, endowments of mind and religion. The Targum of Jonathan says it was at the end of ten years; and indeed forty years after this a son of his seems to have been young, having not till then been circumcised, Exodus 4:22. The author of the Life of Moses says (x), that he was seventy seven years of age when he married Zipporah, which was but three years before he returned to Egypt. This circumstance of Moses's marrying Reuel's daughter is confirmed by Artapanus (y) an Heathen historian; and also by Demetrius (z), and expressly calls her Sapphora, who he says was a daughter of Jother or Jethro; and likewise by Ezekiel the tragedian (a).
(u) De Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 611. (w) Antiqu. l. 2. c. 11. sect. 2.((x) Chronicon Mosis, fol. 9. 1.((y) Apud Euseb. Evangel. Praepar. l. 9. c. 27. p. 434. (z) Ib. c. 29. p. 439. (a) lb. c. 28.
for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land; so Midian was to him, who was born in Egypt, and being an Hebrew, was entitled to the land of Canaan; this looks as if he had been at this time some years in Midian.
and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage; the severity of it, and its long duration, and seeing no way for their escape out of it:
and they cried, and their cry came up unto God; they not only sighed and groaned inwardly, but so great was their oppression, that they could not forbear crying out aloud; and such was the greatness and vehemency of their cry, that it reached up to heaven, and came into the ears of the Almighty, as vehement cries are said to do, whether sinful or religious; see Genesis 18:20.
by reason of the bondage; which may either be connected with their "cry", that that was because of their bondage; or with the "coming" of it unto God, he was pleased to admit and regard their cry, because their bondage was so very oppressive and intolerable.
(b) Annal Vet. Test. p. 19. A. M. 2494.
and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob; that he would bring their seed out of a land not theirs, in which they were strangers, and were afflicted, into the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession.