Baby number three was due any day, but this time it was uniquely different. Her first two children, a girl and a boy, had been born safe and healthy. But the days were dangerous now. She seriously feared for this one’s life, not that it would be born with physical or mental challenges, but that once it was born, someone would actually kill him.
Day by day she lived under the extreme hardships of slavery, times were turbulent. She had hidden her pregnancy as much as was possible beneath loose flowing clothing. Her prayerful determination was strong to avoid any medical help. The king had decreed that even a simple midwife would be forced to terminate the life of her child immediately after birth, should it be born a boy. She was healthy and strong from forced hard labor, so was hopeful that this birth, would be as fast and safe as the earlier two and that no one would even know that she had been pregnant. Would they even be able to name a boy child, or find a way to go through the required ceremony if he even lived for that first week?
God was clearly with her, because the baby boy, she may have secretly wished would be a girl, was delivered quickly, before midwives could be summoned. He was safe for now. His first cries were quickly muffled and they prayed that no one had heard the later hearty cries of a newborn, anxious to be fed.
Jochebed held her family together with this one goal: He could not be discovered. She saw her newborn: perfect and beautiful – “Exceeding fair,” the record of his birth in the book of Exodus would later call him. She, along with her family no longer feared the king’s commandment that all Hebrew baby boys be killed at birth.
In their heart of hearts, they knew that God had something special in mind for him, and they guarded him day and night. Perhaps giving him a little rag to suck on when he fussed, and having one of the children stand guard to warn of any Egyptians who might be close by.
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When I told two of my daughters that I was writing about the woman I admired the most, one of them laughingly assured me that I must be writing about her. After that was straightened out, it only took one guess for them to say “Jochebed.”
They knew that I admired many women. My fearless missionary mother and my delightful Pastor’s wife were two that clearly deserved recognition, but I never had any one woman impress me as much as the mother of Moses, who became the deliverer of his people.
She must have known from the start that this boy child was very special. Today some say that the reason for the edict to kill all those baby boys, was that Pharoah was warned by the oracles that the deliverer of the Hebrews would be born during specific days, so the king of Egypt had ordered the midwives to kill all newborn males of the house of Jacob who were born during that time. The midwives themselves were blessed by God, not having to destroy a single baby boy, telling Pharoah that the Hebrew women were lively and had their babies before they could even get there. As a reward, God gave those midwives houses.
Pharoah’s edict was then changed. He proclaimed to all the Hebrew people: “Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.”
Unbelievably Jochebed’s pregnancy and resulting birth were not discovered, and they were able to keep the baby quiet and hidden for three full months. Anyone who has had a newborn knows how difficult this would be. She and her husband were already raising two amazing children, Miriam and Aaron, who would become great leaders in the future Exodus from Egypt, yet she fiercely wanted to protect this tiny boy child.
Jochebed must have known inherently that at some time she would have to give her baby up, and she must be willing to let him go. She had a trust in the God of Jacob that few others have ever shown. Her fearlessness became obvious when the time came for them to give up their baby.
By three months of age, their little one, who was as yet unnamed, was so noisy that daily they became more and more concerned that he might be discovered, snatched from their loving arms, and thrown to the crocodiles in the Nile river. NOTE: Even today more than 200 people per year are killed by the fearsome Nile Crocodile.
It was then that Jochebed did something most amazing. She lovingly prepared a basket and made it waterproof inside and out with slime and resins. She also made a lid to cover it.
With supreme sadness Jochebed and her young daughter Miriam carried her baby boy in the tiny basket, carefully woven from the very bulrushes that grew along the river where the Crocks lazed in the mud, waiting for their next meal. She carefully calculated the very best location to place this tiny ark, choosing the very same area where the Princess came to bathe. It was the safest place on the river, kept free of crocodiles – chased away, or destroyed by Pharoah’s slaves – making certain that it was secure from dangers and safe for Pharoah’s daughter to wash herself.
Jochebed set the miniature ark, with her baby securely inside, in the marshy area near the waters edge. The sweet iris like reeds were all around him. Perhaps he slept. She tearfully turned and walked away. She had kissed his little head many times, but leaving him thus was the most difficult thing she had ever done. Miriam, his big sister, perhaps only seven years old at the time, remained behind to ensure her baby brother’s safety. The water gently rocked his little boat. It was not long before the princess and her entourage arrived.
Her servant girls quickly discovered the tiny basket and, at her request, brought it to her. When she opened the lid, the baby cried, and she immediately felt a tenderness toward him, knowing that he must be one of the Hebrew babies. Miriam immediately skipped up beside her, asking the Princess “Would you like me to find a nurse for him from among the Hebrew women.” Pharoah’s daughter immediately agreed.
It is so like God to do the impossible! Miriam brought Jochebed back, and the princess, perhaps not knowing that she was the baby’s mama, asked her to take care of him, until he was weaned. She even paid Jochebed to care for her own son!
So it was that Jochebed and Amram were able to openly keep their own little boy for a number of years – under the protection of Pharoah – in their own home. Hebrew women often nursed their babies until they were two or three. Some have speculated that the Princess left him with them until he was through the challenging toddler years – “the terrible twos” and beyond, since she had never had a child and would want someone else to deal with the busy preschool years. His parents laid a foundation for him, and God put a hedge of protection around this special little boy. In the years they had him in their home, they were able to teach him much about his Godly heritage, history and people.
When he came into Pharoah’s house, it was the Princess that finally gave this little one his name. She named him Moses – which means “pulled out” as he was pulled from the mighty Nile river that day.
He was one who ended up getting the best education in Egypt, at the hand of Pharoah’s scholars. The Bible says he was mighty in words and deeds. He delivered his people out of Egypt, and completed God’s plan to ultimately write the Hebrew books of history – the first five books of the Bible.
All these things were begun by his most brave and Godly mama, who refused to be ruled by her emotions, yet creatively let God’s spirit control her. Knowing God had given her all the resources she needed, she went to Him for strength. Raising three amazing and Godly children who were instrumental in the history of Israel and the great Exodus from Egypt. Miriam, the first Prophetess, Aaron, the first high priest of Israel and Moses, the deliverer.
Many will never recognize her name. “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” Proverb 22:1
Jochebed means”God’s Glory.”
Please note: I have taken some liberties of imagination with this account. The basic Biblical facts from Exodus 1 & 2 KJV remain the same.
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