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The Birth of Moses

Exodus 2:5-6

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Full bible text

Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” “Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

About this painting

After the death of Joseph and his brothers, their descendants become numerous in Egypt. As time goes by a new pharaoh, who never knew Joseph comes to power. He sees the increase of the people of Israel as a threat and he therefore oppresses the Israelites with forced labour. He also commands midwives to kill all the new-born sons of the Israelites. However, the midwives ignore this command. The pharaoh then commands all Egyptians to throw the Hebrew young boys into the Nile.
In this situation Moses is born.
His mother, Jochebed, hides Moses for three months. In order to save Moses she does the following: she acquires a papyrus basket for him and coats it with tar and pitch. Then she places Moses in the basket and places it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. (see Heb. 11:23) His sister Miriam stands at a distance to see what will happen to him. (In the painting her face is visible between the reeds). The daughter of pharaoh finds Moses. She adopts him as her son.

This is a parallel with the life of Jesus: as when Jesus is born there is a cruel ruler who commands that Hebrew children be killed.
And Jesus has also been in Egypt:
Matt. 2: 14,15 ‘So he (Joseph) got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1)[c]


In Genesis 15 God promises Abram to liberate his descendants from the land of slavery. Moses is called to be the leader who will lead the people out of Egypt. In that position he mediates between God and the people. That is why he is called the ‘Mediator of the Old Covenant’.* He is a 'type' or 'shadow' of Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant*. Heb. 8.
God speaks to Moses and Moses speaks the words of God to the people. So Moses was a prophet. Not only was he a prophet, but also a priest and a king. He made sacrifices on behalf of the people and was their ruler as well.
In Jesus’ life, we see these offices being fulfilled in a perfect way. He frees from the bondage of sin; He is the High Priest who sacrifices Himself to make atonement with God. Heb. 9:11,12. He is the Word who became flesh; He is the Great Prophet. John 1, Acts 3:22.
As the King of Kings He rules over all things, sitting at the Father’s right hand in heaven. 1Cor.15:25.
‘For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’. John 1:17.

* The Old Covenant was the covenant God made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Ex 24:8, Heb. 9:18-20, Jer. 31:31-34. It was linked to the worship of God with sacrifices in the tabernacle. It is the foreshadowing of the New Covenant.
* The New Covenant was instituted by Jesus; Matt. 26: 28.
He introduces Himself as the new Passover-lamb, by whose death the New Covenant is instituted. This Covenant is the new institution of God, by which He places those who believe in Him in a new relationship with Himself.


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