The story about baby Moses is a story of desperation, but also of courage and love. The love of a mother for her child is a fierce and wonderful thing. A mother will do whatever she can to protect her baby. The story of Moses takes place many generations after Joseph and his family had come to Egypt. Joseph had been Pharaoh’s right hand man, respected and powerful. The Hebrews, in the years that followed, had prospered and grown into a numerous people. The current Pharaoh forgot about Joseph and when he looked at his kingdom, he saw a nation within his nation. He was frightened that his kingdom would be overwhelmed and so he ordered that all the baby boys born to the Hebrews be thrown into the Nile.
Moses mother kept his birth a secret and hid her precious baby until he was too old to hide any longer. In desperation, she wove a basket, covered it in pitch (tree sap) so that it would be waterproof. She lined it with soft grass and blankets and strategically placed it in the Nile, upriver from the royal pools on the edge of the Nile. Moses older sister Miriam watched over her baby brother in his basket, following along on the banks of the river. The basket floated down the river and into the shallows by the palace where the daughter of the Pharaoh was bathing. She waded out to retrieve the basket and imagine her surprise when she found a wee baby inside. She knew this was a Hebrew, but her heart was filled with compassion for this helpless baby.
In that moment she decided that she would save this child and be his mother. Miriam had been waiting for this pivotal moment. With fear and resolve she, a mere slave, approached Pharaoh’s daughter and asked her if she would like her to find a Hebrew woman who could nurse the baby. Without a woman to provide milk, the baby would die. The Pharaoh’s daughter told Miriam to bring the woman to her. Moses’ mother was brought to the palace and Pharaoh’s daughter paid her to take care of the baby. When he was old enough Moses’ mother brought him back to the palace to be raised as a prince of Egypt. It must have broken her heart to leave her child, but she knew he was safe.
The Pharaoh’s daughter named him Moses, an Egyptian name. In Egyptian, the word mose means ‘child of’ think of Ramose (child of Ra) or Tutmouse (child of Tut). Moses probably had a longer name part of which he later dropped so it did not sound so Egyptian. Having found him in the Nile, the source of life for Egypt, the princess could easily have seen him as a gift from the God of the river. His name possibly could have been Hapimose, meaning ‘child of the God of the Nile.’
This is a story of love. The love of a mother, the love of a stranger for a helpless baby, the love of a sister. This is a story of courage. The courage of a mother to trust that God would keep her baby safe, the courage of a sister to approach a powerful woman. This is a story of how God can work in the most seemingly hopeless conditions to bring good into the world.