The story of Moses in the bullrushes is one of the most familiar stories from the Old Testament.
Who doesn’t like a good tale of intrigue with a happy ending?Baby is placed in the water to save him from certain death. Baby is discovered by a beautiful princess. Baby gets to be raised by its mother, with all the benefits of a royal life. Yet it’s a story of several women, some acting independently of the others, to preserve the life of a child.
In the previous chapter, we learn that Pharaoh, the king, was a bit nervous about the increasing numbers of Hebrews in the land. Afraid they might help overthrow his kingdom, he devised a plan to reduce their numbers – kill all the Hebrew baby boys. When that didn’t work (thanks to the midwives Shiphrah and Puah), he decreed that every boy born to a Hebrew must be thrown into the Nile.
Most versions of this story focus on the bucolic scene of the baby floating safely in the water only to be discovered by a fine-looking princess. But there is a greater story of creativity, defiance, and liberation – all by women to make a difference in the life of a one little.
There is the baby’s mother. (We later learn her name is Jochebed.) Imagine being with child and knowing that, if it is a boy, the evil dictator has decreed his death. Yet she gave birth to the little one and kept him close to her heart for as long as she could. When she could no longer hide him, she did as she was told – she threw him in the Nile, or maybe better said, placed him in the river in a waterproof basket.
Enter the daughter of the wicked dictator. Some say she was at the river for her ritual bath, a religious experience of sorts, when she spotted the child floating serenely among the reeds and felt sorry for him. She rescued him, offered protection, and later adopted him, naming him Moses – all in defiance of her father’s decree. She raises the child in the same house of the man who would have killed him. Did he ever know where the child came from?
From the bank of the river, the baby’s sister, Miriam, who was somewhere between the ages of five and seven, watched. She fearlessly approached the princess and her entourage. “Shall I get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” she asked, probably somewhat tongue-in-cheek. (Maybe she was exhibiting those leadership skills she needed later when she was recognized as a leader alongside Moses and their brother, Aaron.)
Encouraged to do so, the girl got the baby’s mother. The princess offered to pay the mother to nurse the boy. By law, the person who found the baby could adopt the child, but because the little one was raised in his early years by his own mother, it ensured that he received the love and support of his own family.
God uses people, sometimes unbeknownst to them, to make a difference. Think of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers. When it came time to help his family, God had placed him in a place of influence. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives,” Joseph told his brothers (Genesis 50:20NIV).
Esther, living in the palace of King Xerxes, recognized Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews. Her uncle, Mordecai, encouraged her to uncover the plot. “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” he says (Esther 4:14 NIV).
In our reading, God placed Jochebed, the princess, and Miriam in a united effort of creative disobedience to preserve the life of a child who would go on to liberate the nation of Israel.
Where has God used you to make a difference, even if you didn’t realize it at the time?