The Birth of Moses
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What Came Before
Then, too, some of the sons of Israel, before they came to Egypt, had begun to marry the women in the land of Canaan, who worshipped idols, and not the Lord. If they had stayed there, their children would have grown up like the people around them, and soon would have lost all knowledge of God.
But in Goshen, they lived alone and apart from the people of Egypt. They worshipped the Lord God, and were kept away from the idols of Egypt. And in that land, as the years went on, from being seventy people, they grew in number, until they became a great multitude. Each of the twelve sons of Jacob was the father of a tribe, and Joseph was the father of two tribes, which were named after his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.
As long as Joseph lived, and for some time after, the people of Israel were treated kindly by the Egyptians, out of their love for Joseph, who had saved Egypt from suffering by famine. But, after a long time another king began to rule over Egypt, who cared nothing for Joseph or Joseph's people. He saw that the Israelites, as the children of Israel were called, were very many, and he feared lest they would soon become greater in number and in power than the Egyptians. He said to his people, "Let us rule these Israelites more strictly. They are growing too strong."
Then they set harsh rulers over the Israelites, who laid heavy burdens on them. They made the Israelites work hard for the Egyptians, and build cities for them, and give to the Egyptians a large part of the crops from their fields. They set them at work in making brick, and in building store-houses. They were so afraid that the Israelites would grow in number, that they gave orders to kill all the little boys that were born to the Israelites, though their little girls might be allowed to live.
But in the face of all this hate, and wrong, and cruelty, the people of Israel were growing in numbers, and becoming greater and greater.
Pharaoh's daughter, with her maids, came down to the river and saw the ark floating on the water among the reeds. She sent one of her maids to bring it to her, so that she might see what was in the curious box. They opened it, and there was a beautiful little baby, who began to cry to be taken up.
The princess felt kind toward the little one, and loved it at once. She said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children." Pharaoh's daughter thought that it would be cruel to let such a lovely baby as this die out on the water. And just then a little girl came running up to her, as if by accident, and she looked at the baby also, and said,
"Shall I go and find some woman of the Hebrews to be a nurse to the child for you, and take care of it?"
The little girl was Miriam, the baby's sister. She ran as quickly as she could, and brought the baby's own mother to the princess. Miriam showed in this act that she was a wise and thoughtful little girl. The princess said to the little baby's mother, "Take this child to your home and nurse it for me, and I will pay you wages for it." How glad the Hebrew mother was to take her child home. No one could harm her boy now, for he was protected by the princess of Egypt, the daughter of the king.
When the child was large enough to leave his mother, Pharaoh's daughter took him into her own home in the palace. She named him "Moses", a word that means "Drawn out", because he was drawn out of the water.
So Moses, the Hebrew boy, lived in the palace among the nobles of the land, as the son of the princess. There he learned much more than he could have learned among his own people, for there were very wise teachers among the Egyptians. Moses gained all the knowledge that the Egyptians had to give. There in the court of the cruel king who had made slaves of the Israelites, God's people, was growing up an Israelite boy who should at some time set his people free.
Although, Moses grew up among the Egyptians, and gained their learning, he loved his own people. They were poor and were hated, and were slaves, but he loved them, because they were the people who served the Lord God, while the Egyptians worshipped idols and animals. Strange it was that so wise a people as these should bow down and pray to an ox or to a cat, or to a snake, as did the Egyptians.
When Moses became a man, he went among his own people, leaving the riches and ease that he might have enjoyed among the Egyptians. He felt a call from God to lift up the Israelites, and set them free. But at that time he found that he could do nothing to help them. They would not let him lead them, and as the king of Egypt had now become his enemy, Moses went away from Egypt, into a country in Arabia called Midian.
He was sitting by a well, in that land, tired from his long journey, when he saw some young women come to draw water for their flocks of sheep. But some rough men came and drove the women away, and took the water for their own flocks. Moses saw it, and helped the women, and drew the water for them.
These young women were sisters, the daughters of a man named Jethro, who was a priest in the land of Midian. He asked Moses to live with him, and to help him in the care of his flocks. Moses stayed with Jethro, and married one of his daughters. So from being a prince in the king's palace in Egypt, Moses became a shepherd in the wilderness of Midian.