By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible says the author of Hebrews. You look at the story in Exodus 2 and are tempted to wonder where he’s getting it from.
Because we must never use Scripture to contradict Scripture, we have to look deeper and understand what exactly is going on here.
Moses doesn’t come off looking very good in Exodus. He goes out when he’s 40. He sees a Hebrew being beaten by and Egyptian, he checks that nobody is looking and kills the Egyptian. When he finds out that the deed is known, he runs away. And yet we are told that ‘by faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king.’
We have to understand that in Exodus Moses is not glorifying his faith. But his faith is nevertheless apparent to us upon further consideration. The author of Hebrews believed it is important to notice it. He identified with God’s people, after all. He did not lord it over them as an Egyptian could. We know form the comments of his father-in-law’s daughters that he looked like an Egyptian to most people. But in avenging his Hebrew brother he identified with God’s people, for all that his approach to it was wrong.
This is the great lawgiver. This is the person who received written on stone the commandment: thou shalt not murder. A murderer.
Because by the works of the law shall no man be justified, not even Moses the lawgiver. From the very start he did not keep the law, but was justified by faith, seeing God who is invisible. He was vindicated by an alien righteousness imputed to him, not by his own efforts.
And being justified by faith, he was sanctified. He started out fearing Pharaoh, but that is not held against him. That was washed away, pardoned, forgiven, another righteousness imputed so that the grace and benefits of union with Christ would amend his life as well. He learned not to fear Pharaoh, a lot more gradually than the author of Hebrews might seem to suggest, but the truth is the author of Hebrews’ operating reality.
When Pharaoh’s daughter names Moses, it seems that she makes a mistake. The linguistic experts inform us that there is no way the name can have an Egyptian provenance. It is clearly a Hebrew name. She names him Moses because, she says, ‘I drew him out of the water.’
But here is the problem with what she says: the name cannot come from the passive construction of the Hebrew verb ‘to draw’. It would seem that is what she actually intended to name him: one drawn. I drew him = he was drawn. But she actually manages to name him ‘Drawer,’ that is: an active construction of the Hebrew verb.
Perhaps she didn’t know too much Hebrew. Why should she, after all, know the language of slaves?
I also think Moses is having a joke at his own expense. Hi, my name is Drawer. His foster-mother’s inadvertence was God’s design all along.
What is it Moses draws, since he is not just the one drawn?
The story of the circumstances under which this Drawer was born begins with the command to the midwives. What is it that mainly characterizes midwifery? They are the ones who draw the baby out.
That is the joke Moses is having at his expense, and his serious point: God appointed me a midwife for the birth of a people. They are born of Egypt, despite the Pharaoh’s attempts to stop it and prevent that birth, being drawn forth by God’s appointed midwife: the weak and reluctant Moses.
God, Moses is telling us, has his ways.
The second chapter of Exodus is a story dominated by female figures.
Women can do things men can’t; that is the point. They can be mothers and daughters, they can be sisters and wives, they can be wet-nurses and give birth to children. None of these are things men can do or are meant to do. Women were designed for doing these things.
Notice also how important it is for this story that they behave in ways women instinctively do, especially the maternal instinct. Moses’ mother obviously cares for her child. She does it by faith, knowing God has purposes for him. She nurtures him as long as she can; when she can no longer hide him, she builds and ark (it is a kind of prayer, asking God to deliver him from the water as he did Noah of old) and strategically places it where the princess comes to bathe. Moses’ sister too looks out for him—no doubt coached by her mother. She waits patiently, runs up with her suggestion, and takes care of her baby brother the way any little girl naturally would. And, of course, Pharaoh’s daughter and her maidens pity the child. They recognize that it is a Hebrew child, but they feel compassion for the small creature, as one would expect. Nobody says: What are all these women doing, protecting a baby? It is the most obvious thing that they should. What is wrong is that there is someone killing babies in this story.
We learn that God’s purposes run through God’s design. God was not stopped by the culture of death of Egypt at the outset--in the episode with the midwives who feared the Lord, disobeyed the king, and whom God remembers eternally. A midwife is a traditional woman’s role for a reason. God’s purposes run through God’s design; God’s purposes are God’s Design or his Decree. And God had plans for Moses.
Because God has plans, Moses was nourished and weaned at Pharaoh’s expense, and was given the benefit of an upbringing in the house of Pharaoh himself. This was also God’s design. Had Pharaoh not decreed the genocide, Moses would never have ended up being adopted by an Egyptian princess (which is another role no man can occupy). Pharaoh’s culpable, mutable, and evil decree did not at all set aside God’s eternal, saving, and blessed Decree to save a people by his appointed means.
One of the interesting points God is making goes all the way from Genesis 3:15, though the barren women of Genesis, through Exodus 2, on through Hannah in 1st Samuel, and through Elizabeth in the late 1st century BC to that ultimate barren woman: the virgin Mary who had not even known a man. What is that point? That if women could not have children, we could not be saved.
Because God’s purposes run through God’s design.