Last week we saw the providence of God’s hand over Moses’ life as a young boy. Protecting him from the hand of Pharaoh by having him raised in the house of Pharaoh. Here Moses received the finest education in the world. However, Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt (Heb 11:26). The Lord’s hand was upon Moses as he was preparing him to save his people. We see the second installment of how the Lord, through Providence, prepared Moses to lead his people. Just as Joseph was prepared in the house of Potiphar to handle the seven years of plenty and was prepared in Potiphar’s prison to handle the seven years of famine and drought. We should never seek to understand completely how God is using his providence to prepare us for what is coming. Both Moses and Joseph went from extreme times of blessing and fruitfulness into difficult and what seems endless periods in their lives.
A period of forty years had passed since Jochebed had placed the small child in the mini-ark. Forty years of Pharaoh’s oppression and taskmasters requiring the Israelite slaves to build Pharaoh’s cities for him. Moses goes out to his people. We must stop here and consider this truth that even after forty years of being raised as an Egyptian, he still considered the Israelites to be his people. This is emphasized at the end of verse 11 as well, where Moses as he records this later says, a Hebrew, one of his people. Stephen in Acts chapter seven explains that “it came into his heart to visit his brothers.” We have no accounts of what happened in the forty years before this day, was this a common trip that he would do periodically? Did he have some form of official duty he was required to perform? We do know on this particular day it came into his heart to visit the children of Israel. Even before we get to Exodus 3 and 4 we see that Moses has a heart for God’s people. Which we will see in the following verses?
Moses’ Exodus (Vs 11-15)
As Moses is walking through the sandy desert of Egypt and he looks at the burdens placed upon their backs by his grandfather, through adoption. This word in verse 11 mentions that Moses ‘looked’ is not merely observational but speaks of understanding what is being observed. Moses did not only see that the Israelites had burdens upon their backs, but you might say he felt the burden placed upon their backs. This intensified as he sees one Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. The word beating is not merely a light tap on the wrist, but the word can commonly be translated as killing something or beating to the point of death. Moses strikes the Egyptian down and buries the body in the sand. Now I have heard people say and I might have said in the past that Moses was a murderer. However, I think upon looking at this passage more closely I do not believe I would say that. Did Moses kill a man? Yes, it says that he buried him. However, there is a distinction between murder and killing. We cannot do into those Biblical distinctions for now, but we see it clearly in the original language, the word “struck down” in verse 12 is the same word used by the Egyptians in verse 11. Moses seeks to administer justice. What is called ‘Lex Talionis,’ or retributive justice? The law puts it this way, “But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Ex 21:23–27). The reason I am cautious to speak of Moses as a murderer is not found in this passage, but because I believe that is Stephen’s understanding as he speaks of this event, and is recorded by Luke in the book of Acts. Stephen explained,
“And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand” (Acts 7:24–25).
Stephen gives us insight in three ways as we read the story in Exodus chapter 2. The first is, that the man was being wronged and oppressed. We can focus on the actions of Moses, but Stephen first begins with the actions of the Egyptian, that Moses came in to defend the man who was being oppressed. The second is that Stephen explains that Moses avenged the oppressed man. Moses does not revenge on the man but avenges him. That the view of vengeance speaks first of the injustice done and is driven by justice. Revenge is driven by emotion and is often above what is required. However, the third and most important reason given by Stephen is found when he says that Moses thought they would understand that “God was giving them salvation by his hand.” Moses was in the role of a mediator between the oppressor and the oppressed. Moses thought he was saving the oppressed and not killing the innocent. Does that mean we take matters into our own hands, by no means? However, if someone was harming a small child in front of you, I do believe that you should be able to stand in the middle to prevent harm done to them. We do not have time to apply the ethics of this to all situations. Moses is indeed sinful as we see. We can say that he is not a murderer but that does not mean he does not sin. There does appear that Moses seeks to hide his actions (burying the man) and even flee from Egypt because he is concerned he might be put to death for his actions.
Now we can debate about the implications and the morals of the situation but in all of this, we see that God’s providence is at work. Moses thinks he is the only one who saw what happened (besides the person whose life he saved). If this was the end of the story then we would be living in a hypothetical world, but Moses would not have fled. We see Moses goes out the next day and he sees the same as the day before, but it is not an Egyptian beating a Hebrew but two Hebrews fighting with one another. One is clearly in the wrong because Moses speaks to him and says, “Why do you strike your neighbor?” Again, Stephen helps us understand this passage when he says that Moses sought to reconcile them (Acts 7:26). And back to the above point, the people did not understand that Moses was saving them. This is Stephen’s main point in his sermon to the men who falsely accused him (Acts 6:8-14) is that God’s people have often rejected the men sent by God to save God’s people. Stephen says in verse 35, “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush” (Acts 7:35)
But notice in Exodus chapter 2, Moses does not respond to the man, he thinks of himself, as being afraid of Pharaoh. Now we will see this in the coming chapters. But in Exodus 1-2 we see the two midwives fear God and not Pharaoh. Jochebed and Miriam do not seem to be afraid of Pharaoh, but here is Moses and who is he afraid of, Pharaoh? Moses runs. But this is all in God’s providence, Moses is not ready.
Moses in the Wilderness (vs 16-22)
Moses flees the land of Egypt. He runs and finds himself at a well in Midian. Now this is why it is helpful and important to read genealogies because this name appears in the book of Genesis. Midian was the son of Abraham. After the death of Sarah Abraham married Keturah and she bore him six children, one of which was Midian. Abraham gave everything to Isaac but these other sons he gave gifts and sent them away from Isaac eastward (Gen 25:6). This is important for us to be aware of the history. Because we see similarities between this story and the story of Jacob. Jacob flees to avoid being killed by his brother Esau. He comes to a well, and meets Laban’s daughter, Rachel, and waters her flock for her. Laban is a relative of Abraham, through Nahor (Abraham’s Brother). Here Moses flees to avoid being killed by Pharaoh. He comes to a well, and waters the flock of a man’s daughters, who is descendant of Abraham. Now this does not mean they are identical, but we see that Moses is again confronted with evil. Shepherds had come and tried to drive away these daughters. Wells we very important and often were seen as territorial. Shepherds would wander in the wilderness but would need to find water so their sheep would not die of dehydration. Here the daughters seeking to care for their sheep would be driven away by these shepherds. However, Moses steps in, he mediates between the two groups, he saves this priest’s daughters. I do believe one could argue that we see Moses being sanctified that he does not respond as he did earlier in the chapter, he does not strike the shepherds down. Now this is a very important verse in the whole bible. You wonder why and that is because this is the first time in the Bible that this word is used, “saved.” Here Moses is the first savior. A person who steps in and saves particular people. Why is that important you ask? Mainly, because it shows us that the Bible shows us shadows of Christ, but not all at the same time. Here Moses is the one who saves these daughters, but this would soon speak of God saving his people. That as the story of the Bible continues, we find out more about who God is and what he does.
Now we have known that these daughters were the son of a Priest, but we have no idea who this man is. We will learn more about him as we continue studying Exodus. However, we need to note he is not a true believer (At this point), although he might have carried on some of the beliefs from his family heritage through Midian being the son of Abraham, we see later in the story how he is converted. We find out his name, Reuel. Now, you are wondering why his name is Reuel. You might not be able to name everyone in the Bible, but you thought that If asked the question at Bible trivia, what is the name of Moses’ father-in-law? Your answer would be Jethro, well you would be right you see in Exodus 3:1, however, if you had put the name Reuel you would be correct as well. Often during this time, people would be known by serval names. This might be that he has a title or name because of these priestly duties. Possibly once Moses marries into the family (spoiler alert) he uses a family name. Many scholars love things like this because they point out and scream “error, error.” However, I think often there are simple facts that are overlooked. Even for myself most of my life I have been called “Thomas.” However, I have a friend’s mom growing up that would call me “Tommy.” A group of people knows me as “Mass.” Some of you go by different names and do not want to be called by your given name.
Reuel hears of what Moses has done. Now interestingly, Moses is called an Egyptian by Reuel’s daughters. So, we see that Moses looked or sounded like an Egyptian, although he still identified as a Hebrew with his people. That we can see a glimmer of “in the world but not of the world.”
Reuel hears of this man who has saved his daughters’ lives and he asks them, why did you leave him there? Why didn’t you invite him back to our house so that we might be able to thank him? So Moses is summoned. Moses is content to dwell in the house of Reuel. This is not merely a short-term “AirBnB” situation. To dwell speaks of settling down. Moses marries Reuel’s daughter Zipporah. They have two children while they are in Midian (Acts 7:29). However, we only find out about the first son and his name in Exodus 2. Moses names him Gershom, which sounds like a ‘sojourner.’ Moses explains it in Exodus as “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” This is interesting because we need to ask ourselves does this speak of Egypt or Midian? I think like the name of Jethro/Reuel the answer is both. The author of Hebrews explains, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.” (Heb 11:13–14). Moses would say, I am a sojourner not only in Egypt or Midian but on the earth. I am seeking to go home to my homeland. I am seeking to go to be with God. I may have been born a Hebrew, raised an Egyptian, and reside in Midian but my passport is stamped heaven. I am a citizen of Heaven. I am only a sojourner in this land. I am merely passing through.
This leads us to his second son who is born in Midian, we find out in Exodus 18:4, “Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”).” The name of the second son is Eliezer. Again, we see that Moses’ faith is found that God is his help and strength. You see that even during this time when it appears his life is going downhill. Years earlier he was eating in a palace and now he is in a nomadic tribe wandering in the wilderness. He sees God’s hand upon it all. He sees that the Lord has saved him, from the hand of Pharaoh. That the God of his father (Amram) and his great grandfathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have helped him.
As we see that even before the people of God begin to cry out to God for help the Lord is helping them and is preparing for them a savior and a mediator who will be used by God to save his people. We will see many shortfalls in Moses, and we will long for a greater Moses> This is Jesus Christ, who will become a sojourner, not because of his sin, but because of our sin. He will be our help to save us from the punishment due to our sins. He will be the perfect savior, the perfect mediator.