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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.
A man ... a daughter of Levi - Amram and Jochebed. See Exodus 6:20.
2And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.
Bare a son - Not her firstborn; Aaron and Miriam were older than Moses. The object of the writer is simply to narrate the events which led to the Exodus, and he mentions nothing that had no direct bearing upon his purpose.
A goodly child - See the marginal references. Probably Jochebed did not call in a midwife Exodus 1:15, and she was of course cautious not to show herself to Egyptians. The hiding of the child is spoken of as an act of faith in Hebrews 11:23. It was done in the belief that God would watch over the child.
3And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink.
The ark was made of the papyrus which was commonly used by the Egyptians for light and swift boats. The species is no longer found in the Nile below Nubia. It is a strong rush, like the bamboo, about the thickness of a finger, three cornered, and attains the height of 10 to 15 feet. It is represented with great accuracy on the most ancient monuments of Egypt.
Slime and pitch - The "slime" is probably the mud, of which bricks were usually made in Egypt, and which in this case was used to bind the stalks of the papyrus into a compact mass, and perhaps also to make the surface smooth for the infant. The pitch or bitumen, commonly used in Egypt, made the small vessel water-tight.
In the flags - This is another species of the papyrus, called tuff, or sufi (an exact equivalent of the Hebrew סוּף sûph), which was less in size and height than the rush of which the ark was made.
4And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.
5And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.
The traditions which give a name to the daughter of Pharaoh are merely conjectural. Egyptian princesses held a very high and almost independent position under the ancient and middle empire, with a separate household and numerous officials. This was especially the case with the daughters of the first sovereigns of the 18th Dynasty.
Many facts concur in indicating that the residence of the daughter of Pharaoh and of the family of Moses, was at Zoan, Tanis, now San, the ancient Avaris (Exodus 1:8 note), on the Tanitic branch of the river, near the sea, where crocodiles are never found, and which was probably the western boundary of the district occupied by the Israelites. The field of Zoan was always associated by the Hebrews with the marvels which preceded the Exodus. See Psalm 78:43.
To wash - It is not customary at present for women of rank to bathe in the river, but it was a common practice in ancient Egypt. The habits of the princess, as well as her character, must have been well known to the mother of Moses, and probably decided her choice of the place.
6And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews' children.
She had compassion on him - The Egyptians regarded such tenderness as a condition of acceptance on the day of reckoning. In the presence of the Lord of truth each spirit had to answer, "I have not afflicted any man, I have not made any man weep, I have not withheld milk from the mouths of sucklings" ('Funeral Ritual'). There was special ground for mentioning the feeling, since it led the princess to save and adopt the child in spite of her father's commands.
7Then said his sister to Pharaoh's daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?
8And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother.
9And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it.
10And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.
He became her son - See the margin reference. His training and education was, humanly speaking, all but indispensable to the efficient accomplishment of his work as the predestined leader and instructor of his countrymen. Moses probably passed the early years of his life in Lower Egypt, where the princess resided. However, there may be substantial grounds for the tradition in Josephus that he was engaged in a campaign against the Ethiopians, thus showing himself, as Stephen says, "mighty in word and deed."
Moses - The Egyptian origin of this word is generally admitted. The name itself is not uncommon in ancient documents. The exact meaning is "son," but the verbal root of the word signifies "produce," "draw forth." The whole sentence in Egyptian would exactly correspond to our King James Version. She called his name Moses, i. e. "son," or "brought forth," because she brought him forth out of the water.
11And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.
Went out unto his brethren - At the end of 40 years. The Egyptian princess had not concealed from him the fact of his belonging to the oppressed race, nor is it likely that she had debarred him from contact with his foster-mother and her family, whether or not she became aware of the true relationship.
An Egyptian - This man was probably one of the overseers of the workmen, natives under the chief superintendent Exodus 1:11. They were armed with long heavy scourges, made of a tough pliant wood imported from Syria.
12And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.
The slaying of the Egyptian is not to be justified, or attributed to a divine inspiration, but it is to be judged with reference to the provocation, the impetuosity of Moses' natural character, perhaps also to the habits developed by his training at the court of Pharaoh. The act involved a complete severance from the Egyptians, but, far from expediting, it delayed for many years the deliverance of the Israelites. Forty years of a very different training prepared Moses for the execution of that appointed work.
13And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?
Thy fellow - "Thy neighbor." the reproof was that of a legislator who established moral obligations on a recognized principle. Hence, in the following verse, the offender is represented as feeling that the position claimed by Moses was that of a Judge. The act could only have been made known by the Hebrew on whose behalf Moses had committed it.
14And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.
15Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.
No Egyptian king would have left; such an offence unpunished. But the position of Moses, as an adopted son of a princess, made it necessary even for a despotic sovereign to take unusual precautions.
The land of Midian - The Midianites occupied an extensive district from the eastern coast of the Red Sea to the borders of Moab.
16Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock.
The Priest of Midian - Reuel Exodus 2:18. His name, and the detailed notices in Exodus 18, prove that he was a priest of the one true God who was known to the patriarchs especially under the name El. The great bulk of his tribe, certainly those who lived farther north and more closely in contact with the Hamites of Canaan, were already plunged in idolatry. The conduct of the shepherds Exodus 2:17 may indicate that his person and office were lightly regarded by the idolatrous tribes in his immediate neighborhood.
17And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.
18And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon to day?
Reuel - Or, as in Numbers 10:29, "Raguel." The name means "friend of God." It appears to have been not uncommon among Hebrews and Edomites; e. g. Genesis 36:4, Genesis 36:10. If Reuel be identified with Jethro, a point open to grave objection (see Exodus 3:1), then Reuel was his proper name, and Jether or Jethro, which means "excellency," was his official designation.
19And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock.
An Egyptian - They judged from his costume, or language.
20And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread.
21And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter.
Moses tells us nothing of what he may have learned from his father-in-law, but he must have found in him a man conversant with the traditions of the family of Abraham; nor is there any improbability in the supposition that, as hereditary priest, Reuel may have possessed written documents concerning their common ancestors.
22And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.
Gershom - The first syllable "Ger" is common to Hebrew and Egyptian, and means "sojourner." The second syllable "Shom" answers exactly to the Coptic "Shemmo," which means "a foreign or strange land."
23And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.
In process of time - Nearly forty years Acts 7:30. This verse marks the beginning of another section. We now enter at once upon the history of the Exodus.
Their cry came up unto God - This statement, taken in connection with the two following verses, proves that the Israelites retained their faith in the God of their Fathers. The divine name, "God," אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym, is chosen because it was that which the Israelites must have used in their cry for help, that under which the covenant had been ratified with the Patriarchs (compare James 5:4).
24And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
Remembered - This means that God was moved by their prayers to give effect to the covenant, of which an essential condition was the faith and contrition involved in the act of supplication. The whole history of Israel is foreshadowed in these words: God heard, remembered, looked upon, and knew them. It evidently indicates the beginning of a crisis marked by a personal intervention of God.
25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.