What does Exodus 2 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Chapter 2 provides the birth account of Moses (Exodus 2:1–10), the story of his exile to Midian as an adult (Exodus 2:11–22), and the context of the Jews just prior to the call of Moses to free the people (Exodus 2:23–25). In the first section, the text reveals Moses was born to parents from the tribe of Levi (Exodus 2:1). He was hidden for three months to escape death under Pharaoh's command to murder infant Hebrew boys (Exodus 1:22). When the mother of Moses could hide him no longer, she placed him in a basket in the Nile River.

The scene of the basket on the water serves a similar purpose as Noah's ark. The basket becomes the means through which God provides protection from death in an evil context. Floating upon the water, the basket remains upon the Nile River among the reeds. Moses' older sister, later revealed as Miriam, remains with the basket until it stops where Pharaoh's daughter is bathing in the river.

Pharaoh's daughter discovers the baby (Exodus 2:6), and Moses' sister asks if she would like a Hebrew woman to nurse the child for her. This results in bringing the real mother of Moses to Pharaoh's daughter who agrees to pay her to nurse Moses as her adopted son. This providential situation ends with the princess naming the boy Moses, a word that sounds like the Hebrew word "draw out." Ironically, the Egyptian king's effort to subdue Israel through infanticide results in his own household raising and educating the man who would free the slaves (Acts 7:21–22)!

The second section (Exodus 2:11–22) skips ahead to a time when Moses is an adult. Acts 7:23 says this took place when Moses was forty years old. Moses sees an Egyptian taskmaster beating a Hebrew slave, gets involved in an argument with the taskmaster, and kills him. He hides the body in the sand (Exodus 2:12). The next day, Moses tries to break up a fight between two Jews and one of the men answers, "Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" (Exodus 2:14). Moses realizes his crime had become known. Pharaoh seeks to punish him with death, but Moses flees to the land of Midian to escape (Exodus 2:15).

Contrary to popular myth, especially movies and other portrayals, Moses is never presented as a man unaware of his own heritage. The Bible does not record Moses "discovering" his Jewish ancestry. Nor does it claim that Moses was, somehow, considered to be a prince, an heir to the throne, or otherwise treated as a member of the royal family. In fact, Scripture's description of Moses strongly suggests that both he, his Egyptian benefactors, and his family, knew from the beginning who and what he was.

While in exile in Midian, Moses drives away shepherds who were preventing the seven daughters of Midian from feeding their sheep. Their father Reuel—also named Jethro—invites Moses to stay with them, eventually leading to a marriage between Moses and Reuel's daughter Zipporah. The birth of their first son Gershom is noted; the meaning of Gershom's name is connected with Moses as a sojourner or exile (Exodus 2:22).

The third section (Exodus 2:23–25) returns to the land of Egypt. The Pharaoh who had sought to kill Moses had died, yet the people "groaned" due to their slavery. They cried out to the Lord for help. God "remembered" His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He "saw" the people and "knew." The context prepares the reader for upcoming action in which the Lord will act to save His people from their situation.
Verse Context:
Exodus 2:1–10 describes the birth and early life of Moses. His mother defies the order to kill Hebrew boys and hides her son. Once he becomes too old to conceal, she places him in a basket on the Nile. Apparently, this was a deliberate attempt to have Moses adopted, as Moses' older sister is stationed nearby, watching. Pharaoh's daughter finds the baby, and winds up hiring Moses' own mother to be his wet nurse. Once weaned, Moses is sent back to the Egyptian princess, gaining the benefits of a royal education and upbringing.
Exodus 2:11–22 describes how Moses went from the adopted son of an Egyptian princess to an exiled shepherd living in Midian. As an adult, Moses defends a fellow Jew by killing an Egyptian aggressor. Moses is shocked to find that his attempt to hide the act failed, and he is forced to flee Egypt. In Midian, Moses heroically defends a group of shepherd girls, and is welcomed into their family. This establishes the backdrop of Moses' life for one of God's most dramatic encounters with man: the burning bush.
Exodus 2:23–25 briefly looks away from Moses and back to the people of Israel. Prior to Moses' birth, the king of Egypt began brutally enslaving the Jewish people. Most of chapter 2 was used to describe Moses' adoption by the Egyptian princess, his murder of an Egyptian bully, and his escape to Midian, where he settles and builds a family. In the meantime, Israel's oppression becomes continually worse. The Hebrews cry out to God for rescue, who has not forgotten His promises to them. The following words of Scripture reveal God's appointment of Moses to return and free Israel, through the miraculous appearance of a burning bush.
Chapter Summary:
Amid an order from Pharaoh to murder newborn Hebrew boys, Moses' mother places him in a basket along the side of the river, staging her daughter there to observe. The Egyptian king's daughter sees the baby and has pity. Thanks to the presence of Moses' sister, the princess winds up paying Moses' own mother to wean him. After this, he is raised in the home of Egypt's royal family. As an adult, Moses unsuccessfully attempts to hide his murder of an abusive Egyptian and flees to Midian as an exile. As Moses builds a family abroad, Israel cries out to God for rescue from the brutality of Egyptian slavery.
Chapter Context:
Exodus chapter 2 introduces the character of Moses, after describing the plight of Israel under Egyptian slavery. This passage provides a few interesting ironies. Primarily, the Egyptian king attempts to oppress Israel through infanticide; this very command leads to his own daughter adopting an abandoned Hebrew boy—Moses. She provides him with support and education, essentially raising the future liberator of the very people her father seeks to control. After chapter 2 establishes Moses' exile from Egypt, chapter 3 will begin narrating his call to lead the nation of Israel out of captivity under the Pharaoh.
Book Summary:
The book of Exodus establishes God's covenant relationship with the full-fledged nation of Israel. The descendants of Abraham prosper after settling in Egypt, only to be enslaved by a fearful, hateful Egyptian Pharaoh. God appoints Moses to lead the people out of this bondage. Moses serves as God's spokesman, as the Lord brings plagues and judgments on Egypt, leading to the release of Israel.
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