“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” These are the words Charles Dickens used to start his 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities. If one had written about the Hebrew people 92 years before the first Passover, a similar poignant introduction, a bit more somber, could have been used: “It was the worst of times! ... Yes, it was bad, bad, insufferably bad for the Hebrew people!” Actually the author of Exodus did a perfect job of painting the bleak picture of that day. A paraphrase of Exodus 1:11,13-14,22 records the conditions: The Egyptians set taskmasters over the Israelites to afflict them with heavy burdens. They labored to build the treasure cities of Pithom and Raamses for Pharaoh. The children of Israel were made to serve with rigor causing their lives to be bitter with hard bondage in making mortar and brick, and in all manner of field work. All their service, wherein they were made to work, was with severity. And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, “Every son that is born of the people of Israel ye shall cast into the Nile River.”
Under such difficult conditions in a godless country should a couple even have thought of having children, knowing that a newborn son would be condemned to an immediate death by drowning? This is still a question as things get darker and darker in this present world. Young people getting married today may ask, “Is it good to bring children into this messed-up, ungodly world at this evil time?”
Now here is a name that most of us may not remember, but we should. She had a child during that awful time in Egypt and so influenced his life that later, even after being raised by an Egyptian stepmother, he never forgot his roots. Not knowing her son’s Hebrew name, we recognize him simply as “Moses.” Jochebed exemplifies an important lesson: how to be a godly woman in today’s world (see Ti. 2:3-5).
Have a look at this faithful woman Jochebed – her name means “Jehovah is glorious.” Even with the little that we know of her life it appears that she reflected His glory. Her story is found in Exodus 2:1-10 although her name is not mentioned there (see Ex. 6:20, Num. 26.59). In her we find a godly woman in the evil world of that time and as such, a wonderful portrait to consider. While Hebrews 11 simply tells us God saw that her actions were “by faith,” Exodus presents to us her wonderful story as penned by her son – as directed by the Spirit of God (2 Pet. 1:21 KJV).
She Had A Baby
We read: “And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived, and bare a son” (Ex. 2:1-2). In spite of the terrible conditions of slavery, danger and the harshness of life in a godless society, Amram and Jochebed had three children. The third was born at the time of the “death decree” and yet, in that horrific environment, they had that child! This woman’s faith and actions convinced me that Christians should have children even in today’s ugly, ungodly climate. After all, if the Lord’s people don’t have children for heaven, who can we expect to produce offspring and spiritual leaders for God’s glory and people?
Who Needed Protection
Continuing, we read: “And when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months” (v.2). No doubt every mother sees her child as special. Did faithful Jochebed see something spectacular about her son? From Acts 7:20 we learn that he was “exceeding fair” – or “fair unto God.” Jochebed must have recognized that this was an extraordinary child, not only to herself but, of greater importance, that he was unique unto the LORD. That is the way every mom should see each of her children: as very special in the eyes of the Lord (Lk. 18:16).
We can agree that every child is a blessing from the Lord (Ps. 127:3) and that each mother yearns to protect her precious off-spring from all possible dangers. While this appears to have been her special work in the Exodus account, it is important to see that she carried out her task with the support of and in agreement with her husband Amram. This is made perfectly clear in Hebrews 11:23: By “faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.”
How wonderful it is to have the book of Hebrews confirm that Jochebed acted on the combined conviction of this couple. It would appear that she was the designated “manager of the domestic department” within the home under her husband’s headship. He must have valued her faithful abilities and was able to entrust the direction of the home to her care (see Prov. 31:10-31). What an example to others on being a godly woman in today’s world! So she hid the child for those three months with the full confidence of her husband and by faith in the LORD.
But The Child Had To Go Into Death
“And when she could no 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” (Ex. 2:3). In his book on Exodus (Believer’s Bookshelf – Canada), Leslie Grant wrote: “Every parent should realize that every child born is really under the sentence of death from its birth (because of sin). By faith, the believer must put [each] child virtually into the place of death by committing it to the Lord and to the value of His own death, by which alone the child can ever be saved.”
This appears to be something Jochebed understood. She recognized Pharaoh’s sentence of death upon the child and possibly that Satan, who had the power of death, was behind this ruler (Heb. 2:14). In the obedience of faith she could place her son in the Nile. Just as Noah passed through the flood waters in the safety of his ark, so her little child could be protected in like manner. The little ark of bulrushes held the child while the slime and pitch (Gen. 6:14) kept the water out. What a wonderful lesson Jochebed teaches in this act of faith: commit our little children (and continue to do so as they grow) to the Lord’s keeping – let them be protected in the hand of the Eternal and sheltered by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ who is able to save them to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25).
From Which She Received Him Back Again
“And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto [Jochebed], 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. And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter” (Ex. 2:9-10). While Jochebed had the infant in her control, she nursed her son during the very formative years. Although we don’t know exactly how old Moses was when he was brought to the Egyptian court, the time she had had with him must have been used by this faithful mother to instill in her child’s heart an identity with God and His people. This teaching is necessary before any child is claimed by the education system which does not know the Lord and has replaced the truth of God with the philosophies of man (Col. 2:8). We should note that every father has the responsibility of instructing his children in the way of salvation and the doctrine of Christ (Dt. 6:6-7), recognizing that much of this task falls on (and is the special privilege of) the mother in the home – especially with little children. Assuredly, we may assume that Jochebed was involved in this specific area and as such would again be a very good example of how to be a godly woman in today’s world. Her impact on her son’s upbringing may not have been seen before the child was turned over to his adoptive mother and her idolatrous Egyptian influence, but Jochebed could teach her child and then release him to the Lord’s care, trusting that her input would someday be rewarded. Her instruction showed brightly years later as Moses, by faith, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God (Heb. 11:24-25).
No doubt there are other lessons that can be learned from a study of Jochebed – an exemplary woman, wife and mother. May her example encourage many to be like her, godly women in today’s ungodly world!
By Hank Blok
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org