This is the first post in a five-part series on Exodus 1-4, sharing short snippets of things that have stood out to me.
You don't get Moses' story without the intervention of strong, courageous, savvy women. Four times in the first four chapters of Exodus, Moses' life is saved by women.
The first story has to do with Shiprah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives who resist Pharaoh's command to kill the baby Israelite boys. They fear God more than Pharaoh, use what little power they have at their disposal, and then play on Pharaoh's racism to escape the consequences. We don't know where they fall historically (when in time they stand in relation to Moses' birth), but we do see that the first resistance to Pharaoh's brutality did not come from Moses, it comes from these women.
The second story is the story of Moses' mother. She defies Pharaoh's command to throw her child into the Nile and hides Moses for months, a difficult feat to accomplish with an infant and several other children (Moses had at least two other siblings). The passage does not mention Moses' father. In the end, Moses' mother obeys the letter of Pharaoh's command - child into the river - but not it's spirit: "He never said we couldn't give the baby a boat!" Moses' mother showed both courage and wisdom. We wouldn't have Moses without her.
The third story is the story of Pharaoh's daughter. She knows immediately that the baby she pulled out of the river is a Hebrew baby. He bears the marks of circumcision. She would know that there was an edict throughout the land that boys like this were to be cast into the river. And yet she defies her father. We don't know why. We don't know what it cost her. We do know that she did it publicly, deliberately, indirectly. And again, Moses' life is saved.
The last story comes 80 years later. Two-thirds of Moses' life passes in these first four chapters. He's married and has a child. He's received God's call to confront Pharaoh and is turning to obey. Moses will go back to Egypt. But then we see this wild story. The Lord prepares to kill Moses, right after calling him. Moses' wife, Zipporah, realizes what is happening and acts swiftly. She circumcises their son, an important religious ritual that Moses had avoided, possibly because giving that mark of Hebrew belonging to his son would bring back to him memories of his own experience of rejection. At the last minute, Zipporah saved Moses' life.
Before Moses confronts Pharaoh, his life is saved 4 times by women.
It's easy, when jumping into the epic stories of Scripture, to skip over details like these and characters like these. Spending large chunks of time in these passages gives our eyes time to adjust to the new light, to see with more clarity the amazing things that are happening.
Why do you think Exodus starts with 4 stories of women's bravery and wisdom?