Lesson 2:
Exodus 2:1-22
Moses' Childhood and Early Life in Egypt and Midian

Lord God,
The story of the Exodus is full of examples of Your mighty works on behalf of Your covenant people, Israel. You raised Your covenant people up out of slavery to make them Your holy nation and the bearer of the "promised seed" of the future Redeemer-Messiah.  But the story of the Exodus is also a reminder of Your faithful love and Your promise of redemption for believers of every generation.  Just as You were faithful in Your promises to the Patriarchs, so too are You faithful in Your promise of salvation to all who believe in the name of Your Son and our Savior Christ Jesus and who are called by Him to eternal life in the heavenly Kingdom.  In our study of the Book of Exodus help us to see Your definitive plan for man's redemption, promised to the people of the Exodus experience and in the exodus which we make today, journeying on the Narrow Path out of this worldly existence toward the Promised Land of the Heavenly Kingdom.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Who was the Pharaoh of Moses' Childhood and the Pharaoh of the Exodus?

Egypt controlled the coastal cities and parts of the interior of Canaan in the period of the 18th Dynasty (the dynasty that ruled immediately after the Hyksos expulsion, from the 1500's to the late 1300's BC).  The discovery of diplomatic letters written during the reigns of Pharaoh Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV, known as the Amarna Letters, may provide evidence of the Israelite conquest of Canaan.  In that correspondence rulers of city-states that were vassals of the Egyptians urgently requested help in defending their cities and in repulsing the foreign invaders who were sweeping across Canaan: "The Habiri are capturing our fortresses; they are taking our cities; they are destroying our rulers.  They are plundering all the country of the kings.  May the king send soldiers quickly.  If no troops come this year the whole country is lost to the king" (Halley's Bible Handbook, page 114). 

Scholars who advocate an earlier date for the conquest of Canaan, other than that proposed by those scholars who place the Exodus of Israel during the 19th Dynasty of Rameses II, believe the "Habiri" mentioned in the Amarna correspondence are the Hebrews who were also known as the "children of Israel" ("Hebrew" is rendered ibri/ ibrim in the Bible's Hebrew text).  If the children of Israel are the Habiri of the Amarna letters, that would make Amenhotep III best candidate for the pharaoh of the Exodus.  Moses was 120 when he died just prior to the conquest of Canaan after having spent 40 years leading the children of Israel, and the earlier forty years living in Midian (Acts 7:23), which would place Moses' birth in c. 1435 BC.   According to the timeline estimate in Exodus lesson #1, that would place Moses' birth during the reign of Amenhotep III's great-grandfather, the Pharaoh Tuthmoses III.  Pharaoh Tuthmoses III ("the god Thoth is born") ruled from c. 1479 – c. 1425 BC (first 20 years as co-ruler with his step-mother Queen Hatshepsut).  His military victories consolidated the territory of Syria-Canaan and expanded the territories controlled by Egypt to include the Sinai Peninsula.  He established military garrisons along the trade route known as "The Way of the Sea," the international highway that extended up the coast of the Mediterranean, and an Egyptian military presence in the vassal states left in place to govern locally.  He was a fierce and merciless warrior, the greatest military leader Egypt ever produced.  In this lesson, we will be discussing the possibility that Pharaoh Tuthmoses III is the unnamed pharaoh who ordered the murder of the Israelite babies because he wanted to diminish the military threat of the growing numbers of the Israelites: We must take precautions to stop them from increasing any further, or if war should break out, they might join the ranks of our enemies (Ex 1:10).

Exodus chapter one linked the past history of the family of Jacob/Israel and their migration into Egypt with the suffering of the descendants of Jacob/Israel four hundred years later under the domination of a new Egyptian ruler/dynasty.  However, the more the Egyptians inflicted suffering upon the children of Israel, the more God blessed them, increasing their numbers with the birth of many healthy children. 

Question: What theme of Genesis is revisited in Exodus chapter one concerning Israel's enslavement and suffering at the hands of the Egyptians?  Where was this theme introduced in Genesis?  How will this theme be expanded in the Book of Exodus?
Answer: The theme was introduced in the story of Joseph, his enslavement and his rise to power as the governor of the nation of Egypt.  The theme is articulated by Joseph in Genesis 50:20 when he told his brothers: The evil you planned to do me has by God's design been turned to good, to bring about the present result: the survival of a numerous people.  This will be the theme of liberation in the events that are experienced by last generation the children of Israel in Egypt who, despite the Pharaoh's evil intentions and the evil intentions of the Egyptian people, will continue to be blessed by God in their exodus out of Egypt and the journey to nationhood.

The Biblical Heroine

In Exodus chapter 2 the biblical heroine enters the stage of salvation history.  In the chapters of the Genesis narrative we were introduced to women who either played a passive role or who refused to be submissive to God's plan.  Eve is remembered for her childlike willfulness in disobeying God's command to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Sarah grew weary of waiting on God's plan to give her children and encouraged her husband to father a child by another woman, a decision she came to deeply regret.  We warmed to Rebekah in her cheerful willingness to be helpful to a stranger and her courage in agreeing to leave her family for a foreign land to marry Isaac, a man she did not know.  And yet her decisiveness that so endeared her to us in the beginning was tarnished by her cunning plan to deceive her husband and the terrible consequences of her deception in contributing to the disunity of her family.  There was near-sighted Leah, the unloved wife of Jacob, whose great desire was to best her sister in child-bearing.  Then there was Leah's sister, Rachel, the beautiful, beloved, and petulant wife of Jacob who blamed her husband for her barrenness and mistreated her sister in her jealousy.  Finally there was Tamar who tricked her father-in-law Judah into getting her pregnant in order to avoid being condemned to a life of widowhood.  None of these women are heroic figures in the biblical narrative.

But, in Exodus we are introduced to women who risked everything to make the righteous choice, thereby cooperating in God's plan of salvation:

These are the first in a long line of biblical heroines whose acts of bravery and self-sacrifice are recorded in the other Bible books: Rahab the brave prostitute of Jericho, the judge and prophetess Deborah who led the armies of Israel into battle against the army of the Canaanites, Ruth the faithful Moabitess, Hannah the mother of the prophet Samuel, Judith the defender of her people, and Queen Esther, who like the Hebrew midwives in Exodus chapter one, saved her people by using her intelligence to outwit a wicked and powerful man, to name only a few.

Moses as a "Type" of Christ

In the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy Moses becomes a "type" of Jesus Christ.  Typology is the method students of the Bible use to understand the historical and theological relationships between people, actions, objects, places and events recorded in Sacred Scripture. The word "typology" is from the Greek word "tupto" (or "typos"), which literally means "to beat."  In Greek this word can be used to refer to the imprint carved by a matrix forming an impression, copy or an example.  In the biblical and theological context, the study of biblical typology is The study of persons, places, events, and institutions in the Bible that foreshadow later and greater realities made known by God in history (Catholic Bible Dictionary, Scott Hahn (general editor), Doubleday, 2009, page 929).

In using the typological approach to the study of the Bible, one investigates and compares the similarities and the differences between events, objects, actions, places, and the lives of individuals in the biblical record of salvation history and how these individuals, events, actions, places or objects impress an imprint on the biblical record that can be compared.  The study of typology guides the Bible student to look at each event, action, object, place, and person in salvation history as each may be linked to what preceded in the biblical record and linked to what came after, uniting the reader to the divine mystery of the progression of God's plan for the salvation of mankind and revealing new truths about the nature of God's plan.  Both the type and what it prefigures are independent of each other but what is being prefigured is always greater in God's plan for man's redemption.  For example, in the Old Testament the priest-king Melchizedech, the offering in sacrifice of Abraham's beloved son Isaac, the supernatural event at Bethel, the Tabernacle/Temple and the prophet Jonah imprisoned in the belly of the great fish are all "types" of Jesus Christ.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church encourages an awareness of and an appreciation for biblical typology in the study of Sacred Scripture:

This is not merely a "Christian" approach to understanding the unfolding history of Scripture and God's plan for man's salvation.  This same methodology was used by the Old Testament prophets, by the inspired writers of the New Testament, and by Jesus in His preaching ministry.  Jesus not only compared His mission to the words of the prophet Isaiah repeatedly in the Gospels (for example see Luke 4:18-19 when He quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2 and announced the passage was about Him), but He also compared Himself and His Passion to the mission and experiences of the Prophet Jonah five times in Matthew 12:38-42 and 16:4

In the story of the Exodus, Moses is presented as a "type of Christ."  Moses was a descendant of Abraham sent by God as a redeemer of his people, to free them from bondage and to lead them to the "promised land" just as Jesus of Nazareth, descendant of Abraham, is the Redeemer, send by God to free his people from bondage to sin and to lead them to the "promised land" of heaven.


Pharaoh tried to kill him as a baby
(Ex 1:22).
King Herod tried to kill baby Jesus
(Mt 2:16).
He was hidden from the Pharaoh
(Ex 2:2).
An angel said to hide the Jesus from the King Herod (Mt 2:13).
Moses was sent into Egypt to preserve his life (Ex 2:3-4). Jesus was taken into Egypt to preserve His life (Mt 2:13-15).
Moses was saved by women: his mother (Ex 2:3), Miriam (Ex 2:4), and Pharaoh's daughter (Ex 2:5-10). Jesus was saved and helped by His mother, Mary
(Mt 2:14).
Pharaoh's daughter adopted Moses and named him (Ex 2:10). Joseph adopted Jesus and named him
(Mt 1:25).
MMoses became a prince of Egypt
(Ex 2:10).
Jesus is the Prince of Peace
(Is 9:5; Mt 28:18; Lk 2:14).
There was a long period of silence from his childhood to his adulthood. There was a long period of silence from Jesus' childhood to His adulthood.
Moses had a secret identity = a prince who was a Hebrew slave. Messianic secret = Jesus is the Son of God.
HHe tried to save a Hebrew kinsman
(Ex 2:11-12).
Jesus came to save His Hebrew kinsman first (Mk 7:26-28).
MMoses went from being a prince to a pauper (Ex 2:15-19). Jesus went from being God to being man
(Jn 1:1-3; Mk 6:3).
He saved women at a well (Ex 2:15-19). He saved a woman at a well (Jn chapter 4).
He became a shepherd (Ex 3:1). Jesus is the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11).
Moses' mission was to redeem Israel from slavery (Ex 3:7-10). Jesus' mission is to redeem mankind from slavery to sin (Heb 1:1-4).
Moses was loved and supported in his ministry by his sister Miriam [Hebrew = Miryam] (Ex15:20-21). Jesus was loved and supported in his ministry by His mother Mary [Hebrew = Miryam] and was assisted in his ministry by women (Lk 8:3).
He was often rejected by his own people. Jesus was often rejected by His own people.
Moses gave God's law on Mt. Sinai (Ex 20:1-31:18; 34:1-35). Jesus gave the new law from the Mt. of Beatitudes (Mt chapter 5).
Moses spent 40 days fasting on the mountain (Ex 24:18; 34:28). Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert wilderness (Mt 4:2).
Moses performed signs/ miracles (Ex 4:8-9, 17). Jesus performed signs/miracles (Jn 20:30).
Moses offered his life for the salvation of his people after the sin of the Golden Calf (Ex 32:33-33). Jesus offered His life for the salvation of the world (Is 53:12; Rom 5:12; 6:10; 2 Cor 5:15-21; Col 1:19-20; 2:14-15; 1 Jn 1:7; 2:2; etc).
Moses is the prophet of the Old Covenant Church (Dt 18:15). Jesus is the prophet, priest, and King of a New and everlasting Covenant = the universal Catholic Church [note catholic means universal].

M. Hunt © copyright 2003, revised 2009


It was at this time that Moses was born, a fine child before God.  He was looked after for three months in his father's house, and after he had been exposed, Pharaoh's daughter adopted him and brought him up like a son.  So Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians and became a man with power both in his speech and in his actions. 
Acts 7:20-22

Please read Exodus 2:1-10: The Ordeal of Moses' Birth and His Abandonment
2:1There was a man descended from Levi who had taken a woman of Levi as his wife. 2She conceived and gave birth to a son and, seeing what a fine child he was [saw that he was good], she kept him hidden for three months [moons]. 3When she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him; coating it with bitumen and pitch, she put the child inside and laid it among the reeds at the River's edge. 4His sister took up position [took her stand] some distance away to see what would happen to him. 5Now Pharaoh's daughter went down to bathe in the river, while her maids walked along the riverside.  Among the reeds she noticed the basket, and she sent her maid to fetch it. 6She opened it and saw the child: the baby was crying.  Feeling sorry for it, she said, 'This is one of the little Hebrews [Hebrew children].' 7The child's sister [his sister] then said to Pharaoh's daughter, 'Shall I go and find you a nurse among the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?' 8'Yes,' said Pharaoh's daughter, and the girl went and called the child's own mother. 9Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Take this child away and nurse it for me.  I shall pay you myself for doing so.'  So the woman took the child away and nursed it. 10When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter who treated him like a son; she named him Moses 'because,' she said, 'I drew him out of the water.'

[] = literal Hebrew translation (Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I).

In the Hebrew text, the word yeled, "child," is repeated seven times in verses 3, 6, 7, 8, 9 (twice), and 10.  In addition the plural "children," yalde, is used in verse 6'suggesting the combination of a seven/eight pattern in the passage that addresses Moses' childhood. 

Exodus 2:1:There was a man descended from Levi who had taken a woman of Levi as his wife.  The names of Moses' father and mother are not revealed until Exodus 6:20 where we are told their names are Amram and Jochebed and that Jochebed bore Amram two sons, Aaron and Moses, listed in birth order (also see Num 26:59 where Miriam is included in the list of children).  Exodus 6:20 reveals that Jochebed was Amram's aunt, his father's sister.  This is a kinship affiliation in which marriage will be forbidden under the prohibitions of the Sinai Covenant (Lev 18:12; 20:19).  Moses' parents were descendants of Levi, the third son of Leah and Jacob and the third son in the birth order of the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel (Gen 29:34).

Question: What prophecy did Jacob make concerning Levi in his deathbed blessings/anti-blessings of his twelve sons?  See Genesis 49:5-7.
Answer: Levi and his older brother Simeon were dispossessed of their share in the spiritual inheritance of their father as leaders of the family and in their share of the land promised to Jacob/Israel. Because of their propensity for violence (see Gen 34:25-29), Jacob prophesized that the tribes of Simeon and Levi would one day be disbursed throughout the tribes of Israel.

Exodus 2:2: She conceived and gave birth to a son and, seeing what a fine child he was [saw that he was good], she kept him hidden for three months [moons].

Question: What does the text suggest when it records that Jochebed "saw", meaning judged, the child "good"?  What connection might you see to Genesis chapter 1 in Jochebed "seeing" and judging the child Moses as "good"?
Answer: Jochebed "seeing" and judging the child "good" probably means that he was a healthy child, but worded in this way the passage recalls the Holy Spirit on each of the days of Creation "seeing" and judging what was created as "good"  (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25,  and 31). This child, created by God, was to be instrumental in the formation of a new creation, the creation of the nation of Israel.

Question: What does the phrase "she kept him hidden for three moons" tell us?  See Genesis 17:9-14.
Answer: The children of Israel were using a lunar calendar, and the child Moses had already been circumcised before his mother placed him in the basket since Israelite children were circumcised on the eighth day of their lives.

Exodus 2:3-4: 3When she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him; coating it with bitumen and pitch, she put the child inside and laid it among the reeds at the River's edge. 4His sister took up position [took her stand] some distance away to see what would happen to him.

"Papyrus" is an Egyptian word for a plant that grows in the marshy Delta of Egypt.  It is a word that is only used in four times in Scripture (Ex 2:3; Is 18:2; 35:7, and Job 8:11).  The Hebrew word for the "basket" that Moses was placed in is the word teba.  The word is only used in two places in the Bible: for Moses' vessel of salvation ( Ex 2:3, 5) and for Noah's Ark, his vessel of salvation in the Genesis story of the Great Flood (Gen chapters 6-8, twenty-six times).  In Rabbinic Judaism the same word refers to the "ark" (teba) which houses the Torah scrolls in the Synagogue (Exodus, William Propp, page 149).  This in not the same word that will be used for the "Ark of the Covenant."

Question: Who is the brave elder sister who "took her stand" on the river bank, guarding her brother?  See Exodus 15:14, 21.
Answer: She is Miriam, Israel's first prophetess and cantor.

What a touching picture comes to mind, a little girl standing tensely on the river bank, praying that she will witness the salvation of her baby brother and not his death.  Miriam's "stand" upon the bank of the Nile may be a foreshadowing of her brother on day he took his "stand" upon the bank of the Nile when he confronted the successor of the pharaoh who condemned him to death (Ex 7:15).

Exodus 2:5-6: 5Now Pharaoh's daughter went down to bathe in the river, while her maids walked along the riverside.  Among the reeds she noticed the basket, and she sent her maid to fetch it. 6She opened it and saw the child: the baby was crying.  Feeling sorry for it, she said, 'This is one of the little Hebrews [Hebrew children].'

Goshen, the land settled by the Israelites in the Egyptian Delta, was located near the old Hyksos capital city, Avaris.  When the Hyksos were driven out of Egypt the pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty claimed the beautiful Hyksos city as their summer capital.  The princess and her ladies were probably living in the palace in the city of Avaris. 

Herodotus, the 5th century BC Greek historian and world traveler, noted that the Egyptians were fanatical about personal hygiene and bathing (Histories 2.37); therefore, it is reasonable that the Pharaoh's daughter (or granddaughter since a Pharaoh's grandchild might also be called a "son" or a "daughter") might go with her attendants to bathe in one of the Nile Delta's tributariesThe princess saw the basket and sent one of her attendants to fetch it.  Opening the lid of the basket, she saw the crying baby and her heart filled with pity. 

Question: What is the contrast between the character of this woman and her father/ grandfather?
Answer: The Pharaoh's heart was "hard," and he felt no pity for the suffering of the Israelites, but his daughter was a woman of compassion who felt pity for the abandoned child.

Question: What is ironic about the action the princess took in "saving" the child Moses?
Answer: Ironically, this woman of royal birth became the savior of Israel's savior. 

Question:   Her role in this part of the drama is central, she is a heroine in the Moses story, but why, like her father, isn't she named?
Answer: Perhaps the answer is that both the compassionate princess and the merciless Pharaoh represent more than just their individual parts in the story.  Often unnamed central figures in a story are meant to take on allegorical significance.

Question: If the Pharaoh and his daughter also serve as allegorical figures, what is their allegorical significance?
Answer: Perhaps the Pharaoh represents every wicked Gentile who inflicted suffering on the people of God while his daughter represents every righteous Gentile who cooperated with God's plan of salvation by aiding His covenant people.

Question: How was the princess able to determine that the child was a Hebrew?

Exodus 2:7-9: 7The child's sister [his sister] then said to Pharaoh's daughter, 'Shall I go and find you a nurse among the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?' 8'Yes,' said Pharaoh's daughter, and the girl went and called the child's own mother. 9Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Take this child away and nurse it for me.  I shall pay you myself for doing so.'  So the woman took the child away and nursed it.

The fourth heroine emerges in the story.  First the two midwives risked their lives to save the Israelite babies, then the Pharaoh's daughter risked her life to interfere with her father's death sentence against an Israelite child, and now little Miriam risked her life in daring to speak to a royal princess.  It was Miriam who suggested that the princess should keep the child by offering to help her find a nurse from among his own people, which both she and the princess know will be the child's own mother.  At this moment the princess, Miriam, and Moses' mother become co-conspirators in their desire to save Moses' life.  They enter into a conspiracy that puts all of their lives at risk. 

Exodus 2:10:When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter who treated him like a son; she named him Moses 'because,' she said, 'I drew him out of the water.'

Moses' mother probably nursed him until he was three years old, the normal age when a baby was weaned, before returning him to the princess who raised him as a prince of the royal family.(2) Moses' formal adoption came in his naming by his foster mother.  The inspired writer makes a pun on his name and the action in which he was "drawn out" of the Nile, but in the Egyptian language "mose(s)" or "mosis" means "is born" and it was most often used as the suffix of a theophoric name, a name which contained the name of a deity like that of the first Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, Pharaoh Ahmoses, the first Egyptian pharaoh after the expulsion of the Hyksos in c. 1550 BC.  The princess certainly would not give her secretly adopted Israelite child a Hebrew name.

If we accept the earlier dating for the Exodus, who were the pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty who may have known Moses?  Accepting, for argument's sake date of 1355 BC for the Exodus, we can speculate that Moses returned to lead his people out of Egypt when he was about 80 years old, having left Egypt for Midian when he was 40 years old (Acts 7:23) and after having spent forty years in Midian.  Traditionally, Moses' life is divided into three forty year phases: forty years in Egypt, forty years in Midian, and forty years leading the children of Israel (Dt 34:7 records that Moses died when he was 120 years old after forty years of leading the children of Israel).  Accepting that tradition and using the year 1355 BC as the year of the Exodus when Moses was approximately 80 years old, places Moses' birth in c. 1435 BC.(3)  Using that date, these were the pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty who may have known Moses, or whose reigns were influenced by the Exodus of the Israelites (all dates are low chronology dates).   You will probably recognize the name of the last pharaoh as the boy king Tutankhamun (also spelled Tutankhamen) whose tomb was the only in-tact royal tomb of a pharaoh ever discovered.

With these dates the best candidate for the wicked pharaoh who ordered the death of the Israelite boy infants was Tuthmoses III (also spelled Tuthmosis/Thuthmose), and the pharaoh who was Moses' adversary during the plagues prior to the Exodus could have been Amenhotep III.  Pharaoh Amenhotep III's successor was his second son Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, who renamed himself Akhenaton when he rejected the Egyptian pantheon of gods as false gods and introduced monotheism to Egypt in his belief in the one god "Aton/Aten."  He was not the designated heir of Pharaoh Amenhotep III.  His brother, Crown Prince Tuthmoses, was the heir until his sudden death, the circumstances of which have not been discovered.  Was it possible that Prince Tuthmoses, the beloved firstborn son of Pharaoh Amenhotep III and Queen Tiy, died on the night of the tenth plague and that the events the younger brother witnessed convinced him that there was indeed only one god?  For a brief biography on the pharaohs who may have known Moses, see Appendix II in this lesson.

Adopted by a royal princess and raised in the palace of the Pharaoh, Moses received the best education the ancient world could offer at that time.  The royal princes and princesses, their cousins and the children of favored royal officials as well as some of the children of vassal kings were entrusted to the royal tutor.  The children of the royal school would have learned not only to read and to write but would also have been taught to write hieratic, the "shorthand" version of the hieroglyphic script as well as Babylonian cuneiform script, the diplomatic language of the ancient Near East.   In addition, they studied mathematics, astronomy, and the origins of the gods, with unlimited access to the wealth of texts in the royal archives. Children of the royal family like Moses, not in the direct line of succession, were usually trained for service in the diplomatic corps or as military leaders (Fletcher, Chronicle of a Pharaoh, pages 24-27).  Moses' education in Egypt would have more than prepared him for his role as redeemer/political leader/military general to the embryonic nation of Israel.

One intriguing question we cannot attempt to answer is:  Did Miriam speak Egyptian to the princess or did the princess understand Hebrew?


At the age of forty he decided to visit his kinsmen, the Israelites.  When he saw one of them being ill-treated he went to his defense and rescued the man by killing the Egyptian.  He thought his brothers would realize that through him God would liberate them, but they did not.  The next day, when he came across some of them fighting, he tried to reconcile them, and said, "Friends, you are brothers; why are you hurting each other?"  But the man who was attacking his kinsman pushed him aside, saying, "And who appointed you to be prince over us and judge?  Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?"  Moses fled when he heard this and he went to dwell in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons.  St. Stephen's homily in Acts 7:23-29.

Please read Exodus 2:11-15a: Moses' Escape from Egypt
2:11It happened one day, when Moses was grown up, that he went to see his kinsmen [brothers].  While he was watching their forced labor he also saw an Egyptian [man] striking a Hebrew [man], one of his kinsmen. 12Looking this way and that and seeing no one [man] in sight, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13On the following day he came back, and there were two [men] Hebrews, fighting.  He said to the man who was in the wrong [to the guilty one], 'What so you mean by hitting your kinsman?' 14'And who appointed you [as a man],' the man retorted,'to be prince over us and judge?  Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?'  Moses was frightened.  'Clearly that business has come to light,' he thought. 15When Pharaoh heard of the matter, he tried to put Moses to death, but Moses fled from Pharaoh.

[] = literal Hebrew translation (Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 143-144).

The same seven/eight pattern found in Exodus 2:3-10 describing the childhood of Moses is repeated in the Hebrew text of Exodus 2:11-21 describing Moses' life as an adult in Egypt.  The word ish, "man," is repeated seven times in verses 11 (twice), 12, 14, 19, 20, and 21, with the addition of the plural 'anasim, "men," in verse 13'yielding a second seven/eight repetition in describing events in Moses' adult life (Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 143-144; Exodus, William Propp, page 146). 

Question: Is this repeated pattern merely a coincidence or is the repeated seven/eight pattern intentional on the part of the inspired writer?  If the pattern is intentional, what can it mean?  See the document "The Symbolic Significance of Numbers in Scripture" in the Documents section of the website and read the section of the symbolic meaning of the numbers seven and eight and the significance of the seven/eight pattern: The Significance of Numbers in Scripture.
Answer: It is unlikely that the repeated seven/eight pattern in describing both Moses' childhood and his adulthood is a coincidence.  Seven is one of the "perfect" numbers, representing the perfection or fullness of God's plan, spiritual perfection, and the number of covenant.  The etymology of the Hebrew letter signifying the value "eight" means "superabundance" and the number itself symbolizes re-birth, redemption, and salvation.  The seven/eight pattern represents God's "superabundance" and symbolizes redemption, salvation, re-birth, and restoration of Moses and Israel.  As a child and as an adult, God was present and His plan was at work in Moses' life, a plan in which the lost child Moses was to be restored to his people and in which Moses, as God's agent, was to bring about the salvation of his people.

The seven/eight combination repetition appears numerous times in Scripture.  Together these numbers form a remarkable connection.  For more information on the seven/eight pattern see Appendix I at the end of this chapter.(1)

Exodus 2:11-12: 11It happened one day, when Moses was grown up, that he went to see his kinsmen [brothers].  While he was watching their forced labor he also saw an Egyptian [man] striking a Hebrew [man], one of his kinsmen. 12Looking this way and that and seeing no one [man] in sight, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

Question: How old was Moses at this time?  Read Acts 7:23-24 where St. Stephen told this part of the story of Moses in his homily on salvation history.  He gave Moses' age when he left Egypt in verse 23.
Answer: Moses was forty years old.

Moses knew about his Israelite origins.  Scripture records that Moses recognized his "brother," probably a member of the tribe of Levi, which perhaps suggests that Moses had made other visits to the region occupied by the tribe of Levi and that he knew his family and kinsmen.(4)  However, in this visit he became embroiled in violence when he saw an Egyptian overseer abusing a Hebrew slave that was one of his "brothers."  Moses' violent response is intensely personal, which also suggests that he knew the man being beaten.(5)

Question: Why did Moses look around before acting to save the Hebrew slave?  There are two possible answers.

  1. He was looking for someone else in authority to intervene.
  2. The murder may have been premeditated because he was looking to make sure there were no witnesses to the violent action he had decided to take in defense of his kinsman. 

Question: Was Moses' killing of the Egyptian justified?  See CCC 2263, 2267, 2268-2269.  How does Moses' act of killing compare to Lamech's murder of a young man in Genesis 4:23?  Was Moses morally justified or morally wrong?
Answer: Moses may not have intended to kill the Egyptian, but his violent action resulted in a death.  If Lamech's homicide is unjustified in the killing of a young man who wounded him (Gen 4:23), how much less justified was Moses' killing of a stranger?  The Egyptian's beating of the Hebrew slave did not justify Moses' action in killing him; therefore, Moses was morally wrong. 

It seems curious that given Moses' status as a prince of the royal family that he didn't simply order the Egyptian slave master to cease beating the slave.  That he didn't make use of his position of authority may suggest that he was visiting his Israelite kinsmen incognito, concealing his identity as a member of the royal family.

Exodus 2:13-14: 13On the following day he came back, and there were two [men] Hebrews, fighting.  He said to the man who was in the wrong [to the guilty one], 'What so you mean by hitting your kinsman?' 14'And who appointed you [as a man],' the man retorted,'to be prince over us and judge?  Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?'  Moses was frightened.  'Clearly that business has come to light,' he thought.

Question: What two questions did the Hebrew slave who was beating the other slave ask Moses?

  1. Who made you prince and judge over us? 
  2. Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?

Question: Why did the Hebrew slave reject Moses' intervention in his dispute with the other Hebrew slave?  The literal translation is "And who appointed you as a man to be prince over us and judge?" 
Answer: To the Hebrew slave Moses was only a man, he was not a tribal elder with the authority to judge disputes within each tribe, nor was he a tribal prince with the authority of leadership over his tribe. 

Question: Why couldn't Moses answer the first question?  When will he be able to answer and what will he say?  See Exodus 3:13-15.
Answer: Moses' leadership over Israel must be an appointment made by God before he will be accepted as Israel's redeemer-messiah. Then he will be able to answer the question with the statement: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you (Ex 3:15b).

Question: Notice that sometimes the designation "Hebrew" is used to identify the children of Israel and at other times the designation "Israel/Israelites" is used.  Why is "Hebrew" used in some verses instead of "Israelite"?  See "Hebrew/Hebrews" in Exodus 1:15, 16, 19; 2:6, 7, 11 and 13; also see "Israel/Israelite" in Exodus 1:1, 7, 9, 11, and 12.
Answer: Every time an Israelite is in the subservient position of a slave (Ex 1:15, 16, 19; 2:6, 7, 11, and 13) the designation is "Hebrew" while when referring to the children of Israel as a people the designation is "Israel/Israelite" (Ex 1:1, 7; 9, 11, 12).

Unlike the Law of the Sinai Covenant and the laws of our democratic republic, law and the application of social justice in ancient societies (and in many other countries in the world today) was applied differently according to one's social status.

Question: Why did the second question deeply disturb Moses?  As a prince of the royal family, who would care if he killed a common Egyptian who had offended him?  If not that secret, what other kind of secret could endanger his life?
Answer: Moses' killing of the Egyptian would only endanger him if his identity as the son of a Hebrew slave was revealed.  This suggests that he was no longer under the protection of his adopted royal mother or his grandfather the Pharaoh; they were probably dead.  Perhaps the current Pharaoh was a royal family member with whom Moses was not on cordial terms, an enemy who would gladly use the information of Moses' true origin and the killing of an Egyptian by a Hebrew slave masquerading as a royal prince as a reason to kill Moses.

Exodus 2:15: When Pharaoh heard of the matter, he tried to put Moses to death, but Moses fled from Pharaoh. 

Moses' uneasiness over the challenge from the Hebrew slave was well founded.  It cannot be simply the killing of the Egyptian that put Moses under the Pharaoh's death sentence, it had to be the revelation of the scandal that a Hebrew slave was raised within the confines of the palace, competing with the other royal children for the old Pharaoh's favor.  The royal family was, after all, supposed to be the progeny of gods, the Pharaoh and former Pharaohs.

Please read Exodus 2:15b-22: Moses Finds a Home in Midian
2:15bHe went into Midianite territory and sat down beside a well. 16Now there was a priest of Midian with seven daughters.  They used to come to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father's flock. 17Some shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses sprang to their help and watered their flock. 18When they returned to their father Reuel, he said to them. 'Why are you back so early today?' 19'An Egyptian [man] protected us from the shepherds,' they said, 'and he even drew water for us and watered the flock.' 20And where is he?' he asked his daughters.  'Why did you leave the man there?  Ask him to eat with us.' 21Moses agreed to stay on there with the man, who gave him his daughter Zipporah in marriage. 22She gave birth to a son, whom he named Gershom 'because,' he said, 'I am an alien in a foreign land.

[] = literal Hebrew translation (Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 144-145).

This part of the narrative completes the second seven/eight repletion pattern describing Moses' adult life as an Egyptian. Moses escaped from Egypt traveling eastward across the Sinai Peninsula and into to land of Midian.

Question: Who were the Midianites and where have they been mentioned previously in Genesis?  See Genesis 25:1-4 and 37:28-28, 36.
Answer: Midian was Abraham's 6th son, the fourth son by Keturah, the woman Abraham married after Sarah's death.  A caravan of the Midianites and the Ishmaelite purchased Joseph and sold him as a slave in Egypt.

The shepherdess daughters of the priest of Midian were driven away from their well by some shepherds from a rival tribe.  For a second time Moses used violence to settle a dispute, but this time his gallantry was received with thankfulness.  In this period of his life Moses was definitely not a man of words, he was a man of action.  There is a comical exchange between the girls and their father, who is called Reuel (Ex 2:18, Num 10:29), but elsewhere he will be referred to as "Jethro" (Ex 3:1, 4:18, 18:1, Num 19:29) and Hobab (Judg 4:11).(6) When the chieftain of the tribe of Midian asked his daughters why they had returned earlier in the day than usual, they told their story about their encounter at the well.  Their story about being rescued by an "Egyptian" sounded unlikely to their father; why would a haughty Egyptian become the champion of some shepherd girls?

Question: What did Reuel/Jethro say that challenged his daughters' telling of the story?
Answer: Essentially he said if their story was true, produce the man and invite him to dine with us.

Question: What was the result of exiled Moses' chivalry in defending the daughters of the priest of Midian and watering their flock?  What three things did Moses gain in his association with Jethro and his daughters?
Answer: He gained a meal, a bride, and a family (he fathered a son).

Question: What did Moses name his firstborn son and how did this name reflect Moses sense of a man without a homeland?
Answer: Moses named his son Gershom, 'because,' he said, 'I am an alien in a foreign land.' 

The mention of the "seven" daughters is a signal that something significant, beyond the initial narrative, is at play in this passage.  Seven is one of the "perfect" numbers symbolizing perfection and fullness, especially spiritual perfection. 

Question: Moses met his bride at a well.  In what two parts of the Genesis narrative was a bride courted at a well?  In your list, include Moses' encounter with his bride as the third encounter at a well that ends in marriage.

  1. Abraham's unnamed servant found Isaac's bride Rebekah at a well (Gen 24:4 – 67).
  2. Jacob found his bride Rachel at a well (Gen 29:1-14).
  3. Moses met his bride Zipporah at a well (Ex 2:11-21).

It should also be noted that in Scripture "threes" always point to something important that is going to happen next in God's plan of salvation (see the document "The Significance of the Third Day in Scripture;" also see Gen 22:1; 38:24; 2 Sam 3:11; 24:13; etc.).

Question: Read the accounts of these three encounters.  What seven elements do they all have in common? 
Answer: Each encounter has the same basic elements:

  1. The man travels to a distant land.
  2. He arrives at a well.
  3. A girl comes to draw water at the well.
  4. The man approaches the girl and speaks with her.
  5. The girl returns to her people to tell them what the man has told her.
  6. The man is introduced to the girl's people.
  7. The girl becomes the bride of a bridegroom.

Question: An event repeated three times in Scripture points to a more significant fourth event that is important in God's plan of salvation.  What is the 4th "well encounter" in Scripture between a woman and a man that will have a profound impact on salvation history?  Hint: It is found in one of the New Testament Gospels.  Are the same elements of the "well narratives" present in the New Testament "well encounter" story?  List the elements found in the fourth encounter.  Six of the elements are obvious, but the seventh is not so obvious.
Answer: Jesus' encounter with the woman of Samaria in John 4:1-30 has the same elements as the other three "well encounter" stories:

  1. Jesus was traveling from the Galilee to Jerusalem.
  2. He arrived at a well near Shechem in Samaria (the region of the Holy Land that had been the Northern Kingdom of Israel) that was called "Jacob's well."
  3. A woman came to draw water at the well.
  4. Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman.  He told her that He was the Messiah. 
  5. She went to tell her people about Jesus.
  6. She brought her people to meet Jesus and they received His words with gladness. 
  7. ?  what is the seventh element in Jesus' encounter with the woman of Samaria?

Question: Who is the bride and who is the bridegroom in the well narrative in John chapter 4?  What Old Testament prophecy was Jesus fulfilling and how does it fulfill the missing seventh element? Hint: see Ez 37:15-28.
Answer: The seventh element is also present in this narrative: Jesus was the bridegroom and Samaria (the once lost Northern Kingdom of Israel) was the bride that Jesus was calling into covenant union with her Bridegroom, the promised Redeemer-Messiah.  He was fulfilling the prophet Ezekiel's prophecy that the Messiah would restore the broken and scattered Kingdom of Israel

Jesus, the Bridegroom suffered for His Bride, the new Israel, just as Moses suffered for God's Bride, the holy nation of old Israel.  The inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews compared Moses' suffering to Christ's suffering:  It was by faith that Moses, when he was born, was kept hidden by his parents for three months; because they saw that he was a fine child; they were not afraid of the royal edict.  It was by faith that, when he was grown up, Moses refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter and chose to be ill-treated in company with God's people rather than to enjoy the transitory pleasures of sin.  He considered that the humiliations offered to the Anointed were something more precious than all the treasures of Egypt, because he had this eyes fixed on the reward (Heb 11:23-26).

In this passage the inspired writer of Hebrews was referring to Psalm 89:50-51 where God's "anointed" who is "insulted" refers to the children of Israel who suffered because of their faith in the God of Abraham and who called them into covenant at Sinai where they were consecrated / anointed to Yahweh as His holy covenant people (Ex 19:6).  The writer of Hebrews has applied this passage to Jesus, the "Anointed of God," (the word "Messiah" means "anointed one").  He offers that because of Moses' faith, his suffering to fulfill God's plan for Israel was joined to the suffered of the future Redeemer-Messiah, the One who would bring the "reward" Moses had his eyes fixed upon, eternal salvation (also see Heb 10:33 and 13:13). 

Are you prepared to offer up your sufferings on your journey through the exile of this life like Moses, the prophet of God, offered up his suffering for the Messiah-Redeemer who was yet to come?  Moses' faith in God's promise of an eternal salvation was rewarded in his encounter with Christ on the Mt. of Transfiguration when Jesus met with Moses and Elijah to discuss His "exodus" out of this world that would open the gates of heaven which had been closed since the sin of Adam (CCC 536, 1026).

Question for group discussion:

The part of the narrative concerning Moses' childhood (Exodus 2:1-10) is full of ironies, both comic and tragic. 

Question: What events in the story strike you as ironic?  Try to name at least seven points of irony, comparing the events that led to Moses' mother placing him in the Nile River, his rescue by the princess and the ironic connection between those events and the events that will unfold in the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt.

  1. Ironically, Moses' mother literally complies with the Pharaoh's command to commit the boy babies to the Nile, but she reinterpreted the command by placing her baby in the Nile instead of "throwing" him into the water.
  2. Ironically the Pharaoh only commanded that the Hebrew boy babies be thrown into the Nile; he didn't issue a command that once committed to the water that someone else couldn't take the baby out, which was exactly the action of his daughter.
  3. Ironically it wasn't only Moses' mother and sister who defied the Pharaoh, but his own daughter also defied his command to murder baby Moses.
  4. And it is ironic that one of the Hebrew babies he attempted to destroy becomes a member of his royal family.
  5. A grimmer irony is the picture of little Miriam, standing on the river bank to greet the princess, a foreshadow of Moses also standing on the river bank to greet the Pharaoh on his return to Egypt (Ex 7:14; 8:16)'the one seemingly powerless and the other powerful and yet the shift in power depends on God who softened the princess' heart but hardened the heart of her father.
  6. Another grim irony is that the bloody murder of the infant boys in the Nile prefigured the first plague according to Church Fathers like Origin (Homilies on Exodus 4.6), and also foreshadows the death of the firstborn of Egypt, including the Pharaoh's own son and heir, in the tenth plague.
  7. The final grim irony is that the drowning of the Israelite boys also prefigured the drowning of the army of Pharaoh in the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) as the children of Israel escaped out of Egypt.


1. Yahweh's covenants, the plan of the desert Tabernacle and the Jerusalem Temple are also a seven/eight combination pattern.  See appendix I in this lesson.  The seven/eight pattern is also found in Canaanite literature, fir example, in the Ugarite Epic of Aqhat.

2. According to the "Instruction of Any," an ancient Egyptian document on infant care, a child was weaned when it was three years old (Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament, Lichtheim, 1976, page 141).

3. Pharaoh Tuthmoses (Tuthmosis) IV ruled Egypt at the beginning of the 14th century BC.  Egyptologists and scholars favor various dates, but Lucia Gahlin places his reign from 1400 BC – 1390 BC (Egypt: Gods, Myths, and Religion, page 97).  Moses died when he was 120 years old after leading Israel for forty years (Dt 34:7).  If the Exodus took place in roughly 1355 BC when Moses was eighty years old, then his return to liberate his people took place circa 1355 and his hasty departure after the murder of the Egyptian slave master was c. forty years earlier in 1395 BC (it is understood that Moses lived forty years in Midian since he left Egypt when he was forty years old according to Acts 7:23 and he died when he was 120, according to Dt 34:7).   The c. 1395 BC date for Moses' flight from Egypt was five years before the death of Tuthmosis IV according to Gahlin's dating.

4. Two years after the Exodus (about 42-44 years after this event in Moses' life) a censes of the Israelite camp recorded that, not including the Levites, there were 603,550 men of fighting age, 20 years old and older, among the children of Israel (Num 1:46-47).  The total number of Levite men, between 30 and 50 years of age (eligible for religious duties) was recorded as 8,580 (Num 4:46-48).  A conservative estimate for the population of the Israelites in Goshen would be about 2 million people.

5. The Law of the Sinai Covenant permitted the justified beating of a slave (Ex 21:20-21).

6. It is impossible to reconcile the three names of the priest of Midian.  One name may be his Midianite name and the other his Hebrew, Ishmaelite or Edomite name.  The name "Hobab" is also applied to his son, Moses' brother-in-law (Num 10:29) and therefore may be a title. Reuel is an Edomite name in Genesis.  Reuel was the son of Edom and his wife Basemath, daughter of Ishmael (Gen 36:4, 10, 13, 17 [twice]).  The use of the name for Moses' father-in-law might reflect intermarriage between the Midianites, Edomites, and Ishmaelites whose ancestral lands bordered each other.  In Genesis 36:17 the name represents a tribal people.

Appendix I:

As you may have read in the document on the symbolic meaning of numbers in Scripture, according to its etymology, the number seven means that which is spiritually complete, while the etymology of eight is that which is superabundant.  Symbolically seven represents "perfection" or "completion" (as in the seven days of Creation), while eight is the number symbolizing "re-birth," "salvation," and "redemption" (eight people were saved in the Great Flood, an Israelite boy child was reborn into the covenant with Yahweh on the eighth day of his life, and Jesus arose from the dead on the "eighth" day, the day after the seventh day).  Both Jews and early Christians were fascinated with the symbolic nature of numbers.  Jewish scholars as well as Christian scholars like St. Clement of Alexandria and Pope Gregory the Great wrote books about the symbolism of numbers in Scripture.  For example, God's holy covenant name is expressed in Hebrew by the four consonants YHWH which have a value of 10, 5, 6, and 5.  Added together their total is 20 + 6, but multiplied by 3 (the Triune God) their value is 70 (7x10) + 8, or spiritual perfection (7) times perfection of order (10) plus superabundant salvation (8).

Yahweh's covenants are a seven/eight pattern with seven covenants revealed in the Old Testament and the eighth revealed in the New Testament in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ:

  1. Covenant with Adam [Genesis 1:28-30; 2:15-17; Hosea 6:7]
  2. Noah [Genesis 6:18; 9:9-17; Sirach 44:17-18]
  3. Abraham [Genesis 12:3; 15:1-18; 18:18; 22:18; Sirach 44:19-20]
  4. Sinai Covenant [Exodus 19-24; 34:10, 27, 28; Deuteronomy 5:2-3]
  5. Aaron & Sons: high priestly covenant[Exodus 40:15; Leviticus 2:13; Numbers 18:19; Sirach 45:7; Jeremiah 33:21]
  6. Phinehas: perpetual priesthood [Numbers 25:11-15; Sirach 45:24]
  7. David [2 Samuel 7:11; 23:5; Sirach 45:25]
  8. Jesus: the Priest-King of the New Covenant [Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 7:22-24; 8:6; 9:15-20; 12:24; 13:20]

The classes of furniture in the desert Tabernacle and in the Temple also reflected the numbers seven and eight:

Desert Tabernacle
Exodus 25:10-30:21; 37:1-40:33
Solomon's Temple
1 Kings 6:1-13; 2 Chronicles 3:1-5:14
1.  Ark of the Covenant 1.  Ark of the Covenant
2.  Seat of Atonement (Mercy Seat) 2.  Seat of Atonement (Mercy Seat)
3.  Golden Alter of Incense 3.  Golden Alter of Incense
4.  Golden Menorah 4.  Golden Menorah
5.  Golden Table for the Bread of the Presence 5.  Golden Table for the Bread of the Presence
6.  Bronze Sacrificial Altar 6.  Bronze Sacrificial Altar
7.  Laver for the holy water 7.  Laver for the holy water
  8.  Bronze Sea for ritual cleansing

The last seven visions of the Book of Revelation are in a seven/eight pattern.  The last seven visions of St. John are introduced by the Greek words kai eidon, "and I saw," in verse 19:11 (vision #1 = 19:11-16), 19:17 (vision #2 = 19:17-18), 19:19 (vision #3 = 19:19-21), 20:1 (vision #4 = 20:1-10), 20:4 (vision #5 = 20:4-10), 20:11 (vision #6 = 20:11-15), and 21:1 (vision #7 = 21:1-8).  However, in the description of the seventh vision the words kai eidon are used an eighth time in Rev 21:2, yielding the seven/eight pattern for the final time in Sacred Scripture.

Appendix II

Tutankhamun died when he was about nineteen, possible from a chariot accident.  Two letters from his young queen were found in the archives of the Hittites in which she begged the Hittite king to send her one of his sons to help her rule Egypt, since she was "loathed to take a husband from among the members of her court."  The Hittite king did send a son, who was murdered as soon as he crossed to border into Egypt.  In desperation she apparently married her great-uncle Ay, but upon his death a few years later she disappeared from the pages of history.   There is a larger than life size statue of Tutankhamun in the Oriental Institute in Chicago, Illinois.  By the statue's left leg two delicate little feet can be seen, the only part to survive of the statue of his little queen who must have been clinging to the leg of her young husband as she clung to him in life; her statue destroyed as she was destroyed by the unsettling events that followed the Exodus of the children of Israel out of Egypt.

Egyptologist Joanne Fletcher believes she has identified the  mummy of Ankhsenpaaten's mother, Queen Nefertiti. The mummy identified by Fletcher was viciously disfigured after her death.  If this is indeed Nefertiti's mummy, the body may have been violated in retaliation for Nefertiti's monotheistic beliefs.  The Israelite government has been requesting DNA samples from the mummies of Yuya and Tuya, the parents of Queen Tiy and possibly the grandparents of Queen Nefertiti for decades.  The Egyptian government continues to refuse their request.

Catechism references

References to biblical typology CCC 238-230
Exodus 2:12 CCC 2263, 2267, 2268-2269.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2009 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.