The Woman Whose Children Became Great
Scripture References—Exodus 1; 2:1-11; 6:20; Numbers 26:59; Hebrews 11:23
Name Meaning—Jochebed implies, “glory of Jehovah” or, “Jehovah (is her or our) glory.” It is plain from this name of the mother of Moses, that the announcement of Jehovah, as the name of God, was not made for the first time when God revealed Himself in a special manner under that title to Moses in the burning bush. Jochebed is the first person in Scripture to have a name compounded with Jah—or Jehovah. One cannot but be fascinated with Alexander Whyte’s suggestive comment on her name &--;
It is very tantalizing to be told her remarkable name and to be told no more. Was Godthy-glory the remarkable name that Moses gave to his mother as often as he looked back at all that he owed to her, and as often as he rose up and called her blessed? Or was her very remarkable name her own invention? Was her striking name her own seal that she had set to her own vow which she made to her own God after some great grace and goodness of her own God? Or, again did the angel of the Lord visit that daughter of the house of Levi or some Jabbok-like or Annunciation-night, and so name her as the sun rose upon her prayer?
Family Connections—Jochebed is spoken of as a daughter of Levi who married a man of the house of Levi (Exodus 2:1; Numbers 26:59), whose name was Amram. Strange though it may seem, she married her nephew, and was thus both the wife and aunt of Amram, seeing his wife was his father’s sister (Exodus 6:20). Marriages with aunts and nieces were not unlawful before the giving of the law by Moses. They were very common throughout the East.
To Amram and Jochebed were born three children each of whom became renowned in their own sphere (Numbers 26:59). She bore and suckled all three on the same strong milk, till she weaned them from milk and put them on the marrow of lions. The oak has its roots around the rock, and the children of Jochebed had their roots around their godly mother.
There was Moses, who became one of the greatest national leaders and legislators the world has ever known.
There was Aaron, who became Israel’s first high priest and the founder of the Aaronic priesthood.
There was Miriam, the gifted poetess and musician, who was intimately associated with her two brothers in the history of Israel.
Jochebed’s prominent place in the divine gallery is secure, then, and the aspect of her career especially emphasized in Scripture is that of her clever design to preserve the life of her baby boy. It was for her courage and trust in such an act that had far-reaching consequences for the nation that she is placed among the heroines of faith in Hebrews 11:23. Let us recall the circumstances of the preservation of Moses which caused his mother to be included among that “great cloud of witnesses” whose lives and labors testified of their faith in God’s providential care and goodness.
At the time of Pharaoh, the Hebrews had multiplied so greatly as to cause the monarch to fear lest they should outnumber the Egyptians and take over the nation. Thus he commanded that all newly-born Hebrew boys be thrown into the Nile—a most dastardly edict! Jochebed was heavy with child. Already there were Miriam, about ten years of age at the time, and Aaron, possibly about three, in the home. Now another child was on the way. Knowing of Pharaoh’s command and that, as a rigid executive, he closely checked up on all male births, Jochebed must have had intense suspense as she awaited her third child. Would it be a boy that would be wrenched from her and thrown into the Nile? What were her feelings when the child was born and the midwife told her it was a boy? What maternal grief must have been hers!
But the horror of that crocodile-infested Nile transforms Jochebed into a heroine and the preserver of a boy who became one of the world’s greatest figures. The moment she saw her baby, she was determined to fight for his life. Three times over we read that “she saw that he was a goodly child” (Exodus 2:2; Acts 7:20; Hebrews 11:23). This means that Moses was not only a lovely child to look at, but also, as the margin explains, he was “fair to God,” implying that there was something other-worldly or angelic about his features. As the little one lay in her lap, Jochebed felt that he had been sent from God, and that He, along with her mingled faith and love, would somehow preserve the child.
How Jochebed managed to hide her baby, who doubtless cried as lustily as other babies, in some secret place where he could not be seen or heard, is a mystery! When she was unable to conceal him any longer, “God through the intensity of her faith caused her to inherit a vision of what He had appointed for Moses.” She made a little cradle of plaited reeds which were believed to be protection against crocodiles, then placed the cradle with its treasure secretly among the rushes at the river’s bank, and told Miriam her young daughter to stand near to watch over the small craft. The brief but vivid account of what happened is given by the historian, even by Moses himself who, in his latter years, by divine inspiration, wrote the first five books of the Bible.
At her usual time Pharaoh’s daughter came to the feathery greenness edging the ancient Nile to wash herself, and her maidens walking by the river side saw the cradle among the rushes. When the royal lady saw the beautiful baby and heard his cry she had compassion on him. A Hebrew woman must be found to nurse the child. Jochebed was fearfully watching the fate of that precious child she had borne and the rough cradle she had fashioned. Young Miriam was also near at hand, and quite naively said 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?”
Pharaoh’s daughter said, “Go!” Miriam was not long in calling her mother and presenting her as a nurse. Pharaoh’s daughter asked her to nurse the child for her at a given wage. Thus Jochebed’s baby was not only saved, but Jochebed was paid to care for him until he was weaned. Pharaoh’s daughter must have loved the child for she brought him up as her son. However, Moses later refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, even though she had given him her name, Moses, which means “drawn out of the water” (Exodus 2:10). If Jochebed was guided by God to make that small cradle and place her three-month old baby in it, and hide him among the rushes, surely the steps of Pharaoh’s daughter were ordered by the same God, even though she was an idolater. It was to her that Jochebed owed the saving of her son, as well as the royal protection and all the advantages of Pharaoh’s palace as his home for the first forty years of his life.
How long Jochebed lived after her delivered child no longer required her nursing, we are not told. Doubtless she was dead by the time Moses fled into the wilderness when he was forty years of age. Although she did not live to see how famous her children became, dead, she yet spake again in their utter devotion to God. She had lived her life as unto Him, and her sons and daughter lit their torches at her flame. Jochebed was the chief influence unto God in their preparation for the great tasks they were to accomplish in leading His people out of Egyptian bondage. It was Jochebed’s love, faith and courage that saved her child from a cruel death and preserved him to bless the world. A mother who loves the Saviour, and who has a more severe anguish when she knows that, not the life of her child is at stake, but its soul, can rest in the assurance that Jochebed’s God still lives, and is able to save her dear one from eternal death.