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Pharaoh wants the boys dead because he knows they may grow up to fight against him, but he wants the girls to live. He is sure he can find a use for them.

One day a man and woman—both from the tribe of Levi—married. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that her son was healthy and beautiful, she feared for his safety; so she kept him hidden from view for three whole months.

When she could no longer keep him hidden away, she took a basket made of reeds, sealed it with tar and pitch, and placed her baby boy in it. Then she wedged the basket among the reeds along the edge of the Nile River.

The Hebrew word for the “basket” that Moses’ mother prepared is the word used in Genesis 6:14 for the “ark” that preserves Noah and his family from a watery judgment.

All the while, the child’s sister watched from a distance to see what might happen to her baby brother.

Later on Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the river while her young attendants walked along the bank nearby. Pharaoh’s daughter noticed the basket wedged among the reeds and wondered what it might contain. So she instructed her maid to bring it to her. When Pharaoh’s daughter opened the basket, she found the baby boy. He was crying, and her heart melted with compassion.

Pharaoh’s Daughter: This is a Hebrew child.

Child’s Sister (coming out of her hiding place): Would you like me to find a Hebrew woman to nurse the child for you?

Pharaoh’s Daughter: All right. Go find a nurse.

So the baby’s sister went and fetched his mother. The boy’s mother approached Pharaoh’s daughter.

Pharaoh’s Daughter (to the nurse): Here! Take this child and nurse him for me, and I will pay you for your services.

So the woman took the child—who was secretly her own son—and nursed him just as Pharaoh’s daughter had instructed.

This child is destined for greatness. Powerful people want him dead; instead, Providence intervenes.

10 The boy grew, and when the time was right, the woman brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she adopted him as her own. She named him Moses because, as she explained, “I took him out of the water.”

11 Years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to observe his people—the Hebrews—and he witnessed the heavy burden of labor forced upon them. He also witnessed an Egyptian beating one of his Hebrew brothers. 12 He looked around to see if anyone was watching but there was no one in sight, so he beat the Egyptian just as the Egyptian had beaten the Hebrew. Moses ended up killing the Egyptian and hid the dead body in the sand.

13 He went out again the next day and saw two of his Hebrew brothers fighting with each other. Moses confronted the offender.

Moses: Why are you hitting your friend?

Offender: 14 Who made you our prince and judge? Are you going to kill me as you did the Egyptian yesterday?[a]

Fear immediately gripped Moses.

Moses (to himself): The news of what I did must have spread. I must get out of here quickly.

15 Moses was right. When the news reached Pharaoh, he sought to have Moses killed. But Moses ran away from Pharaoh until he reached the land of Midian. There he sat down beside a well.

16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. While Moses was sitting there, resting from his journey, they came to get water from the well in order to fill the troughs with water for their father’s flock. 17 At that moment, a band of shepherds came and forced the priest’s flocks away from the well; but Moses stood up for the young women, came to their rescue, and even watered their father’s flock for them. 18 The women returned to their father Reuel (he was also known as Jethro).

Many people and places in the Scriptures have more than one name. Jethro is likely his given name, while Reuel is his priestly name.

Jethro: Why are you back so early today?

Women: 19 An Egyptian was at the well and he saved us from the bullying of the shepherds. He even drew water from the well and watered the flock for us.

Jethro: 20 Where is this man? Why did you leave him at the well? Go find him, and invite him over for a meal.

21 After experiencing Jethro’s hospitality, Moses agreed to come and live with him; and eventually Jethro arranged for one of his daughters, Zipporah, to marry Moses.[b] 22 Later Zipporah became pregnant and gave birth to a son; and Moses named the child Gershom because, as he explained, “I have been an outsider in a foreign land.”

What begins as a dinner invitation turns into an adoptive home for this wandering fugitive. Through all the twists and turns in Moses’ life, God is preparing him for a special task. Since he is raised by his Hebrew mother, he hears the stories of his people and learns to love them and identify with their suffering. Since he becomes part of Pharaoh’s extended family, he knows how to gain access to power. Since he spends these years in the land of Midian taking care of Jethro’s flocks, he has an intimate connection with a land through which one day he will lead a vast company of people. In the meantime, Moses must figure out who he is and whose he is, for soon there will be a job to do.

23 Many years later, Egypt’s king died. The Israelites continued to moan because of their bondage, and they cried out to be rescued from their oppression. Their cry for help ascended to God. 24 He heard their pleas and remembered the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 God saw the situation the people of Israel were in, and He was moved to take action.


  1. 2:14 Acts 7:27–28
  2. 2:21 Greek manuscripts add, “for a bride.”

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