Although we have already briefly considered this royal, unidentified female (compare Jochebed), a closer view of the only mother Moses really knew may be profitable. Who, exactly, was the new king over Egypt at the time of the birth of Moses we do not know. Conjectures have him as Aahames I or Rameses II, or Seti I. In like manner, what the name of his daughter was no one knows. This princess credited with a royal deed, without leaving her signature, has been made out to be Thermuthis, or Myrrina, or Mercis. Whatever name legend may give her, the Bible preserves her anonymity even though “she stands to the fortunes and fate of the Israelite nation, as its instrumental providence and contributory saviour.” Described as “the daughter of Pharaoh” suggests that she was the Egyptian ruler’s ony daughter. Our first impression of the princess is the contrast her character affords to the portrait of another Egyptian female we have just written about. Potiphar’s wife manifests, “the undisciplined forces of womanhood in their most violent form—Pharaoh’s daughter blots out that dark portrait and gives us one of a woman—kind, tender and compassionate.”
Destined to be the woman who should save a baby from a terrible death, care for him although he was a Hebrew, and lay the foundation of his great work for God, Pharaoh’s daughter was an Egyptian, an idolater who worshiped the sun. Yet in the motherhood of the child whom she delivered from the Nile and named Moses, she revealed that she was above the pagan plane—even above the cruelty of her pagan parent. At the risk of jeopardizing her favor with her father who had decreed the drowning of all male Hebrew babies, she felt it too cruel to murder the precious bundle of humanity found in the bulrushes.
As an Egyptian woman, the princess enjoyed great liberty. Along with her female attendants, she came to a reserved part of the Nile to wash seeing its waters were considered to be healthy and fructifying. Seeing the small basket, Pharaoh’s daughter sent one of her maidens to fetch it. As soon as she opened it and saw the lovely child, she had compassion on him in spite of the fact that he was one of the Hebrew’s children, whom her despot father had ordered to be killed. The babe wept, and his tears opened a well of compassion in the heathen heart of the princess, and she exhibited a tender affection for children. With her love she mingled concern for the baby’s welfare, and, as we have seen, his own mother was secured as his nurse until he was weaned (compare Miriam). Pharaoh’s daughter did not look upon little Moses as a delightful plaything for the palace, but as the foundling for whom she had risked her own life.
Think of what would have happened if Pharaoh’s daughter had not come down to the waters at the hour she did. The babe might have been destroyed in some way. But as God called a heathen ruler, Cyrus, “His servant,” so He used the pagan princess to deliver the child who was to become one of God’s greatest heroes. For 40 years Moses was cared for and educated as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, having all the privileges of a son of the royal court. Stephen declared that “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds” (Acts 7:22). Surrounded with all the wealth and luxury of Pharaoh’s court, Moses was taught to speak and write the Egyptian language correctly. Attention would be given to the grace of style which was later to guide Moses as the writer of the first five books of the Bible. His education would also include arithmetic and geometry, something in which the Egyptians even in that far-off age were most proficient. Moses also acquired a knowledge of Egyptian law, which he put to good use when he came to write the Mosaic law. From the priests of religion, he learned much about religious morality. Thus, in the education the princess gave her adopted son, we have an evidence of God’s overruling providence in the shaping of the future of Israel’s great leader. Theron Brown reminds us that—
The Hebrew nation—the whole world, proud of the sublime man Moses came to be, is indebted to her for his life, his education, and his name.... She alone stood effectually between him and death.... The tomb and fillet of this interesting woman have not been found. If ever her unperished form is brought to light, clad in the enduring cerements that wrap the dead of her kingly family, we shall know her name. But it would be dearer to know that her living soul dwells not far from the son she adopted and loved, the grandest man of sacred history, who but for her would never have been.
Moses never forgot that he was a Hebrew, and through many years of his sojourn in Egypt he had to endure the ceaseless and implacable envy and hostility of the officers of the royal court. But Pharaoh’s daughter never lost faith in her gifted son. One wonders whether Moses brought her to know Jehovah as God over all! It must have been a heartache for this foster mother when she could no longer protect her son. In a fit of indignation Moses killed an Egyptian taskmaster for savagely flogging a Hebrew, and fearing the vengeance of Pharaoh, Moses hid the body in the sand. But someone witnessed the deed, and Moses fled for his life from the stately lady who, for forty years, had lavished care and attention upon him, making life tolerable for him in a land of bondage. Did she ever see him again? Was she alive when, 40 years later, he returned to Egypt as the mighty deliverer of the Israelite nation from cruel bondage? We do not know. We think of her as the Bible pictures her—a kindhearted Egyptian princess, a noble and tender woman who lived in a cruel time. Through divine providence she was the instrument of saving the babe from death, who became “Moses, the Servant of God.”
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