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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 5–10
Verses 5–10

Here is, I. Moses saved from perishing. Come see the place where that great man lay when he was a little child; he lay in a bulrush-basket by the river’s side. Had he been left to lie there, he must have perished in a little time with hunger, if he had not been sooner washed into the river or devoured by a crocodile. Had he fallen into any other hands than those he did fall into, either they would not, or durst not, have done otherwise than have thrown him straightway into the river; but Providence brings no less a person thither than Pharaoh’s daughter, just at that juncture, guides her to the place where this poor forlorn infant lay, and inclines her heart to pity it, which she dares do when none else durst. Never did poor child cry so seasonably, so happily, as this did: The babe wept, which moved the compassion of the princess, as no doubt his beauty did, Exod. 2:5, 6. Note, 1. Those are hard-hearted indeed that have not a tender compassion for helpless infancy. How pathetically does God represent his compassion for the Israelites in general considered in this pitiable state! Ezek. 16:5, 6. 2. It is very commendable in persons of quality to take cognizance of the distresses of the meanest, and to be helpful and charitable to them. 3. God’s care of us in our infancy ought to be often made mention of by us to his praise. Though we were not thus exposed (that we were not was God’s mercy) yet many were the perils we were surrounded with in our infancy, out of which the Lord delivered us, Ps. 22:9, 10. 4. God often raises up friends for his people even among their enemies. Pharaoh cruelly seeks Israel’s destruction, but his own daughter charitably compassionates a Hebrew child, and not only so, but, beyond her intention, preserves Israel’s deliverer. O Lord, how wonderful are thy counsels!

II. Moses well provided with a good nurse, no worse than his own dear mother, Exod. 2:7-9. Pharaoh’s daughter thinks it convenient that he should have a Hebrew nurse (pity that so fair a child should be suckled by a sable Moor), and the sister of Moses, with art and good management, introduces the mother into the place of a nurse, to the great advantage of the child; for mothers are the best nurses, and those who receive the blessings of the breasts with those of the womb are not just if they give them not to those for whose sake they received them: it was also an unspeakable satisfaction to the mother, who received her son as life from the dead, and now could enjoy him without fear. The transport of her joy, upon this happy turn, we may suppose sufficient to betray her to be the true mother (had there been any suspicion of it) to a less discerning eye than that of Solomon, 1 Kgs. 3:27.

III. Moses preferred to be the son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Exod. 2:10), his parents herein perhaps not only yielding to necessity, having nursed him for her, but too much pleased with the honour thereby done to their son; for the smiles of the world are stronger temptations than its frowns, and more difficult to resist. The tradition of the Jews is that Pharaoh’s daughter had no child of her own, and that she was the only child of her father, so that when he was adopted for her son he stood fair for the crown: however it is certain he stood fair for the best preferments of the court in due time, and in the mean time had the advantage of the best education and improvements of the court, with the help of which, having a great genius, he became master of all the lawful learning of the Egyptians, Acts 7:22. Note, 1. Providence pleases itself sometimes in raising the poor out of the dust, to set them among princes, Ps. 113:7, 8. Many who, by their birth, seem marked for obscurity and poverty, by surprising events of Providence are brought to sit at the upper end of the world, to make men know that the heavens do rule. 2. Those whom God designs for great services he find out ways to qualify and prepare beforehand. Moses, by having his education in a court, is the fitter to be a prince and king in Jeshurun; by having his education in a learned court (for such the Egyptian then was) is the fitter to be an historian; and by having his education in the court of Egypt is the fitter to be employed, in the name of God, as an ambassador to that court.

IV. Moses named. The Jews tell us that his father, at his circumcision, called him Joachim, but Pharaoh’s daughter called him Moses, Drawn out of the water, so it signifies in the Egyptian language. The calling of the Jewish lawgiver by an Egyptian name is a happy omen to the Gentile world, and gives hopes of that day when it shall be said, Blessed be Egypt my people, Isa. 19:25. And his tuition at court was an earnest of the performance of that promise, Isa. 49:23; Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and queens thy nursing mothers.