By Shawn McMullen
You won’t find Jochebed in lists of popular names for baby girls, but in my book it’s a worthy contender.
Jochebed and her husband, Amram, were married while the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. They started a family and were blessed with two children, a boy (Aaron) and a girl (Miriam). Jochebed was expecting their third child about the time the Egyptian Pharaoh issued an edict that every Hebrew baby boy was to be thrown into the Nile River.
As horrific and painful as compliance would have been, I assume many Hebrew mothers felt they had no choice and sadly gave up their infant sons to death. But not Jochebed. Unlike some mothers today who choose personal convenience and promising careers over the lives of their unborn children, Jochebed risked her life to protect her baby.
Defying the highest authority in the land, Jochebed hid her newborn son for three long months. But when hiding was no longer an option, she devised an ingenious plan to provide for his welfare. She took a basket large enough to cradle little Moses, waterproofed it, and carefully placed it among the reeds along the Nile River—at a spot where an Egyptian princess came to bathe.
To ensure her baby’s safety, Jochebed stationed his older sister nearby to keep watch. Sure enough, the princess and her entourage came to the river, discovered Moses in his floating bassinet, and decided on the spot to adopt him as her own.
If the account ended there, we would applaud Jochebed as a devoted and savvy mother. But her plans weren’t quite completed. No sooner had the princess discovered the baby Moses, then his older sister “happened” along, took note of the situation, and offered to find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for her.
The princess agreed, and the young girl went straight to Moses’ mother. The next part may not have been in the original plan, but it was certainly icing on the cake. The princess not only asked Moses’ own mother to take him into her home and nurse him, she offered to pay her for her services. I’m guessing Jochebed accepted.
So during this early and impressionable time in his life, Moses was raised in his own home, surrounded by his own family, all in contradiction to Pharaoh’s plan. Even his ill-fated attempt to rescue his people at age 40 speaks to the fact that Moses’ early training at home made an impression on him.
The rest, as they say, is history. Moses returned to Egypt at age 80, confronted the king, displayed God’s power among the Egyptians, and led the Israelite nation to the promised land.
The first thing we must do is acknowledge God’s sovereignty in this story. It was his plan. But we can’t overlook the grit, determination, and sacrificial spirit of a devoted mother who wasn’t about to give up her baby boy to a deranged tyrant.
In part, because of Jochebed’s faith and action, more than two million Israelites shed the bonds of their cruel captors and walked out of Egypt a free people.
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