The Old Testament is full of prominent characters whose lives are living proof that God uses individuals to help mature the faith of others and to see how they go on to help others to do the same. The types of relationships are diverse: family relationships, ministry-type relationships, mentoring-type relationships, as well as two prophet-king relationships. One such figure is part of the story of Moses. Among those who impacted his life are his mother Jochebed, his brother Aaron (and Hur), his father-in-law Jethro, as well as Joshua. To get started, we’ll focus on the influence of Moses’s mother on her son, Moses. While the biblical data is sparse, we see that Moses’s mother was God’s providential instrument in preserving his life at a time of a treacherous threat to the emerging nation.
The preeminent world power around 1500 BC were the Egyptians. Headed up by Pharaoh Aahmes (or Amosis), they were keeping a watchful eye on the fast-growing Israelite nation and had begun oppressing and enslaving the Israelites out of fear of being overpowered. The time had finally come for God to raise up a deliverer who would free his people from Egyptian bondage and lead them to the land God had promised Abraham half a millennium before. It would still be another 500 years until God would raise up a man after his own heart, King David, to rule the nation.
Moses’s mother, a Levite, later identified as Jochebed (Numbers 26:59), had married a Levite and given birth to a son. When she saw that he was a “fine” child, she hid him for three months and when she could do so no longer, she made a basket out of bulrushes and put him among the reeds by the river bank. Pharaoh’s daughter found him and took pity on the Hebrew child. She instructed Miriam (his older sister) to take him and find a nurse for him, even offering to pay for his care. So, Miriam brought the child back to their mother, and she took him and nursed him. When he grew older, the mother brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him “Moses” because she had drawn him out of the water when she first found him (“Moses” means “to draw out”).
So, what kind of impact did Moses’s mother have on her son during the early years of his life before she gave him over to Pharaoh’s daughter? The truth is, we can only guess. Did Jochebed have contact with her son during his growing-up years and if so, how much? What were the family dynamics between Moses and his family, if any? We do know that Moses and Miriam interacted later during the time of the exodus. Although we know little about Moses’s mother, we find great significance in her revealed actions toward her son. Not only did she care, protect, and provide for him in unique and creative ways, she was an instrument of God’s purposes in the life of Moses and in the nation of Israel. As she lived out her life amid a rather desperate situation, she acted out of her faith in God, not in fear (Hebrews 11:23), and trusted God’s work and leading. In this way, she served as the deliverer (so to speak) of the national deliverer of Israel—Moses. And as it turned out, the child she delivered would later deliver her, and her people, out of bondage and lead them toward the promised land.
Although the motherly care and acts in which we engage toward our children may not occupy an equally central place in the salvation history of God’s people, one never knows when acts of faith may impact future generations in significant ways. So, consider the example of Jochebed and diligently pursue the purposes God has for you in the lives of your children!
Relevant Scripture passages: Exodus 1–2; Numbers 26:59; Hebrews 11:23–29