Moses’s Parents

Jochebed-and-Amram-with-baby-Moses

Heart of the Story: Moses’ father and mother were Amram and Jochebed. Amram married his father’s sister, his aunt Jochebed. The couple refused to throw their son Moses in the Nile River according to the Pharaoh’s edict.

Background:

For almost 100 years (1652-1542 B.C.), the Hyksos, ruled Egypt. The Israelites were not Hyksos, e.g., they entered (1875 B.C.) Egypt before the Hyksos; nevertheless, after expelling the Hyksos, Egyptians wanted no non-Egyptians in their midst. Further, Egyptians noted that the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied rapidly. They feared that the Israelites men would join with external peoples and attempt to re-conquer Egypt. Thus, the Egyptians made Israelite men slaves and attempted to curtail Israelite numbers by killing newborn sons.

When Moses was born, he was beautiful in God’s sight and to his parents (Acts 7:20; Hebrews 11:23). Amram and Jochebed were not afraid of Pharaoh’s edict. They agreed to hide Moses in their home. After three months, Moses began to cry and could no longer be hidden in the home. Jochebed devised a cradle made of papyrus reeds and covered by bitumen and pitch. She placed Moses in the cradle and the cradle into the Nile River. Moses’ sister, Miriam, kept watch over the cradle, protecting her brother from Nile predators, e.g., crocodiles.

Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses’ cradle and despite her father’s edict to kill Israelite babies determined to keep Moses as her son. Miriam stepped forward to offer to find a wet nurse for the child. When pharaoh’s daughter agreed, Miriam returned with Jochebed.  Jochebed acted as Moses’ wet nurse until he was weaned. In ancient times, children were not weaned until about 3 years of age’ thus Moses would have absorbed some of the customs and possibly even beliefs of his parents.

Analysis of Amram and Jochebed:

Both Amram and Jochebed were from the tribe of Levi. Amram means “exhalted people,” while Jochebed means “the honor of Jehovah.” Given that both Amram and Jochebed had spiritual-sounding names, they were probably a remnant of Israelites who believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob despite living in an Egyptian pagan society for about 400 years.

Although a marriage between a man and his father’s sister was forbidden by Mosaic laws (Leviticus 18:12, 20:19), the law did not exist when Amram married Jochebed. Apparently, Amram and Jochebed had a good husband – wife relationship; they were unified in determination to keep Moses alive. Amram made no objection when Jochebed devised the plan to put Moses into a water proof cradle, place him in the Nile River, and have Miriam guard the cradle. Amram and Jochebed agreed that Pharaoh’s daughter would likely find Moses if they put his cradle near where she bathed. They were prepared for Pharaoh’s daughter to take Moses from them.

Both Jews and Christians owe Amram and Jochebed thanks for their devotion to God, to each other, and to their son. Although we do not know how long Jochebed lived, Amram lived 137 years. Given this long life span, Amram may have seen Moses lead the Israelite exodus from Egypt; Amram may have even been part of the exodus.

The Egyptians determination to kill the Israelites may have been the beginning  anti-Semitism in world history.

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 12/13.

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