The Faith of Moses’ Parents

January 16, 2022 / No. 4124

Today we consider the faith of the parents of Moses. This is recorded for us in verse 23 of Hebrews 11. We read, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.”

Jacob’s family had now lived in Egypt for a little over 300 years. During this time the state of affairs in Egypt had changed radically. Joseph had died, a change of dynasties had taken place, and a king arose that did not know Joseph. That is to say, he may have known of Joseph but he had no interest in what Joseph had done for Egypt. This new Pharaoh eyed the rapid growth of the children of Israel with suspicion. They were growing into a nation that could, if given the opportunity, turn against Egypt and take over the land. Measures had to be taken. So, by the time the third generation of Israelites were born, the nation of Egypt had enslaved the people of Israel. Into this state of affairs Amram, a grandson of Levi, was born. He took to himself to wife a young daughter of Levi, Jochebed. They together had three children that we know of, the eldest, a girl named Miriam, then a son named Aaron, and finally their youngest, a boy that eventually was named Moses by Pharaoh’s daughter. It was not in the best of times that this family lived, but they managed to survive through the hardships that God placed upon them along with the rest of the Israelites.

The verse we consider today does not focus on Moses, though it may seem that way because it reads, “by faith Moses when he was born.” A better understanding of this phrase, however, would be this: “By faith the parents of Moses, when he was born, hid him for three months.” But there is a reason why this verse that we consider begins the way it does. The writer to the Hebrews wishes to call the attention of his readers to Moses. The motive behind this is that the Hebrew or Jewish believers esteemed Moses most highly. He was used of God to record the Torah, the book of the law. The purpose of the author of Hebrews throughout this epistle is to illustrate how Christ has come as the fulfillment of the law and prophets. These Hebrew believers had forsaken Judaism with all its ceremonial laws and rituals. That was not easy for them to do. The Old Testament laws and prophets had been ingrained into their hearts. It was necessary to show them that faith in Christ did not require them to forsake Moses. So, after the faith of Abraham, the writer now directs our attention to the faith of Moses. Moses, the giver of the law, also lived in the same faith as Abraham. Nothing changed regarding God’s promises with him. The covenant that God established with Abraham was the same as that with Moses and the children of Israel. So the writer to the Hebrews in this verse and those following deliberately turns our attention to Moses. At the same time, though Moses receives the emphasis, nevertheless the verse we consider now directs our attention to the faith of Amram and Jochebed, Moses’ parents.

I. The Account

The affliction of the people of Israel by the hands of the Egyptians had grown progressively harsher. Pharaoh had first of all put them to work building for him two treasure cities, Raamses and Pithom. This was involuntary work with no compensation. It was not as if the king took away the possessions of the people of Israel. But they had to take care of their own work after having completed a long day of hard labor under Egyptian taskmasters. The intention of the king of Egypt was to make the people of Israel so weary with labor that time for producing children would be difficult and scarce. Then the family of Israel would stop multiplying so rapidly. But it did not happen. The more affliction, the more children.

It was then that the king of Egypt turned to harsher means to control the births of children in Israel. For a period of time he commanded that as soon as sons were born to Israelite women they must immediately be seized from mother and cast into the Nile to be drowned. Under such hard slavery and with this horrible restriction placed upon the birth of sons, the children of Israel groaned and cried unto Jehovah for deliverance. Now, before we move along, we ought to understand that this affliction was sent upon Israel by God. God had a purpose in it. We already took note in our last broadcast that by the time Joseph died, the children of Israel had become settled and comfortable in the land of Egypt. They were enjoying the prosperity and the luxuries of this land. They were not really all that interested in Canaan. Well, this did not get better over the years. For that reason, God sent affliction in order that Israel would look to him to deliver them. Even under affliction many of the people of Israel did not want to leave.

We mention this because the church today could use a good dose of such affliction. The church of today has become far too comfortable in this world. We are serving the idol gods of this world just as Israel did in Egypt. The things of the kingdom of heaven have become of little concern and take second place to the things of this world. The movies with their violence and lust. The songs of this world with their drunkenness and fornication. Cars, houses, vacations, fun—all have become such a part of our lives that we have become far too comfortable in this world. We need a good dose of affliction. And it will come. It will come. Who will stand in that day?

Under such hard affliction the children of Israel now lived. Because of it the comforts of this world, the prosperity, the ease were taken away and the people of Israel cried to God for a deliverer. God in His grace did not forsake His people as they deserved but now answered their cries. A son was born to Amram and Jochebed—not their first child, as we noticed. But Miriam and Aaron were born before the command of the king to kill the baby boys had been given. Moses was born during this time. Imagine becoming pregnant during this time—the fear and anxiety experienced especially as the woman grew larger. Imagine having to hide yourself from the watchful eyes of the king’s spies, who were roaming the land looking for just this thing. Imagine hiding a baby for three months, stifling its cries when it was hungry or needed to be changed. Jochebed must have remained hidden for months so that the king’s spies would not take from her her baby boy and cast him into the river. Those were frightening times. But the parents of Moses took every precaution to see to it that her pregnancy was not found out and that their baby boy was not heard. I know that a newborn baby’s cry can be pretty loud, but not nearly as loud as the wail of a three-month-old baby. By faith Moses’ parents hid him three months in their house, but the time had come that they needed to take some kind of action before being found out.

Jochebed wove a small ark, cradle, basket, out of bulrushes and covered it with slime and pitch to make it waterproof. She then placed her three-month-old son in the basket and left the basket in the water’s edge among the reeds. Now, this makes for a quaint story often times in children’s Bible story books—but consider the danger involved in this. First, the slightest wave could turn over the basket or fill it with water and the baby could drown. Second, the spies of Pharaoh were everywhere. If they would have heard Moses cry and discovered him in the reeds, they would have finished the job by casting him into the water themselves. Third, native to this part of Africa are crocodiles that often lived in the reeds along the river’s edge. To place the baby in a little waterproof basket by the river’s edge was daring and desperate on the part of Moses’ parents. But they had little choice at this point. They knew that they would no longer be able to hide the fact that they had a baby boy. This would mean immediate death for their baby. So, yes, the act was both daring and desperate.

The best they could do is send their daughter, Miriam, to watch over their baby as he floated among the reeds. This is what took place. Miriam hid herself a short distance from the river and kept an eye open to what would become of her brother. I believe that though this act was a dangerous one, it was nevertheless well thought out by Amram and his wife. They did not take Moses to the river in the dead of night or the heat of the day. They took him there in the morning and had their daughter watch him. Why? Well, on a regular basis in the morning the daughter of Pharaoh would come to the river’s edge with her maidens to bathe. She, no doubt, did this in the same location each time. It was not by chance that this particular morning a baby lay near to the place where she bathed. Her maidens saw the basket, opened it, and there was this Hebrew baby lying in the basket crying.

We learn in every account that Moses was a goodly child, or as our text says, a proper child. He was an exceedingly fair child. In other words, Moses was an exceptionally cute baby. Now, how one is able to determine this is difficult to say. Every mother thinks her baby is about the cutest and most intelligent baby in all the world. In pride she thinks her child to be a prodigy above all others. Personally, I think every baby is a goodly or exceedingly fair baby. So, how Moses could be distinguished in this way from most children I am not sure. But God’s Word informs us he was and therefore it must be true. There was something about this baby of Amram and Jochebed they could see—and now Pharaoh’s daughter could see—that made him stand out as a beautiful baby. The princess decided that she would keep the boy as her own.

Miriam, coming from her hiding place, now approached Pharaoh’s daughter and suggested that she find a wet nurse for the baby among the Hebrew women. The princess liked this idea, and Moses was then sent to his parents’ home to be nurtured by his believing parents until the time he was old enough to go to live in the palace.

II. Their Faith

Now, once again, the writer to the Hebrews intends to illustrate for us the faith of Moses’ parents. Their faith revealed itself in their actions. In other words, faith produces works, and such works reveal the faith of God’s people. In this case we learn that Moses’ parents by faith hid him. They believed that God would care for their child even though the king had commanded the baby boys of Israel to be killed. Now, the writer to the Hebrews gives two reasons that Amram and Jochebed hid Moses. The first is, they saw he was a proper child. The second is, they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. Back to the first reason, there has to be more of the term “proper” here in our text than what we just explained. Why would Scripture make such a point of this if all it meant was that Moses was an exceedingly fair child. I believe that God had shown to Moses’ parents that this child would have a special place among God’s people. Perhaps God did not reveal to them that Moses was the future deliverer of Israel, but nevertheless, God had set apart their son for a special task.

For this reason, first of all, they in faith risked it all, so to speak, to keep their son alive—even by planning what to do to secure his safety. But that is not as telling as the second reason: Moses’ parents were not afraid of the king’s commandment. This does not mean they were not afraid! Anyone under these circumstances would be afraid! They feared the wrath of the king. But faith is of such a nature that they acted against their fear. They did not succumb to it. They were not so seized with fear that it paralyzed them. They refused to give in to the command of the king, even if it ultimately might even require of them their own lives.

Such is the character of faith. Ah, yes, the character of faith that we have described in so many ways already. Here is but another way that faith reveals itself, in our not giving in to our fears but instead trusting God. How often we are confronted with circumstances in life that cause fear. What widow or widower is not afraid of how they will make it in life without their spouse? What man or woman is not afraid when sickness or accident leaves them or a loved one maimed—perhaps paralyzed or without sight? What man or woman or child is not afraid when they hear of a loved one stricken with sickness that will eventually claim their life? Who would not be filled with fear when they are called before magistrates to give account before them of their faith? The faith of Amram and Jochebed speaks to us in these moments, dear listener. Facing fear and not giving in to it because our hope and faith is grounded in Jesus Christ. Our cares are cast upon God even though we do not know the outcome of what will take place, even if that outcome may be entirely against what we would want, simply trusting that God is good and will care for us. That is faith!

Such confidence flows out of a knowledge of God. These parents of Moses believed in Jehovah God—not the idol gods of Egypt. They knew that Jehovah was God alone and held all things in His hands. They knew that the events that now took place were according to God’s sovereign will and good pleasure. They also knew and believed that their God would deliver His people from this horrible land of bondage. Their children would inherit the land of Canaan. God had promised them that. They clung to that promise. They would not allow the king of Egypt to stand in the way of the fulfillment of that promise. Their children would return to Canaan! They in faith therefore refused to give in to the king’s mandate. They saved their son alive. Then, when it was impossible to hide Moses anymore, they cleverly lit upon a plan to preserve their son alive. Would it work, who knew? But again, they trusted God that He would fulfill His promise somehow and someway.

They placed their son in a basket in the reeds at the river’s edge. They now entrusted the life of their baby boy to God. Afraid? Sure they were. But they did not give in to that fear. In faith they trusted God for the outcome now of what would happen. They knew that God in His providence held all things in His hands. Nothing stands outside of His sovereign control—not the waters of the Nile, not the creatures of the deep, not the wind or the waves. God will fulfill His will, and that will of God is always all good and wise. They believed that.

So do we! Amidst the adversities of life, no matter what befalls us, God is good and will work everything for the good of those who are in Christ Jesus. There is the key! We belong to our faithful Savior, Christ Jesus! He has removed our sin and guilt. He has paid the price for our sin. We are righteous before God through redemption full and free. Through that blood of Jesus Christ, God has adopted us to be His own children. And in His great love for us, every circumstance of life He uses for the good and salvation of His people. We are not without Christ in this world, and therefore we are not without God’s care and love either!

In that knowledge we place our confidence in God. That confidence in turn works in us patience, boldness, even in the face of our fears. Amram and Jochebed now commended their son into the hands of God. What will God do? Miriam is told to stay close on hand and see what God has in store. Would their action save their son or would he die? We know what the result was.

III. The Result

Moses is rescued from the water by Pharaoh’s daughter. Because he was a proper child, her maternal instincts were to adopt him as her own. Yet, this boy was just a baby who yet needed a nursemaid. He needed to be fed and cared for. Miriam brought her mother to the princess, and Pharaoh’s daughter commanded Jochebed to care for Moses for a time. During the young formative years of Moses’ life he was carefully nurtured under the care of believing parents. You can be sure that they taught him everything to know about Jehovah, His promise, and His people. All this before he was taken away for the rest of his life to live in palace of Pharaoh himself.

What faith Moses’ parents exhibited—a faith that overcomes fear! What a marvelous work God worked in the hearts of this man and his wife by his grace! If not for that work of God, what would they have done? But God sustained them in their need. God sustains His people in their needs too. He never leaves us. He directs everything according to His sovereign will and good pleasure. He does it out of His love for us. Do you believe that, fellow saints of God? Amram and Jochebed believed it. We thank God for their witness to us. May that witness inspire us to run the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith.