2. FLIGHT FROM EGYPT TO MIDIAN
Moses lived at a time when Egypt was ruling the world. If you wanted to attend Harvard University in those days, Egypt was the place.
Think of any kind of discipline, Egypt had the professors to teach it.
Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He had more doctorates than any scholar before him and any scholar after him.
I think he had a very good self-image. He was the man of the hour.
Verse 11 Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.
The Sacred Record passes over almost 30 years of Moses’ life in silence. The next recorded event is of an incident that took place when he was 40 years old.
Acts 7:23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
The years of his youth were spent under royal tutors, who imparted to him “all the wisdom of the Egyptians”
Acts 7:22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
Some of his education he received from the priests, and some from army commanders. Such was the training ordinarily given a royal prince.
Since Moses was “mighty in words and in deeds” (Acts 7:22), it would not be amiss to assume that he led important military expeditions to foreign countries (see PP 245).
However, he did not become an Egyptian at heart. His outward appearance, his dress, his speech, and his behavior may have been completely Egyptian, but he remained a Hebrew in character, religion, and loyalty.
This is clear from the events narrated in Ex. 2:11–13
Hebrews 11:23-25 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: 25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
He went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens
Moses had come to the point in his life when he realized that he must either become an Egyptian, without reservation, or side with his despised people.
It seems that prior to this occasion he had made the decision “to suffer affliction with the people of God” (Heb. 11:25) and considered himself the chosen instrument for this task (Acts 7:23–25).
He thought himself ready at last to leave the court with its “pleasures of sin,” to abandon the prospect of succession to the throne, and to step forth boldly to champion the cause of his oppressed people (see PP 246, 247).
From Acts 7:23 it is clear that Moses went to the land of Goshen for the purpose of studying the situation and laying plans. That in his mind he had relinquished all claim to the throne of Egypt is evidence that his motives were not selfish.
He was impelled, rather, by sincere love for his people and hatred for their oppressors, a fact emphasized by the term “brethren,” used twice in Ex. 2:11.
And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew
This was probably one of the taskmasters mentioned in 1:11 or one of the overseers employed by them. Such persons are represented on Egyptian monuments as armed with long wooden sticks, which they used freely on the backs of idlers.
Their authority was no doubt frequently abused, and chastisement was no doubt inflicted for the slightest fault or for no fault at all.
Authority often degenerates into tyranny and cruel oppression, and as an instance of such abuse of power this incident excited the anger of Moses (Acts 7:24).
Verse 12 So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
Observing that there were no others to witness the deed, he killed the Egyptian. That the overseer continued beating the Hebrew workman as Moses approached shows that higher officials generally approved of such abuse of authority on the part of their subordinates.
Moses’ action cannot be condoned, though it was no doubt prompted by righteous indignation. Although an able military leader and a favorite with the armies of Egypt (PP 245), he was lacking in certain qualities of leadership essential for service in the cause of God (PP 247).
Verse 13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?”
This was the following day (Acts 7:26). Moses hoped the Hebrews would accept his leadership and support him in a general uprising against the Egyptians (PP 246).
Though it had been revealed to the elders of Israel that Moses was to be their deliverer (PP 245), “they understood not” (Acts 7:25).
The fact that he spent more than one day among his own people suggests that this was more than a casual visit. His return to the vicinity of the incident suggests that he considered the time ripe for revolt.
“Why are you striking your companion?”
The strife Moses witnessed upon his second visit among his people was one in which blows were exchanged, and he felt it his duty to persuade the two men to refrain from further combat. By interposing here Moses certainly did what was right.
Verse 14 Then he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” So Moses feared and said, “Surely this thing is known!”
It was not his interference now but his wrong act of the day before that exposed Moses to rebuke.
There was no assumption of judicial authority in the mere inquiry, “Why are you striking your companion?” unless it be coupled with the deed of the proceeding day.
The violence of one day had rendered ineffective the kind persuasion of the next.
The influence for good that the education and position of Moses might have enabled him to exercise upon his nation was lost by the very act to which he had been urged by his sympathy for them.
Moses feared. Having renounced his allegiance to Egypt by his deed the day before, to be rejected now by his own people left Moses in a dangerous predicament. He was alone and without friends.
Verse 15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.
If our identification of Pharaoh’s daughter with Hatshepsut is correct, this event must have taken place during the last years of her regency, when her nephew’s authority had increased and shortly before he deposed her and formally ascended the throne as Thutmose III.
Moses’ deed was correctly interpreted at court as marking open defiance of Egypt, and it was surmised that he purposed to seat himself upon the throne (PP 247).
The fate of the nation was clearly at stake, and Moses was forthwith condemned to die.
For nearly 40 years Hatshepsut had sponsored Moses at court, perhaps in spite of misgivings on the part of other members of the royal family, and by arranging for him to ascend the throne no doubt planned to solidify her own control over the nation.
Her sudden disappearance from history about this time may have been due to her known support of Moses.
Moses fled. Moses’ flight was certainly not an easy one. The eastern border of Egypt was guarded from the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf of Suez by a system of manned towers, each in sight of the next.
An Egyptian story parallel to the flight of Moses, that of Sinuhe, shows how difficult an escape into Asia really was.
Sinuhe, a courtier of King Amenemhet I, for some reason unknown to us, felt at the king’s death that his own life was in danger, and accordingly fled to Syria, where he spent many years as an exile.
He gives a vivid description of the dangers connected with crossing the frontier. Crouching for some time in a bush, lest the watchmen see him, he crossed at night.
Pressing on into the desert, he would have perished of thirst except for certain Asiatics who found him and gave him water and boiled milk to drink.
We have no record of the hardships Moses suffered during his flight, but it is not amiss to assume that it was a trying experience for one who had thus far known only the luxuries of court life and was unacquainted with hardship.
The land of Midian. This is a somewhat vague expression, since the Midianites were nomads. Their principal settlements appear to have been on the eastern side of the Gulf of ‘Aqaba, where most of their ancient inscriptions have been found.
But from time to time they migrated northward to the borders of Moab (Gen. 36:35; Num. 22:4, 7) and westward into the Sinai Peninsula, which appears to have been “the land of Midian” to which Moses fled (see Ex. 3:1; PP 247).
Verse 16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock.
The Midianites were descendants of Abraham by Keturah (Gen. 25:1, 2), and may have remained worshipers of the true God for some time. Reuel, at least, with whom Moses made his abode (Ex. 2:18, 21), was a priest of the true God (ch. 18:12, 23; see PP 247).
Seven daughters. This is not the first instance in the Bible story in which women are found pasturing the flocks of their father. Rachel kept her father Laban’s sheep and watered them (Gen. 29:9).
Such a practice agrees well with the simplicity of primitive times and peoples, nor would it be regard as strange in Arabia even at the present day.
Verse 17 Then the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.
Verse 18 When they came to Reuel their father, he said, “How is it that you have come so soon today?”
Reuel means “friend of God” and implies monotheism. The KJV transliterates his name as Raguel in Num. 10:29, though the Hebrew spelling does not differ from that given here.
Reuel was also known as Jethro (Ex. 3:1; etc.). Various other Bible characters were known by two names, such as Solomon, whose second name was Jedidiah (2 Sam. 12:24, 25).
Verse 19 And they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and he also drew enough water for us and watered the flock.”
Apparently Moses had not revealed his nationality, and since he wore an Egyptian costume and shaved his head like an Egyptian, Reuel’s daughters naturally took the friendly stranger for an Egyptian.
Reuel’s astonishment at their early return and their matter-of-fact explanation that an Egyptian had defended them from the shepherds show clearly that they were used to this rough treatment and that their father was in no position to protect them.
As a priest he seems not to have had much influence with the shepherds of the region. This may have been because Reuel was still a worshiper of the true God, though most of his fellow tribesmen had left the religion of their ancestor, Abraham, to worship idols.
Verse 20 So he said to his daughters, “And where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.”
Verse 21 Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. 22 And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”
Moses had fled from Egypt without any definite plan except to save his life, and was now confronted with the practical problem of earning a living.
Reuel’s hospitable welcome, a result of Moses’ friendly act of assistance at the well, led to an arrangement whereby Moses entered into his service.
Zipporah. In course of time Zipporah, one of the seven daughters of Reuel, became Moses’ wife. This name, meaning “bird,” is still borne by many women of the Arabian Desert.
Verse 22 And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”
Meaning “banishment,” from garash, “to drive” or “to thrust away.” Moses explained the name by referring to the fact that he was “a stranger [ger] in a strange land.”
Though he had saved his life, he was living in exile, and gave expression to his feeling of loneliness and humiliation in naming his first son.
Once again many years are passed over in silence. A former prince of the most powerful royal house of the time was passing his days as a shepherd.
He had exchanged his palace for a tent, the luxuries of Egypt for the desert life of Sinai, his host of attendants and his army for a flock of sheep and goats. What a change!
Yet 40 years spent in the wide spaces of the desert made of him the sort of man God could use in the deliverance of His people from Egypt. During these years Moses learned lessons essential to him as the leader of a rebellious nation.
The qualities Moses developed during his long years of desert life, alone with God and nature, were priceless, and well worth the long solitude and humiliation required to gain them.
His later history shows that those years had not been lost, but that he had been a diligent student under the tutorship of God and had graduated from his course with honors.
Verse 23 Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.
In process of time. This expression covers a period of about 40 years (Acts 7:30).
The king of Egypt died. The only pharaoh who died during these 40 years was Hatshepsut. She was murdered soon after Moeses fled to Midian.
The children of Israel sighed. The death of Hatshepsut brought no respite from oppression, but seems to have made it even more severe.
Now Tutmosis III was the sole ruler in Egypt who proved to be a cruel king and a ruthless conqueror.
He secured the obedience of his subjects at home and in conquered lands by an administration of calculated frightfulness.
His character, as revealed by secular records, agrees well with that of the stubborn Pharaoh who intensified the oppression of the Israelites when Moses interceded in their behalf at the time of the pouring out of the plagues.
Verse 24 So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
Verse 25 And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.
True to His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God remembered His oppressed people. Because they were the object of His special regard, God entered upon a miraculous course in order to accomplish His merciful purpose with regard to them.
Human expressions used to describe the attitude and acts of God may at times seem unworthy of an eternal, omniscient, and omnipotent being. It should be remembered, however, that finite words give, at best, an imperfect picture of the will and ways of the Infinite One.
Are you going through trying times? Are you groaning in pain and desparation? Remember God is listening and He is going to interevene.
After the break we will learn more of the gracious God theat we serve.