Thursday, August 18

Jochebed's Baby

Jochebed leaned over her baby boy and smiled.  What a blessing!  For the next two, perhaps three years, Pharaoh's daughter would pay her to nurse her own son!  Unlike all of the other Hebrew baby boys, he would be protected and safe.  She no longer had to hide him, no longer had to seek to shush him when he cried.  She could encourage him to laugh and to coo.  She, her husband, Amram and their other children Miriam and Aaron would see the baby's first smile... help him with his first steps... rejoice over his first tooth... wait expectantly for his first word! 

When many people think of the story of baby Moses, they think only of a baby boy in a reed basket floating down the Nile River who will be found by Pharaoh's daughter and will someday deliver God's chosen people out of Egypt.  I see so much more when I read the story!  The bond of motherhood stretches across centuries and tears catch in my throat whenever I read of Jochebed's part in the story:

Pharaoh gave his order to all his people: "Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live."  Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman who became pregnant and gave birth to a son.  When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months.  But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch... and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.  His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.  Then Pharaoh's daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank.  She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it.  She opened it and saw the baby.  He was crying, and she felt sorry for him.  "This is one of the Hebrew babies," she said.  Then his sister asked Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?"  "Yes, go," she answered.  So the girl went and got the baby's mother.  Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you."  So the woman took the baby and nursed him.  When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son.  She named him Moses, saying, "I drew him out of the water."

Because so many women had lost their babies to Pharaoh's degree, his daughter could have chosen any number of women to nurse Moses.  As part of God's plan, though, Miriam followed her baby brother and made a way to keep him at home for the next couple of years.  I wonder if Pharaoh's daughter did imagine Jochebed might have been the baby's mother.  The idea that a princess of Egypt would love and care for a Hebrew baby sets her apart from other Eyptian women of that time.  Her story is one I hope to hear someday when I get to Heaven!

As for Jochebed...

She nursed her baby boy day after day, month after month, until it was time she must wean him.  Did she teach him who he was... who his people were?  Most bible scholars think so.  Did she teach him stories of a deliverer who would be used by God to save their people, and did God speak to her heart that her baby boy would be that same deliverer?  Certainly she made the most of the time God had given her with her son and certainly she was walking the path that God had set before her.  Did Moses know that he was her son?  Whether he knew or not, he knew she loved him and he had bonded with her in a special way.  Perhaps on the last night of his weaning, Jochebed danced with baby Moses in her arms as he cried for the kind of milk he could never have again.  Perhaps she cried, too, as she prayed for him and sang to him.  Bittersweet tears.  God had blessed her with her son's life, she had been given time with him that other Hebrew mothers had not received when their babies were taken from them, but now she had to give him to another.  Bittersweet, for certain, but she trusted in God's marvelous plan.

Lord, you love me as you loved Jochebed.  I know that all things work together for good for those who love you.  Help me to love you always, to trust you when life seems to be too much to bear, and to know that you love me with an everlasting love no matter what comes my way.  In Jesus wonderful name, amen. 

For more about Jochebed, read:
Numbers 26:58-60
Exodus 1:22-2:10
Exodus 6:19-21