Monday, August 8, 2011

Exodus 2:11-15 Pharaoh to Fugitive: Moses Flees to Midian

"One day, after Moses had grown up,
he went out to where his own people were
and watched them at their hard labor.
He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.
Glancing this way and that and seeing no one,
he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting.
He asked the one in the wrong, 'Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?'

The man said, 'Who made you ruler and judge over us?
Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?'
Then Moses was afraid and thought,
'What I did must have become known.'
When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses,
but Moses fled from Pharaoh
and went to live in Midian,
where he sat down by a well."

Exodus 2:11-15 (NIV)

After being discovered in his basket in the Nile by the daughter of the Pharaoh, Moses had been brought up by his real mother and father until he was weaned, and possibly somewhat longer.  When he grew older, he had been brought to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. (Exodus 2:10)  Needless to say, I am sure that this was a wrenching experience for his parents, who seemed to be losing their son all over again.  However, God was continuing to work out His plan for Moses and for the nation of Israel.

I will write more about the possible identities of the Pharaoh and his daughter during these events at a later time.  For now, let me say that Moses had become quite a part of Pharaoh's family.  Acts 7:22 (NIV) sums up these years in the following way:
     "Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action."

Other writers also attest to Moses deeds.  Philo of Alexandria (a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher) and Josephus (a Jewish historian with a priestly and royal background) both speak about Moses in their writings.  Their accounts of Moses' life and actions are quite interesting, and though they do not have the authority of Scripture, they may still provide some interesting insights and details.

Philo provides details about how Moses came to be accepted in Pharaoh's household.  [On the Life of Moses, Part 1, Sections IV and V]  He speaks of how Pharaoh's daughter pretended to be pregnant and managed to claim Moses as her own child.  At first I thought that it was unlikely that she would be able to pull off such a maneuver, but then I considered her position and the fact that as the Pharaoh's beloved daughter, she would not be too closely questioned.  It's just in the category of speculation at this point in my mind, but it would make more sense than that Pharaoh would allow her to adopt one of the very Hebrews he was trying to eliminate. Or, perhaps he just allowed his beloved daughter to adopt the child because she wanted it so much.  Philo also mentions that the reigning Pharaoh had no sons to continue his dynasty, and that Moses may eventually have been considered an acceptable alternative.  At any rate, God allowed Moses to grow up in the household of the Pharaoh and to be educated in all of the learning of the Egyptians. (Acts 7:22) 

Josephus goes into some detail about Moses' life as well.  In his account, Pharaoh's daughter, who is named as Thermuthis, admits to her father that she received the child from the river.  Shortly before that time, Egyptian scribes had warned the king that a child would arise from the Hebrew nation who would be famous and would lead to the downfall of the Egyptian nation, so they immediately urged that Moses should be destroyed.  However, Thermuthis would have none of that, and snatched him from their hands.  Largely because there were no other likely prospects for the throne, Moses is allowed to live, although he is viewed with suspicion by the Egyptians.  Years later, when Egypt runs into trouble with the Ethiopians, Pharaoh orders Moses to act as one of his generals (Pharaoh having assured his daughter that the Egyptians would not harm him).  Moses is successful in many engagements, so much so that when he is attacking Saba (a city protected on all sides by rivers and fortifications) an Ethiopian princess (Tharbis) arranges to deliver the city into Moses' hands if he will agree to take her as a wife.  Moses agrees and the city is overthrown.

Even at that point, the Egyptians remained suspicious about Moses' intentions, thinking that he will make use of his success to gain power for himself.  The Pharaoh himself is jealous of Moses' success and nervous about his own status.  [The Writings of Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 2, chapters 9-11]   So, at the time of the killing of the Egyptian overseer in the Biblical account above, it is not surprising that the Pharaoh or the Egyptian court would have been seeking any opportunity possible to discredit Moses.

However, even if the accounts of Philo or Josephus turn out to be inaccurate, one could imagine that the Pharaoh would still be seeking Moses' death for his action of killing an Egyptian.  Even if Moses had been in line for the throne, such an action against an Egyptian would have seemed to have been directly opposed to the interests of the Pharaoh's household.  I am sure that the Pharaoh would have expected that those he considered his own enemies (the Hebrews) should not be defended by his possible heir! 

Moses must have gotten word of the Pharaoh's intent, for he flees to Midian.  This makes sense, for Moses was from the line of Abraham.  Abraham had taken another wife after Sarah died, a woman named Keturah.  (Genesis 25:1-2)  Keturah had several sons, one of whom was named Midian.  Therefore, the city of Midian would be a good place to expect some help.

So, in one moment, because of a single incident, Moses goes from being a likely heir to the throne, a future Pharaoh, to a wanted fugitive.  However, it is not as though this was a snap decision on his part.  Hebrews 11:23-26 (NIV) indicates that this was a matter to which Moses had given previous thought:

"By faith Moses, when he had grown up,
refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter.
He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God
rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.

He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ
as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt,
because he was looking ahead to his reward."
Note that Moses fully knew that he stood in line for the throne (v.24) and the treasures of Egypt.  The NIV Study Bible notes on these verses indicate that "the priceless treasures of King Tutankhamun's tomb alone included several thousand pounds of pure gold."

Also, I wanted to note that although Moses' understanding of the Christ would necessarily have been limited, for Moses lived before Jesus Christ came to earth in bodily form, Moses was consciously aligning himself with the Israelites, his people, to whom had been promised an anointed one ("Christ"), a messiah, the 'seed' of Adam and Eve who was promised in Genesis 3:15 and who would crush Satan's head.

One more indication that Moses had made a conscious decision to align himself with his fellow Israelites is found in an account of this same incident in Acts 7:23-29.  Verse 25 (NIV) of this account says: 

"Moses thought that his own people would realize
that God was using him to rescue them,
but they did not." 

This tells us that even before Moses fled Egypt and had his encounter with God in the burning bush, in his mind he had aligned himself with the Israelites rather than the Egyptians and wanted to deliver them from their slavery in Egypt.

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