Bible Commentaries
Exodus 2

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-25

Exodus 2:1. Took to wife. Amram married Jochebed, his father’s sister, as in Exodus 6:20; that is, as the scriptures often afford example, his father’s relation. But doubts may be entertained of Josephus here, because she must have been very old when Moses was born.

Exodus 2:2. A goodly child; a beautiful and fine looking infant. Hence she made an ark of papyrus, a water plant, proper for the purpose. This reed grew ten feet high, and was employed in making canoes, and was used for many other purposes. Its pith and seeds afforded food.

Exodus 2:4. His sister. Miriam, who was, according to Josephus, seventeen years of age.

Exodus 2:5. The daughter of Pharaoh [Thermutis, as in Josephus] came down to wash in the river, as was her usual religious practice, which was probably known to the parents of Moses. She is said, by Philo, to have been Pharaoh’s only daughter, and without children. She was evidently influenced by the spirit of God to preserve the child. This humane act would abate, without doubt, much of the cruelty of the king’s edict. Moses lived in the palace, and was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; he accompanied the army, as Josephus states, in an expedition to Ethiopia, and was mighty in word and deed among the Egyptians.

Exodus 2:10. Moses. Mou in the Egyptian tongue, as in all the dialects of Shem’s race, signifies water, and ses, saved or drawn out.

Exodus 2:11. When Moses was grown. When he was forty years of age, it came into his heart to visit his brethren. Acts 7:23. From these words of St. Stephen, and from Moses’ supposing his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them under him as their captain general, it is evident he must have had a secret call to this high mission, either by dream or vision. On this supposition, how great must have been his inward conflicts? The flesh would say, shall I leave this palace, these gardens, these riches, these princely hopes and pleasures, for a poor persecuted people at the brick kilns? Ah, I cannot do it; let the Lord deliver them by another. Reflection would next say, but if I disobey the Lord he may slay me, and give the glory to another. And what are the pleasures of the court? They are but transient, and they procure pains which endure for ever: an abject state of affliction with God’s people is preferable to this dignified constraint, and these scenes of dissipation. And what are all my riches and hopes in Egypt? A false accusation, a mere suspicion in the king’s mind, may deprive me of life or drive me to exile in a moment. In the name of the Lord, I will be weak no longer: I will renounce Egypt. I will own my brethren, and take my lot with my father’s God.

Now animated with the first fire of divine ardour, he went to investigate the afflictions of his brethren; and almost the first object which presented itself was, one of the taskmasters, one of the infant-murderers, smiting a Hebrew. Moses, knowing that God had appointed him judge of Israel, and seeing none of the Egyptians in sight, slew him. The next day, on repeating his visit, he found the affair had transpired; and fearing Pharaoh’s wrath he crossed the Red sea, or the desert to Midian, and reserved his services for a happier time.

Exodus 2:12. He slew the Egyptian, who was a prefect, or general superintendent of the Hebrew works.

Exodus 2:15. Midian. This nation was descended from Abraham by Keturah, whom Abraham married after the death of Sarah. Genesis 25:4.

Exodus 2:16. Priest of Midian. Hebrew, Cohen, is rendered prince by the Chaldaic paraphrase, and no wonder, for most of the priests of the gentiles were of princely descent. He was a worshipper of the true God, as Melchizedek, and Abraham; though this people gradually became idolaters, as in Ruth 1:0.

Exodus 2:18. Reuel. He is called Raguel, Numbers 10:29. He was of course, the grandfather of these seven fair guardians of the harmless flock. This mode of speaking frequently occurs. Jethro is twice called Hobab: Exodus 3:1. It was an ancient custom on some great achievement or honour, for a man to receive a new name.

Exodus 2:22. He called his name Gershom, to memorialize the goodness of God to him in a strange land. The vulgate adds here, from chap. 18., And he begot another whom he called Eliezer, saying, for the God of my fathers has been my helper, and has delivered me from the hand of Pharaoh. These names designate the piety of Moses. It is well in prosperity to remember that we were once poor and abject, and to be always humble in the eyes of God.


We are here struck with the courage of Moses’ parents, who risked all consequences to save their son: and when safety at home was no longer possible, we are not less struck with the ingenuity of the mother, in preparing the ark, and executing the plan of his preservation. Faith of this kind, in due time, is sure of its reward.

In the preservation of Moses we find that the great wheels of providence often move on the smallest pivots. See this beautiful babe, floating in an ark resembling the growing flags, watched by day and fed by night. See this hope of Israel; yes, the hope of Israel, though unrevealed; see him on the verge of perishing, when God inclined the heart of Thermutis to walk that way, to discover the ark, and to have compassion on the weeping child. Let us learn never to distrust the divine care over us and our children, even at the worst of times.

When God has a great work to do for his church and people, he is never wanting to fit and prepare instruments to accomplish his pleasure. While the infants were destroyed very rigorously, Moses was preserved; and in this view he is a striking figure of Christ, who was saved from the infant massacre at Bethlehem. Pharaoh’s daughter adopts him; he is instructed in all the literature of this ancient nation, and on becoming religious he enjoys the solitude of pastoral life for forty years; and he found it so sweet that he never sought to return to the court of Egypt. God having better things for him than the glory of this world, graciously prepared him for his work. Let us not fear; the name of Israel shall not become extinct; in defiance of all foes the Lord will raise up ambassadors for his work.

The gay and giddy youth of the age may learn from the example of Moses a variety of important lessons. They are as really called to leave the sinful pleasures of the age, as he was to withdraw from the sins of the Memphian court: and in so doing their faith will find no small support in the recollection, that the pleasures of sin are but for a season, and that the pleasures of piety endure for ever.

On reforming his habits Moses changed his company; he chose affliction with the people of God, and esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. Young people have much to learn in religion, and they need the fostering care of advanced believers. They will improve in knowledge and in every virtue, by the society and conversation of good men; and they will surmount every difficulty if they look, like Moses, at the recompense of reward.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.