Bible Commentaries
Exodus 2

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



Moses is born, and exposed in the flags on the Nile. He is found, and taken out by the daughter of Pharaoh, and delivered to his mother to be nursed. He is afterwards educated in the court of Pharaoh. When grown up, he kills an Egyptian, flies into Midian, and marries Zipporah.

Before Christ 1573.

Verse 1

Exodus 2:1. And there went From the passages referred to in the margin of our Bibles, it appears, that the name of the father of Moses was Amram, and his mother's Jochebed; a daughter of Levi, we render it; which means a descendant, one of the house and family of Levi (Levitidem, as Houbigant has it). As it is plain that they had children before Moses, viz. Aaron, who was three years older than Moses, Exo 7:7 and a sister, most probably Miriam, (for we read of no other sister that he had,) Exodus 2:4. Num 26:59 the verse should rather be rendered, now a man of the house of Levi HAD GONE, and taken a wife of the house of Levi; or married a descendant of Levi.

Verse 2

Exodus 2:2. A goodly child Fair to GOD, αστειος τω Θεω, as St. Stephen calls him, Acts 7:20. And prophane authors agree with the sacred writers with respect to the peculiar beauty of this infant. The Jews have a thousand childish stories on this occasion. The famous Huet conjectures, that the fable of the birth of Adonis arose from this history. It is not to be supposed that the beauty of the child was the sole cause of his mother's tenderness to him; or that, had it been less, she would have destroyed him: his beauty, no doubt, increased her maternal affection, which might incite her the more to preserve him so long, and then to make use of a method which afforded a possibility of his preservation. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews leads us to consider it as an act of faith in the parents of Moses, who, not improbably, had some idea that this infant would be the deliverer of their nation. See Hebrews 11:23.

Verse 3

Exodus 2:3. When she could not longer hide him The king's decree, as we have observed, ch. Exo 1:22 was, no doubt, peremptory and severe. Fearing therefore the extreme danger of a discovery, which would have proved fatal both to the child and themselves, the parents were forced, though with the utmost regret, to expose him like the rest. Resolving, however, to do the utmost in their power for his preservation, and so trust him to the care of Providence, they put him into a small ark, תבת tebat, (see Genesis 6:14.) in the form, perhaps, of one of those boats with which the river was always covered, and made, like them, of bulrushes or flags; that is, most probably, flags of the tree papyrus, of which the Egyptians made their paper, and which grew particularly on the banks of the Nile. The word is so rendered in some copies of the LXX; and Clemens Alexandrinus says expressly, that the vessel was made of papyrus, the product of the country. This papyrus was strong enough to keep out the water, and smooth enough to receive the slime (see Genesis 11:3.) and the pitch with which it was besmeared, and by its lightness fittest to swim with the child's weight. Not willing to trust this ark, with its little sacred charge, into the midst of the stream, the tender mother laid it in the flags or reeds, which grew in abundance by the side of the Nile; hoping, possibly, that they would detain it, so that she might come occasionally and suckle the child; or, if otherwise, that it would be borne safely down the stream, and would preserve the infant from drowning. Prophane writers assure us, that the Egyptians made boats of the papyrus. See Isaiah 18:2. Dr. Shaw confirms this account, and assures us, that the vessels of bulrushes, mentioned both in sacred and prophane history, were no other than larger fabrics made of the papyrus, in the same manner with this ark of Moses; but which are now laid aside, from the late introduction of plank and stronger materials. Travels, p. 437.

Verse 4

Exodus 2:4. To wit what would be done to him To observe what should become of him. They were not without hope, as the watch they set intimated, that some way God might save him from his danger. Note; There are seasons, when we are driven to venture all on God's providence; and we should do it with cheerfulness and confidence. This is not to tempt him, but to trust him.

Verse 5

Exodus 2:5. The daughter of Pharaoh Josephus calls this princess Thermuthis; Artaphanes calls her Meris; and the Alexandrian Chronicle, Myrrina. She came down to the river to wash herself, probably for religious purification as well as health or pleasure: for the ancient Egyptians were used to wash themselves, on both accounts, no less than four times in the twenty-four hours. She, for the greater privacy, retained one maid, to wait immediately upon her, while her maidens, or ladies, of higher rank, walked along the river's side. The words in the Hebrew for maidens and maid are different. Zoan, or Tanis, the royal city, lay near the river; and therefore, probably, the king's gardens extended themselves to the banks of it, where convenient bathing-houses might be contrived for the use of the royal family. This verse might be rendered, Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; her ladies walking, mean time, by the river's side; and she saw the ark among the flags, and sent the maid, who attended her, to fetch it.

Verse 6

Exodus 2:6. Behold, the babe wept You have here an instance of the true sublime: nothing can be more concise, yet nothing more picturesque and pathetic. No wonder the heart of the princess was moved, and that the beauty of the child struck her with irresistible pity and love. She immediately, and naturally, concluded, that it was the child of some of those unfortunate Hebrews, who groaned under her father's heavy thraldom: her pity told her, that so lovely a babe deserved a better fate; and that it was her duty, since Providence had thus thrown him in her way, at any rate to save him from the common ruin.

Verse 7

Exodus 2:7. Then said his sister, &c.— The hand of Providence was very visible in this whole event: and as it inspired the heart of Pharaoh's daughter to have the child educated as her own; so it inspired Miriam to approach the princess, and offer her services, to go and call a Hebrew nurse. One may easily imagine, that the taking the child from out the flags, occasioned some hurry and trouble; and Miriam, who stood at a distance on the watch, might approach, as it were by chance, or from natural curiosity, to see the poor little infant; and, finding the princess determined to save it, she might propose a Hebrew nurse, as it was a Hebrew's child. We may easily conceive with what joy she flew to her mother on this occasion, as well as with what transport the mother must have received her infant from the hands of the princess, with an express order to take the same care of him, as if he were her own. In Josephus, Eusebius, and others, the reader may find many anecdotes respecting this event, to which he will give what credit their authority may be thought to demand.

Verse 10

Exodus 2:10. And the child grew, &c.— It is uncertain at what age Moses was delivered by his parents to the princess. It is, however, reasonable to suppose that his parents had so well instructed him in their religion, and taken such care to let him know both what relation they bore to him, and what hopes they had conceived of his being designed by Heaven to be the deliverer of his nation, that he made no other use of his education, which the princess gave him, than to confirm himself more and more against the superstitions and idolatry of the Egyptians, and to make himself fit to answer those ends for which he was designed by Providence. See Universal History.

He became her son, &c.— That is, she adopted him for her own; in consequence of which she gave him such an education as comports with what is said, Act 7:22 that he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Some writers have said, that she pretended to be with child, and endeavoured absolutely to make Moses pass for her own son; a tradition which some have thought to be favoured by the words of the Apostle, Heb 11:24 he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; but this, unquestionably, may refer, with as much propriety, to his sonship by adoption. Besides, had this been the case, she would never have given him a name commemorative of his deliverance; for she called him Moses, or drawn out, משׁה mosheh, because she drew him out of the water.

REFLECTIONS.—How admirable are the dispositions of God's providence, in time, manner, means; all exact, critical, and wonderful! Observe,

1. The discovery of Moses by Pharaoh's daughter. Struck with his beauty and innocent tears, compassion moved her to save the child. Note; (1.) The helplessness and innocence of infancy awaken pity in the hardest hearts. (2.) When Pharaoh is destroying the people, his daughter is preserving their deliverer. God can thus by his very enemies carry on his wise designs. (3.) Nothing happens by chance. The greater events depend upon circumstances, to outward appearance utterly trivial and fortuitous, but planned with deep design in the mind of the all-wise God.

2. The nurse provided: his own mother. No breast so natural as her's who bore him. No wonder the child thrived. How many mothers, by refusing their breasts, become accessary to the death of their own offspring!
3. The child is educated in all the learning of Egypt, and in all the politeness of a court, and thus prepared for that part he was afterwards to act, both as the historian and leader of Israel. Providence not only raises great men from obscurity, but, by the steps of their advancement, wonderfully prepares them for the place for which they are intended.

Verse 11

Exodus 2:11. When Moses was grown The event mentioned in this verse, must have happened many years after Moses was grown to man's estate. St. Stephen says, he was full forty years old, Acts 7:23. It seems to follow, from St. Stephen's account, that he was stirred up by some Divine impulse to visit his brethren, and to insinuate to them, that God, by him, would work their deliverance. It has been supposed, that the Egyptian, whom he slew through indignation at his brethren's wrongs, was one of the task-masters. It has been questioned how far the action of Moses was justifiable. Le Clerc observes, that as the Egyptian king authorised the oppression of the Israelites, it was fruitless to apply to him for redress of their grievances. The civil magistrate, who ought to have protected injured innocence, was himself become the oppressor; and, consequently, the society being degenerated into a confederacy in oppression and injustice, it was as lawful to use private force and resistance, as against a band of robbers and cut-throats. However, we are to remember, that the Divine Hand was in all this; and that thus the way was preparing for the grand deliverance of Israel from Egyptian oppression.

Verse 14

Exodus 2:14. And he said, &c.— See Acts 7:25. A Jesuit, (Berruyer) who has written the history of the people of God, thinks it highly probable, that these two quarrelsome Hebrews were Jannes and Jambres, mentioned by the Apostle, 2Ti 3:8 as having withstood Moses, because they would not acknowledge him to have been a proper judge of their quarrel; though God had designed him the judge of all his people. When it is said, that Moses feared, this no way contradicts what is said, Heb 11:27 by faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for this refers wholly to his conducting the people from Egypt, and his contempt of Pharaoh and all his hosts.

Verse 15

Exodus 2:15. He sought to slay Moses Both as guilty of homicide, and as presuming to be the avenger and deliverer of his people. Moses, however, escaped from his wrath, and fled into the land of Midian, which was in Arabia Petrea, whose metropolis was called Petra, not far from mount Horeb. It is generally agreed, that this people drew their origin from Midian, the fourth son of Abraham by Keturah, from whom they were called Midianites.

Verse 16

Exodus 2:16. Now the priest of Midian Or, now a prince of Midian. See Genesis 41:45. The original word signifies either priest or prince. Jethro, probably, was both, as was usual in those days. He appears to have been a priest of the true GOD, from ch. Exodus 18:11-12. The event here recorded respecting his daughters, is very similar to that mentioned, Genesis 29:0 to which, and to the notes upon it, we refer. This is a fresh instance of the pastoral simplicity of ancient times, when the care of flocks was not thought beneath the dignity of princes or their daughters.

Verse 17

Exodus 2:17. Shepherds came and drove them i.e. The flocks, away; for the original word is masculine. But Moses stood up and helped them; chastising the rudeness of the shepherds, not by force, as we may imagine, since he was alone against many; but by that authority and pre-eminence, which education, wisdom, and address give the civilized over the clownish and illiberal.

Verse 18

Exodus 2:18. And when they came to Reuel their father In Num 10:29 our translators have called this person Raguel, though the Hebrew word is the same in both places. In Jdg 1:16 he is called a Kenite; in Jdg 4:11 he is called Hobab; and in the first verse of the next chapter, he is called Jethro: so that either this same person must have had different names, or some of these appellations must have been titles of office and dignity; or חתן choten, ch. Exo 3:1 rendered father-in-law, must signify, as St. Jerome supposes, a kinsman; and indeed the true meaning of the word seems to be, a relation by marriage. In Gen 19:14 it is rendered son-in-law; and therefore, possibly, Jethro, mentioned in the next chapter, as priest of Midian, might be the elder son of Reuel, mentioned in this; and so we should read, Moses kept the flock of Jethro, his brother-in-law, the priest of Midian. Houbigant translates it cognati vel affinis, i.e. kinsman, agreeably to the LXX also, who have it, γαμβερου ; and so it should be rendered, Judges 1:16.

Verse 20

Exodus 2:20. That he may eat bread The father reproached his daughters with want of hospitality to the Egyptian, (for such Mosses seemed to them from his dress and language,) and ordered them to call him, to eat bread, i.e. to receive refreshment and entertainment at his house. Dr. Shaw observes, that the Eastern nations in general are great eaters of bread; it being computed, that three persons in four live entirely upon it; or else upon such compositions as are made of barley or wheat flour. Frequent mention is made of this simple diet in the Scriptures; where the flesh of animals, though sometimes, indeed, it may be included in the eating of bread, or making a meal, is not often recorded. See Gen 18:5 and 1 Samuel 28:22.Genesis 21:14; Genesis 21:14; Genesis 37:25; Genesis 43:31. Deu 9:9. 1 Samuel 28:20; 1 Samuel 28:25.

Verse 21

Exodus 2:21. Gave Moses Zipporah his daughter Moses is extremely concise in this account which he gives of himself. It is most probable, that he continued some time with Reuel, and approved himself to him by his good services, before he gave him Zipporah to wife. It is observed by Philo, that men of a great genius quickly shew themselves, and are not made known by length of time: and therefore he thinks, "that Jethro, being first struck with admiration of his goodly aspect, and then, of his wise discourse, immediately gave him the most beautiful of all his daughters to be his wife: not staying to inquire of any body who he was, because his own most excellent qualities sufficiently recommended him to his affection." De vita Mosis, l. i. By her he had two sons, Gershom, whom he so called because he had been a stranger in a strange land, and Eliezer, so named because God was his help.

REFLECTIONS.—We may observe here, 1. From Moses's assistance to the daughters of Reuel at the well, that no man is too great to do a kind act for the distressed. 2. From the report of it to their father, that, though sensible of the kindness, they were too modest to ask him home, till their father was acquainted with it. Note; Nothing is so hateful in a woman as forwardness, nothing so pleasing as modesty. 3. We have the entertainment which Reuel gave Moses. Here he finds a retreat, and while he feeds his father's or brother's flocks, is prepared, by communion with God, and his appearances to him, for the great work he had appointed him. Note; There are greater enjoyments to be obtained in the wilderness with God, than in all the pleasures of the courts of princes.

Verse 23

Exodus 2:23. Came to pass in process of time That is, about forty years afterwards; see ch. Exo 7:7 compared with Acts 7:23. This king of Egypt who died was Rameses, according to Bishop Usher, who places his death in the year of the world 2494. His successor was Amenophis, who was drowned in the Red-sea about nineteen years afterwards. How Moses spent his time in these forty years retirement, say the Authors of the Universal History, save that he kept Jethro's flocks, is what he has not thought fit to acquaint us with. Those who suppose that he wrote the book of Job during this interval, have certainly this strong argument on their side, that it appears to have been written before the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt: otherwise, it were absurd to suppose, that either Job or his friends, considering what kindred and country they were of, could be either so ignorant of the wonders which God had wrought in favour of that oppressed people, or so forgetful of them, as not to have urged them in the strongest terms during their long and intricate controversy about the various dispensations of Providence.

They cried; and their cry, &c.— Perhaps this might be rendered, the children of Israel sighed from amidst, or for a deliverance from, bondage: And they cried [i.e. they applied to GOD by fervent and incessant prayer] and their cry unto God amidst, or for deliverance from, bondage, ascended up. The Syriac renders what we have translated they cried, "they prayed;" with which some of the other versions agree: and in answer to their prayer, four expressions are used in the two next verses, declarative of God's tenderness and regard towards them: he heard their groaning—remembered his covenant,—looked upon the children of Israel—and had respect unto them.

REFLECTIONS.—The Israelites, who had neglected their deliverer, now groan under aggravated bondage. God will often long and severely rebuke his own people, for their humiliation. Hereupon,

1. They cry unto God. Had they thought more of him before, probably they had not groaned so long. It is a sign that God is beginning to save, when he pours out a spirit of prayer and supplication.
2. We have God's attention to them, and his remembrance of them. No prisoner's sighs are unnoticed, no burdened sinner's groans disregarded by him; he will hear their cry, and will help them.
We may observe on this chapter, which contains an account of the deliverance of Moses, and his hardships in a foreign land; that God was pleased so to order it, that he who was to be the deliverer of Israel, should himself be rescued providentially from the fury of the oppressor, to be animated by this reflection with the more zeal for the deliverance of his suffering brethren: while the hardships he endured in a desert land, and the virtues he learned in this school of adversity, distant from the pleasures of that court where he had been educated, served greatly to qualify him for the part he was afterwards to act. And when we consider how long and how severe the slavery of the Israelites was, we are instructed not to be disheartened either by the duration or severity of our sufferings. God is sometimes pleased, for wise and good ends, to leave those whom he loves, long in adversity, before he stretches forth his saving arm to help them: but those whom he loves, shall, unquestionably, be helped by him. This, therefore, in adversity or prosperity, should be our only care: for those who love the Lord, and of course are loved by Him, shall want no manner of thing that is good.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Exodus 2". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.