Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 2

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Exodus 2:1. There went a man — Amram, from the place of his abode to another place. A daughter — That is, grand-daughter of Levi.

Verse 2
Exodus 2:2. Bare a son — It seems just at the time of his birth that cruel law was made for the murder of all the male children of the Hebrews, and many no doubt perished by the execution of it. Moses’s parents had Miriam and Aaron, both elder than he, born to them before that edict came out. Probably his mother had little joy of her being with child of him, now this edict was in force. Yet this child proves the glory of his father’s house. Observe the beauty of Providence: just when Pharaoh’s cruelty rose to this height, the deliverer was born. When she saw that he was a goodly child — Fair to God, (Acts 7:20,) or very fair. Profane authors, Josephus and Justin, agree with the sacred writers in praising the peculiar beauty of this child. She hid him three months — In some private apartment of their own house, though probably with the hazard of their lives had he been discovered. Not that she would have done otherwise had he not been so beautiful. But the circumstance of his beauty strengthened her natural affection, and made her more concerned for his preservation. It is said, (Hebrews 11:23,) that his parents hid him by faith. It has been thought by some, that they had a special revelation that the deliverer should spring from their loins. Be this as it may, they believed the general promise of Israel’s preservation, and in that faith hid their child.

Verse 3
Exodus 2:3. When she could no longer hide him — For fear of being informed against by some of her Egyptian neighbours, with whom the Israelites lived intermixed, Exodus 3:22. Thus Moses, who was afterward to be the deliverer of Israel, was himself upon the point of falling a sacrifice to the fury of the oppressor; God so ordered it, that being told of this he might be the more animated with zeal for the deliverance of his brethren out of the hands of such bloody men. She took for him an ark of bulrushes — A small basket made of rushes, and water-proof by being coated within and without by a kind of bitumen and pitch. Or, perhaps, it might be formed of the tree called papyrus, of which the Egyptians made their paper, and which grew especially on the banks of the Nile. This ark or basket Moses’s mother laid in the flags by the river’s brink — That it might not be carried away by the stream, intending, we may suppose, to come by night to suckle the child. God undoubtedly put it into her heart to do this, to bring about his own purposes: that Moses might, by this means, be brought into the hands of Pharaoh’s daughter, and that, by his deliverance, a specimen might be given of the deliverance of God’s church.

Verse 5-6
Exodus 2:5-6. And the daughter of Pharaoh came — Providence brings no less a person than Pharaoh’s daughter just at that juncture, guides her to the place where this poor infant lay, inclines her heart to pity it, which she dares do, when none else durst. Never did poor child cry so seasonably as this did; the babe wept — Which moved her compassion, as no doubt his beauty did.

Verse 10
Exodus 2:10. And he became her son — The tradition of the Jews is, that Pharaoh’s daughter had no child of her own, and that she was the only child of her father, so that when he was adopted for her son, he stood fair for the crown: however, it is certain he stood fair for the best preferments of the court in due time, and in the mean time had the advantage of the best education, with the help of which he became master of all the lawful learning of the Egyptians, Acts 7:22. Those whom God designs for great services, he finds out ways to qualify for them. Moses, by having his education in a court, is the fitter to be a prince, and king in Jeshurun; by having his education in a learned court, (for such the Egyptian then was,) is the fitter to be an historian; and by having his education in the court of Egypt, is the fitter to be employed as an ambassador to that court in God’s name. She called his name Moses — The Jews tell us that his father, at his circumcision, called him Joachim, the rising or establishing of the Lord; but Pharaoh’s daughter called him Moses, drawn out, namely, of the water, either from the Hebrew word משׁה, masha, to draw out, 2 Samuel 21:17; or from two Egyptian words, Mo uses, of the same import. Henry, taking it for granted that the latter is the etymology of the word, observes, “The calling of the Jewish lawgiver by an Egyptian name was a happy omen to the Gentile world, and gave hopes of that day when it should be said, Blessed be Egypt my people, Isaiah 19:25. And his tuition at court was an earnest of that promise, (Isaiah 49:23,) Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and queens thy nursing mothers.” Whether there be propriety in this observation or not, it is reasonable to suppose that this name, Drawn out, would tend to keep alive in the mind of Moses a remembrance of the danger he had escaped, and would induce him, out of gratitude for his deliverance, more readily to become a worker together with God in drawing his brethren out of still greater danger and misery.

Verse 11-12
Exodus 2:11-12. When Moses was grown, he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens — As one that not only pitied them, but was resolved to venture with them and for them. He slew the Egyptian — Probably it was one of the Egyptian task-masters, whom he found abusing his Hebrew slave. By special warrant from Heaven (which makes not a precedent in ordinary cases) Moses slew the Egyptian, and rescued his oppressed brother. The Jews’ tradition is, that he did not slay him with any weapon, but, as Peter slew Ananias and Sapphira, with the word of his mouth.

Verse 14
Exodus 2:14. He said, Who made thee a prince? — He challengeth his authority. A man needs no great authority for giving a friendly reproof; it is an act of kindness; yet this man will needs interpret it an act of dominion, and represents his reprover as imperious and assuming. Thus, when people are sick of good discourse, or a seasonable admonition, they will call it preaching, as if a man could not speak a word for God, and against sin, but he took too much upon him. Yet Moses was indeed a prince and a judge, and knew it, and thought the Hebrews would have understood it; but they stood in their own light, and thrust him away, Acts 7:25-27. Intendest thou to kill me? — See what base constructions malice puts upon the best words and actions!

Verse 15
Exodus 2:15. Moses fled from Pharaoh — God ordered this for wise ends. Things were not yet ripe for Israel’s deliverance. The measure of Egypt’s iniquity was not yet full; the Hebrews were not sufficiently humbled, nor were they yet increased to such a multitude as God designed: Moses is to be further fitted for the service, and therefore is directed to withdraw for the present, “till the time to favour Israel, even the set time, come.” God guided Moses to Midian, because the Midianites were of the seed of Abraham, and retained the worship of the true God; so that he might have not only a safe, but a comfortable settlement among them; and through this country he was afterward to lead Israel, which that he might do the better, he now had opportunity of acquainting himself with it. Hither he came, and sat down by a well — Tired and thoughtful, waiting to see what way Providence would direct him. It was a great change with him, since he was but the other day at ease in Pharaoh’s court.

Verse 17
Exodus 2:17. Stood up and helped them — This he did, because wherever he was, as occasion offered itself, he loved to be doing justice, and appearing in the defence of such as he saw injured. He loved to be doing good: wherever the providence of God cast us, we should desire and endeavour to be useful; and when we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can.

Verse 18
Exodus 2:18. Reuel — Or Raguel (see Numbers 10:29) is thought by some to have been their grandfather, and father of Hobab or Jethro, their immediate father.

Verse 19
Exodus 2:19. An Egyptian delivered us — Such they supposed him to be by his habit and speech; or perhaps he told them that he came from Egypt. Drew water enough — Hebrew, In drawing he drew, which phrase means that he drew it readily and diligently, which caused their quick return.

Verse 21
Exodus 2:21. He gave Moses Zipporah, his daughter — Whom he married, not immediately, but after some years of acquaintance with the family, as may be gathered from the youth of one of his sons, and his being uncircumcised forty years after this, Exodus 4:25.

Verse 22
Exodus 2:22. Gershom — That is, A stranger there. Now this settlement of Moses in Midian was designed by Providence to shelter him for the present; God will find hiding-places for his people in the day of their distress. It was also designed to prepare him for the services he was to be called to. His manner of life in Midian, where he kept the flock of his father-in-law, would inure him to hardship and fatigue, and to contemplation and devotion. Egypt accomplished him for a scholar, a gentleman, a statesman, a soldier; all which accomplishments would be afterward of use to him; but yet lacked he one thing, in which the court of Egypt could not befriend him. He who was to do all by divine revelation, must know what it was to live a life of communion with God, and in this he would be greatly furthered by the retirement of a shepherd’s life in Midian. By the former he was prepared to rule in Jeshurun, but by the latter he was prepared to converse with God in mount Horeb. Those that know what it is to be alone with God, are acquainted with better delights than ever Moses tasted in the court of Pharaoh.

Verse 23
Exodus 2:23. The king of Egypt died — And, after him, one or two more of his sons or successors. And the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage — Probably the murdering of their infants did not continue; that part of their affliction only attended the birth of Moses, to signalize that. And now they were content with their increase, finding that Egypt was enriched by their labour; so they might have them for their slaves, they cared not how many they were. On this therefore they were intent, to keep them all at work, and make the best hand they could of their labour. When one Pharaoh died, another rose up in his place, that was as cruel to Israel as his predecessors. And they cried — Now at last they began to think of God under their troubles, and to return to him from the idols they had served, Ezekiel 20:8. Hitherto they had fretted at the instruments of their trouble, but God was not in all their thoughts. But before God unbound them, he put it into their hearts to cry unto him. It is a sign God is coming to us with deliverance when he inclines us to cry to him for it.

Verse 24-25
Exodus 2:24-25. And God heard their groaning — That is, he made it to appear that he took notice of their complaints. The groans of the oppressed cry loud in the ears of the righteous God, to whom vengeance belongs; especially the groans of God’s children, the burdens they groan under, and the blessings they groan after. And God remembered his covenant —

Which he seemed to have forgotten, but really is ever mindful of. This God had an eye to, and not to any merit of theirs, in what he did for them. And God looked upon the children of Israel — Moses looked upon them and pitied them, but now God looked upon them and helped them. And God had respect unto them — A favourable respect to them as his own. The frequent repetition of the name of God intimates that now we are to expect something great. His eyes, which run to and fro through the earth, are now fixed on Israel, to show himself strong, to show himself a God in their behalf.