Tonight, we’re studying Exodus 2:11-25.
11And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he killed the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.
13And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men fought together: and he said to him that did the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14And he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me, as you killed the Egyptian?” And Moses feared, and said, “Surely this thing is known.”
15Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.
16Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. 18And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, “How is it that you have come back so soon today?” 19And they said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock.” 20And he said to his daughters, “And where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” 21And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. 22And she bore him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, “I have been a stranger in a strange land.”
23And it came to pass in the course of those many days, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. 24And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God took notice of them.
So, where are we in the context of the book?
In good stories, there is good conflict. Exodus has that covered. It’s got history’s second greatest throw-down. But also, in good stories, there’s good set up. In chapter 2, we’re in the set up to the big throw down.
Last week the scene was set. Israel has ballooned in size and been subjected to harsh slavery in Egypt. The main protagonist is introduced. He’s saved from Pharaoh’s commanded baby slaughter, taken up from the Nile by Pharaoh’s own daughter, adopted as her son, and named Moses.
What we come to tonight, in verse 11, picks up when the baby Moses has grown into a man. And whereas last week sets the scene, this week’s main function is character development. We all know of action movies with huge car chases and explosions but flat characters that we don’t give a lick about. Exodus doesn’t short change us like that.
Now, before we walk through this half of the chapter, we’re going to read from two places in the New Testament, Acts 7 and Hebrews 11.
One thing to know that will help you read the Bible well is that the New Testament is the interpretive key of the Old. We know for sure how to read and understand the Old Testament because of the New Testament.
Acts 7 and Hebrews 11 both explain Exodus 2. So we start there and it’ll keep us in line as we study.
17But when the time of the promise drew near, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, 18Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.19The same dealt shrewdly with our kindred, and mistreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, so that they might not live. 20In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father’s house three months: 21And when he was cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son. 22And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. 23And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. 24And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian: 25For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they did not understand. 26On the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, “Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another? 27But he that did his neighbor wrong pushed him away, saying, “Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28Will you kill me, as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?” 29At this remark, Moses fled and became a stranger in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons.
24By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin, 26considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he was looking to the reward.
27By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
With those two passages in mind, let’s turn our attention to Exodus 2.
We’re going to look at the passage in four sections.
Verses 11-12, A Slaying in the Sand.
Verses 13-15, A Fugitive from Pharaoh.
Verses 16-22, Thrust, Parry, and Marry.
Verses 23-25, The Dawning of Deliverance.
Let’s look at verses 11-12.
Slaying in the Sand
11And it came to pass in those days
When is “in those days”? The verse continues and tells us, “when Moses was grown.” We aren’t left to wonder at the specific age. Stephen tells us that Moses is 40 when the events recorded here take place.
40. Let’s just say 40 is well-aged. He’s been a man in Pharaoh’s court for some time now. And he was no ordinary man in court. Not only was he a mighty fine hunk of meat, Stephen tells us that he was also mighty in word and deed. What those words and deeds are specifically, we’re left to guess. Some want to say that when Stephen says Moses was mighty in word and deed, he means defending the Israelites, defying Pharaoh, leading God’s people in the Exodus.
But Acts 7:21 tells us that Moses was taken from the river by Pharaoh’s daughter. 7:23 begins to tell us of what takes place when he’s 40, where Exodus 2:11 picks up. Verse 22 is in the middle of the 21 and 23. Not only does the grammar of Stephen’s speech make this make most sense as referring to his life in Pharaoh’s court, the verse itself seems to explicitly talk about that. He was a man of remarkable learning, having been educated in all the wisdom of Egypt. Not only a man of remarkable learning, he was a man who’d put that learning to remarkable use, in word and deed. It’s not a stretch to think that Moses was both politically and militarily exemplary.
Moses is about to plunder Egypt on an epic scale. But already he’s plundered Egypt his whole life. He’s plundered Pharaoh’s food, the motherly love of Pharaoh’s daughter, the lessons of scrolls, the prudence of politicking, and the firmness of soldiering.
Moses had the might and pleasure of Egypt before him on a platter.
But, at the age of 40, Moses “went out to his brethren, and looked on their burdens.”
There’s plenty of details about his going out to his brethren that we’re not told. But we do know from Hebrews that this was an act of faith.
He didn’t just go out on a stroll and look at slaves.
The author of Hebrews tells us that Moses going out and looking on the burdens of his brethren meant something. It was a rejection of his identity as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, a rejection of Egypt, and an embrace of Christ and His people. Moses rejects fleeting pleasures, fleeting power, fleeting riches, and chooses fleeting affliction with the people of God. Why? Because he knows that the reproach of Christ is greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.
Moses trusted Christ. He knew the promises of God were sure, and yes in Christ. He knew Christ would come and save His people from their sin and destroy all His foes, as had been promised from the Garden.
Do you trust Christ? If so, does that faith drive your dreams and aspirations? What trophies do you want on your shelf by the time it’s over?
Do you know it’s more valuable to take a beating for Jesus than to own a Bentley? The worst suffering for the cause of Christ is a greater prize than the greatest payout the world could ever make.
Are you not talking about Jesus at work because you’re afraid to lose your job? Lose your job!
Are you compromising where Scripture doesn’t in order to avoid some heat? There’s room beside Shadrach!
Are you willing to put off owning the education of your children so as not to face the government’s inquisition? Mock the inquisition. Face it. Walk away from it. But do your duty and gain treasure.
John Chau was in his 20s, hitched a ride on a fishing boat to an island full of murderous tribesman. He wanted to bring the gospel to them. They killed him. Do you think he was a fool?
All the world can do is give you treasure. And that’s just the affliction. If the reproach of Christ is that valuable, how can we even begin to measure the value of the treasure to be received in glory?
What could this world ever offer you to buy you off? Nothing. Fix your eyes upon Jesus. Stand with Him and his people. The Valley of the Shadow of Death is fine real estate in which to take a stand. Suffer for the cause.
Horde the treasure.
Moses, this mighty man of Egypt, rejects Egypt and comes out to the Hebrews to identify with them and to be their deliverer and ruler.
And these intentions are immediately seen.
Still in verse 11.
“He spied an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, one of his brethren.”
Moses sees an Egyptian striking a Hebrew. And Moses, in telling the story, emphasizes that the Hebrew, not the Egyptian, is his brother.
What does he do? Verse 12.
“And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he killed the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.”
This is no murder. Stephen says that it’s Moses discharging his duty to protect the weak. Acts 7:24, “He defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian.”
In Moses, we see Levi’s shame already turning to glory. From a family line of violent disposition, Moses uses that not for the harm of the weak, but for their protection.
Men, we will all have failed at some point in this. I know I have failed far too often. But Moses’ duty is our duty as well. When we see the weak being violently oppressed, especially when it is one of our own, we are bound under God to intervene.
Moses hasn’t lost his head here, and neither should we. He looks about before moving in. We, too, should be cunning. But cunning may never excuse cowardice. Our family must never stand alone. The weak, family or not, cannot stand alone when we are present and have it in our strength to stand between.
What will you practically do this year to protect the women of this church, those who are weaker among us?
What will you do to protect the children of this church, those whom your government wants to intellectually assault with lies upon lies?
What will you practically do to protect babies your society has every intention of murdering in 2019? Will you do anything for them? Will you do anything to rescue those being led to the slaughter?
So, first section, Moses identifies with the Hebrews and defends one against an evil Egyptian.
On to the second section, verses 13-15.
Fugitive from Pharaoh
13And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men fought together
On the first day, it was an Egyptian attacking a Hebrew. Here, on the second day, it’s one Hebrew attacking another, two brothers fighting against one another.
This is a particularly heinous work of the devil, to sow discord and strife among the brethren.
The enemies of the cross are to know we are Christians by our love for one another. Where sin is present, love requires conflict. But love aims that conflict at the destruction of sin and the building up, not the harming, of the beloved. Satan is going to look for any opening he can find in order to introduce division among our ranks, to sow distrust, disdain in the place of life, even to bring covenant members to war against each other, as he’s done here in verse 13.
Now, because God has appointed Moses to be the deliverer and judge of Israel, he faithfully steps forward to intervene and put a stop to the fight.
“and he said to him that did the wrong, ‘Why do you strike your companion?’”
14And he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me, as you killed the Egyptian?”
This is how the proud respond to correction. “You dare correct me with truth? I shall lash out at you and defy you.”
Sometimes this proud response is explosive and visible, sometimes well hidden. But it’s always wicked.
When a church member confronts you for sin with truth, how will you respond? Will you respond in unrighteous anger, like this Israelite? Or will you respond in humble gratitude?
When an elder, whom God has appointed to rule in this church, confronts you, in private or from the pulpit, how will you respond?
This Israelite in Exodus 2 isn’t interested in heeding Moses. So he questions his authority to speak to the situation.
And this should remind us of what we’re seeing in our study of Matthew. The Pharisees were hard-hearted. It was plain that God had appointed Jesus to be King and Savior, but the rulers wanted nothing to do with Him because He charged them with sin. They were dead in it, whitewashed tombs, and hated anyone who dared to point that out. So they time and again question Jesus’ authority.
This is ultimately why people today ignore the Bible. There is no good reason to, no intellectual reason to. But the Bible is the Word of Christ. And in it He charges us with our sin, He accurately states where we ought to go, and sinners hate that.
Because all sin is a lack of conformity to or a transgression of the Law of God, all sin is in defiance of Christ and His rule.
And that’s pictured for us here in verse 14.
“And Moses feared, and said, ‘Surely this thing is known.’”
The rebellious Israelite had thrown Moses’ deed of the day before in his face. “Will you kill me like you killed that Egyptian.”
This frightens Moses. It means that word has spread. And if word has spread among the Israelites, it is just a matter of time before Pharaoh finds out
This harshness against Moses proves to be a preserving grace. If the Israelite hadn’t spoken this way, Moses wouldn’t know that word was out, he wouldn’t know that Pharaoh was coming for him.
Instead, he gets the drop on Pharaoh.
15Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.
What do we know about Midian, part of modern-day Saudi Arabia, from our study of Genesis?
Abraham has extended family there. It was from a well in Midian that Abraham’s servant found Isaac a wife.
And it is to Midian, and therefore to the land of extended family, far removed, that Moses flees.
A couple of things to point before wrapping up this section.
Moses sits down at a well. This sets us up perfectly for the next section. As it went for Isaac, so shall it go for Moses.
Also, Israel’s rejection of Moses’ leadership means they must wait in bondage for another 40 years. This should remind you of what is going to come later. They will reject Moses again, and so will have to wander in the desert for 40 years until the guilty generation has died off.
So, Moses is in Midian, and we turn to the third section.
Thrust, Parry, and Marry
“16Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters”
This priest of Midian is Reuel, also known as Jethro. Being a priest in the community, Reuel is a leading man. Because of the family connection to Abraham, and the way Moses relates with him, my guess is that he is a priest of the Living God, but the forms and patterns of worship would be contaminated and corrupted, as idolatry was common in Midian.
Reuel has seven daughters, and Moses says that right off the bat. If you think for a second that Moses was facing harsh providence at this point in his life, think again. Fugitive from Pharaoh, flee to the desert, what appears? Not just a well with water. 7 WOMEN.
“And they came [these 7 desert angels] and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock.”
So not only are they 7 ladies, they’re 7 hard-working, humble, industrious ladies.
But not all is well at the well.
“17And the shepherds came and drove them away”
Shepherds of another man’s flock come in, use their superior strength, and drive the women away.
Right off the bat we know these men are pagans. They’re cruel and cowardly, because they mess with ladies.
No surprise, Moses acts in verse 17.
“But Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.”
Moses tells the story as the humble man that he is. I read this and want all the details. But Moses doesn’t give them. What’s the point? He just did his duty. It’s like the classic interview of some hero after some heroic deed. “Sir, what are your thoughts?” “Wouldn’t any man have done the same, if in my position?”
He stands. He helps them. Somehow he drives them all off. Maybe he succeeds because they’re all women bullying petunias. I think probably these desert shepherds have no chance in a fight against a man trained in Pharaoh’s household. He’s a man with a particular set of skills.
Not only does he drive off the bad guys, he beats the French to the chivalrous punch and waters the ladies’ flock.
“18And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, ‘How is it that you have come back so soon today?’”
Yes, you read that right. One man worked dramatically faster than 7 women, even after a fight. Gotta love gender equality, right?
The father is surprised by their quick return and asks about it.
“19And they said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock.”
They didn’t realize Moses was distant kin. Trained in Egypt, he walked and talked like an Egyptian.
“20And he said to his daughters, ‘And where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.’”
This is a comical oversight by the girls. Hospitality was a big deal, like it must be among our ranks. More than that, this traveler had delivered them and done their job. That was definitely worth an invite to dinner.
I’m going to chalk this oversight up to being flustered and excited by the day’s events and the guapo deliverer.
Now, the story quickly moves from “Come over for dinner” to “Dwell with me.”
“21And Moses was content to dwell with the man”
Moses agrees to this, which is another reason I think Reuel was a priest of the true God.
“And Reuel gave Moses Zipporah his daughter.”
Moses lost his place with Pharaoh. But he gained a wife.
Chalk this up to the list of “Things Better Than What Egypt Offers.” A godly wife is a grand treasure, worth more than many rubies, a treasure that God has gifted to Moses.
It is not good for man to be alone. No job can pay enough to change that. No amount of porn or fornication or free love made readily available by Egypt can be a substitute.
It isn’t good for man to be alone. He’s to gratefully receive from the hand of God a beautiful, godly woman, a woman adorned with a quiet and gentle spirit, clothed in strength and honor, industrious in homemaking, submissive, and faithful in all her ways.
If God has given you a wife, delight in the wife of your youth. Otherwise, find one.
And, in case you were planning on a trip to find one, the wells in Midian are rather dry at this point in history, if you catch my drift.
22And Zipporah, Moses’ wife, bore him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, “I have been a stranger in a strange land.”
God has now given Moses a wife and a son. Moses names his son Gershom, for he said, “I have been a stranger in a strange land.” He was a stranger in Midian, yet the Lord preserved and provided generously. Was he not also a stranger in Egypt, a Hebrew in the palace, a Hebrew far from Canaan? Moses would spend all his days a stranger in a strange land, never making it into the Promised Land, dying in the wilderness. But through it all, God always preserved and abundantly provided for His servant.
Through these three sections, we’ve followed Moses, seeing why he left Egypt and arrived in Midian, and how it came to pass that he married and fathered a son.
Now, the final section of the passage looks back at the Israelites in Egypt. Just 3 verses, after which the story comes right back to Moses in Midian.
But, the scene set, the main man introduced and explained, we get these three verses at the end of chapter 2 announcing that the action is moving forward. These three verses are the cue that we are now moving toward the throw down.
Look with me at the fourth section.
The Dawning of Deliverance
“23And it came to pass in the course of those many days, that the king of Egypt died”
The king of Egypt died. Our days may be many in man’s estimation, but they come to an end. This king spent his many days defying God, but they proved too few, his rebellion too insignificant. He went the way of the dead, God still in charge, dead Pharaoh in Sheol.
“And the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.”
Israel needed deliverance. How long did they suffer in bondage before crying out to God? With a new king, and no end to their misery in sight, they cry out to God. And their cries come up to God.
“24And God heard their groaning”
It is grace alone that God hears the prayers of salvation, that He hears our cries for salvation. He need not listen to the prayers of sinners. But He chooses to.
“God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God took notice of them.”
God took notice of them. He remembered His promise. That’s how the chapter ends. And with that end, we know how it will go for the Israelites. God has remembered His covenant with Abraham. This doesn’t mean that it had left His mind, or He’d forgotten it, and then had to retrieve it.
That God remembered His covenant means that God is faithful to His covenant, and the time has come for Him to deliver His people from bondage in Egypt because of that covenant. He has taken notice. Salvation is sure.
This first Exodus is the pattern for the second Exodus that happened. God remembered His covenant of grace. He did not forget or forsake His people in their bondage to sin.
Their cries from the depths of woe were heard.
God would send His deliverer. Jesus is His name.
He joyfully chose reproach. He became a stranger in a strange land.
He came to save and lead us.
He is our Redeemer.