In the ancient world (Hittite, Assyrian, Egyptian), stories of infants in baskets under threat occur elsewhere, this narrative may have been a much more familiar one to Israel, and likewise it conveyed a message about Moses which the Jews would recognize at another level. Most commentaries note this. For example, the Jewish Study Bible note (p108) "The story has parallels in birth legends of other heroes, some of which pre-date the Bible, such as Sargon of Akkad who in infancy was born in secret and exposed in a river in a reed basket sealed with pitch, but was found and later became king. In an Egyptian story, the god Horus was endangered as an infant by the god Seth and was hidden (but not abandoned) in a papyrus thicket of the Nile delta by his mother Isis to save him." The historical worth of the narrative is not being debated. The meaning and intent of the narrative is being emphasized. What would the Moses story sound like in an Egyptian context in light of the Horus/Isis story??!!
As the story begins, we know a man of Levi, took a woman of Levi as his wife. No names are given. Stunning! What could it mean? Friedman notes that Moses is a "lonely figure" and that his relationship with his kin is not developed. Aaron is his brother but there are no brotherly tales. Miriam is called "the sister of Aaron" in 15:4. Contrasted with the Genesis accounts of Jacob's brood, Moses family connections are merely mentioned (parents, siblings, wife and children) but the family relationship has no functional part in the story. [I think of Jesus talking about his family, indicating that those who love the Father are His true family. Is this a typology for Jesus? I believe the deeper spiritual reading is exactly that.]
"Take" will occur four times in this passage and "child" seven. The words "deliver," "feared," and "amid the reeds" will show up again in chapter 14 and the sea of reeds. This ties the two stories verbally and is a reminder that recapitulation is a Biblical theme! (In Moses the story of Israel, in Jesus the story of Israel--the individual matters but so does 'the (whole) People'). The namelessness of the other characters will highlight Moses' name. Everyone else is a player in the deliverance. Friedman notes that the river of death will be the means of life for Moses. Typology reminds us that the water theme is connected to baptism (death and life). The story is connected to other stories and are all part of the salvation history story!
It is interesting that there will be no further mention of the murderous work of Pharaoh in the Bible--rather the oppressive work is the focus. However, in the Jesus story a similar mass killing (on a local level) will take place. The "world" is against the Lord and His chosen one, illustrated by such texts, but our Heavenly Father finds a way. It is all about God working out His plan in spite of us and in opposition to the evil one(s) (world and/or demonic realm). The tale of the nameless couple narrows to the wife. She is the actor throughout the whole process, each step. Take note that he is placed in an "ark" (only other occurrence of that word besides Genesis/Noah). His sister watches and Pharaoh's daughter sees the baby. As noted last week, Pharaoh is undone by woman (starting with the mid-wives, who had names). One imagines that the Jews took great delight in the Pharaoh's daughter being duped by the girl. So the child's mother was paid to raise him until his weaning, roughly two years. Note that none of the intervening years is part of the narrative. The point of the story is what we are told. Verse 10 provides the first name: Moses (Moshe). Moses means "son of" (Ramses is son of Ra) and is an Egyptian name. The Hebrew folk etymology follows the pattern of the names in Genesis. The rhyme, or similar sound, of Hebrew supplying a meaning. Water will be a big part of Moses' life.
Suddenly he is grown. In the first scenario, the issue may be more about justice than brotherhood. We are not clear from the text if Moses knew the Hebrew slaves as brothers. Clearly, the murder is not accidental (he looks around) and is foretaste of an act of a liberator. The scuffling Hebrew men is also a foretaste of the troubles ahead for this people. "Who made you our sar (same term used of the oppressive taskmasters) and shaphat (will reappear in 5:21 complaining against Moses, 'the Lord judge you for making us "stink" to Pharaoh ruler.') The Jewish Bible seems singularly intent upon painting the people with an emphasis on the negative... This is not the ancient near eastern way! Moses' crime is known Pharaoh seeks to kill him (again) and his reaction is to flee. No mention is made of his adoptive mother in the process. He goes to the land of the Midians--the same folks who pulled Joseph out of the waterless pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites.
The next scenario is one which echos Jacob. Genesis 24 & 29 are betrothal scenes at a watering hole. Watering is a theme here again. Moses delivers them from the mean shepherds (spiritual reading: thematic tie in to Ezekiel 34; God will shepherd His people because the shepherds are bad). On a moral reading we see Moses, again, concerned with justice and the use force to deliver save. The Hebrew term, garash (to drive out, drive away, expel, cast out, divorce) will occur again three more times: 10:11 (Pharaoh expels Moses and Aaron from his presence); 11:1 (God tells Moses that Pharaoh will expel the Hebrew people from the land); and 12:39 (Pharaoh expels the Hebrew people after the death of the firstborn). The shepherds drive them off, but Moses qum [(talitah cum little girl get up!) The word means to rise, arise, stand up; it is also a covenant word, occuring over and over in Genesis as God promises to establish or confirm His promise. In chapter 6 this word will next appear again "I established my covenant with them to give them the land."] yasha (help, save, deliver); just as he will serve as the savior to the people. (Jeus also will rise and save!) Hence, the saving work with the seven (7!) girls is a type of the saving work God/Moses will accomplish for all the people.
The father's name is Reuel and he is a priest of the Midians. In 3:1 he is Jethro, 4:18 Jether, and Hobab son of Reuel in Numbers 10:29 and Judges 4:11. Jethro is the most frequent. The father sends for the man and with no filler story we learn the daughter Zipporah was give to him as a wife. We receive a report of a son, whose name reflects the alien sojourner status of the father. The root word of the name is the word for "drive out" we saw above. Just as quickly we are told "much time, many days, many years" passed and Pharaoh died. In the new period of time, the suffering of Israel is great.
They cry out their cry za'ak sha'vah occurs only here in Exodus. The verb was used in Genesis to describe the "hue and cry" of Sodom and Gommorah (per Fox). God heard (shama, occurs 43 times in Exodus). God remembers. God KNOWS. The salvation of the people is based on this: crying out and a response of healing/salvation by God because of His covenant faithfulness. He knows.