31 Days of Women from Scripture
Lessons from Jochebed
“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” Hebrews 11:23
That’s a powerful statement. A couple has a child. A king’s edict threatens them or the child, but they are not afraid. They look at this beautiful baby and decide to hide him to protect him.
When we read that we just KNOW there must be a lot of amazing context to their story. But who are “they”?
Before we get to who – let’s set the scene.
In Exodus chapter one we pick up with the nation of Israel being in Egypt. Israel and Joseph have died along with all of his brothers and their generation (Ex. 1:6). The nation has multiplied greatly and become mighty in their land of Goshen. A new king is now over Egypt who knows nothing of Joseph. He sees this nation of foreigners living in his country as a threat (Ex. 1:10). The cities of Pithom and Raamses were built as a result of his plans to keep the people under control. Another measure taken by the king was to instruct the Hebrew midwives. He spoke with Shiphrah and Puah, the two midwives and said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth…if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.”
We are told that these good women “feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded, but let the boys live” (Ex. 1:17). God was good to the midwives and Israel multiplied.
Pharaoh goes a step further and tells the people directly that, “Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.” These are the circumstances when we meet our woman for today.
Starting at the beginning – Exodus 2:1 says, “Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi.” In Numbers 26:58-59 we see families of Levi being numbered. Verse 59 says, “The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and she bore to Amram: Aaron and Moses and their sister Miriam.” We know from Exodus 7:7 that Aaron was three years old at the time of Moses’ birth. Miriam was old enough to keep watch and to deal with Pharaoh’s daughter. Birth order then is Miriam, Aaron, then Moses.
As we have seen in our previous lessons from 31 Days of Women from Scripture, the meaning of names can shed some light on the people we are learning about. Amram means “exalted people”. Jochebed means “Jehovah is glory”. Miriam means “rebellion”, which we look at more when we study her tomorrow. Aaron means “light bringer”, as he will be the first High Priest and responsible for guiding the people to God’s word this makes perfect sense. Moses. an Egyptian name, means “drawn” – this is directly tied to his “rescue” by Pharaoh’s daughter (Ex. 2:10). Interesting fact – we are never told of a Hebrew name for Moses.
What we are told about Jochebed is only told through her actions and God’s commentary upon them.
In Exodus 2:2, we are told that she gives birth to a beautiful baby boy. She is able to hide him for three months. When this becomes impossible to continue, she prepares a basket that is covered with tar and pitch to make it water-tight. She put the baby into it and set the basket among the reeds on the bank of the Nile river. Miriam watches from a distance to see what was going to happen (Ex. 2:4).
Pharaoh’s daughter makes her trek to the Nile to bathe. She sees the basket and tells her maid to bring it to her. Miriam approaches the princess and asks if she can go get a nurse for the baby (Ex. 2:8). Miriam goes and gets Jochebed. Pharaoh’s daughter gives the baby to Jochebed and says she will pay to care for him until he is weaned (Ex. 2:9-10).
Jochebed was able to raise her son through those early years. When he was old enough, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter. He was given an Egyptian name and instilled in the house of Pharaoh.
Jochebed’s faith in God gave her the strength to conceive another child, despite the king’s edict.
Her faith held her up as she hid her son in her house for three months.
Her faith in God was with her while she built a vessel that would allow her to hide this child in the Nile river. This one gives my heart pause – crocodiles, rhinos, and hippos were part of the wildlife of the Nile river! To put your child into those conditions, even if you thought it would only be for a short time – just makes my heart quiver.
It is often hard to tell in scripture how much time goes on between events. The way this is written, I am of the mind that Jochebed fully knew of Pharaoh’s daughter’s habits and planned accordingly. It says that Miriam “stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him.” Quite possibly she was expecting the princess and was standing ready to tell her about Jochebed once the baby was found. It all reads as a specific plan rather than just a chance happening. Either way – Jochebed’s faith was in full force. She was either hiding her baby in dangerous waters with a daughter standing watch and the princess just happened by or Jochebed arranged it all with precise timing to give her son a chance to live.
As we consider imitating Jochebed’s faith and the actions that showed her faith, a question about civil disobedience may be raised. According to Romans 13:1-2 we are told to be in subjection to the governing authorities. Those governments exist because God allowed them to. He gave them the authority to punish the evil doer and hold up the righteous.
Can we follow Jochebed in disobeying the laws of the land? The answer is “yes” when the circumstances are like hers. We obey the government in anything that does not contradict what God would have us to do in a situation. Acts 5:27-29 shows Peter and the apostles in a situation where they had been commanded to do one thing and they did another. Peter and the apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men.” Paul later goes to great lengths to obey the laws of the land – so much so that he is imprisoned for years as he awaited a presence in front of Caesar (Acts 22:23-30; 23:23-35; 24:24-27; 25:7-12; 26:30-32).
Jochebed did right. When faced with murdering your baby, which is required by law, or obeying God to not murder – you choose God. The midwives and Jochebed chose God.
Each one of us should be confident to choose God first every day. The only way we are going to do that though is to always have His word at our side. Our faith in who God is and that He will keep His promises needs to be strengthened by adding other things to it. 2 Peter 1:5-11 shows a pattern for us to follow:
Apply diligence and add to your faith moral excellence
add to your moral excellence knowledge
add to your knowledge self-control
add to your self-control perseverance
add to your perseverance godliness
add to your godliness brotherly kindness
add to your brotherly kindness love.
If you have these and they are ever-increasing – then you will be fruitful. These are the things that are part of being diligent to make certain His calling and choosing and “in this way entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
Jochebed followed this pattern. Hebrews 11 holds her up for it. You too can stand strong in the face of difficult times and be obedient to the Lord!
PS: Hebrews 11:23 says “his parents”. Jochebed was not alone in her actions! This verse very simply shows the POWER of having a spouse by your side who is aligned with you in doing what is RIGHT. Choose wisely when you are looking for a spouse!
What are your thoughts about Jochebed?
Comment below and let’s talk about how we can learn from her life!
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