Meditations: Hope and Despair

I give my apologies to Moses’ parents from the very outset if I’ve gotten this mediation wrong. Slander was never my intention.

We all know the story. Pharaoh is distressed by the Hebrew’s capacity to “Be fruitful and multiply. In no time they’d outnumber the Egyptians and challenge the Dynasty. Pharaoh responds by enslaving the Hebrews and forcing them to build store cities, Pithom and Ramses. Ironically, it was the Hebrew Joseph who instilled the value of stockpiling resources in the Egyptian culture. Joseph was the right hand man of the old Pharaoh. But times changed, and Joseph wasn’t remembered as hero but as the Trojan Horse who ushered in the current national security situation.

Hard labor doesn’t dampen the slave nation’s birthrate so Pharaoh does the unthinkable and declares it illegal to be born a Hebrew male. All illegal infants are to be disposed of in the Nile River. The Hebrew midwives defy the edict and refuse to surrender the baby boys. Instead, they send the mothers and sons back to their ghetto, uncertain how their story would end.

So Moses is just one of hundreds of illegal babies. His parents immediately bond with Moses and attempt to hide him. However, the young couple found it impossible to silence the baby’s cries for food and diapering. They were certain their baby would be detected. Perhaps they had witnessed an Egyptian soldier raiding a neighbor’s house and confiscating the illicit package of life. Perhaps they had watched a soldiers abuse parents who wouldn’t comply the edict.

Moses’ mother decides to waterproof a basket. Calvin wrote in his commentary that she was crafting a casket for her son. Moses’ parents had succumbed to the inevitable. Their beautiful child was doomed to die. Moses’ mom chose to expose her son to the elements in the most dignified manner possible.

Hope was exiled from the imaginations of the parents.

Baby Moses was set afloat to die.

Miriam was Moses older sister. Perhaps she didn’t appreciate the futility of the moment. There was no escape. Moses could not be hidden. The couple didn’t the resources to flee the country. Miriam’s parents were in a no win situation. So a broken-hearted mother did the unthinkable, abandoned her child to the River, and returned home with bitter tears.

Miriam had enough expectation left in her to remain at the river bank. She hid among the papyrus fronds and dared to hope against hope that her brother would not die. The rest, they say, is history.

I don’t fault Moses’ parents. They were gored on the horns of dilemma.

But I am in awe of Miriam’s capacity for hope. She grew up a slave but heard rumors of a God who protected her ancestors generations ago. She dared hope that God could provide a way out in her current distress.


  1. Larry,

    Thank you for this fresh and helpful look at the familiar narrative. You have given me much to chew on. I appreciate it!

  2. Great commentary. How redeeming of God to let Moses's mother nurse Moses, and yet how hard for her to have to give him up a second time.