This is one of my contributions to the Abingdon Creative Preaching Annual 2014.
Exodus 1:8 to 2:10
I wonder if Pharaoh ever had second thoughts about killing the Hebrew peoples’ boy babies instead of their girl babies. Because if you read this story, the men aren’t much of a problem. They are slaves. They are brutally abused. They build things for Pharaoh.
But it is the women who cause all of the trouble.
Shiphrah and Puah the midwives were so important to this story that their names are recorded. Pharaoh’s own daughter’s name doesn’t get recorded. Neither do Moses’ parents. But all these many years later, we can thank Shiphrah and Puah by name for refusing to abide by Pharaoh’s command.
When summoned before him, and asked why the Hebrew boy children keep showing up on the playground, they make up a story and start talking about “lady parts”, and you know how Pharaoh doesn’t really want to hear about that.
So they continue to go about their resistance to Pharaoh’s infanticide policy. And God blessed them for quietly working for justice, no matter what their instructions had been.
But Pharaoh wants what he wants. And so the lives of all boy children are at risk.
So Moses’ un-named mother and father are in a bind. They have this beautiful son, but they cannot parent him. He will be thrown in the crocodile infested river. They will likely face punishment as well.
So his mother hears the command of Pharaoh to throw the child into the Nile and comes up with an idea. Perhaps she trusts that God would not have blessed her with this boy child if there weren’t a plan for him. Perhaps she is so desperate with love for her baby that setting him loose on a small raft seems like a good plan. Whatever the case, Moses mother obeys the letter, if not the spirit, of Pharaoh’s command, and casts her son into the river.
See why I’m wondering if Pharaoh had second thoughts about which gender he should have killed?
Here the Bible gives us our first illustration of open adoption. Like a birth mother who realizes that she cannot parent the child she loves, Moses’ mother sets him loose on the waters of God’s beautiful and dangerous world and trusts that there is life for him.
And she weeps as she watches that flimsy raft float down the mighty river and wonders if she made the right decision.
And Moses’ sister follows the little boat from the riverbank and when Pharaoh’s daughter pulls him out of the river, she helpfully offers to go find a wet nurse. So Moses’ two mothers meet and work out a plan to keep this baby alive, in Pharaoh’s own house. The text doesn’t report any further conversation between them, but I am certain there were, at least, knowing glances, a comforting hand on the shoulder, and assurances that life would continue, even when death seemed the only option.