Moses’ Rejection of Egypt

By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;

Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.”

Hebrews 11:24-26

“And Moses was learned in all of the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.

And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.”

Acts 7:22, 23

“And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens.”

Exodus 2:11

It was an anxious, wondering, fearful Jochebed who hurriedly followed her daughter Miriam toward the group of Egyptian women standing by the bank of the Nile. In the middle of the group was Pharaoh’s daughter and at her feet was the ark of bulrushes which Jochebed knew so well. Even as Miriam had excitedly related, these women had discovered her son. But once she had approached the women, Jochebed’s face lost its look of fear, her eyes began to sparkle with joy, her heart breathed a prayer of thanksgiving, for Pharaoh’s daughter spoke, “Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages.” Her son was not going to die; in fact, he was to be returned to her own home. The providence of God had provided for it, and the authority of Pharaoh’s throne had commanded it.

Once again peace returned to the humble home of Amram and Jochebed. No longer did they need to fear the footsteps that passed by their doorway. The child had been given an Egyptian name, Moses, and was known as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter: An edict of the throne protected him. Even the threat of poverty and hunger had disappeared. At regular intervals funds were received from the palace sufficient for all of the child’s needs and enough for the family besides. Only one cause for concern remained. Moses could not remain always with his parents. Pharaoh’s daughter wanted him for her own. She would allow Moses to remain with his parents only through the tender years of early childhood when he needed special care. After that he would be taken away to be placed in the courts of Pharaoh’s heathen palace. There he would be in the midst of the world, far removed from all of the children of God. Very early Amram and Jochebed began to prepare the child for that day. There was no time to spare. From the moment the child Moses began to show signs of comprehension, they taught him the truth of the covenant and began to warn him concerning the dangers which he in a peculiar way would have to withstand. Never was Moses allowed to think that his life would be easy or that his instruction in the truth could be allowed to wait be easy or that his instruction in the truth could be allowed to wait. 

How frequently during these early years Jochebed was required to bring the child to the palace so that Pharaoh’s daughter could cuddle him and play with him like a toy, we do not know. Neither do we know how often a royal embassage approached their humble home to see if the child was being properly kept. Those were times of fear, for it was never known whether or not the time had come when Moses was to be taken away. At such times, while the parents stood quietly by in the silence of fear, they realized how powerless they were. The life of their child was in the hand of the Lord. For them there was only one comfort. From his earliest years Moses had shown an unusual interest in all that his parents sought to teach him. Eagerly he listened as they told him over and over again of all that had been passed on from the fathers before them. He memorized and retained all that was known about their God and His gracious covenant promises. He never neglected the opportunity to learn, seeming to feel that for him it was of special importance. It was evident to the parents that the spirit of the Lord was upon him. In this they found comfort and gave God thanks. Their prayers never ceased to ascend unto heaven in Moses’ behalf. 

Finally the much-feared time came. Pharaoh’s daughter decided that Moses should be taken to make his home in the palace. With heavy hearts the family made the last preparations for his departure. There were the last words of instruction and warning; there was the last kneeling together in prayer; and then there were the last farewells. Through tear-blurred eyes the parents watched their child being led away. He looked so small, so much in need of his parents’ care, so incapable of standing in the midst of an evil world. As the small figure faded into the distance they knew that his heart yearned for them even as theirs did for him; but henceforth all they would be able to do for him would be to pray. Only the grace of God could enable him to endure.

It was a strangely different world in which the child Moses found himself making his home. In place of the unadorned Hebrew hut, there was the regal splendor of the palace. In the place of the simple religious instruction of his parents, there were elaborate discourses by the most learned men of the ancient world. In place of the intimate family circle, there was the great household of Pharaoh with countless servants ready at any time to do his every bidding. Gone were the watchful eyes of his parents, ready to reprimand him for what which was wrong as well as to encourage him in the right. Gone was the intimacy of a home united in love and spiritual devotion. Gone was mutual awareness of a God who has made the world and to whom all of the allegiances of life belong. The new surroundings were entirely different. There were governors and tutors who, even though he was young, were concerned with nothing more than winning his favor. There were spectacular rituals and ceremonies which, although engaged in with much pretentiousness, were in reality mostly sham. Amid all of the pomp and splendor of the court, there was a basic shallowness of life in which everyone lived for himself. 

Of greatest importance for Moses in his young life was the opportunity which came to him for learning. As a member of the royal family, it was expected that he would eventually become a leader and a judge among the people. In preparation for this the whole of his life was centered. For such preparation there was no better place than ancient Egypt. It was by far the most advanced of all of the ancient kingdoms. It abounded in the knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, and chemistry. Many of the things known by them we in our day might consider but recent discoveries. They were learned in music and poetry, having libraries with thousands of volumes. The best, of the instruction that this country could afford was given to Moses. Blessed with extraordinary ability by God, he advanced very rapidly in his learning. Stephen many years later expressed it, “And Moses was learned in all of the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.” 

The struggles that went on in the heart of Moses all during these years we can only imagine. Were there not days and weeks on end when he was torn between the immense learning of his teachers and the simple faith he had learned from his parents? Were there not times when he was sorely tempted to throw himself into all of the sensual pleasures that were waiting for him in that heathen court? Were there not moments when his pride whelmed up within him urging him to grasp the opportunities afforded, to make for himself a name in the midst of the world? Were there not nights when he tossed upon his bed with heavy heart because he had allowed himself to follow much farther in the ways of the world than in his heart he knew was right? Yet through it all Moses’ faith prevailed; it had to, for he was a child of God. As he grew in years he began to realize more and more that all’ of the learning of the Egyptians did not have the fundamental depth and soundness of the simple faith which he had learned from the lips of his parents. The Egyptians had much knowledge and many pleasures, but in their hearts they had no peace. Living in the midst of the world, Moses was not of the world. He could not think of himself as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. All of the treasures of Egypt held no real attachment for him; its pleasures he could not enjoy. Within his own heart he always remained the son of simple Amram and Jochebed, a Hebrew and a child of God. 

Slowly the years went by and Moses came to maturity. Still Moses took no permanent position in the government, nor did he engage himself in a marriage. Was this not contrary to the efforts and urgings of his foster-mother and many others of the royal court? Surely for a man of Moses’ ability the opportunities were many. As he grew Moses withdrew the more from public life. His heart was with the Hebrews laboring in the field. These were his people and he could not forget them. His prayer and longing was for their deliverance. Already to Abraham it had been told that after four hundred years deliverance would come. Moses could not bind himself to the Egyptians; he had to make plans so that he could go with his people. 

Gradually Moses took to walking out in the fields, and especially to those places where the Hebrews were working. His sympathies were there, and he could not keep himself away. There he saw it in all of its gruesome detail—the labor and toil, the sweat and the blood, the bodies weary and fainting, red with the stripes of whips. Time and again he flinched as he gazed on the blows of the taskmasters; he groaned within himself along with the cries of the workers; he fled with unbelievable anguish to the peace and quiet of the palace. Still he went again and again to stare with glassy eyes. With a pained and weary heart he watched; and what made it so hard—these were his brethren, the children of his God. 

Slowly the mind of Moses began to evaluate the facts. God had foretold this all, and the time for deliverance was approaching. The nation of Israel was great and mighty in spite of their cruel oppression. All they needed was a leader, and who could prevent them from returning to Canaan? With the blessing of Almighty God upon them, no one could keep them from going.

Again Moses’ mind turned to consider his own life. There was first his miraculous preservation from death but a few months after he was born, which spoke so evidently of the gracious providence of God. Then there were the early years of concentrated instruction by his parents in all of the truth of God’s covenant. Finally there were the years of specialized preparation in the palace to qualify him as a leader of people and a judge among men. What did it all mean? Could anything be more evident than that God was preparing him to deliver His people from bondage? The very thought excited the ambition of Moses as nothing before had ever done. 

Still there were two things that marred Moses’ plans for the future. The first was for him the most painful. The children of Israel refused to recognize him as their brother. Perhaps they knew that he was a son of Amram and Jochebed; but that no longer made any difference. When he came into the fields with his royal, Egyptian dress, they eyed him with suspicion. While they labored in bondage, he was refined in labor and dress. While the taskmasters beat them into submission, Moses they treated with utmost respect. All of Moses’ sympathetic looks and words would not relieve their suspicions. As long as this was true, they would never receive him as their leader. 

And then there was the one other difficulty that remained: God had not called him to be Israel’s leader. All of his plans were built upon his own suppositions. Until the Lord spoke, he could only wait. 

So the years passed by as Moses planned and waited—waited for a calling from God. 

—B.W.