Amram and Jochebed, the parents of Moses, both of the tribe of Levi—why are they mentioned here inHebrews 11? What a difference between all these “heroes” of faith! What deeds of faith are listed of Abraham! And notice what we read in the verses 33-34. But all that we read of Amram and Jochebed is that they hid Moses for three months! One might ask: how can this be considered an act of faith? Is this not the least that one might expect of them? Would we, for example, compare this act of Moses’ parents with what we read of Abraham and of the three friends of Daniel?
What a comforting scripture this is! Presuppose that only the heroics of Abraham and other similar heroics were mentioned here in Hebrews 11. Wouldn’t we become very discouraged? Must we, to show our faith, match the heroics of Abraham, quench the violence of fire (as did the three friends of Daniel) and stop the mouths of lions (as did Daniel)? However, Amram and Jochebed are also listed here.
ITS DARK BACKGROUND
Egypt had become for the children of Israel an house of bondage. Israel had entered the land of Egypt as a guest, invited by the king. However, Israel’s status had been changed from that of a guest to that of a slave. This history we know.
How must we account for this change? On the one hand, it was certainly an act of cruelty. To change the status of a defenseless people, invited as a guest, to that of a slave, and then to attempt deliberately to destroy them, was a cruel act indeed. It is true that a new pharaoh had ascended the throne of Egypt, a pharaoh who was an Egyptian, having succeeded the shepherd kings who were Hyksos, and who knew not Joseph and regarded him not. What Joseph, a Hebrew, had done for Egypt did not interest him in the least. Besides, there was also the tremendous growth of the children of Israel. Israel might therefore threaten Egypt, later ally itself with forces and powers that would seek the overthrow of this mighty nation.
However, this does not constitute the fundamental reason for this bondage. After all, Egypt had nothing to fear from Israel. Besides, the king could have requested or commanded Israel to leave Egypt. The cause for Israel’s oppression was spiritual. It is true that Israel was not a warlike people. They were a shepherd people. But it is also true, and most emphatically, that they were a different people. Egypt was a heathen, idolatrous nation. Israel worshipped Jehovah. Israel, therefore, remained alone, did not amalgamate with Egypt, retained its own peculiar identity. And Egypt, we can readily understand, hated that life of the people of Israel; Israel was a constant testimony against them. And, of course, Egypt and Pharaoh were moved by the devil to destroy this people of God and to frustrate the coming of the birth of the Christ. This is vividly held before us in Revelation 12:1-5.
Is it not always thus? Does not the same thing happen when Israel, enroute to Canaan, requests of Edom permission to pass through its land and Edom denies them this? Do the children of God ever threaten the world? Are they not pilgrims and strangers here below, desirous only of reaching the City that has foundations? And yet the world will always molest and harass and persecute that church of God, only because they are evil and the church is the church of God!
Specifically, one more thing must be said at this time. We now refer to Pharaoh’s devilish and inhuman decree. Having subjected the people of God to a hard and cruel bondage, Exodus 1:13-14, he had failed in his purpose; Israel had continued to grow. Then the king had commanded the midwives to kill the child immediately upon birth if it were a son. However, these midwives feared God and did not heed the king’s commandment. So, finally, the king issues the inhuman decree to his own people that they must throw every male child of the Hebrews into the River Nile. It is this which constitutes specifically the background of the birth of Moses. This decree of the king could not have been in effect very long inasmuch as Moses’ parents did not seem to have any difficulty when Aaron, three years older than Moses, was born. And it does not seem to have been in effect long after the birth of Moses. But it was in effect when Amram and Jochebed were expecting Moses. How anxious they must have been as Moses’ birth drew near!
Apparently, from the viewpoint of reason, the hiding of the child was surely an act of folly. First of all, there is the commandment of the king, that all the male children of Israel must be cast into the river. This is the third and most effective attempt of Pharaoh to destroy the children of Israel. How foolish therefore is the attempt to save the child by hiding it three months! We read that Moses’ parents acted by faith. And faith is what we read in Hebrews 11:1, the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. What they did is apparently contrary to all human reason. Their action of faith is surely not as great as the faith action of Abraham. They did not protest against the king. They simply hid the child. Nevertheless, it is called an act of faith. But it surely appears to be the height of folly. We may be sure that Pharaoh, having issued his decree, would have his secret agents, his gestapo, throughout the land of Goshen. Besides, it must have been known that Amram and Jochebed were expecting a baby. They certainly were placing their lives in danger by disobeying the king. How foolish they apparently were because they would never be able to hide him from Pharaoh and all his secret agents.
Secondly, it was apparently an act of folly because of their own people. The impression we receive of the people of Israel at this time is hardly attractive. In fact, it is actually repugnant. First, there is their reaction to their servitude. They simply submit. Then, they actually fought one another. Did not Moses find two Israelites fighting each other? And when finally Moses and Aaron appear in their midst, after Moses’ return out of Midian, and Pharaoh increases their burdens because of Moses’ resolve to deliver them, they resent what Moses and Aaron had done and complain bitterly. All this simply adds to the folly of Moses’ parents in hiding him three months. Presuppose that a neighbor who had his baby cast into the river would become jealous because Amram was attempting to frustrate the king!
Thirdly, how could Moses’ parents keep the birth of their child a secret? On the one hand, the imminent birth of Moses must have been generally known. And, on the other hand, a growing child would certainly make himself known.
How, then, did they reveal their faith? Would not any parent, from a purely natural point of view, do what Amram and Jochebed do here, that is, attempt to save their child? First, Pharaoh had no jurisdiction over them. They had been invited as guests, were no part of the Egyptian nation. Secondly; what else could Amram and Jochebed do but disobey the king? The king had demanded of them that they murder their son. Besides, the king’s design was to destroy the children of Israel and frustrate the birth of the seed of the woman. Had not the Lord given Israel the promise of the Messiah, and was it not clearly the design of Pharaoh to frustrate the fulfillment of this promise? How could the children of Israel obey the king’s direct violation of the Lord’s own promise and commandment, kill the children of the covenant? Hence, living by faith, clinging to the promises of Jehovah, the believing people of God could not obey the king’s command. Thirdly, Amram and, Jochebed did what they did by faith. It was not merely parental love. Of course, this parental love, also here, must have been very strong. However, they were moved by faith. Indeed, parental love itself would not have been sufficient for them to defy the king. How terrible were the conditions under which Moses was born! Would not parental love rather cast the babe now into the river than have it killed some weeks or months later? However, what parental love could not do, faith could do and did. They hid the child because they feared not the commandment of the king. That commandment did not dictate their action. They believed, and faith also here is the evidence of things unseen and the substance of things hoped for.
Moses, we read, was a proper child. Literally we read that he was very fair and beautiful. Stephen also mentions this in Acts 7. Moses’ parents hid the child because they saw he was a beautiful baby. The definite decision to hide the child was reached when they saw he was such a beautiful baby. The text surely means this.
What does this mean? Indeed, the motive for hiding the child was not its beauty. This motive was faith. However, that which served as the occasion to arouse this faith into action and strengthen it was the beauty of the child. We are always determined first by motives from within. But we are also guided by circumstances and occasions from without. Moses’ parents believed. But their faith, or believing, was weak. And now the Lord uses the beauty of the child to persuade these parents to hide that child. Let us understand this. Amram and Jochebed did not save the boy because he was so beautiful. Parents certainly do not love a beautiful child more than a child not as beautiful. We do not believe in mercy killings. However, this beauty of a baby was surely a special sign from the Lord. This beauty was so outstanding that it served to impress the parents that the Lord had reserved for this baby a special calling in life. God had given this child such a beauty that it was divinely marked. The parents saw that this child was a special child. Hence, the beauty of the child served to strengthen the faith of, these parents. Now they place their faith completely in the Lord their God.
How comforting this is for us! Perhaps at times we have our moments of sorrow and grief and despair; we are ready to cry out, what is the use? And then the Lord gives us a sign, shows us something from His Word, and our faith is renewed and we once more cling to the promises of the Lord. Besides, God also watches over the weak as well as the strong. O, this faith may not compare with that of Abraham and Daniel and Daniel’s three friends. But if we read only of Abraham’s faith in the Bible, we might conclude that, for such a little one as I am, there is hardly a place in the church and covenant of the Lord. But the Lord also cares for His little sheep and lambs, also for you and me, and in due time also our little faith will come to manifestation as the fruit of His grace and it will speak of the glory and power of His grace.