Jochebed (pronounced yo-Khe-bed) is the next woman whose story we will look at. Her name means “Jehovah is glorious.” She could not have known how deeply her choices and life would prove those words to be true.
Our first glimpse of her story begins in Exodus 2 in one of the most oppressed and traumatic seasons of Jewish history. At this point in time, the Jews were living as slaves in Egypt under the cruel control of Pharaoh. Fearing the growing number of this Jewish slave population, Pharaoh issued a death sentence for all male children born to the Hebrews. They were to be thrown into the Nile River.
It is in this setting that our heroine is first mentioned. Exodus 2 says that she, Jochebed, had conceived and gave birth to a son. “And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months.” If he had been discovered, if he had cried out at the wrong moment, she and her entire family could have been killed. This was an enormous risk.
But Jochebed knew what to value, what to protect, what to take risks for… her children. Though she lived in a culture of death, she chose life for her child. Hebrews 11 tells us that she did not fear the king’s command. She feared the right King. She feared God.
In defiance to the king, Jochebed loved, nurtured and hid her baby boy for three months. At this point in the story, Jochebed had to make another impossible decision. With Moses growing older, he would not be safe in their home, having been spared from the king’s murderous command. If discovered by the Egyptians, he would still have been killed. So now, Jochebed makes yet another choice no mother should have to make. She decides that this child must live at any cost, even if he can’t live with her. She makes and waterproofs a little basket, about the size of a baby. She releases him onto the Nile river, ironically, so that he might live. We don’t know all of the details of what followed. We do know that Moses was found by Pharaoh’s own daughter. We know that she wanted to keep him, and Miriam, Moses’ sister just happens to be hovering near where he was found and offers to find a wet nurse for the child. That wet nurse turns out to be Jochebed, his mother. Moses is taken back home to be nursed until he is old enough to go into Pharaoh’s palace. Though we don’t know all of the details, we know that his mother instills in him a deep loyalty to his people, so deep in fact, that he is willing do whatever it takes to protect them.
As I reflect on Jochebed’s life, what strikes me the most is that her greatest accomplishment was not about her. The big plan for her life was about someone else. The most significant role she ever played was her role in the life of her children. Jochebed did not live in our culture. She was not after self-actualization. Her dreams and hopes were for someone else, for her children, her people. She apparently taught her other two children the same thing. Instead of hating their younger brother who grew up in vastly different circumstances than they did, they loved and supported him.
Not only was Moses used in a profound way by God, but Aaron and Miriam also played significant roles in the history of the people of God. Aaron grew up to be the voice for his brother and speak to Pharaoh on behalf of the people. Aaron became the first high priest of Israel and his descendants would be the Jewish priesthood from then on. Aaron would go up the mountain of God with his brother and he would “see the God of Israel.” (Ex. 24:9) Miriam would lead the nation in worship and compose songs of deliverance that would go down as Scripture and be sung for generations to come. And Moses… God raised Moses up as a deliverer the likes of which this world had never seen until Jesus Christ. Through Moses, the skies over Egypt would grow black. The Nile River would turn to blood, exposing Egypt’s murderous guilt. The animals and crops would be devastated. The false gods of Egypt would be put to open shame. The sea would part, and the people of God, Moses’ people, Jochebed’s people, would walk out of captivity into freedom, painting a vivid picture of our coming salvation through Jesus Christ, because one woman, one mom, taught her children, fought for her children, and dared to fear God rather than man. May we do the same. Jehovah is glorious.
*My blogs are written with the assumption that they are being read primarily by Christians. If you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or about the gospel of Jesus Christ, click the link here:The Gospel