For several hundreds
of years the descendants of Jacob's sons lived in Egypt, and in
time there were a large number of them in the land. Now a new king
ruled over Egypt, one who did not know of Joseph and the good he
had done. He saw only that there were a great many Hebrews and
that they were growing powerful and rich, so he said to his
people, "Behold! these
children of Israel
are mightier than we. Let us be wise and take action lest they
join with our enemies and take our land."
ordered that the Hebrews be made to work at making bricks and
building his treasure cities, and he set taskmasters over them to
keep them at their work. But the more they were oppressed, the
more numerous and the stronger the Hebrews grew. So the Egyptians
made slaves of them. They put them to labor with mortar and brick,
in the fields, and thus made their lives bitter with hard bondage.
When the Hebrews
still continued to multiply and to prosper, the Pharaoh ordered
that every male baby born to them should be drowned in the river.
He though that in this way he would soon be rid of them.
One of the Hebrew
women had a boy baby. She could not bear to see him drowned. She
managed to hide him until he was three months old. Then, fearful
that someday an Egyptian might find him and kill him, she devised
a plan to try to save him. She built a little basket of bulrushes,
daubed it with pitch, put her little son in it, and set it among
the reeds by the river's brink. The baby's sister stood nearby to
see what happened to the child hidden there. It chanced that the
daughter of the Pharaoh came down to the river to wash. Seeing the
basket, she sent one of her maidens to fetch it. When she opened
it, she was astonished to see a baby inside. The Pharaoh's
daughter saw that it was a Hebrew baby, but she had pity on it and
decided to keep it. Then the baby's sister came forward and asked,
"Shall I get a nurse from the Hebrew women to care for the
This seemed a
good idea to the Pharaoh's daughter, so she agreed, and the girl,
naturally, fetched her own mother. The King's daughter said,
"Take this child away and nurse him for me. I will pay
The baby's own
mother took care of him until he was a young boy, and then she
brought him to the Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. She
called him Moses because she drew him from the water.
When Moses was a
grown man, he went among his own people and beheld the hardships
under which they were forced to live. One day he saw an Egyptian
taskmaster beating one of his people. He looked this way and that,
and seeing no one else near, he slew the Egyptian and hid his body
in the sand.
When he went out
the second day, Moses saw two Hebrews fighting. He said to the man
who was in the wrong, "Why do you strike your brother?"
and the Hebrew answered, "Who made you ruler over us do you
intend to kill me as you did the Egyptian?" Moses was
thoroughly frightened, for he saw that his deed, committed in
anger, already was know.
When the Pharaoh
heard of it, he sought to have Moses executed, but Moses escaped
and fled from the land. Moses traveled far down the Red Sea into
the land of Midian - where he was surely out of danger from the
being weary, he sat down to rest at a well by the way.
Now the priest of
Midian, Jethro, had seven daughters, who came each evening to this
well to draw water for their father's flocks. The shepherds nearby
often came and drove them away. Moses, seeing this, came to their
assistance. When they told their father how kind the stranger had
been, he sent for Moses to partake of their hospitality. It came
about that Moses stayed on to live with them. Later he married one
of the daughters, Zipporah, and took care of Jethro's flocks.
Though the king
of Egypt died and another ruled in his place, the Hebrews were
still kept in bondage, and they cried out to God for help. God
heard their cries, for one day, when Moses had led Jethro's flocks
to the mountains to graze, he saw a bush in flames, but not burned
away. When he went closer to see why the bush was not burned, God
called to him and said, "Moses, I am here. Come no nearer.
Take off your shoes, for your are standing on holy ground."
Moses hid his
face, for he was afraid to look at God. And the Lord said, "I
have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard
their cry. I know their sorrows and I have come down to deliver
them from the Egyptians and bring them away to a good land. Come
now, and I will send you to the Pharaoh to bring my people, the
children of Israel, out of Egypt."
troubled, for he did not know what he could say to Pharaoh or the
Hebrews. But God, seeing this, told him "To the Hebrews say,
'The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Jacob, has sent me. He
has seen your sorrow and will bring you out of the affliction of
Egypt into the good land of Canaan - a land flowing with milk and
honey.' They will hear your vice. Then go - you and the elders of
Israel - to the king of Egypt and say to him, 'The Lord God of the
Hebrews has told us to go into the wilderness for three days, that
we may pray and make sacrifice to Him.' He will not let you go.
But then I will stretch out My hand and strike a blow at all
Egypt; and after that he will let you go. But when you go, do not
go empty handed."
to be afraid that the Hebrews would not believe him. God grew
angry and said, "Your brother Aaron will come to meet you. I
will be your voice and speak for both of you and will instruct you
in what to do. I know that Aaron speaks well, so he will be the
spokesman to your people. To you I give this staff, with which you
will do wonders that will also serve to convince them."
Moses took his
family and returned to Egypt. Aaron came to meet him, and Moses
told him all that God had said. They they gathered together all
the elders of the Hebrews, and Aaron told them all the things God
had said to Moses. when the leaders heard these things and saw the
wonders which Moses did, they believed that the Lord had really
spoken with Moses; that He had heard their cries and that they
would be saved.