Welcome Valley Media                                                                                                                                                                      

Grown-up Bible Stories

 A Mother's Triumph

She was desperate. Her three-month old baby lived under a death warrant, and hiding him grew more difficult by the day. She was part of an oppressed ethnic group living in the territory of one of the world’s superpowers. The government had decreed that all baby boys of her race must die. It was an effort at population control, an effort born of mistrust and prejudice. Today, we’d call the whole mess ethnic cleansing. When the midwives who delivered her people’s babies managed to outsmart the ruler’s command to kill all male children at birth, the command had become general. All of this king’s subjects were ordered to drown any infant boys found among the unwanted people. A command that broad was impossible to escape. Her baby had to go in the river. She had hidden him as long as was humanly possible. The end result was inevitable. It was time to face reality and let the sweet little thing go.

Only, a mother’s heart doesn’t work that way. An occasional insane or depraved mother has done the unthinkable, but Jochebed was neither insane nor depraved, only desperate. With no options left, this mother stared hopelessness in the face and looked for a way out. At last, she found one, well, sort of.

She struggled to wrest deliverance from the very river that waited to claim her baby. Taking a basket woven from shoreline reeds, she coated the outside with bitumen--a petroleum based substance--and with asphalt. Then, with feelings we can only guess at, she placed her precious infant inside and set the basket afloat on the river. Her baby had been dumped into the water, but he wasn’t exactly in a situation to drown.

Floating among the shoreline vegetation, the basket lay sheltered. Nor was the mother quite willing to trust her baby totally to fate. She charged his older sister to keep watch. If the basket tipped, there was someone near. If any of the master nation found it, at least someone in the family could give a report. There was always a chance that something better could happen. It wasn’t a big chance, but she was a mother, and she was doing her best. Hope was all she had left--hope, and faith in God.

The river was the Nile. To Jochebed, its tepid waters spelled death, and unfathomable sorrow. To the ruling Egyptians, on the other hand, the Nile meant life. Its waters sustained agriculture in their arid land. The Nile had the potential for carrying commercial traffic in vessels formed of plants perhaps similar to those from which Jochebed’s basket had been made. Drinking wells could be dug from its moist banks. Even the royal family used it for bath water. If the Nile killed Hebrew babies like Jochebed’s, it gave life to Egyptians of all ages.

As the baby’s older sister watched from shore, royalty came to the river. The daughter of no one less than the Pharaoh who’d decreed the baby’s death had come to bathe. As fitted her station, she was escorted by servants. Seeing the unidentified floating object, she had one of her maids retrieve it and, moments later, became the possessor of the original baby in a basket. And the baby was crying.

History hasn’t recorded whether this Egyptian princess was a mother or not, but she had too much mother in her to ignore a crying baby. He was a condemned Hebrew boy, but she was her daddy’s daughter. She could have an adopted Hebrew son if she chose. Nobody else might be allowed a Hebrew son in the whole realm, but this young lady could have one. Someone once said that it isn’t who you are but what you are that really counts. Maybe that statement holds true in America. In ancient Egypt, who she was counted for quite a bit. The one person on earth who could save Jochebed’s doomed son had found him. She adopted him on the spot. Not only would this little minority baby’s life be spared, he would now be a member of the royal family.

At this point, the sister who guarded the tiny ark—her name was Miriam by the way—made a brilliant move. She approached the princess, I suppose bowing or kneeling, or whatever protocol demanded, and offered to find a woman to serve as the baby’s nurse.

The princess agreed. Before long, Jochebed reentered the baby’s life. Only, she wasn’t his mother any more. She was a hired nurse. The name she had given her infant no longer mattered. He was now Moses, a name that in the prevailing language suggested that he’d been pulled out of the water. That is how his new mother had obtained him, so that’s what she called him. Jochebed had become just a servant caring for a king’s grandson.

It’s interesting to try to imagine just what went on in Jochebed’s heart at this point. Doubtlessly, she’d been weeping. History doesn’t say, but let’s face it—she was a mother who’d just been forced to set her baby adrift. Now, all of a sudden, she had received this too-good-to-be true reprieve. The sheer enormity of emotions in such situations tends to temper the joy into sort of a sick happiness. Then on top of it all she faced the reality that the reprieve only came in a temporary form. Someday, a royal messenger would come to her servant’s quarters. Someday, the little Hebrew baby she’d loved through these desperate months would go away to become an honored member of the family that had nearly bereaved her, of the family that even now was enforcing the extermination of the children of her friends. Yes, it had to be a day of joy, but it was also a day of bittersweet joy and of enough emotional intensity to leave the strongest utterly exhausted.

Jochebed took the little baby she now had to call Moses home with her. Officially, she was no longer his mother, but in practice, in heart, and in love, she was still the mother, still doing her best for her baby.

History doesn’t record exactly how long Jochebed earned money as Moses’ nurse. The time evidently went beyond mere babyhood, as later events almost demand that she and her husband had time to teach the boy things he’d never learn in Egypt.

Through desperate ingenuity, Jochebed had saved her baby. Through the courage of her daughter, she was able to embrace him again. Yet, through the same events that had saved him for her, she lost him. All too soon, the summons came. Moses, Jochebed’s little Hebrew sailor, was taken away to become an important Egyptian.

The Bible tells us more about Moses—much more. But at this point, Jochebed fades from the record. Her son was gone. She lived on as part of an enslaved nation. Jochebed likely died without Moses. She’d saved him once, but lost him in the process. So ends the story of Jochebed.

Moses, after spending those early years under his mother’s tender care found himself in the royal household. A whole new world opened before him. His father and countrymen lived as slaves, common laborers for a nation that loved them not. It isn’t clear, but maybe they quarried the huge blocks that formed one of the pyramids. Perhaps they felt the crack of the overseer’s whip as they struggled those gigantic stones up and up and up with most of the group sweating and straining like draft animals as others hustled heavy log rollers forward to allow the monster rocks to keep moving. Maybe, toiling under a scorching desert sun, some of them suddenly found their temperatures shooting up and they fell from heat stroke, never to rise again. Maybe some died in despair, beaten by overseers, misunderstood, mistreated, and with no hope of things improving. The Bible names the important cities that they built as slaves, but it leaves no room to speculate that they benefited from them. We aren’t given a lot of details, but we do know that Moses had escaped.

Instead of slaving and dying with the worshippers of the one invisible God Who seemed unable to deliver His followers, Moses sat in the coolness of royal quarters. He learned about the gods of Egypt, the falcon-headed one with a man’s body, the shining ball of fire in the sky that he’d thought of only as the sun, not as a god named Ra, of his own adopted grandfather who also demanded worship. He may have learned the complex math the sophisticated Egyptians had developed. He may have had a touch of training in the occult.

Obviously, Moses would have experienced great pressure to be as Egyptian as possible, separating himself from the despised Hebrews both in his own eyes and, as much as he could manage, in the eyes of his VIP adoptive family. The foods Mother Jochebed refused to cook because the God of their fathers didn’t approve would have been welcome fair in the new house. The idea of one invisible God would have been derided. Smart people pleased whichever god they needed to keep their careers on track. The need to be Egyptian rather than Hebrew never went away. Whatever Moses had learned in the home of Jochebed and Amram was far behind, and it would be to his advantage to forget. After all, that mother-turned-nurse stood to fade into a mere memory in the life of a prince. Did he dabble in all things Egyptian? Was he temporarily wowed by the strange religion and culture? We don’t know.

We only know that his poor slave parents had managed to instill something in him that wouldn’t go away. Moses the great Egyptian prince was still a Hebrew at heart. The mother who had given her all for him, the mother who had parted with him because she loved him too much to risk keeping him, had done her work. We don’t know if the princess mother allowed visits to the servant mother or if racism and jealousy prevented it. We do know that Moses remembered his native people and came to see himself as their deliverer.

One day, this Hebrew in an Egyptian costume had had enough. Acting like a touring big shot, he sought out the people of his old family. He was a prince. They likely had to bow before him, but he was one of them. He was on the side of the Egyptian overseer whom he found beating a Hebrew slave, yet he killed the bully--something that even a prince wasn’t allowed to do. He was a prince in a country he didn’t love and an anomaly and a foreigner to the nation that owned his heart. Jochebed had done her work; and Moses, despite the luxuries of Egypt; Moses, despite his education in a powerful religion; Moses, whose mother had been forced to give him up; remembered her people and her God. He was still his mother’s son. He was still her God’s servant.

Then, word got out that Moses had betrayed the royal house of Egypt by siding with the oppressed Hebrews and killing a slave driver. Soon, he was but a memory, herding sheep in a distant desert. It is possible that during this time an aging Jochebed breathed her last. What were her thoughts over the years as the family came home, Miriam and Aaron with his wife and children? (We have no Biblical record of whether Miriam ever married or not.) Did she fondly remember the baby she’d saved by making a boat? Did she occasionally think about the little boy she’d told about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their God? Did she weep and long to have him back in her sad, enslaved existence? Did she rejoice that he’d escaped the slavery known by her husband and older son? Did she shed bitter tears at night, wondering why things couldn’t have been different? Did she believe that the wilderness had swallowed her fugitive son? We don’t know. We only know that a very desperate mother had done her best and had gotten better results than she might have.

Better results? Better results than she realized. Eighty years after little Moses bawled his way into the princess’s heart, a gray-bearded sheepherder stepped from a wilderness trail to investigate a flaming bush that wouldn’t burn up. When a voice thundered from the bush, declaring the presence of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses didn’t have to ask who they were or who this God was. This God who made the very ground he stood upon holy wasn’t a stranger. No, He was the God of the brave mother who’d bid him goodbye at the gate of a palace long, long ago.

That familiar God now commissioned Jochebed’s son. All that followed--the winning of Israel’s confidence, the judgment of Egypt, the miracles in the Red Sea and in the wilderness, the giving of the law on the burning mountain, the establishment of God’s people as special, the major step Moses brought into the plan of God’s saving grace—the whole triumphant story--is the story of a baby whose mother wouldn’t give up. The triumph of Moses and the ascendancy of Israel all belong to Jochebed. She may or may not have lived to see some of it, but much of what you read in the Bible is ultimately a story of overwhelming victory. Yes, it is God’s triumph, but as part of that, it is her triumph as well. One desperate, overpowered, hopeless mother refused to give up, and in doing so, changed the course of the world.

The Bible says:

Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. (Ephesians 6:2-3)

Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. (Proverbs 31:28)

This work is in the pubic domain and may be copied and distributed freely.


How to Have a Relationship with God

Home    Bible Studies    Easy English    Essays    Grown-Up Bible Stories   Multimedia    Stories from the Book Itself

About this Site    Copyright Release    Links    Contact: mail@welcomevalley.com