An ark of bulrushes - גמא תבת tebath gome, a small boat or basket made of the Egyptian reed called papyrus, so famous in all antiquity. This plant grows on the banks of the Nile, and in marshy grounds; the stalk rises to the height of six or seven cubits above the water, is triangular, and terminates in a crown of small filaments resembling hair, which the ancients used to compare to a thyrsus. This reed was of the greatest use to the inhabitants of Egypt, the pith contained in the stalk serving them for food, and the woody part to build vessels with; which vessels frequently appear on engraved stones and other monuments of Egyptian antiquity. For this purpose they made it up like rushes into bundles, and by tying them together gave their vessels the necessary figure and solidity. "The vessels of bulrushes or papyrus," says Dr. Shaw, "were no other than large fabrics of the same kind with that of Moses, Exodus 2:3, which from the late introduction of planks and stronger materials are now laid aside." Thus Pliny, lib. vi., cap. 16, takes notice of the naves papyraceas armamentaque Nili, "ships made of papyrus and the equipments of the Nile:" and lib. xiii., cap. 11, he observes, Exodus ipsa quidem papyro navigia texunt: "Of the papyrus itself they construct sailing vessels." Herodotus and Diodorus have recorded the same fact; and among the poets, Lucan, lib. iv., ver. 136: Conseritur bibula Memphitis cymba papyro, "The Memphian or Egyptian boat is constructed from the soaking papyrus." The epithet bibula is particularly remarkable, as corresponding with great exactness to the nature of the plant, and to its Hebrew name גמא gome, which signifies to soak, to drink up. See Parkhurst sub voce.
She laid it in the flags - Not willing to trust it in the stream for fear of a disaster; and probably choosing the place to which the Egyptian princess was accustomed to come for the purpose specified in the note on the following verse.
The ark was made of the papyrus which was commonly used by the Egyptians for light and swift boats. The species is no longer found in the Nile below Nubia. It is a strong rush, like the bamboo, about the thickness of a finger, three cornered, and attains the height of 10 to 15 feet. It is represented with great accuracy on the most ancient monuments of Egypt.
Slime and pitch - The “slime” is probably the mud, of which bricks were usually made in Egypt, and which in this case was used to bind the stalks of the papyrus into a compact mass, and perhaps also to make the surface smooth for the infant. The pitch or bitumen, commonly used in Egypt, made the small vessel water-tight.
In the flags - This is another species of the papyrus, called tuff, or sufi (an exact equivalent of the Hebrew סוּף sûph ), which was less in size and height than the rush of which the ark was made.
The lesson is for all. None can know what may be God's purpose in His discipline; but all may be certain that faithfulness in little things is the evidence of fitness for greater responsibilities. Every act of life is a revelation of character, and he only who in small duties proves himself “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed” (2 Timothy 2:15) will be honored by God with weightier trusts. Ed 61.1Read in context »
The women dared not murder the Hebrew children, and because they obeyed not the command of the king, the Lord prospered them. As the king of Egypt was informed that his command had not been obeyed, he was very angry. He then made his command more urgent and extensive. He charged all his people to keep a strict watch, saying, “Every son that is born in Egypt ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.” SR 106.1Read in context »
When this cruel decree was in full force, Moses was born. His mother hid him as long as she could with any safety, and then prepared a little vessel of bulrushes, making it secure with pitch, that no water might enter the little ark, and placed it at the edge of the water, while his sister should be lingering around the water, with apparent indifference. She was anxiously watching to see what would become of her little brother. Angels were also watching that no harm should come to the helpless infant, which had been placed there by an affectionate mother, and committed to the care of God by her earnest prayers mingled with tears. And these angels directed the footsteps of Pharaoh's daughter to the river, near the very spot where lay the innocent little stranger. Her attention was attracted to the little strange vessel, and she sent one of her waiting-maids to fetch it to her. And when she had removed the cover of this singularly constructed little vessel, she saw a lovely babe, “and, behold, the babe wept, and she had compassion on him.” She knew that a tender Hebrew mother had taken this singular means to preserve the life of her much loved babe, and she decided at once that it should be her son. The sister of Moses immediately came forward and inquired, “Shall I go, and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee? And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go.” 3SG 180.1Read in context »
The Lord Himself directed the education of Israel. His care was not restricted to their religious interests; whatever affected their mental or physical well-being was also the subject of divine providence, and came within the sphere of divine law. PP 592.1
God had commanded the Hebrews to teach their children His requirements and to make them acquainted with all His dealings with their fathers. This was one of the special duties of every parent—one that was not to be delegated to another. In the place of stranger lips the loving hearts of the father and mother were to give instruction to their children. Thoughts of God were to be associated with all the events of daily life. The mighty works of God in the deliverance of His people and the promises of the Redeemer to come were to be often recounted in the homes of Israel; and the use of figures and symbols caused the lessons given to be more firmly fixed in the memory. The great truths of God's providence and of the future life were impressed on the young mind. It was trained to see God alike in the scenes of nature and the words of revelation. The stars of heaven, the trees and flowers of the field, the lofty mountains, the rippling brooks—all spoke of the Creator. The solemn service of sacrifice and worship at the sanctuary and the utterances of the prophets were a revelation of God. PP 592.2
Such was the training of Moses in the lowly cabin home in Goshen; of Samuel, by the faithful Hannah; of David, in the hill dwelling at Bethlehem; of Daniel, before the scenes of the captivity separated him from the home of his fathers. Such, too, was the early life of Christ at Nazareth; such the training by which the child Timothy learned from the lips of his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15), the truths of Holy Writ. PP 592.3Read in context »