And the daughter of Pharaoh - Josephus calls her Thermuthis, and says that "the ark was borne along by the current, and that she sent one that could swim after it; that she was struck with the figure and uncommon beauty of the child; that she inquired for a nurse, but he having refused the breasts of several, and his sister proposing to bring a Hebrew nurse, his own mother was procured." But all this is in Josephus's manner, as well as the long circumstantial dream that he gives to Amram concerning the future greatness of Moses, which cannot be considered in any other light than that of a fable, and not even a cunningly devised one.
To wash herself at the river - Whether the daughter of Pharaoh went to bathe in the river through motives of pleasure, health, or religion, or whether she bathed at all, the text does not specify. It is merely stated by the sacred writer that she went down to the river to Wash; for the word herself is not in the original. Mr. Harmer, Observat., vol. iii., p. 529, is of opinion that the time referred to above was that in which the Nile begins to rise; and as the dancing girls in Egypt are accustomed now to plunge themselves into the river at its rising, by which act they testify their gratitude for the inestimable blessing of its inundations, so it might have been formerly; and that Pharaoh's daughter was now coming down to the river on a similar account. I see no likelihood in all this. If she washed herself at all, it might have been a religious ablution, and yet extended no farther than to the hands and face; for the word רחץ rachats, to wash, is repeatedly used in the Pentateuch to signify religious ablutions of different kinds. Jonathan in his Targum says that God had smitten all Egypt with ulcers, and that the daughter of Pharaoh came to wash in the river in order to find relief; and that as soon as she touched the ark where Moses was, her ulcers were healed. This is all fable. I believe there was no bathing in the case, but simply what the text states, washing, not of her person, but of her clothes, which was an employment that even kings' daughters did not think beneath them in those primitive times. Homer, Odyss. vi., represents Nausicaa, daughter of Alcinous, king of the Phaeacians, in company with her maidens, employed at the seaside in washing her own clothes and those of her five brothers! While thus employed they find Ulysses just driven ashore after having been shipwrecked, utterly helpless, naked, and destitute of every necessary of life. The whole scene is so perfectly like that before us that they appear to me to be almost parallels. I shall subjoin a few lines. The princess, having piled her clothes on a carriage drawn by several mules, and driven to the place of washing, commences her work, which the poet describes thus: -
Ται δ ' απ ' απηνης<-144 Εἱματα χερσιν ἑλοντο, και εσφορεον μελαν ὑδωρπ .
Στειβον δ ' εν βαθροισι θοως, εριδα προφερουσαι.Αυταρ επει πλυναν τεπ, καθηραν τε ῥυπα παντα,Εξειης πετασαν παρα θιν ' ἁλος, ᾑχι μαλιστα.Λαΐγγας ποτι χερσον αποπλυνεσκε θαλασσαπ .
Odyssey, lib. vi., ver. 90.
"Light'ning the carriage, next they bore in hand
The garments down to the unsullied wave,
And thrust them heap'd into the pools; their task
Despatching brisk, and with an emulous haste.
When all were purified, and neither spot
Could be perceived or blemish more, they spread
The raiment orderly along the beach,
Where dashing tides had cleansed the pebbles most."
When this task was finished we find the Phaeacian princess and her ladies (Κουρη δ ' εκ θαλαμοιο - αμφιπολοι αλλαι ) employed in amusing themselves upon the beach, till the garments they had washed should be dry and fit to be folded up, that they might reload their carriage and return. In the text of Moses the Egyptian princess, accompanied by her maids, נערתיה naarotheyha, comes down to the river, not to bathe herself, for this is not intimated, but merely to wash, לרחץ lirchots ; at the time in which the ark is perceived we may suppose that she and her companions had finished their task, and, like the daughter of Alcinous and her maidens, were amusing themselves walking along by the river's side, as the others did by tossing a ball, σφαιρῃ ται τ ' αρ επαιζον, when they as suddenly and as unexpectedly discovered Moses adrift on the flood, as Nausicaa and her companions discovered Ulysses just escaped naked from shipwreck. In both the histories, that of the poet and this of the prophet, both the strangers, the shipwrecked Greek and the almost drowned Hebrew, were rescued by the princesses, nourished and preserved alive! Were it lawful to suppose that Homer had ever seen the Hebrew story, it would be reasonable to conclude that he had made it the basis of the 6th book of the Odyssey.
The traditions which give a name to the daughter of Pharaoh are merely conjectural. Egyptian princesses held a very high and almost independent position under the ancient and middle empire, with a separate household and numerous officials. This was especially the case with the daughters of the first sovereigns of the 18th Dynasty.
Many facts concur in indicating that the residence of the daughter of Pharaoh and of the family of Moses, was at Zoan, Tanis, now San, the ancient Avaris (Exodus 1:8 note), on the Tanitic branch of the river, near the sea, where crocodiles are never found, and which was probably the western boundary of the district occupied by the Israelites. The field of Zoan was always associated by the Hebrews with the marvels which preceded the Exodus. See Psalm 78:43.
To wash - It is not customary at present for women of rank to bathe in the river, but it was a common practice in ancient Egypt. The habits of the princess, as well as her character, must have been well known to the mother of Moses, and probably decided her choice of the place.
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 »
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, in the humble home at Nazareth; such the training by which the child Timothy learned from the lips of his mother Eunice, and his grandmother Lois, the truths of Holy Writ. FE 96.1
Further provision was made for the instruction of the young, by the establishment of the “school of the prophets.” If a youth was eager to obtain a better knowledge of the Scriptures, to search deeper into the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and to seek wisdom from above, that he might become a teacher in Israel, this school was open to him. FE 96.2
By Samuel the schools of the prophets were established to serve as a barrier against the widespread corruption resulting from the iniquitous course of Eli's sons, and to promote the moral and spiritual welfare of the people. These schools proved a great blessing to Israel, promoting that righteousness which exalteth a nation, and furnishing it with men qualified to act, in the fear of God, as leaders and counselors. In the accomplishment of this object, Samuel gathered companies of young men who were pious, intelligent and studious. These were called the sons of the prophets. The instructors were men not only versed in divine truth, but those who had themselves enjoyed communion with God, and had received the special endowment of His Spirit. They enjoyed the respect and confidence of the people, both for learning and piety. FE 96.3
In Samuel's day there were two of these schools,—one at Ramah, the home of the prophet, and the other at Kirjath-jearim, where the ark then was. Two were added in Elijah's time, at Jericho and Bethel, and others were afterward established at Samaria and Gilgal. FE 96.4Read in context »
Especially does responsibility rest upon the mother. She, by whose lifeblood the child is nourished and its physical frame built up, imparts to it also mental and spiritual influences that tend to the shaping of mind and character. It was Jochebed, the Hebrew mother, who, strong in faith, was “not afraid of the king's commandment” (Hebrews 11:23), of whom was born Moses, the deliverer of Israel. It was Hannah, the woman of prayer and self-sacrifice and heavenly inspiration, who gave birth to Samuel, the heaven-instructed child, the incorruptible judge, the founder of Israel's sacred schools. It was Elizabeth the kinswoman and kindred spirit of Mary of Nazareth, who was the mother of the Saviour's herald. MH 372.1Read in context »
A strong wind blowing from the sea now brought flocks of quails, “about a day's journey on this side, and a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and about two cubits above the face of the earth.” Numbers 11:31, R.V. All that day and night, and the following day, the people labored in gathering the food miraculously provided. Immense quantities were secured. “He that gathered least gathered ten homers.” All that was not needed for present use was preserved by drying, so that the supply, as promised, was sufficient for a whole month. PP 382.1
God gave the people that which was not for their highest good, because they persisted in desiring it; they would not be satisfied with those things that would prove a benefit to them. Their rebellious desires were gratified, but they were left to suffer the result. They feasted without restraint, and their excesses were speedily punished. “The Lord smote the people with a very great plague.” Large numbers were cut down by burning fevers, while the most guilty among them were smitten as soon as they tasted the food for which they had lusted. PP 382.2
At Hazeroth, the next encampment after leaving Taberah, a still more bitter trial awaited Moses. Aaron and Miriam had occupied a position of high honor and leadership in Israel. Both were endowed with the prophetic gift, and both had been divinely associated with Moses in the deliverance of the Hebrews. “I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam” (Micah 6:4), are the words of the Lord by the prophet Micah. Miriam's force of character had been early displayed when as a child she watched beside the Nile the little basket in which was hidden the infant Moses. Her self-control and tact God had made instrumental in preserving the deliverer of His people. Richly endowed with the gifts of poetry and music, Miriam had led the women of Israel in song and dance on the shore of the Red Sea. In the affections of the people and the honor of Heaven she stood second only to Moses and Aaron. But the same evil that first brought discord in heaven sprang up in the heart of this woman of Israel, and she did not fail to find a sympathizer in her dissatisfaction. PP 382.3
In the appointment of the seventy elders Miriam and Aaron had not been consulted, and their jealousy was excited against Moses. At the time of Jethro's visit, while the Israelites were on the way to Sinai, the ready acceptance by Moses of the counsel of his father-in-law had aroused in Aaron and Miriam a fear that his influence with the great leader exceeded theirs. In the organization of the council of elders they felt that their position and authority had been ignored. Miriam and Aaron had never known the weight of care and responsibility which had rested upon Moses; yet because they had been chosen to aid him they regarded themselves as sharing equally with him the burden of leadership, and they regarded the appointment of further assistants as uncalled for. PP 382.4Read in context »