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 »
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 »