Bishop Knecht’s Practical Commentary on Exodus 1:1-2:10

On Exodus 1:1-2:10

GOD had made two promises to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: first, that they should be the fathers of a great nation; second, that the Saviour would be a descendant of theirs. The first promise was now fulfilled. In the space of two hundred years the descendants of Jacob in Egypt had become a great people. In the meantime a new king had arisen, “who knew not (i.e., had no care for) Joseph”, and who said to the Egyptians: “Behold, the children of Israel (Jacob) are stronger than we. Come, let us oppress them, lest they join with our enemies and depart out of the land.”

Now the Egyptians hated the children of Israel, and mocked them and made their life bitter, both by hard words and also with hard work in brick and clay (Fig. 20). And the king placed overseers (1) over them, to oppress them with labour. But the more they were oppressed, the more numerous they became. The king, seeing this, issued a decree that all the male children born of Hebrew parents should be cast into the river (2); hoping, by this means, either to destroy the Hebrew people, or at least to prevent their increasing in number. Notes: (1) Overseers. Or task-masters, so called because they forced the Israelites to labour and build great houses, dams, canals and monuments. (2) The river. i. e. the Nile.

Now it came to pass that a Hebrew mother bore a son, and, seeing that he was very beautiful, she hid him for three months. At the end of that time, not being able to keep him any longer (3), she laid the babe in a basket of reeds and placed it in the sedges (4) by the river’s bank. The sister of the child stood a little way off, to see what would happen. Notes: (3) Any longer. [Probably] The king had given orders that the houses of the Israelites should be searched from time to time. (4) The sedges. Or bulrushes. She did this in order that the floating basket might not be carried down the river by the current.

And behold, at that time the daughter of Pharao went down to bathe in the Nile. Seeing the basket amongst the bulrushes by the river-bank, the princess sent one of her maids to bring it to her. On opening it, they saw within it a lovely infant, crying piteously. She had compassion on it, and said: “This is one of the babes of the Hebrews.” The child’s sister (5) then, taking courage, drew near and asked: “Shall I go and call to thee a Hebrew woman to nurse the babe?” She answered: “Go!” The maid went and called her mother. Notes: (5) Sister. Miriam (Mary).

When the mother came, the princess said to her: “Take this child and nurse him for me, and I will give thee wages.” The woman then took the child and nursed him. And when he was grown up, he was brought to Pharao’s daughter, who adopted him (6) as her own, and called him Moses, which means rescued from the waters. Notes: (6) Adopted him. She clothed him, educated him, and had him altogether treated as if he were her own son.


The Wisdom of Divine Providence. God destined Moses to be the deliverer of His chosen people. Pharao’s cruel command to drown all the male children of the Israelites could not nullify what He had decreed. On the contrary, it served, under His guidance, for the accomplishment of His designs; for Moses, being brought up in the king’s court, was educated in the knowledge of the Egyptians, and was thus prepared for his high vocation of leader and deliverer of God’s people.

The uses of tribulation. God permitted the Israelites to be oppressed, in order that they might begin to yearn for the Promised Land and the future Saviour, and might keep aloof from the Egyptians. All our various troubles in this life ought to detach our hearts from earthly things, and turn them towards heaven and eternity. If earth were a paradise, who would long for heaven?

The love of parents for their children. If it had been discovered that Moses’ parents had hidden away a son, they would have been severely punished, and most likely put to death. Parents are willing to expose themselves to a great deal of danger for the sake of their children.

The confidence in God shown by Moses’ parents. They did what they could to save the child, and prayed, full of confidence, to God to help them. Their confidence was not misplaced. He who trusts in God, builds on a sure foundation.

Compassion. The king’s daughter was a pagan, and yet she had a kind, compassionate heart. How much more compassion ought we Christians to show! “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” The Society of the Holy Childhood is an example of what can be done. By means of it, heathen children are saved from death, baptized and brought up as Christians.

Moses a type of Christ. Moses saved in his infancy from the cruel edict of Pharao is a type of Christ saved in His infancy from the slaughter ordered by Herod.


God has preserved you, too, from many a danger. In order to save your soul, God has, so to speak, made you pass through the waters of Baptism, and has adopted you to be the child of the Most High King. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us” (1 John 3:1). You are, therefore, another Moses. Serve God, then, as faithfully as Moses served Him.

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8 Responses to Bishop Knecht’s Practical Commentary on Exodus 1:1-2:10

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