Abandoning Baby Moses

Last night, I was reading Stephen’s speech in Acts 7, and vv 19-21 stood out to me:

“[Pharaoh] dealt craftily with our race and forced our ancestors to abandon their infants so that they would die. At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful before God. For three months he was brought up in his father’s house; and when he was abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son” (NRSV).

The way I read this was as follows: Pharaoh was making the Israelites abandon their babies, presumably by leaving them out in the wild. Well, Moses’ parents obeyed that order, for they put baby Moses in a basket, floated him down the Nile, and ditched him thereafter.

That’s not exactly what I saw on The Ten Commandments. There, Egyptian soldiers go into Israelite homes and kill the babies with swords. It may fit with what Exodus 1:22 has: “Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.'” Maybe the Israelites left their babies by the Nile, and the Egyptians came by to drown them. I don’t know.

Moses’ parents in Acts 7:19-21 don’t look as courageous as they do in Hebrews 11:23: “By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” Sure, both present them keeping Moses alive for three months, but Acts 7 seems to say that they eventually obeyed the Pharaoh’s edict and abandoned their child.

Acts 7’s story reminds me of something a guest speaker said at my school. According to her, Moses’ parents left him by the Nile so he could die, for they didn’t want him to grow up under harsh servitude. Is Acts 7 saying something like that? There, Moses’ parents were afraid and abandoned their baby in obedience to the Pharaoh. But God was still at work, for he managed to save Moses’ life. And that was truly miraculous, for there were several other Israelite babies who were likewise abandoned, yet they perished.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to Abandoning Baby Moses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey James:

    You forgot to mention Josephus’ comment; and in Exodus mom looks by if I remember correctly.



  2. James Pate says:

    Hi Jake,

    I read Josephus, but all I found was something like Jesus’ birth story (with the star, the dad getting a dream). I don’t remember him specifying how the babies died, but maybe I missed something.


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