Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Jochebed, a faithful woman
Imagine, if you will, the joy that Jochebed must have felt, as she and Amram looked at the handsome, healthy baby boy that had just arrived. As the midwife scampered away from the house, looking furtively about to ensure that none of the Pharaoh's spies spotted her, Amram and Jochebed exulted in ten tiny fingers and toes, and they smiled as he nestled closer to his mother's breast.
Even then they may have heard a scream in the distance as a soldier wrestled a babe from a Hebrew's mother's arms and killed him before her disbelieving eyes. Jochebed must have looked pleadingly at Amram, and promised to keep the child quiet; only let her try to keep him safe from the Egyptians. Amram would have looked at this brave daughter of the Levites and nodded; himself a Levite, he would have valued life as all of the Hebrews did, and he counted himself lucky to have had the services of Shiphrah, one of the midwives who told the Pharaoh she could not kill the male babies because "the Hebrew women would deliver before she arrived." And so, Jochebed planned and trusted God to honor her commitment.
The Bible says that she kept him safe until he was three months old. We can scarcely visualize what was involved . . . reminding the older children not to mention the new brother, keeping the baby satisfied and entertained so he didn't cry, breathlessly watching as soldiers marched by, maybe even passing off the baby as a girl, if approached in the market or the public square!
Perhaps she thought about Pharaoh's edict on her bed at night, with Amram breathing quietly on one side, and the babe sleeping on the other. Pharaoh had said all of the male babies must be thrown into the Nile . . . well, her baby would go to the Nile, but not in the way Pharaoh had envisioned!
She took something very ordinary and made something extraordinary from it. Baskets were such a part of life in that time: they were used for storage as well as for carrying things. Women would make use of baskets (perhaps constructing them, too) for storing things in the home, and would carry things to and from market, too. Travelers used baskets to carry their belongings. Laborers used baskets to carry raw materials to work sites. The priests in the temple stored things in more elaborate baskets, perhaps, but in baskets, nonetheless.
They were usually made of some form of plant matter, whether they were woven of twigs and bark, or plaited from grasses. They came in all shapes and sizes, from a small one that a woman could balance on her head, to one large enough to conceal Paul as he escaped out a window in Damscus. Oops, we are getting too far away from our story. (Grin)
Jochebed coated the outside of her basket with tar and pitch, making sure that every nook and cranny was coated, so that no water could seep inside to the precious cargo that it would hold. I'm sure that she also went over the inside very carefully, to make certain that no edges or stalks would poke the baby. Then she probably chose one of her softest cloths to line the interior, and placed her baby inside.
Placing the basket carefully into the river, she must have whispered a prayer to the great I AM as she relinquished her hold on the edge of the tiny vessel. I expect that she wiped tears from her eyes as she turned to wade back onto the dry bank (I'd have been bawling, I'm sure). She instructed Miriam, her daughter and the baby's sister, to keep watch over him. No matter how brave she was, and how strong her faith was, she must have worried about alligators and other dangers -- but surely this was better than sure death from a soldier of the Pharaoh!
Then, according to God's plan, as his big sister watched, and as the basket bobbed gently among the river reeds, the Pharaoh's daughter came to bathe. Surrounded by chattering servants who attended to her every need, she looked for a spot where the water had no trace of mud from livestock being watered, or from boats whose paddles would stir up the bottom. She caught a glimpse of the tiny watercraft, and sent one of her slave girls to fetch it for her. Folding back the soft cloth, she saw the handsome baby; perhaps sleeping, or perhaps looking back at her. His brown eyes may have met hers, or perhaps he reached out with a chubby hand to grasp her finger. It must have been love at first sight. The Nile had brought her a child -- she could not save all of the innocents from slaughter, but she could save this one.
We'll conclude our story and draw some thoughts for our own lives tomorrow.