The Bible laud’s Jochebed, Moses’ mother for her faith. We read about it in Exodus 1 and 2. Here is an expansion of the biblical story as I imagine it could have happened.
Pounding on their door startled Amram and Jochebed awake.
“Pharaoh orders every able-bodied man to report for work duty immediately,” a voice cried out.
“You’re not scheduled to work today, are you?” Jochebed whispered trying not to wake the children.
“No, I’ll find out.”
He stuck his head outside the door, “What is it, brother? It’s early. I’m not scheduled to work today.”
The official, on his way to his neighbor’s door, shouted, “You are now. Quit wasting time. Follow me!”
Amram felt Jochebed beside him. “Come, hurry. I’ll help you get ready,” she said.
“Maybe I should find out more? I’ve worked for him. Perhaps he made a mistake in calling me?” Amram started toward the official.
Jochebed touched his arm, “No, something is different today. You’d better do what he says.”
She gathered food while Amram dressed for work. He smiled as he put the food in his bag. “Do I look hungry? Why so much food?”
“It’s just in case,” she said.
“You are always so practical. I’m sure some will forget to bring food. Not everyone has a wife as wise as I do. I’ll share it. Tell the children goodbye for me.” He kissed her. “See you tonight.”
Jochebed watched as he joined other confused men follow the official, still pounding on doors and barking orders. She thanked God for her kind and generous husband.
But Amram didn’t come home that night or the next. A week later he walked in at sunset, exhausted and dirty. “I’m home!” His children clutched his legs as he stumbled to a chair. Jochebed rushed in from the other room. His smile allayed her fears. “I missed you,” he said.
“Where have you been, Poppa?” Aaron asked.
“I have been in a place called Rameses, working for Pharaoh.”
“Where is it?” Jochebed asked.
“It’s a two-day journey from here. Pharaoh gave orders to build two new supply cities. I’ve never seen the Egyptians so urgent to finish a task. I’m going back tomorrow,” he said.
“You just got home, Poppa!” Miriam said.
“It’s my job. You children go play. I need to talk to Momma.”
Jochebed sat beside him and Amram winced when she touched his arm.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
He pulled up his sleeve, revealing cuts and welts on his arm.
“Did you fall?” she asked.
“No, a guard whipped me. He said I was talking instead of working.”
She started to speak but he stopped her, knowing what she was thinking. “Yes, I know I talk too much but this time I did nothing wrong. I was working when I was talking. It was an excuse to hurt me, and it wasn’t just me. Everyone got whipped, some severely. I’m only here because an officer I’ve known for years took pity on me and allowed me to come home to dress these wounds.”
Jochebed tenderly cleaned his wounds. When she finished, she fixed her eyes on his, “Be strong, Amram, God is with us.”
He smiled, “I will. Even if I wasn’t you have strength for both of us. Let’s enjoy this time.”
They talked, and he played with the children. Finally, they slept, cradled in each other’s arms, not knowing when they’d be together again.
It was a month before he returned. His wounds had healed, and by God’s favor he had avoided the guard’s wrath. Others weren’t so fortunate. A few died from their beatings.
The next time he came home was three months later. And so, it continued. Men from the village returned home, a few at a time, barely able to walk, always leaving the next day.
As Jochebed watched this, her prayers changed. She prayed something she had never prayed before but would pray for the rest of her life, “God deliver your people from this wicked Pharaoh who oppresses us so much.” Then it got worse.
One day she noticed her friends, Shiphrah and Puah at the market. They sat huddled together, whispering, shaking their heads, glancing around them as they talked.
“Greetings, my sisters. Are you plotting something? Are we not having enough babies to keep you midwives busy?” Jochebed joked.
“Oh, Jochebed! Come, please sit with us,” Shiphrah said. “We need your advice. Pharaoh called us to the palace.”
Jochebed’s eyebrows raised as she looked from one to the other of her friends.
“Pharaoh commanded us to do something so wicked, I hardly want to say it,” Puah whispered, her hands shaking. “He told us that when a Hebrew woman gives birth, if the child is a boy to kill him, but if it’s a girl, she may live.”
Jochebed put her hands over her mouth.
“We can’t do that,” Puah said. “We fear God. What do we do?”
Jochebed sat, her mind spinning. The brutal killing of children, even by the evil Pharaoh, was something she never would have imagined. After a few moments she sat up straight, lifted her head and said, “I can’t tell you what to say, but God will. I will pray God gives you wisdom. It will be fine. We will trust in God and not fear Pharaoh.”
Several weeks later she ran into them again. “Jochebed, God answered your prayers!” Shiphrah said. “Word got to Pharaoh that we weren’t killing any baby boys and he summoned us again. He said we disobeyed him.”
“That’s when God gave us wisdom,” Puah said. “We told him the Hebrew women aren’t like the Egyptian women, they are vigorous and give birth before we can get there. He was furious and threatened to have us killed if we didn’t obey him. We won’t do it. If he kills us, we will be with God.”
Jochebed sighed in relief. “Thanks be to God!”
“No, it isn’t time to thank God, yet,” Shiphrah said. “Pharaoh demanded his advisors come up with a plan to kill the Hebrews boys. One said that if the midwives can’t get there before the women give birth, the guards should follow them and throw all the baby boys in the Nile. Pharaoh loved the idea and commanded them to do it.”
Jochebed sat quietly, looking into the distance. Her lips tightened and she said, “My friends, I’m pregnant.”
A baby is always a blessing. Jochebed struggled to quell her anger and resentment at Pharaoh. It wouldn’t help. He had no idea who she was, but he had stolen her joy. Jochebed resolved she wouldn’t let that tyrant defeat her. She praised God for her unborn child. She rejected the fear and boldly asked God to give her a son who would grow up to be a man of God.
Jochebed would hide her pregnancy, and when she could hide it no longer, she would hide herself. One day she watched as Egyptian guards burst into a nearby home after a baby was born. It was a girl, but she was sure that soon they would find a boy and kill him. She would never allow the guards to take her son away. She was only a woman, but she had faith in God. Her God was greater than Pharaoh.
She secretly met with Shiphrah and Puah for advice. It was too dangerous for them to help when the baby was born but they could help her get ready. They agreed to take Miriam with them when they delivered babies. She was young but could learn to help.
The next time Amram came home she told him. He was overjoyed and had no fear of Pharaoh. He comforted and reassured her that God was with them.
Then her baby was born. She shed tears of joy and sadness. It was a boy. She thanked God she could have him secretly. None of her neighbors knew, although some may have suspected. She was following a plan she devised with Amram.
Over the previous months her children snuck in discarded clothing, rags, papyrus reeds and sticks, a few at a time. She dug a hole in a corner of the room and used the reeds and sticks to fashion a cover for it. She coated the cover with mud that dried to look like the floor. She used the clothing and rags as padding. She would place table over it and stack clothing on it. He would be perfectly hidden in it, if he didn’t cry.
Each day was a challenge because she had to be overly cautious and anticipate his needs. She delighted in every moment with her son because she didn’t know how long she would have him. Jochebed rarely left the house. Miriam and Aaron ran errands for her. Every day she prayed they wouldn’t discover her son, but she wasn’t afraid. Her faith was strong, and she was confident that somehow her son would not only survive but thrive. Every mother thinks her children are beautiful. As she looked at her son, she somehow knew he was also beautiful to God.
The plan worked well for three months. Then it happened. He was bigger, and it was harder and harder to muffle his cries. One day, while lying on her bed, he let out a loud cry. She rushed over and nursed him, and he calmed down. Miriam watched, fear in her eyes.
“Don’t worry, it will be fine. Look out the window and be ready, like we practiced,” Jochebed said.
Miriam peaked out the curtain. Minutes passed then she whispered, “Momma, they’re coming!”
Jochebed tucked her baby into the hole in the corner. He smiled as she put him down, his eyelids heavy. She placed the cover over it and hoped he had eaten enough. She moved the table and clothes into place, sat on the bed and Miriam climbed into her arms.
“I’m sorry, Miriam, this will hurt,” she said.
“It’s okay, Momma, I understand,” Miriam said.
Jochebed pinched Miriam’s legged until it was red, and she cried. The door flew open and two Egyptians guards rushed in. They paused as their eyes adjusted to the darkened room. Jochebed rocked Miriam, who was crying, in her arms.
“What are you doing here? Why did you burst into my house?” Jochebed asked indignantly.
“Where’s the baby?” the guard shouted.
She motioned, “Do you see a baby?”
“Someone said a baby cried!” a guard exclaimed.
“They heard a cry! Look, my daughter hurt her leg,” she said pointing.
The guards walked around the around the room, looked under the bed, opened drawers and threw things on the floor. One knocked over the table and clothes. Jochebed kept her eyes locked on him. He stood right over her baby. The clothes lay scattered around but still covered the makeshift door. Jochebed prayed her baby would stay quiet.
The guard reached down toward the floor and she snarled at him. “You can’t find a baby so are you going to take my husband’s shirt instead?”
Furious at being disrespected by a woman, he moved toward her with his arm raised. The other guard stepped between them and sneered. “Be quiet woman!” He turned to the other guard, “Let’s go, there’s no baby here.”
Jochebed sighed as she wiped the tears from Miriam’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you so badly,” she said.
“I’m not crying because you hurt me, Momma, I’m crying because I’m afraid they will take my brother and kill him,” Miriam said.
Jochebed hugged Miriam to her chest. “That will not happen, Miriam.”
That night Amram came home. He sensed the somber mood. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“They came looking for our baby today,” Jochebed said. “Thanks be to God they didn’t find him, but they will probably come again. It’s time. He is too big to hide any longer. We need to release him into God’s hands.”
“We expected this day. God will watch over him,” Amram said.
Over the past months Jochebed had often lay awake considering their options. They could try to flee Egypt. But where would they go? How would they live? If the Egyptians caught them, they would all die. She thought of trying to convince an Egyptian family with no children to adopt him, but that was not a risk any Egyptian would take. So, they devised a plan they hoped would save their boy.
Weeks before she purchased a papyrus basket large enough for her baby to sleep in. That night she had Amram go to the tar pits and bring back enough asphalt and pitch to cover it inside and out. She coated it, making it waterproof then lined it with cloth and fashioned a bed for her boy.
The next day, when it was the normal time for collecting firewood, she hugged him tightly and kissed him one last time. She looked into those beautiful eyes and felt the love that only exists between a mother and her baby.
Jochebed wept as she put him in the basket, closed it and placed it in the cart they used to collect wood. They made their way to Nile. Pharaoh chose the Nile as a place to put boys to death. She and Amram chose it as a place that they believed would lead to their boy’s life. With the basket in her arms, she waded a short distance into the river, set it among the reeds and walked away. She took one last look and saw the basket floating peacefully. Her eyes welled with tears as she collected a few sticks, put them into the cart and headed home.
It wasn’t until she got home that she realized Miriam wasn’t with her. She didn’t know that Miriam stayed to find out what would happen to her brother.
Miriam had followed her mom then stopped and crouched among the reeds with the basket in sight and waited. After a while she saw a group of women heading to the riverbank near where her brother floated in the reeds. She recognized Pharaoh’s daughter and watched as her attendants helped her prepare to bathe in the Nile. Then her brother cried. Pharaoh’s daughter told everyone to be quiet. The sound of her brother’s cries easily carried along the water.
5 Seeing the basket among the reeds, she sent her slave girl to get it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child—a little boy, crying. She pitied him and said, “This is one of the Hebrew boys.”
Miriam slowly approached Pharaoh’s daughter and bowed “Your highness, 7 Should I call a woman from the Hebrews to nurse the boy for you?” she asked.
Pharaoh’s daughter briefly looked at her then said, 8 “Go.”
Miriam ran all the way home and found her mother making dinner. “Momma, Momma,” she said smiling. “Come with me. Hurry.”
“Slow down, my dear, what is it?” Jochebed asked.
“Momma, I couldn’t leave my brother. I had to wait to see what happened to him. Some women from the palace went to where you left the basket. It was Pharaoh’s daughter, going to bathe in the Nile. When she stepped into the water my brother cried and everyone heard him.”
Jochebed froze, holding her breath.
“Pharaoh’s daughter sent her slave girl to get the basket, and I watched as she opened it. Pharaoh’s daughter knew at once he was a Hebrew baby. But she wasn’t angry, she felt sorry for him, crying, alone in the river.”
“Then I had an idea. I went to her, bowed on the ground and said, ‘Your highness, 7 Should I call a woman from the Hebrews to nurse the boy for you?’ She just said, ‘Go.’ We have to go now, Momma.”
Jochebed took Miriam’s hand, and they hurried to where they had left her baby. She saw the women crowded around Pharaoh’s daughter holding her son. He wasn’t crying.
She bowed to the ground and said, “Your highness.”
9 Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse him for me, and I will pay your wages.”
“Yes, your highness, as you say.” Jochebed took her son and for the first time in his young life walked out in the open with him. Her heart overflowed with joy and thanksgiving to God for His faithfulness. It took all her strength not to weep as she walked.
One of Pharaoh’s daughter’s servants went with them to see where they lived. The servant returned later in the day with clothing and a crib for the child.
Soon the word spread about how Pharaoh’s daughter found a Hebrew baby boy in the Nile and how she hired Jochebed to nurse him. As he grew, everyone marveled at how much he looked like Amram and Jochebed.
Jochebed regularly took her son to the palace so Pharaoh’s daughter could see him.
10 When the child grew older (and no longer needed nursing), she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” Exodus 2:5–10
As Jochebed left the palace, she saw Pharaoh. She didn’t know how God would use her son to help his people, but she believed He would.
23 By faith, after Moses was born, his parents hid him for three months, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they didn’t fear the king’s edict. Hebrews 11:23 HCB