As spiritual reading for Lent this year, I am undertaking a study of the Book of Exodus. My tools for this undertaking are Moses and the Gods of Egypt: Studies in Exodus by John J. Davis and the text of the Revised Standard Version and commentary from the Navarre Bible.
Chapter 1 of Professor Davis’ text serves as the introduction to the study and deals with the dating of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt and the historicity of the Biblical text in general. Chapter 2, which is titled “A Dilemma and a Deliverer” covers Exodus Chapters 1 and 2.
The commentary in the Navarre Bible tells that the ancient Church Fathers considered the situation of the individual human person to be comparable to the that of ancient Israel enslaved in Egypt. Just like the children of Israel were enslaved and oppressed in Egypt and were in need of a deliverer, we have been enslaved and oppressed by sin and are also in need of a deliverer. In general, Israel can be viewed as the Church and Moses is a type of Christ who will deliver us from slavery to the promised land.
Without a doubt, the heros of Exodus Chapter One are the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah who disobeyed the order of Pharaoh to kill newborn Hebrew boys:
Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, ‘When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. (Exodus 1: 15-17).
There is a lot to meditate on here. I wonder, when it really comes down to it and it really counts, if I would fear God more than Pharaoh? I said this to a friend of mine who said “You had better.” I can’t help but think about medical professionals who have lost jobs and may face the loss of professional licenses because they refuse to take part in abortions, or pharmacists who face termination or professional discipline for refusing to dispense contraceptives. I have never faced arrest and prison time for protesting at an abortion clinic. I’ve never had to face a situation like many Christians were faced with when they hid Jews from the Nazis. If my livelihood or my very life were at stake to do the right thing, would I? In Flannery O’Connor’s story “The Temple of the Holy Ghost” the little girl who is the main character thinks to herself that she might could be a martyr if they killed her quick. The question is could you be a martyr if you knew that they were going to kill you slow? I pray that if the time ever comes, (and I fervently pray that this cup can pass me by), that God will grant me the courage to fear God more than Pharaoh.
In Chapter 2 Moses, the Prince of Egypt, is cast out and flees to the house of the priest of Midian. The daughters of priest of Midian are seven in number. In scripture, seven is the mystical number of perfection.* Therefore, we can infer that there is spiritual perfection in this priest and his family which Moses is content to settle with and marry into. In exile in the land of Midian, Moses is being prepared by God for his great task. This should teach us that we should always be patient and wait on the Lord, who, if we allow Him to, will always mold us to His holy will. Amen.
* ”In the Bible the number seven had a sacred character, symbolizing in some way the perfection of God.” The Navarre Bible Commentary note on Leviticus 23-44.