Week 4, Exodus 1—2–“Moses”: More “Nasty Women” 

Thursday, March 23

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it.  When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said.  Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’  Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother.  Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed it” (Exodus 2:5-9).

When then-candidate Donald Trump referred to his opponent Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman,” female activists across America took up that insult as a badge of honor, proud to be known as “nasty women”! Strong, confident “nasty women” play an extraordinary role in the story of Moses and in the story of Israel’s deliverance. From the midwives Shiphrah and Puah, to Moses’ here-unnamed mother and sister, to the daughter of Pharaoh and her handmaids, women act boldly to undo the hateful plans of Pharaoh.

After Moses’ mother places her son in his tiny ark, trusting him into the hands of God, Moses’ sister (later we learn that her name is Miriam) follows along on the shore, “to see what would happen to him” (Exodus 2:4). What she sees must have horrified her. In what is surely the worst possible outcome, the little basket floats into the Egyptian princess and her attendants, who are bathing in the Nile. Remember, Pharaoh himself had commanded that any Egyptian who finds a Hebrew baby boy is to drown the child in the Nile—and surely, if anyone can be expected to obey Pharaoh’s edicts, it is his own daughter! But instead, even though she knows that this child “must be one of the Hebrews,” she decides to keep him and raise him as her own—in defiance of her father. Miriam is then able to step up with an offer to find a Hebrew wet-nurse for the baby: Moses’ own mother. As a result, Moses grows up aware of his heritage.

Sometimes, the worst thing that could happen, happens. But the promise of the whole of Scripture is that God is with us and at work even then. This is why Paul is able to say, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)—not, please note, that all things are good, or that only good things happen to believers, but that whatever happens, God is at work in and with us to bring about God’s good will.

Prayer: Transforming God, when we are brought down to despair by the power of evil in our world, or by our own weakness and failings, or by the enormity of the task before us, remind us that we do not labor alone. You are at work, in the most unlikely places and through the most unlikely people, to bring in your kingdom. Help us to hope and trust in you, we pray, in the name of Jesus Christ your obedient son, who trusted you all the way to the cross and beyond, Amen