Moses introduces his mother to us as “a daughter of Levi” in Exodus 2:1. He was careful to identify her family heritage because until the lifetime of Amram and Jochebed, the name Levi implied violence and revenge – Genesis 34:25-31; 49:3-7 “And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field, And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house. And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house. And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?; …Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch. Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.”
Hebrew thinking often equaled wealth with sons and daughters, when they thought on the promise of God to Abraham – Genesis 12:2 “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:” Note the beginnings of this Levite mother. She “conceived, and bare a son…saw him that he was a goodly child…took for him an ark…and put the child therein.” (Exodus 2:2,3) Her actions denote a fearless and focused woman of faith. She completely trusted God with her son. Her motivation and its results are clarified by the writer to the Hebrews – Hebrews 11:23-27 “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”
Jochebed fearlessly disobeyed the Pharaoh’s edict to destroy her baby as she placed him in the Nile River in the safety of the ark, under the watchful eye of Miriam, his sister – Exodus 1:22 “And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.”; to surround him with protection, including a watchful sister, was faith – Exodus 2:3,4 “And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink. And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.”
Our Western minds have a hard time understanding the terror tactics of ancient pharaohs. Idolatrous and corrupt, they held nothing but contempt for the mysterious Yahweh of their Israelite underdogs. Hatred, hostility, and hard labor were facts of life. Yet one woman, acting as a caring and resourceful mother, soared above the evil around her. God saw her heart, heard her prayers, and intervened on her behalf. Her fame lives on through the lives of her remarkable children – Number 26:59 “And the name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, whom her mother bare to Levi in Egypt: and she bare unto Amram Aaron and Moses, and Miriam their sister.” God honored her steadfast purpose and faith by using one of her sons to deliver the Hebrews from Egyptian servitude and by appointing her other son, Aaron, as High Priest. Her daughter, Miriam, became the leader of the Hebrew women, and Jochebed’s entire tribal family was selected by God to lead the rituals of worship for His people.
Jochebed models for today’s woman an infectious courage to fear/reverence God instead of people and a firm faith in His promises and providences. The author of the Book of Hebrews records that Moses left Egypt, “not fearing the wrath of the king” – Hebrews 11:27 “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”, and that his parents before him were “not afraid of the king’s commandment – Hebrews 11:23 “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.”
It is not so much important who you are but what you do to meet the challenges and responsibilities that come. Jochebed took her motherhood very seriously, nurturing her children in the Lord with conscientious devotion. Surely, she must have been the chief influence unto God in the preparation of these children for the great tasks God gave to each in leading His people out of bondage.