Exodus 1 concluded with the Israelites in dire straits. The entire nation of Egypt, the leading world power of the fifteenth century BC, was set against the Hebrews, who, though numerous, were no match for the might of the pharaoh and his armies (Ex. 1:22). God’s people had reached a critical point in their history when all hope had seemed lost, and indeed, many of the original readers of Exodus would have remembered those dark days all too well.
But of course, the story of Israel does not end in Exodus 1. The Egyptian oppression set the stage for a powerful work of God that, as we learn in today’s passage, began with something very ordinary—the birth of a child (2:1–2). By Exodus 2:10, we will learn that this child was Moses, the one whom God called to lead His people out of Egypt and the author of this history.
First, we read that a man and a woman from the tribe of Levi got married. In Exodus 6:20, we learn the names of this husband and wife: Amram and Jochebed, respectively. Moses does not give us the name of his tribe as an incidental detail. Because the Levites would be the tribe of Israel’s priests (Num. 3), the fact that Moses was a Levite qualified him to be the mediator of the covenant between God and Israel, since it was through Moses that the Lord formalized the covenant with His people. Moreover, that Moses was born to a tribe of Israel would leave no doubt that he was a true Israelite and therefore qualified to lead the nation of Israel. Given that Moses had been raised in the pharaoh’s house (Ex. 2:10), some might have doubted his right to lead the covenant community. But Exodus 2:1 establishes his true origin, thus establishing Moses as the authorized leader of God’s people.
In Exodus 2:2 we see another act of godly disobedience to an evil king’s decree. Like the Hebrew midwives, Jochebed does not follow the pharaoh’s order to kill an infant Hebrew boy (see 1:15–21). Instead, she hides her child for three months from those who would seek to kill him (2:2). The boy’s father, Amram, is not mentioned, probably because he was away from home working as a slave at the time. The same verse indicates that although Jochebed likely did not know the role that Moses was going to play in her nation’s history, “she saw that he was a fine child.” She noticed something special about the infant Moses. This gave her all the more reason to hide him. The natural love of a mother for her child would be the human means through which God would provide a deliverer to Israel.