Women in the Bible Series: Jochebed
“Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him.” (Exodus 2: 1-4, ESV)
Tons of people are remembered in the Bible. Some for their bravery, some for their deep faith in God; some for their mistakes, and others for their quick wits. And although the men tend to catch biblical legacy for longer stretches of scripture, there are still countless tales of women that should be remembered for their tenacity to honor God above all else and further His kingdom, even if their stories are brief.
Today, I want to highlight a woman that was resourceful, brave, and feared God above all else. Many might not even know her name, but without her trust in God, the Israelites would have had a hard time getting out of Egypt.
Her name is Jochebed, better known as the mother of Moses, and you’d miss her story if you’re not paying attention. Essentially, at the time of Moses’ birth, Pharaoh makes a decree that all Hebrew babies born male should be cast into the Nile River and drowned. Jochebed, giving birth to a son, decides to disobey this command and instead, to hide her son for the first three months of his life.
That alone is remarkable and could only have been done with God’s help. Moses, a little baby at this point, would do what all babies do: cry. The Bible doesn’t tell us how, but the fact that Moses was kept quiet for months, let alone days, was a testimony to the fact that when God wills something, it will happen. But it also shows the kind of mother Jochebed was.
Imagine how anxious she must have been, making sure that Moses was so well taken care of that there was no opportunity for him to cry. Imagine how she must have lived in constant prayer, asking God to protect her home, keep Moses hidden, and show her what to do with him. Eventually, she starts to make a basket of bulrushes and waterproofs it with pitch. I imagine her making this vessel big enough for her infant son to fit in; strong enough on the outside to protect him and as nurturing as a mother’s arms on the inside to keep Moses calm
Once the vessel is done, she bundles Moses up and places him in the basket before placing the basket to drift on the Nile.
I’m not even a mother, and I can’t wrap my head around that kind of faith. To put your child on an open body of water, with any kind of wildlife, Egyptian soldier, and stray current looking to do that baby harm… now that is a trust in God that I’m not sure I have yet. And any new mother would probably feel the same, looking at absolutely everything that could possibly have gone wrong, and still saying, “God has a purpose and God will keep him safer than I possibly could.”
And that faith– that blind trust in God– is rewarded. We know that Pharaoh’s daughter finds Moses in this basket among the reeds. God moves her heart to pity Moses and gives her a desire to keep the child. At which point, Moses’ sister steps out of hiding, because she had been following the basket to see what would happen to the baby. She offers to find a nurse maid for Pharaoh’s daughter. When she consents, Moses’ sister goes to get her mother, and Jochebed likely spends another couple of years earning a wage to raise her own son before handing him over to Pharaoh’s daughter.
From beginning to end, Jochebed’s story is only about ten verses long, but the great faith and trust in God we observe in her is hard to miss. Sure, she’s tested– she becomes pregnant at a very dangerous time to be a new mother. But she obviously stands assured that her God is in control. If she didn’t believe that, she wouldn’t have taken the risk of hiding Moses in her home as a newborn. She could have been risking the life of not only Moses, but both her own and the lives of her other children.
Her fear of God, honoring His love of life, and His ultimate plan to make the Hebrew people into a nation, is ultimately stronger than her immediate fear of Pharaoh and his threat to her family.
In a world that is constantly raising the stakes on hating God, can we fear God with a righteous fear that reaches beyond our natural instincts of self-preservation and reputation? Would we have enough faith to keep our faith in God alive against all the odds? Enough to take our most precious possessions and relationships, entrust them to God’s care, and know that God would never let any of it slip through His fingers?
I don’t know about you, but I need to remember Jochebed a whole lot more than I do. And ultimately, there are a lot of things about her and about this story that we’ll never know in detail on this side of eternity. But there is a lot of peace in knowing that this kind of woman exists, even for just a few moments within the pages of the Bible; and it’s enough to really see the very best parts of her. It’s enough to be encouraged to take hold of that same faith she had.
And ultimately, I hope that my life is a lot like Jochebed’s. Maybe there won’t be a lot left of me to remember when I’m gone, but if there is anything, let it be the moments where I gave absolutely everything I had back to God. Even if for just a blip in time. I pray that your faith and mine would be like hers and that our lives, may it be long or brief, would be a testimony to God’s goodness and sovereign nature.