“And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi” (Exodus 2:1).
The simplicity of this verse belies its significance in the context of the Exodus narrative. As we read on in the book of Exodus and other books in the Old Testament we find the simplicity of this introduction to the birth of Moses also disguises a narrative complexity that is the key to understanding its significance.
Context: Exodus 1
Paraphrase of Genesis 46:8 – 50:26. This introduction consciously picks up on the final chapters of Genesis and continues the story. Keeping the final chapters of Genesis in mind is therefore necessary as we read Exodus 1 and 2.
The fruitfulness of Israel and their subsequent subjugation by Egypt just as revealed by the Lord to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-15.
vv.11-22 from enslavement to infanticide. The failure of Pharaoh’s increasingly desperate attempts to frustrate God’s covenant promises to Abraham that Israel would flourish and leave Egypt for Canaan.
The Anonymous Marriage: Exodus 2:1
Verses 1 and 2 tell the story of a man marrying a woman who then conceives and gives birth to a son. There is nothing unusual about this storyline in Biblical narrative. It happens all the time. However, we have the unusual detail that both the parents and the baby are unnamed. We then read on to find in v.4 that the anonymous firstborn son has an anonymous sister (v.4), and then in v.10 the child is named by an Egyptian princess.
It is not until we get to Exodus 6:20 that we find out the parents names: Amram and Jocheved, but also we find out Moses has a brother, Aaron, and then in 7:7 we find out Aaron is the older brother. The genealogy in Numbers 26:59 then gives us the complete family tree: Amram and Jocheved have 3 children: Miriam, Aaron and Moses. Exodus 2:1-2 missed out the birth of two children. Why?
Understanding how Moses tell this story in Exodus 2 is therefore key to understanding the point he wants to make.
Opposition to Pharaoh and Faith in God
Pharaoh’s irrational rage towards Israel was met with simple, obedient faith. To surrender to the temptation to acquiesce in search of a quiet trouble-free life would result in greater destruction.
“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s
command.” (Hebrews 11:23)