Before we even begin this passage of Scripture, notice that we have gone from Moses’ birth, redemption through the ark, and being taken in by Pharaoh’s daughter straightway into Moses’ older years. Where is the man’s youth and childhood? Where are the teenage years? The are simply gone from the text, omitted via the author’s prerogative. We find this strange omission in the life of Jesus as well.
Within this passage of Scripture, we have at the forefront catastrophe, but at the end marvelous promise. The catastrophe is quite simple. Moses sees a Hebrew brother being mistreated by an Egyptian, and so he intervenes. What is supposed by many a mere calling out the Egyptian in his wrong turns into death. Many want to give Moses the benefit of the doubt, that he didn’t simply kill the Egyptian in cold blood, but that with his challenging the Egyptian for mistreating the Hebrew, a quarrel began.
What I find most interesting with this is not that Moses kills the man, but that Moses even stands up against the injustice at all. What was it within Moses that caused for him to behold the injustice? Can we truly attribute this to mere recognition of his brethren? Or, is it more likely that what we are beholding here with Moses shall later come up again, that he turns aside to see rather than being tunnel focused upon his own problems?
Either way, the response is quite telling. The next day Moses sees two Hebrews quarreling, and he breaks up the fight. One of the men then asks, “Will you do to me as you did to the Egyptian?” The other, so I assume, asks, “Who made you ruler and judge over us?” Does this not foreshadow the appearing of our Messiah, that when He lays down His life for us, the reaction of the Jewish people were recorded as, “We will not have this man to rule over us”? Here is the thing: It is not sufficient to say, “Those Jews…” Just as there were some who rejected Moses from the very start, so there were some who rejected Jesus. Just as there were some who rejected God at Sinai, and preferred to dance around an altar naked, so too there are Jewish people who go to synagogue week after week only to discuss clever quips, but never to realize the reality of what is being presented. This is the sin that Stephen declares is Israel’s in Acts 7 – that she always has rejected her deliverers.
It is important to notice the perspective that is being communicated here. We are too quick to jump to conclusions in our anti-Semitism, or worse (anti-humanity). While others saw political and cultural greatness, with the Egyptian monuments and glory being arrayed, Moses is beholding oppression and slavery. In this, Moses identifies with his brethren. While the Hebrews are enacting a mindset that says, “Me first”, or, “If you don’t look out for number one, who will?”, Moses enacts a mindset of compassion, of putting others before self. In this, he is contrary to his brethren.
We have here the two wisdoms. The first displays culture and achievement, which is applauded in the Egyptian convenience and luxury, but also the entitlement and resentment of the oppressed. The Hebrews display quite well the mindset that there is no unity among even the brethren. Their torment is their problem; I have my own problems.
On the other hand, you have Moses who was adopted into the Egyptian household. He now must decide between the two “brethren”. In deciding to identify with the Hebrews, he does something that even the Hebrews were not: displaying the wisdom of God. God’s wisdom is one of priestly identification, one that lays down your own health, wealth, benefit, and/or reputation for the sake of justice and taking care of the least of these. It is in this act of selfless liberation that Moses shows that he is indeed qualified to be the deliverer of Israel. This act is then followed by another act of deliverance, but this time between women at a well and shepherds.
It is important to notice the connection between Genesis 24:11, 29:2-14, and Exodus 2:15-17. As with Abraham and Jacob, so now with Moses. This watering of the flock is later used with prophetic significance of treating the flock of God rightly, providing and caring for the sheep. In Exodus 2:19, the Greek eppysato hemas is used in the Septuagint, which is then quoted by Jesus in Matthew 6:13. This deliverance is a kind of deliverance from evil.
Our story then becomes one of God hearing the cry of oppressed Israel. He remembers the covenant that was made with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. This sets the stage for the next portion of Exodus. When Moses is sent back, God will plague Egypt with ten plagues. While Israel’s cry was heard by their God, the gods of Egypt do not seem to hear, nor deliver, the Egyptians from these terrifying plagues.
And so our question that we have for ourselves is how this relates to life. It is grand to learn these things, but something altogether nought if we only learn them. How does this apply to life? I might suggest that you read the prophets. Their words are ever and always words of anguish over the oppression, injustice, and absolute lack of care for those who have no voice. Where this narrative meets our daily life is right in the kishkes. How many people do you pass daily that are crying out, and yet you don’t hear their cry, because you have your own problems to deal with? Or, you don’t hear their cry because you’re too concerned with not being bothered or burdened. What about the modern Syrian refugee crisis? Do you think you are exempt because your government is taking care of that decision for you? If you don’t hear their cry, then you don’t hear the heart of God, nor do you know Him.