Poole on Exodus 2:4-10: Moses, Drawn from the Water

Verse 4:[1] (Ex. 15:20; Num. 26:59) And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.

[Standing afar off, וַתֵּתַצַּב] It is an irregular verb (in the place of וַתְּיַצֵּב,[2] or וַתִּתְיַצֵּב[3]): it indicates the fear, the trepidation, of the girl. It signifies to set one’s self steadfastly, to gather, to exert, strength, courage (Malvenda). She was stationed, understand, by her mother (Vatablus). She was ten or twelve years of age (Menochius).

His sister stood afar off, that she might not be thought to have laid the child there, or to be related to it.

Verse 5:[4] And the (Acts 7:21) daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.

[The daughter of Pharaoh] Josephus and others here and there call her Thermut[5] (Menochius); Artapanus,[6] Merin[7] (Tirinus).

[On the river, עַל־הַיְאֹר[8]] Toward the river.[9] It is governed by the preceding וַתֵּרֶד, and she came down (Vatablus).

[And her maidens] That is to say, She continued alone with one of her handmaids in one place, so that she might wash herself; the rest, however, were spreading out (Vatablus).

[Along the bank, עַל־יַד] Next to, or upon, a hand (Malvenda, Oleaster), that is, a diverticulum: we call it a branch of the sea. Hand is here a certain stream of the river (Oleaster).

[She sent one, וַתִּשְׁלַ֥ח אֶת־אֲמָתָ֖הּ] And she sent her handmaid: thus the Vulgate, the Septuagint, all our interpreters, and most of the Hebrews (Fagius’ Comparison of the Principal Translations). Others translate it, she extended her arm, or cubit (some interpreters in Fagius’ Comparison of the Principal Translations). Ibn Ezra does not approve for then the מ in אֲמָתָהּ would have a Dagesh (ּ).[10] But when it has a Raphe[11] (as in this place), it signifies handmaid (Fagius’ Comparison of the Principal Translations).

Verse 6:[12] And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children.

[And seeing the infant, וַתִּרְאֵ֣הוּ אֶת־הַיֶּ֔לֶד] Verbatim: And she saw him, the infant.[13] Which the Hebrews explain in this way: She saw him; whom did she see? the child. Thus Zechariah 12:8;[14] see that passage (Vatablus). The relative is often put before its substantive, although certainly pleonastically, yet for greater clarity (Glassius’[15] “Grammar” 217).

[Of the Hebrews’ infants] Which she certainly knew from his circumcision (Menochius).

This is one of the Hebrews’ children: This she might very probably guess, both from the circumstances in which she found him, and from the singular fairness and beauty of the child, far differing from the Egyptian hue; and she might certainly know it by its circumcision.

Verse 7:[16] Then said his sister to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?

Verse 8:[17] And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child’s mother.

Verse 9:[18] And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it.

[Take, etc., הֵילִיכִי] They translate it, lead away (Montanus); carry off (Junius and Tremellius); keep safe (Septuagint). הֵילִיכִי is in the place of הוֹלִיכִי; for the verb is in the Hiphil.[19] The י is not always changed into a quiescent ו. Thus הֵינִיק[20] is from יָנַק, he sucks (Munster). Behold, to thee is the little boy (Syriac, Arabic) [as if they had read הָא לְכִי, behold, to thee.]

Verse 10:[21] And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became (Acts 7:21) her son. And she called his name Moses (that is, drawn out[22]): and she said, Because I drew him[23] out of the water.

[Whom she adopted, etc., וַֽיְהִי־לָ֖הּ לְבֵ֑ן] And he was to her in the place of a son (Junius and Tremellius). To her, namely, to the mother of the boy (Vatablus). Thermut was the sole heir of Pharaoh, and she was without offspring, although long married, as Philo[24] testifies.[25] Whence Moses was educated in accordance with royal custom[26] (Tirinus). Philo says that she had pretended that she was pregnant, and that she had begotten Moses.[27] The Apostle supports this, Hebrews 11:24, he denied himself to be the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter (Menochius). He despised that adoption; he preferred to be held publicly as a Hebrew and contemptible (Lyra). Why then, with Pharaoh dead, was not Moses called to the kingdom? Perhaps the fraud of the mother and the adoption of the child was made known (Menochius).

He became her son, by adoption, Hebrews 11:24. For, as Philo reports, she, though long married, had no child of her own; and therefore treated him as her own, and gave him royal education and instruction. See Acts 7:21.

[She called his name Moses, מֹשֶׁה] Question: Whence the origin of this name? Some make it an Egyptian word, from MO (or MOYS [Lyra, Tirinus]), water, and IS, or ISES (or HYSE [Drusius]), saved (thus Philo,[28] Josephus,[29] Rabanus,[30] Clement of Alexandria,[31] Procopius[32] [Tirinus]). To others it is a Hebrew word (thus Drusius). Whoever seeks for the etymology of Moses outside of Moses seeks in vain (Drusius). She gave the name to him in her own tongue, which the Hebrews afterwards translated into their language; just as also the Greeks translated the Hebrew Cephas into Peter, etc. (Munster). The word signifies drawn forth from waters. And it was describing prophetically, as it were, that by this Moses the sons of Israel were going to be brought out of the waters of the miseries of Egypt, and likewise of the Red Sea (Tirinus). Orpheus[33] appears to have had this in mind, when he thus sings: Ὡς λόγος ἀρχαίων, ὡς ὑδογενὴς διέταξε, that is, As the speech of the ancients declared, he was begotten in water. For, because he was taken out of the water, he was thought to have been begotten in it (Drusius). It is not fitting that such a name was imposed at circumcision (Munster). Clement of Alexandria, after Numenius,[34] calls him Joachim;[35] Manetho, Osarseph;[36] Artapanus, Hermes, and after him the city of Hermenopolis[37] (Drusius).

Moses; it matters not whether this be an Egyptian name, or a Hebrew name answering to it in signification, seeing the meaning of it is here explained.

[1] Hebrew: וַתֵּתַצַּ֥ב אֲחֹת֖וֹ מֵרָחֹ֑ק לְדֵעָ֕ה מַה־יֵּעָשֶׂ֖ה לֽוֹ׃

[2] The regular Piel form.

[3] The regular Hithpael form.

[4] Hebrew: וַתֵּ֤רֶד בַּת־פַּרְעֹה֙ לִרְחֹ֣ץ עַל־הַיְאֹ֔ר וְנַעֲרֹתֶ֥יהָ הֹלְכֹ֖ת עַל־יַ֣ד הַיְאֹ֑ר וַתֵּ֤רֶא אֶת־הַתֵּבָה֙ בְּת֣וֹךְ הַסּ֔וּף וַתִּשְׁלַ֥ח אֶת־אֲמָתָ֖הּ וַתִּקָּחֶֽהָ׃

[5] Antiquities 2:9.

[6] Artapanus of Alexandria (second century BC) was a Jewish historian. His On the Jews survives only in fragments preserved by other authors.

[7] Eusebius’ Preparation of the Gospel 9.

[8] The locative use of עַל.

[9] The terminative use of עַל.

[10] Handmaid is אָמָה; cubit is אַמָּה.

[11] A Raphe is an horizontal stroke indicating that the Dagesh has been omitted.

[12] Hebrew: וַתִּפְתַּח֙ וַתִּרְאֵ֣הוּ אֶת־הַיֶּ֔לֶד וְהִנֵּה־נַ֖עַר בֹּכֶ֑ה וַתַּחְמֹ֣ל עָלָ֔יו וַתֹּ֕אמֶר מִיַּלְדֵ֥י הָֽעִבְרִ֖ים זֶֽה׃

[13] The verb takes the third person, singular object suffix, הוּ; then הַיֶּלֶד, the child, with the direct object marker, אֶת.

[14] This verse appears to be cited in error; no correction is readily evident.

[15] Solomon Glassius (1593-1656) was a German Lutheran divine and critic. He was Professor of Divinity at the University of Jena. His Philologia Sacra was a groundbreaking work in Biblical Hebrew.

[16] Hebrew: וַתֹּ֣אמֶר אֲחֹתוֹ֮ אֶל־בַּת־פַּרְעֹה֒ הַאֵלֵ֗ךְ וְקָרָ֤אתִי לָךְ֙ אִשָּׁ֣ה מֵינֶ֔קֶת מִ֖ן הָעִבְרִיֹּ֑ת וְתֵינִ֥ק לָ֖ךְ אֶת־הַיָּֽלֶד׃

[17] Hebrew: וַתֹּֽאמֶר־לָ֥הּ בַּת־פַּרְעֹ֖ה לֵ֑כִי וַתֵּ֙לֶךְ֙ הָֽעַלְמָ֔ה וַתִּקְרָ֖א אֶת־אֵ֥ם הַיָּֽלֶד׃

[18] Hebrew: וַתֹּ֧אמֶר לָ֣הּ בַּת־פַּרְעֹ֗ה הֵילִ֜יכִי אֶת־הַיֶּ֤לֶד הַזֶּה֙ וְהֵינִקִ֣הוּ לִ֔י וַאֲנִ֖י אֶתֵּ֣ן אֶת־שְׂכָרֵ֑ךְ וַתִּקַּ֧ח הָאִשָּׁ֛ה הַיֶּ֖לֶד וַתְּנִיקֵֽהוּ׃

[19] The Hiphil is causative; the sense would be, not to go, but to cause to go or to lead. The expected/regular form of the second person, plural, imperative is הוֹלִיכִי.

[20] Exodus 2:9b: “…Take this child away, and nurse it (וְהֵינִקִהוּ, or cause it to suck) for me…”

[21] Hebrew: וַיִגְדַּ֣ל הַיֶּ֗לֶד וַתְּבִאֵ֙הוּ֙ לְבַת־פַּרְעֹ֔ה וַֽיְהִי־לָ֖הּ לְבֵ֑ן וַתִּקְרָ֤א שְׁמוֹ֙ מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַתֹּ֕אמֶר כִּ֥י מִן־הַמַּ֖יִם מְשִׁיתִֽהוּ׃

[22] Hebrew: מֹשֶׁה.

[23] Hebrew: מְשִׁיתִהוּ.

[24] Philo was a first century Jewish scholar of Alexandria, Egypt. He is noted for his synthesis of Greek philosophy and Jewish theology. With respect to exegesis, Philo indulges freely in allegorization.

[25] Life of Moses 1:4.

[26] See Acts 7:22.

[27] Life of Moses 1:5.

[28] Life of Moses 1:4.

[29] Antiquities 2:9:6.

[30] Rabanus Maurus (c. 780-856) was a Benedictine monk and Archbishop of Mainz in Germany. He wrote theological treatises, an encyclopedia, a martyrology, and commentaries on most of the Old Testament, Matthew, and the Pauline Epistles, which were based chiefly on the exegetical writings of the Church Fathers and Bede.

[31] Titus Flavius Clemens Alexandrinus (died c. 215) was the head of the Christian catechetical school in Alexandria, Egypt. He was trained in pagan philosophy before his conversion to Christianity.

[32] Procopius (c. 500-c. 560) was a Byzantine historian.

[33] The Orphic hymns are traditionally ascribed to the mythical Orpheus, but they were likely composed by a multiplicity of authors, possibly as late as the early centuries of the Christian Era.

[34] Numenius was a second century Platonist. It was his belief that Plato was largely dependent upon Moses; he called Plato an “Atticizing Moses.”

[35] Stromata 1. Clement relates that Moses’ name before his circumcision was Joachim.

[36] Josephus’ Against Apion 1. Manetho relates that Osarseph was the high priest of Osiris at Heliopolis during the reign of Amenhotep. He gathered to himself a substantial following among the diseased and leprous. Amenhotep exiled Osarseph and his followers to Canaan, but the Osarsephites invaded and exiled Amenhotep and his son, Ramesses. Amenhotep and Ramesses were not able to reclaim the throne for thirteen years. Manetho claims that this is the real history behind the exodus.

[37] Stromata 9:27. Hermenopolis was the capital of the fifteenth nome of Upper Egypt, on the Nile, close to the border with Lower Egypt. It is named after Hermes, who is the Greek version of the Egyptian god Thoth, or Typhon; hence the relationship to Moses (see what things are on Exodus 2:3).


Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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