Hark! The Ark of Jochebed

Bible Book: Selected Passages 
Subject: Jochebed; Children, Care of; Providence; Parenting; Family; Mothers

(Exodus 1:8-22; 2:1-11; 6:20; Numbers 26:59; Hebrews 11:23)

Dr. Roland Q. Leavell (1891-1962) president emeritus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, shares, “In the seminary I nearly starved during the first year, only to fall into the ideal student pastorate. A dear old professor recommended me to the half-time church at New Castle, Kentucky, where I preached my trial sermon on Mother’s Day, 1915. Mother’s Day was brand new, having been celebrated first in Philadelphia only about three years before. I got up all the tear-squeezer stories about mother I could find and turned them loose, for I surely wanted that call. Their tears almost hit the floor and splattered on the walls! There began one of the sweetest experiences of life. That church, four miles from a railroad, had a high average of educated, cultured, and spiritually-minded people.”1

We read in Exodus 1:8-14, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, ‘Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel. So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage—in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.”

From Exodus 6:20 we read, “Now Amram took for himself Jochebed, his father’s sister, as wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses. And the years of the life of Amram were one hundred and thirty-seven.”

Numbers 26:59 is a part of the second census, where we read, “The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and to Amram she bore Aaron and Moses and their sister Miriam.”

Jochebed’s ark, according to William MacDonald (1917-2007), like Noah’s ark, is a picture of Christ.

I. The Danger she faced.

We read in Exodus 1:15-22, “Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?’ And the midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.”

Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty. And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that He provided households for them. So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, ‘Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.’”

Jochebed and her husband Amram already had two children, Miriam and Aaron. Then came the edict from Pharaoh that all of the male Hebrew children born were to be killed.

II. The Decision she made.

We read in Exodus 2:1-2, “And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi. So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months.”

The writer to the Hebrews states, “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). Note it was the faith of his parents in reference here. Jochebed decided in agreement with her husband, Amram, to hide Moses.

As we read further in Hebrews 11:24-29, “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.”

III. The Dilemma she negotiated.

When Evangelist W. A. "Billy" Sunday (1862-1935) recounted the story, he said, "Some people wonder what angels do. Why, God had a couple of angels on special patrol that day; one to keep the crocodiles away from that baby, and the other to pinch the baby and make him cry at the right time."

Dr. Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) writes, “The sweet picture of womanly compassion in Pharaoh’s daughter is full of suggestions. Her name is handed down by one tradition as ‘Merris’ and ‘Meri’ has been found as the appellation of a princess of the period. A rabbinical authority calls her ‘Bithiah’ that is, ‘Daughter of Jehovah’; by which no doubt, intended to imply that she became in some sense a proselyte. This may have been only an inference from her protection of Moses. There is a singular and very obscure passage in 1 Chron. iv. 17, 18, relating the genealogy of a certain Mared, who seems to have had two wives, one ‘the Jewess,’ the other ‘Bithiah, the daughter of Pharaoh.’ We know no more about him or her, but Keil thinks that Mered probably ‘lived before the Exodus’; but it can scarcely be that the ‘daughter of Pharaoh,’ his wife, is our princess, and that she actually became a ‘daughter of Jehovah,’ and, like her adopted child, refused royal dignity and preferred reproach. In any case, the legend of her name is a tender and beautiful way of putting the belief that in her ‘there was some good things towards the God of Israel.’ But, passing from that, how the true woman’s heart changes languid curiosity into tenderness, and how compassion conquers pride of race and station, as well as regard for her father’s edict, as soon as the infant’s cry, which touches every good woman’s feelings, falls on her ear.”2

The interesting thing is that Jochebed was even paid to raise Moses. The very family that decreed for the Hebrews to be destroyed were now defraying the expenses of the early tutelage and subsequent training in the finest schools of Egypt of the one who would one day stand up against them to deliver his people.

IV. The Doctrines she taught.

Dr. Robert Alexander Hallam (1807-1877) explains the following about , “The education of Moses: --There from a mother’s lips he learned the story of the great forefather Abraham, his call, and God’s covenant with him and his seed, the meaning of the mark of circumcision in his flesh, and the duties to which it bound him; the Divine unity and holiness; the worship and service that is the creator’s due; was made tenderly alive to the wrongs and sufferings of his people; was taught patriotism and piety, and prepared to become in due time the vindicator of Israel’s freedom and faith.”3

We must never underestimate the permanence of early impressions. I recently read, “A farmer decided to remove an old beech-tree which grew on his farm. The wood-cutter noticed on the bark of the tree some curious marks looking like the letters J. L., roughly cut, and below them some ornamental design. After the tree had been cut down and was being separated into lengths he was startled to find on the hard dry wood at the core of the tree, directly opposite the place on the bark where he had noticed the marks, the clearly cut letters J. L., on the dark background, and below them an anchor. On inquiries being made, it was found the letters were the initials of a sailor named John Leland, who, in an idle hour, had cut them on the beech-tree when it was young. There were thirty-seven rings between the letters and the bark of the tree. He inferred that the letters must have been cut in the year 1853 and his belief was confirmed when he learned that it was that year that the sailor had spent some time in the neighborhood. Thus the inscription had not only remained in the place where it was at the first, but as each year added to the growth of the tree, the letters still appeared on the surface, scarcely legible there, it is true, but perfectly clear at the core. It is so with the human character. Many an old man, in spite of the rough usage of the world and the scar of time and trouble, bears upon his walk and conversation the marks of the handwriting which in his youth God put in his heart.”4

"The greatest battle that ever was fought,
Shall I tell you where and when?
On the maps of this world you will find it not;
'Twas fought by the mothers of men."

V. The Duty she executed.

Solomon reminds us that children are “like arrows” in Psalm 127:4. Parents are to aim their children in the right direction by precept and by example. We also read in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, / And when he is old he will not depart from it.” God led Jochebed like Hannah, the mother of Samuel, to release her child to the care of another early.


Dr. T. De Witt Talmage (1832-1902) shares, “When Druyse, the gunsmith, invented the needle-gun, which decided the battle of Sadowa, was it a mere accident? When a farmer’s boy showed Blucher a short cut by which he could bring his army up soon enough to decide Waterloo for England, was it a mere accident? When the Protestants were besieged at Bezors, and a drunken drummer came in at midnight and rang the alarm bell, not knowing what he was doing, but waking up the host in time to fight their enemies that moment arriving, was it an accident? When in the Irish rebellion, a starving mother, flying with her starving child, sank down and fainted on a rock in the night, and her hand fell on a warm bottle of milk, did that just happen so? God is either in the affairs of men or our religion is worth nothing at all, and you had better take it away from us, and instead of this Bible, which teaches the doctrine, give us a secular book, and let us, as the famous Mr. Fox, the Member of Parliament, in his last hour, cry out: ‘Read me the eighth book of Virgil.’ Oh my friends; let us rouse up to an appreciation of the fact that all the affairs of our life are under a King’s command, and under a Father’s watch.”5

1Roland Q. Leavell, The Sheer Joy of Living (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961), p. 31 


2The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Exodus, (New York: Anson D. F.  Randolph & Company, n. d.)  & (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1886), p. 29 http://www.archive.org/stream/biblicalillustra02exel#page/n5/mode/2up


3Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Exodus, (New York: Anson D. F.  Randolph & Company, n. d.)  & (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1886), p. 32 http://www.archive.org/stream/biblicalillustra02exel#page/n5/mode/2up


4The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Exodus, (New York: Anson D. F.  Randolph & Company, n. d.)  & (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1886), p. 35 http://www.archive.org/stream/biblicalillustra02exel#page/n5/mode/2up


5The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Exodus, (New York: Anson D. F.  Randolph & Company, n. d.)  & (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1886), p. 25 http://www.archive.org/stream/biblicalillustra02exel#page/n5/mode/2up


By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on Amazon.com and WORDsearchbible.com



http://www.webspawner.com/users/franklinlkirksey  / fkirksey@bellsouth.net  / (251) 626-6210

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