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EXEGESIS > Old Testament > Pentateuch > Exodus > Ex. 2:11-22 - Moses in Midian

Moses in Midian
Ex. 2:11-22


At age forty Moses identified himself with his people, the Hebrew people (Ex. 2:11-14; Acts 7:23-29), and went to visit them and to see their burden; his decision to do so is defined in spiritual terms by the writer of Hebrews:

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 (12:24-25).

As a result of his choice to join with his people in their suffering, he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew (Ex. 2:11-12); when Pharaoh discovered the deed, he determined to kill Moses; therefore, Moses fled to Midian.

Midian (Ex. 2:15)

    Land of Midian

The land of Midian was located south of the Dead Sea, on the eastern and western sides of the Gulf of Aqaba at the edge of the Sinai Peninsula.

It is a desolate, barren, mountainous, and desert area; it was and is a formidable wilderness area.

The land was inhabited by the descendants of Midian, the son of Abraham, and the land was named after the son.

    People of Midian

The Midianites were descended from Midian, Abraham’s son by Keturah, a wife/concubine of Abraham (Gen. 25:1-6); at one point Abraham sent all of his sons eastward away from his dwelling, all with the exception of Isaac, the son of promise and the recipient of the covenant.

Midian and his sons became nomads, living in the desert, and were known as Midianites or Ishmaelites (Gen. 37:25, 36).

In spite of their common ancestry, the Midianites were continually opposed to the Hebrews, causing problems as late as the time of the Judges and especially Gideon.

    Priest of Midian

Two designations refer to the priest of Midian: Reuel, meaning “Friend of God” (Ex. 2:18; Num. 10:29; perhaps Reuel was a clan name, but Raguel in the LXX), and Jethro (Ex. 3:1; 4:18).

Jethro acknowledged God, confessed God, and offered sacrifices to God (Ex. 18:7-12); one of his names implies a basic belief in monotheism; the explanation for his belief must be in the faith handed down from Abraham.

Moses (Ex. 2:16-22)

    The Meeting

Moses fled to the desert and was beside a well when the daughters of Jethro came to get water; they were accosted by shepherds who sought to keep them from the well, but Moses came to their rescue; the daughters returned home and informed their father, who invited Moses to their dwelling to eat.

As a result of the meeting Moses came to live with Jethro and work for him (Ex. 2:1; 3:1).

    The Marriage

Jethro gave Moses one of his daughters, Zipporah, in marriage; and she bore him a son; Moses named his son Gershom, meaning “Stranger There”; he said: “I have been a stranger in a foreign land” (Ex. 2:22).

The name reveals his loneliness in the desert, and that his sojourn in the land of Midian could not be his true home, which was with the Hebrew people and their affliction; perhaps also the name speaks of his awareness that his future would be someplace different than Midian.

Lessons from the Experience of Moses in Midian

* God’s ways are often mysterious!

Moses was a trained and educated man, schooled in all the ways and knowledge of the Egyptians; he was capable and seemed to be destined for greatness with the Egyptian people.

But at the age of forty he is in the desert and is a shepherd taking care of his father-in-law’s flock; all of his preparation seemed such a waste.

But God knows where he is and shortly God is going to act, but Moses does not know this.

    * Seemingly unimportant times may be momentous times!

Moses is alone in the wilderness guarding the flock—but he met God; he was out of the loop in Egypt, away from everything that was considered desirable, but he had the Burning Bush experience.

    * God’s good overrules man’s evil!

Pharaoh issued an order that all the Hebrew male babies were to be killed; however, God used Pharaoh’s daughter to save the life of Moses, a Hebrew baby.

Pharaoh determined to put Moses to death because he murdered an Egyptian; however, God enabled Moses to escape to Midian and meet Jethro’s daughters.

    * Be content in the wilderness!

The Bible records that “Moses was content to live with the man” (Ex. 2:21), content to live in isolation in the desert; Paul voiced the same sentiments: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil. 4:11).

    * Doing wrong brings its own consequences!

Moses committed murder and spent forty years in exile; it was as though he was incarcerated in the wilderness, separated from the life he had known.

    * God brings believers together!

Alone and in the wilderness, God brought Jethro into the life of Moses.

See: Ex. 3:1-10 - God's Meeting with Moses

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