One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” -Exodus 2:11-12
You may read Exodus 2:11-25 here: Gateway Bible.
Scripture doesn’t tell us much about Moses’ early years as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. His name—given him by the princess—must have been a constant reminder of his origin. Moses is a bilingual wordplay combining Hebrew and Egyptian words. In Egyptian the root word means “born.” In Hebrew it means “to draw out [of water]”.
Where did Moses live? The Archaeological Study Bible notes: “During the 1990s an enormous royal compound was discovered on the southern bank of the eastern branch of the Nile River. Used throughout the Eighteenth Dynasty (c. 1550-1300 B.C.), the compound consisted of a fortress and a palace. . . . Moses probably meandered the halls of these buildings, and the pharaoh quite likely mobilized his 600 chariots to pursue the Israelites from this location (14:7).
What was Moses’ educational background? Stephen’s address to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:22) asserts that Moses obtained instruction in the science and learning of the Egyptians. He was also gifted with oratorical and leadership skills.
Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “Egypt had a highly developed civilization for its time, particularly in the areas of engineering, mathematics, and astronomy. . . . They developed an amazingly accurate calendar, and their engineers planned and supervised the construction of edifices that are still standing. Their priests and doctors were masters of the art of embalming, and their leaders were skilled in organization and administration.”
As an Egyptian prince, Moses would also have Egyptian military training from the world’s most advanced army.
But for all of his training and pampered lifestyle, Hebrews 11:24-25 tells us “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.”
Around the age of 40, Moses’ strong sense of justice and reaction to conflict got him into trouble.
Whether Moses meant to kill the Egyptian slave master, or impulsively protected the beaten Hebrew, his murder didn’t go unnoticed. Nor did his act bid well with either Pharaoh or the Hebrews he tried to help during a dispute.
Pharaoh’s reaction? Kill Moses!
So Moses escapes to Midian. Here he would once again use his deliverer instincts and warrior tactics to easily handle harassing shepherds toward the daughters of a Midianite Priest. As a result, Moses is taken into their home and is given Reuel’s daughter, Zipporah, in marriage.
During the next 40 years, Moses would have a son named Gershom, which sounds like the Hebrew for an alien there. And Moses’ would find work as a shepherd in this foreign land.
In the meanwhile, Pharaoh dies. And God’s alarm clock for deliverance is about to sound. He not only hears the Israelites’ cries, but is also concerned about them as He reflects upon His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Personal greatness or position doesn’t exempt one from mistakes and consequences. Prince Moses tried to make sure no one was watching when he killed the Egyptian. We may be tempted to do wrong when we think no one notices. But it usually snowballs. And even if no one does notice, God always does. Some day everyone will have a face-to-face evaluation with Him.
I wonder how often Moses questioned God’s plan and purpose for his life during his 40-year hiatus in Midian? It must have felt like the ultimate demotion: from prince of Egypt to a despised shepherd of stubborn sheep.
Now for the good news . . . . God was preparing Moses to deliver and shepherd his people in the desert. I like how Layman’s Bible Commentary puts it: “Every detail of our lives, every incident, every failure, is employed by God providentially to further His purposes. While this should in no way make us lax in our desire to know God’s will and to obey Him, it should serve to assure us that even when we fail, He does not.”
Do you see this principle at work in your own journey? What can we learn from Moses’ experiences?