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Before God’s people even cry out for a deliverer, the sovereign plan is in place to prepare Moses for that role. He begins identifying with his oppressed people rather than holding on to his privileged status of Egyptian royalty. But he starts out presumptuously rather than waiting for God’s timing and trusting in God’s empowerment. The process of leadership development can be a slow one and Moses must learn some key lessons before God formally calls him to assume that key role of deliverer.



A. (:11-12) Presumptuous Moses — Moses the Murderer — Heroic Intervention – Killing the Egyptian Oppressor

1. (:11) Examination

a. Open-Minded Observation

“Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors;”

“brethren” – shows the close tie Moses felt to his Jewish race despite his assimilation into the Egyptian culture; probably an indication as well that Moses had a sense of God’s hand on his life to benefit the Hebrew nation

Bruce Hurt: The Septuagint translates looked here in Ex 2:11 with the verb katanoeo (kata = down [kata can be used to intensify the meaning] + noéo = to perceive or think) means literally to put the mind down on something and so to observe or consider carefully and attentively. This is what Moses was doing, fixing his eyes and mind upon the situation and perceiving it clearly. Katanoeo means to look carefully, cautiously, observantly. The idea is to think about something very carefully or consider closely which denotes the action of one’s mind apprehending certain facts about a thing so as to give one the proper and decisive thought about the thing considered.

John Hannah: The events described in these verses took place 40 years after Moses’ birth (cf. Acts 7:23); the year was about 1485 B.C. in the reign of Hatshepsut. By this time Moses was highly educated (Acts 7:22) and probably spoke fluently in both Egyptian and Hebrew.

b. Outrageous Oppression

“and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.”

2. (:12) Execution

a. Acting Alone – No Witnesses

“So he looked this way and that,

and when he saw there was no one around,”

Constable: Moses’ desire to help his brethren was admirable, but his methods were deplorable (Exodus 2:12; cf. Acts 7:23-29). He trusted in his own ability to liberate the Israelites and sought to bring this about by natural means. He even resorted to sinful means and seized authority rather than waiting for God to bestow it on him.

Walter Kaiser Jr: Calvin thought Moses acted by the Spirit of God, but Augustine was surely correct when he stressed that Moses had no legal authority to do what he did. His own conscience likewise agreed, for he first looked “this way and that” (vs. 12) and then buried the corpse in the sand. But the very impulse that led Moses to avenge wrongdoing apart from due process of law was developed to do the work of God when God finished seasoning him through the experiences of life!

b. Attack and Concealment

“he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.”

Bruce Hurt: He buried him so as to conceal what he had done, lest it be discovered. God had other plans and allowed it to be discovered because God knew it was now time for Moses to take his “graduate class” in shepherding sheep for 40 years! This would be good preparation for delivering Israel, which all too often would act like dumb sheep!

Mattoon: There are several lessons we can learn from untempered, uncontrolled zeal. Zeal that is Out of Control:

1. It leads to hasty actions: It is uncontrolled, impulsive, and impatient.

2. It makes one unfit for God’s service: It relies too much upon self and takes matters in one’s own hands without the leading of the Lord. The key words of verse 11-12, looked and saw, reveal this truth. Moses walked by sight. Nothing is mentioned about getting direction from God at this point in his life.

3. The hasty actions of uncontrolled zeal retard accomplishments rather than furthering God’s purposes. It makes a mess.

Steven Cole: Apparently Moses learned his lesson. Years later, he warned the tribes of Gad and Reuben, who wanted to settle across the Jordan, but promised to help the other tribes conquer Canaan, that if they did not keep their promise (Num. 32:23), “… be sure your sin will find you out.” We can’t hide anything from God!

B. (:13-14) Rejected Moses — Moses the Meddler — Hebrew Inquiry – Fearing Egyptian Reprisal

1. (:13) Critical Confrontation

a. Incident

“And he went out the next day, and behold,

two Hebrews were fighting with each other;”

b. Inquiry

“and he said to the offender,

‘Why are you striking your companion?’”

2. (:14a) Rebellious Rejection

“But he said, ‘Who made you a prince or a judge over us?

Are you intending to kill me, as you killed the Egyptian?’”

3. (:14b) Petrified Panic

“Then Moses was afraid, and said,

‘Surely the matter has become known.’”

C. (:15a) Fugitive Moses — Moses the Meanderer — Homicidal Intimidation — Fleeing Pharaoh

“When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses.

But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh”

Wearing out his welcome in Egypt

Walter Kaiser Jr: Pharaoh’s wrath was not so much to avenge the death of an Egyptian as it was to deal with his discovery that Moses was acting as a friend and possible champion of his sworn enemy, the oppressed Israelites.



A. (:15b) New Location for Moses in Midian

1. Settled in Midian

“and settled in the land of Midian;”

John Hannah: The Midianites lived in southeastern Sinai and northwestern Arabia on both sides of the Gulf of Aqaba. This desert land differed greatly from Goshen in Egypt.

2. Sat Down by a Well

“and he sat down by a well.”

[think of how many significant meetings at a well we see in Scripture]

David Guzik: Moses, fleeing for his life, probably felt that God’s plan for his life was completely defeated. He probably believed that every chance he ever had to deliver his people was now over and there was nothing he could do. At this point, Moses was right where God wanted him. Moses probably had little idea of it at the time, but he was too big for God to use. Moses tried to do the Lord’s work in man’s wisdom and power and it didn’t work. After 40 years of seemingly perfect preparation, God had another period of preparation for both Moses and the people of Israel, to make them ready to receive Moses.

B. (:16-17) New Opportunity to Combat Oppression

1. (:16) Vulnerable Women

“Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters;

and they came to draw water,

and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock.”

2. (:17) Victory Over Oppressors

“Then the shepherds came and drove them away,

but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.”

Third time that Moses attempted to play the role of deliverer – anticipating his role in the later exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt

C. (:18-20) New Invitation to Integrate into a Prominent Household

1. (:18) Investigation of Fortuitous Circumstances

“When they came to Reuel their father, he said,

‘Why have you come back so soon today?’”

2. (:19) Testimony to Egyptian Assistance

“So they said, ‘An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds; and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock.’”

3. (:20) Invitation Extended to Moses

“And he said to his daughters, ‘Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.’”

D. (:21-22) New Family Unit

1. (:21a) Acquiring a Household

“And Moses was willing to dwell with the man,”

John Hannah: For 40 years (Acts 7:30) Moses undertook the toilsome life of a sheepherder in the Sinai area, thus gaining valuable knowledge of the topography of the Sinai Peninsula which later was helpful as he led the Israelites in that wilderness land.

Mattoon: Lessons from this period of Moses’ life:

1. He developed a servant’s attitude. At the well, he took the first steps of becoming a servant.

2. He developed a willingness to be obscure, dwelling in a barren desert, away from the limelight. He was also a shepherd which was considered the lowest rung on the ladder of the Egyptian social scale. God was developing humility in Moses’ life. In this desert, he gained valuable knowledge of the topography of the Sinai Peninsula which would come in handy later in his life.

3. Moses learned the ability to rest and rely upon God. The desert gave him time to think and reflect upon past mistakes and learn from them. Our problems arise when we make mistakes and fail to learn from them

2. (:21b) Acquiring a Wife

“and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses.”

3. (:22) Acquiring a Son

“Then she gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom,

for he said, ‘I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.’”



A. (:23a) Change in Circumstances in Egyptian Government

“Now it came about in the course of those many days

that the king of Egypt died.”

B. (:23b) Cry for Help by the Sons of Israel Because of Their Bondage

1. Lament

“And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage,”

2. Loud Cry

“and they cried out;”

3. Leveraging Their Relationship to God

“and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God.”

C. (:24-25) Compassion of Covenant-Keeping God

1. (:24a) Heard

“So God heard their groaning;”

It might seem in the midst of suffering and oppression that God has forgotten His people or is unconcerned with their plight.

Bruce Hurt: “groaning” – Only 4 uses in the OT:

1) Exodus 2:24 So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

2) Exodus 6:5 Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant.

3) Judges 2:18 When the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them.

4) Ezekiel 30:24 For I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put My sword in his hand; and I will break the arms of Pharaoh, so that he will groan before him with the groanings of a wounded man.

2. (:24b) Remembered

“and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Constable: The prayers of the Israelites in their bondage touched God’s heart, and He began anew to act for them (cf. Exodus 3:7-9). This is another of the many references in Scripture that indicate that prayer affects some of God’s actions. Remembering His covenant with the patriarchs, God acted for the Israelites by commissioning Moses.

Steven Cole: The important phrase is, “God remembered His covenant with Abraham.” That was the main point of chapter 1. God’s gracious faithfulness to His covenant promises is the basis for hope for His people when they are oppressed.

In our case, He doesn’t remember our sins and lawless deeds. He deals with us on the basis of the new covenant in Christ’s blood (Heb. 8:8-13). That doesn’t mean that we’re free to sin. Rather, we can know that our failures cannot thwart His covenant faithfulness.

3. (:25a) Saw

“And God saw the sons of Israel,”

4. (:25b) Took Notice

“and God took notice of them.”

John Hannah: Exodus 2:24-25 is a hinge in the narrative. Suppression, slavery, and death were dominant themes in 1:1 – 2:23. Now deliverance and triumph will be major emphases. God in His sovereign power was ready to act in accord with His promise to deliver and preserve His people.