Exodus 2 Bible Commentary

John Darby’s Synopsis

(Read all of Exodus 2)
The following commentary covers Chapters 1 and 2.

Israel's persecutions and the providential superintendence of God

First, we have the historical circumstances which relate to the captivity of Israel—the persecutions which this people had to endure, and the providential superintendence of God answering the faith of the parents of the infant Moses, and thus accomplishing the counsels of His grace, which not only preserved the child's life, but placed him in an elevated position in the court of Pharaoh. The things that are done on the earth He doeth them Himself. He prepares all beforehand when nothing is as yet apparent to man.

The reponse of Providence to faith neither its guide nor its power for work

But, although providence responds to faith, and acts in order to accomplish God's purposes, and control the walk of His children, it is not the guide of faith, although it is made so sometimes by believers who are wanting in clearness of light. Moses's faith is seen in his giving up, when grown to age, all the advantages of the position in which God had set him by His providence. Providence may, and often does, give that which forms, in many respects, the servants of God for their work, as vessels; but cannot be their power in the work. These two things must not be confounded. It gives that, the giving up of which is a testimony of the reality of faith and of the power of God which operates in the soul. It is given that it may be given up. This is part of the preparation. This faith acted through affections which attached him to God, and consequently to the people of God in their distress, and manifested itself, not in the helps or reliefs which his position could well have enabled him to give to them, but in inducing him to identify himself with that people because it was God's people. Faith attaches itself to God, and appreciates, and would have part in the bond that exists between God and His people; and thus it thinks not of patronising from above, as if the world had authority over the people of God, or was able to be a blessing to them. It feels (because it is faith) that God loves His people; that His people are precious to Him—His own on the earth; and faith sets itself thus, through very affection, in the position where His people find themselves. This is what Christ did. Faith does but follow Him in His career of love, however great the distance at which it walks.

Moses' faith shown in identification with God and His people

How many reasons might have induced Moses to remain in the position where he was; and this even under the pretext of being able to do more for the people; but this would have been leaning on the power of Pharaoh, instead of recognising the bond between the people and God: it might have resulted in a relief which the world would have granted, but not in a deliverance by God, accomplished in His love and in His power. Moses would have been spared much affliction, but lost his true glory; Pharaoh flattered, and his authority over the people of God recognised; and Israel would have remained in captivity, leaning on Pharaoh, instead of recognising God in the precious and even glorious relationship of His people with Him. God would not have been glorified. Yet all human reasoning, and all reasoning connected with providential ways, would have induced Moses to remain in his position: faith made him give it up. All would really have been spoiled.

Moses set aside for a time, that his service might be more entirely subject to God

Moses, then, identifies himself with the people of God. A certain natural activity, and the unconscious habits of a strength which was not purely from on high, accompanied him, perhaps; however, it is the first devotedness which is pointed out by the Holy Ghost [1] as the good and acceptable fruit of faith. But it ought to have been more entirely subject to God, and to have had its starting-point in Him alone, and in obedience to His expressed will. We have, in this case, an example of the way in which the Lord often acts. The earnest energy of faithfulness is allowed to be manifested, but the instrument is put aside for a moment, in order that the service may depend directly and entirely upon God. There was something analogous to this even in Jesus, save that there was not in Him either false reckoning, or error, or external providences in consequence to deliver Him from them. In Him the perfection of the energy of life within, acted always in the knowledge of who His Father was, and at the same time submitted to His will in the circumstances in which He had morally placed Him. But the Lord appeared as Son with the doctors in the temple, and then was subject to Joseph and Mary till the time and way appointed of God, only alike perfect in both. Moses, fearful even amid faithfulness, and dreading the power which lent him, unconsciously perhaps, a certain habit of energy (for one is afraid of that from which one draws one's strength), and repulsed by the unbelief of those towards whom his love and his faithfulness carried him, for "they understood [him] not," fled to the desert; a type, as to the fact itself, of the Lord Jesus, rejected by the people whom He loved.

Differences between Joseph and Moses as types

There is a difference between this type and that of Joseph. Joseph takes the position (as put to death) of Jesus raised to the right hand of the supreme throne over the Gentiles, in the end receiving his brethren from whom he had been separated. His children are to him a testimony of his blessing at that time. He calls them Manasseh ("because God," says he, "has made me forget all my labours, and all the house of my father"), and Ephraim ("because God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction"). Moses presents to us Christ separated from His brethren [2]; and although Zipporah might be considered as a type of the church (as well as Joseph's wife), as the bride of the rejected Deliverer during his separation from Israel, yet, as to what regards his heart, his feelings (which are expressed in the names that he gives to his children), they are governed by the thought of being separated from the people of Israel: his fraternal affections are there—his thoughts are there—his rest and his country are there. He is a stranger everywhere else. Moses is the type of Jesus as the deliverer of Israel. He calls his son Gershom, that is to say, a "stranger there;" "for," says he, "I have sojourned in a strange land." Jethro presents to us the Gentiles among whom Christ and His glory were driven when He was rejected by the Jews.

[1] Hebrews 11: 24-26. This is often the case with God's children, faithful in their principles and desires, they have not done with self and its energies; indeed this is always the case till self is utterly judged and known and, so to speak, replaced by Christ, and doing simply God's will. But the world is always stronger than the Christian's energy in the flesh.

[2] As a figure he came to his own and they rejected him; see lower down. Stephen notices this morally (Acts 7); and so Christ is separated from His brethren in the world till He returns in power.