Friday, May 4, 2012

Women of the Bible Encouragement Series: Jochebed ~ Give it to God

Insidious ripples teased and licked the riverbank where Jochebed hesitated.  The Nile lay flat and wide before her, calm, brown depths hiding innumerable secrets of death and sorrow. She held her basket closer. A small squeak escaped the waterproof bassinet.
Jochebed’s eyes shot behind her. Had someone heard? She loosened her hold and hummed along with the Scarab and Churchyard beetles nestled in the thick riverside foliage to cover the noise.
The moment she left the house with this precious burden, she became an outlaw. No, that wasn’t true. She became an outlaw when she and Amram hid their child from the Pharaoh. 
To be born male and Hebrew under the reign of Thutmose I carried a death sentence. But she refused to relinquish her son’s life easily. And if protecting him brought her condemnation, so be it.
Shifrah and Puah, the midwives charged with the bloody, nascent executions, defied the king’s command and helped save many babies, thanks be to Jehovah. Jochebed wept with thanks when they appeared at her birthing and not the other midwives who were afraid of the Pharaoh and bowed to his whims.
Her lullaby strangled to a high pitch whisper as her toes plumbed the river’s rippling, wet warmth. Tears robbed her breath. With a last squeeze of the reed basket to her breast she held it still before her in the current.
She closed her eyes. She couldn’t look at him. If she did, she’d never let him go.
“Oh God of Abraham,” she whispered and let her grip loosen, “protect my son.”
By the time she opened her eyes, the bent, pitch-lined bulrushes bobbed small as an almond, a miniature coffin in the distance. It would pass the palace before choosing one of the two paths into the delta. Her heart rode each eddy until her three-month-old was out of sight. Wide-fanned papyrus aided her concealment as she followed in that direction, each soggy step home heavier than the last. She’d tried to prepare herself for this day. Tried to become strong so the separation would not be as painful. But it hadn’t worked. Nothing would ever mend this tear in her heart. She was sure of it. 
Women’s happy voices taunted her through the tall papyrus fronds.
A baby cried. Hands to her responding bosom, she forged eyes to motion in the water. 
Her basket. It was caught in the bulrushes. She willed the tiny ark to move. To swim downriver to safety. To bud wings and fly away. But it didn’t happen.
A palace servant came and stole her son from the tangle of green fronds.
Jochebed darted to a more covert hiding place, eyes never leaving the woven cradle.
That’s when she saw it. A whoosh of ebony hair and white slave clothes. Four feet tall.
Miriam. Had she followed all this time? 
“No!” Jochebed shouted a whisper and reached for hair, cloth, anything. But she was too slow, her reflex weakened by this morning’s ordeal.
Youthful boldness carried little Miriam right up to the servant, but the nude woman waded undistracted toward the palace. She was one of Princess Hatshepsut’s swimmers. The young royal must be nearby.
Not put off, Miriam’s chubby legs splashed through water up to her little knees.
Get out of there. Jochebed’s legs burned with the need to run and snatch both her babies and never stop running until they were safe. But she stayed hidden. Her walking into the cluster of servants when she should be working along with the other slaves would only get them all whipped. Or worse.
She held her breath and prayed. With the wrong word, Miriam could unwittingly be the instrument in her brother’s murder.
With a wave of her dimpled arms, the cheeky seven-year-old came up and parted the circle of handmaidens.
Toes curled into the black silt, Jochebed’s chest ached from holding her breath. She must be going mad. Either that or she’d fallen, hit her head and was dreaming. The princess laughed. Laughed!
Miriam smiled up at the royal draped in sheer bathing veils and holding Jochebed’s screaming man-child.
“Hello, little one. See my new son? I’ve decided to call him Moses. What do you think?”
Jochebed closed her eyes for a short moment. Praise be to Yahweh. They weren’t going to kill her baby boy.
 “Moses?” Miriam wrinkled her nose. “You’re going to name him ‘son of?’”
Jochebed lay her forehead in her palm. Why was she cursed with such a tactless daughter? Though, among the royals her daughter could have spoken to, the princess was the most kind and good-natured. Surely Yahweh smiled on them.
“Yes.” The beautiful future queen smiled. “Because I don’t know who his parents are.”
“I know—”
Jochebed shook her head so swiftly her neck popped.
Don’t, Miriam.
“—someone who can nurse him for you.”
The richly dressed beauty stroked the baby’s dark, curly head. “Oh you do?” Interest flared to life in her eyes. But not of the cruel, investigative kind. She truly was interested in finding a wet nurse.
Jochebed ran.
Her stomach and calves burned and breath came in hiccups when she finally reached the other mud gatherers. She would be punished for being late. But it would not last long. Hatshepsut would send for her. Her family’s station would improve when she became nourisher of the new prince.
Tears cooled her hot cheeks. She wanted to laugh. She would be allowed to mother her son a while longer.
She picked up an urn, scooped it full of the rich, slimy, brick base and fell in line with the other women. The taskmaster approached, whip in hand. Jochebed flinched under the hot sting of leather on sunburned skin. After many lashes, the guard kicked her to the ground.
“Halt!” A palace messenger appeared, Miriam at his side. Jochebed turned to face them. She didn’t want her daughter to see her wounds. Wounds that had passed through more than seventeen generations as the unwanted, but unavoidable heirloom of the slave. “Princess Hatshepsut has another use for this one.”
Jochebed stood, aided by a strength born of relief. 
God had provided deliverance.

Interesting fact about Jochebed, Moses’ mother:
Her name, (pronounced yo-HEV-ed), means “Yahweh is glory.”
She married her nephew -- Ex. 6:20. (A practice Moses later banned -- Leviticus 18:12.
It is widely believed that her son Moses' stepmother was Hatshepsut, the only female Pharaoh. 

Opposite to the story of Hannah, about whom I almost wrote this month's post, Jochebed gave her most precious possession to the Lord, and He graciously returned the child to her keeping. I can't imagine her joy at being allowed to care for her son, who she thought was lost to her forever. Would that we all were so willing to trust God with the things we hold closest to our hearts.
I took slight creative liberties with this post. To read the real story, see Exodus Chapter 2. :)

P.S. For interesting info. on the rulers in Egypt during that time, see the following link: (I'm not saying all of it is true. I haven't thoroughly researched the Pharaohs. It was, however, very interesting to read.)

Until next time,