At that time Moses was born—a beautiful child in God’s eyes. His parents cared for him at home for three months. When they had to abandon him, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and raised him as her own son. Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was powerful in both speech and action. [Acts 7:20-22 (NLT)]
For the Israelites, 1526 B.C. was a terrible year to have a baby boy. Fearing the growing strength of the Jewish nation in Egypt, Thutmose I ordered that all Hebrew male babies be killed. Fifteen hundred years later, the Jewish historian Josephus would explain that Pharaoh’s counselors gave him this warning: “There would be a child born to the Israelites, who, if he were reared, would bring the Egyptian dominion low, and would raise the Israelites; that he would excel all men in virtue, and obtain a glory that would be remembered through all ages.”
When Jochebed and Amram had a baby boy, Jochebed was unwilling to see her child thrown into the Nile. After waterproofing a papyrus basket, she placed her infant in it and hid him among the reeds. In one of God’s beautifully orchestrated events, Pharaoh’s daughter (feasibly the only person in the nation who could save the one who would lead Israel out of bondage) just happened to be bathing at the river, hear the baby’s cries, and take him as her child.
She was one of the most important women in the history of God’s people and Scripture doesn’t even tell us her name! While much is speculation, historical documents lead most scholars to believe that she was Hatshepsut, the only surviving child of Thutmose I and his primary wife Ahmose. With no living brothers, the heir to the throne became the son of the pharaoh’s secondary wife, Hatshepsut’s half-brother Thutmose II. To legitimize his claim to the throne, the half-siblings were married. Hatshepsut wasn’t able to bear sons so, like their father, her husband had a son by a secondary wife. When Thutmose II died, Hatshepsut became co-regent with her infant step-son, Thutmose III, and ruled for 22 years until her death. At some point in this story, Hatshepsut took Moses and raised him as her child. As step-brothers, Moses and Thutmose III probably knew one another. Once Hatshepsut died, Moses may have been perceived a threat by the young Egyptian king. When Moses fled Egypt just a few years after his adoptive mother’s death, political intrigue along with murder may have contributed to his hasty departure.
We know some of Hatshepsut’s history but, other than reading that she felt sorry for the crying baby, we know little of her. How did she have the audacity to defy Pharaoh’s command, challenge tradition, and come before her father and his advisors with a Hebrew baby? Did she think her father weak for being afraid of an industrious people or cruel for killing innocent defenseless children? Perhaps she thought that, by adopting this orphaned boy, he could become Pharaoh’s legitimate heir and she would have power rather than her half-brother. Or was it simply God’s whisper in her ear that gave her both the courage and compassion to save this child?
Inadvertently, Pharaoh’s daughter prepared her adopted son to speak before another Pharaoh, free the Israelites, and record the first five books of the Old Testament. Educated in the royal harem along with others of royal blood, he would have studied hieroglyphic and other scripts, copied and memorized lengthy lists of words and names, and learned the languages of the world. Both public speaking and the ability to write well were highly valued in the royal classroom. When reading the exodus story, it’s easy to wonder how Moses and Aaron could gain an audience with the Pharaoh. When Moses returned to Egypt, Amenhotep II, the son of Thutmose III, was on the throne. As the adopted son of Hatshepsut, however, Moses was the step-uncle of the king! Moreover, having been raised in the royal harem, even forty years later, others in the court remembered and respected the son of Hatshepsut.
Because of Hatshepsut, the Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses was perfectly prepared for his God-given destiny. Little did she know when she adopted him that he would be the one about whom her father’s counselors had warned! Just as happened 1500 years later when another boy child was born to the Israelites and another cruel ruler tried to stop the one who would deliver His people, God’s plan could not be thwarted. He cannot be stopped!