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The Israelites had been welcomed into Egypt under very favorable circumstances. One of their own, Joseph, was the ruler of the country (see The Grain Merchant of Egypt), second only to the Pharaoh himself. The Israelites prospered in Egypt, so much so that they eventually began to be viewed as a potential security threat by the government.
"Then Joseph died, and all his brothers [see Children of Jacob], and all that generation. But the descendants of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong; so that the land was filled with them.
The new Pharaoh resorted to increasingly deadly means to reduce the population of the resident aliens; first slavery, then male infanticide. Neither worked.
"Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens; and they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel." (Exodus 1:11-12 RSV)
Then came the Pharaoh's "final solution," a general order to the entire population.
"Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, "Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live." (Exodus 1:22 RSV)
Exodus Chapter 2
With the entire Egyptian population involved in the reporting and killing of male Israelite infants, there was no where to hide. A Levite woman who had just given birth to her third child (her older children, Aaron and Miriam, were not affected by the Pharaoh's order to kill only newborn males) came up with a unique plan of obeying the Pharaoh's order to cast the babies into The Nile River.
"Now a man from the house of Levi went and took to wife a daughter of Levi. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could hide him no longer she took for him a basket made of bulrushes, and daubed it with Bitumen and pitch; and she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds at the river's brink. And his sister stood at a distance, to know what would be done to him." (Exodus 2:1-4 RSV)
It worked. Not only did her baby survive, but he was adopted by the Pharaoh's daughter, while the mother herself got to raise the child.
"Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, and her maidens walked beside the river; she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to fetch it. When she opened it she saw the child; and lo, the babe was crying. She took pity on him and said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children."
Moses grew to adulthood, but found himself with legal troubles, forcing him to flee into the wilderness of Sinai.
"One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
Exodus Chapter 3
Moses learned to become a Sinai shepherd, in the very place where he would later shepherd a far greater flock (see The Education Of Moses). His father-in-law Jethro watched over Moses, but The Lord too was watching. One day, Moses became aware of why he had been saved out of the river.
"Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian; and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of The Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, "I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt."
Fact Finder: How was Moses baptized?