The Legends of the Jews— Volume 2: From Joseph to the Exodus

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Author: Louis Ginzberg

The Infancy of Moses

For two years the child rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter stayed with his parents and kindred. They gave him various names. His father called him Heber, because it was for this child’s sake that he had been "reunited" with his wife. His mother’s name for him was Jekuthiel, "because," she said, "I set my hope upon God, and He gave him back to me." To his sister Miriam he was Jered, because she had "descended" to the stream to ascertain his fate. His brother Aaron called him Abi Zanoah, because his father, who had "cast off" his mother, had taken her back for the sake of the child to be born. His grandfather Kohath knew him as Abi Gedor, because the Heavenly Father had "built up" the breach in Israel, when He rescued him, and thus restrained the Egyptians from throwing the Hebrew men children into the water. His nurse called him Abi Soco, because he had been kept concealed in a "tent" for three months, escaping the pursuit of the Egyptians. And Israel called him Shemaiah ben Nethanel, because in his day God would "hear" the sighs of the people, and deliver them from their oppressors, and through him would He "give" them His own law.[57]

His kindred and all Israel knew that the child was destined for great things, for he was barely four months old when he began to prophesy, saying, "In days to come I shall receive the Torah from the flaming torch."[58]

When Jochebed took the child to the palace at the end of two years, Pharaoh’s daughter called him Moses, because she had "drawn" him out of the water, and because he would "draw" the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt in a day to come.[59] And this was the only name whereby God called the son of Amram, the name conferred upon him by Pharaoh’s daughter. He said to the princess: "Moses was not thy child, yet thou didst treat him as such. For this I will call thee My daughter, though thou art not My daughter," and therefore the princess, the daughter of Pharaoh, bears the name Bithiah, "the daughter of God." She married Caleb later on, and he was a suitable husband for her. As she stood up against her father’s wicked counsels, so Caleb stood up against the counsel of his fellow-messengers sent to spy out the land of Canaan.[60] For rescuing Moses and for her other pious deeds, she was permitted to enter Paradise alive.[61]

That Moses might receive the treatment at court usually accorded to a prince, Bithiah pretended that she was with child for some time before she had him fetched away from his parents’ house." His royal foster-mother caressed and kissed him constantly, and on account of his extraordinary beauty she would not permit him ever to quit the palace. Whoever set eyes on him, could not leave off from looking at him, wherefore Bithiah feared to allow him out of her sight.[63]

Moses’ understanding was far beyond his years; his instructors observed that he disclosed keener comprehension than is usual at his age. All his actions in his infancy promised greater ones after he should come to man’s estate, and when he was but three years old, God granted him remarkable size. As for his beauty, it was so attractive that frequently those meeting him as he was carried along on the road were obliged to turn and stare at him. They would leave what they were about, and stand still a great while, looking after him, for the loveliness of the child was so wondrous that it held the gaze of the spectator. The daughter of Pharaoh, perceiving Moses to be an extraordinary lad, adopted him as her son, for she had no child of her own. She informed her father of her intention concerning him, in these words: "I have brought up a child, who is divine in form and of an excellent mind, and as I received him through the bounty of the river in a wonderful way, I have thought it proper to adopt him as my son and as the heir of thy kingdom." And when she had spoken thus, she put the infant between her father’s hands, and he took him and hugged him close to his breast.[64]

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Chicago: Louis Ginzberg, "The Infancy of Moses," The Legends of the Jews— Volume 2: From Joseph to the Exodus, trans. Rodwell, J. M. in The Legends of the Jews—Volume 2: From Joseph to the Exodus Original Sources, accessed July 5, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=E8IQCLXF4TLASFG.

MLA: Ginzberg, Louis. "The Infancy of Moses." The Legends of the Jews— Volume 2: From Joseph to the Exodus, translted by Rodwell, J. M., in The Legends of the Jews—Volume 2: From Joseph to the Exodus, Original Sources. 5 Jul. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=E8IQCLXF4TLASFG.

Harvard: Ginzberg, L, 'The Infancy of Moses' in The Legends of the Jews— Volume 2: From Joseph to the Exodus, trans. . cited in , The Legends of the Jews—Volume 2: From Joseph to the Exodus. Original Sources, retrieved 5 July 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=E8IQCLXF4TLASFG.