Online Bible Commentary
Hebrews 11:23 By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. (NIV)
Chapter eleven of the book of Hebrews is known as the faith chapter. Included in it are accounts of great men and women of faith. In this passage, the writer gives the faith account of Moses’ parents.
Jacob, also named Israel, had brought his family, numbering seventy persons, to Egypt to avoid starvation because of the drought in Canaan. God directed Jacob to move his family, promising to make them a great nation in Egypt and then to return them to their homeland. So the Israelites came to Egypt as refugees.
Joseph, Jacob’s son, was the prime minister of Egypt at the time, and the Israelites were well treated. The Israelites settled in Goshen, in Egypt, as shepherds. But then things changed. Joseph died, and years later a new king came to rule Egypt. The refugees were not liked among the Egyptian people. Throughout history, Egypt had a hatred for foreign things. The new king called for the Israelites to be placed into forced labor. Even in slavery, God’s plan for His people was perfect, as the forced labor made them physically strong.
The Israelites multiplied greatly and filled the land, and the new king was afraid that the strong Israelites would join with their enemies and overthrow Egypt. The king ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill Israelite males as they were born by throwing them into the Nile River. This would accomplish the population control the king desired.
Moses, an Israelite, was born at Goshen, in 1571 B.C. Moses would be the one chosen by God to lead them out of their slavery and to the Promised Land. “By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born” (v. 23a).
Moses’ parents defied the king’s law “because they saw he was no ordinary child” (v. 23b). The word translated “no ordinary” is the Greek word “asteios” which means not ordinary, beautiful or pleasing. In the Old Testament account (Ex. 2:2) the Hebrew word used has the same meaning of “good or pleasing”. There is nothing to suggest that the baby Moses was seen as anything more than pleasing in appearance and behavior.
The midwives also cooperated in hiding the Israelite babies. They told the king that “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive” (Ex. 1:19). The midwives cooperated because they feared God, more than the king.
Moses parents were “not afraid of the king's edict” (v. 23c). Like the midwives, they defied the law and put their faith in God first. They all had faith that God would provide.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego defied the king’s order to worship other gods (Da. 3:16-18). When the Jewish religious leaders ordered Peter and John not to speak or teach of Jesus, they defied the order (Ac 4:19). They later defended their position by stating “We must obey God rather than men” (Ac 5:29).
God instituted civil government for the good of all people (Ro. 13:1-5). The Bible calls for Christians to be in submission to the powers of government (Ecc. 8:2, Tit. 3:1, 1 Pe 2:13-14). However, governments were never granted the right to compel men to do things which are contrary to God’s law.
Moses’ parents were blessed for keeping their faith in God by saving the life of their baby, by being saved from prosecution, and by being recognized by God for their great faith. The Hebrew midwives were blessed for their faith in God with “families of their own” (Ex. 1:20). Daniel’s friends were saved from the fire of the furnace. The apostles were flogged and let go, rejoicing that they had been found worthy of suffering for the Lord.
Moses’ parents, the midwives, Daniel’s friends, the apostles, they all resorted to civil disobedience rather than disobeying God. God blesses us for keeping our faith in Him, even if it results in civil disobedience. There is a higher law than man’s law. God has the final say so over our lives. It is our calling to always put God first. As Christians, we are called to be faithful to our God.