July 26, 2009 - Pharaoh's Daughter

According to Jewish tradition, "Batya," which in Hebrew means "daughter of God," was the name assumed by Pharaoh’s daughter after she converted to Judaism.  It would be wonderful to think that this woman became a believer in the true God, the Maker of heaven and earth, who would eventually use her adopted son to rescue His people from slavery in Egypt.   However, such a fact is not stated or even implied in Holy Scripture. 

So what can be deduced from Exodus 2:1-10, the only portion of Scripture that actually mentions Pharaoh’s daughter? 

First, the obvious.  She had royal blood.  She had servants to wait on her wherever she went – whether they were “attendants” for personal needs such as bathing, or “slaves” to carry out whimsical commands like retrieving a curious item floating on the River.

And what about her character?  She certainly knew about the command that had been given by Pharaoh, as Moses explains, “Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every [Hebrew] boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.” (Ex. 1:22)  And yet when Pharaoh’s daughter opened the basket, saw the baby boy, and identified him as Hebrew, she made a decision to defy authority for the sake of a human life.  In Exodus 2:6 we read, “He was crying, and she felt sorry for him.”  She felt pity and compassion for the baby and decided to act on her feelings.

Pharaoh’s daughter may have chuckled at the ingenuity of the person who obeyed her father’s command by placing a male Hebrew baby into the Nile in a manner that would still give him a chance to live.  And she would have been relieved to find a live baby in the River instead of a little corpse.  After all, Pharaoh’s command was to throw the babies into the Nile, and that was where the princess went to take her baths!

Determined in her decision to save the child, and the belief that she would succeed in disregarding her father’s order, Pharaoh’s daughter arranges for the best care possible for the baby.  She acquires a Hebrew wet nurse, and promises to pay the woman for her complicit disobedience of Pharaoh by protecting and nurturing the Hebrew baby boy until he can be weaned.  When the boy is returned to her at the appointed time she names him Moses, which means “I drew him out of the water,” and raises him in her own household.

Some might label this woman’s actions as the simple selfishness of a princess, or a stubborn disregard for the will of her parent.  Or it could be argued that she actually exemplified a ministry of mercy for the benefit of her attendants and slave, the Hebrew girl and wet nurse (who were actually Moses’ biological sister and mother!), and anyone else who heard about what she did.  Regardless of our personal conclusions, we can all give thanks to God that He used this Egyptian woman to save Moses for service to the Lord and His people.