The extermination of the first-born Egyptians (Wis 18:5-18:9)

“When they had resolved

To kill the infants of your holy ones,

One child had been abandoned.

He was rescued.

You in punishment

Took away a multitude of their children.

You destroyed them all together

By a mighty flood.

That night was made known beforehand to our ancestors.

Thus they might rejoice in sure knowledge

Of the oaths in which they trusted.

The deliverance of the righteous

Was expected by your people.

The destruction of their enemies

Was expected by your people.

By the same means

By which you punished our enemies

You called us to yourself.

You glorified us.

In secret,

The holy children of good people offered sacrifices.

With one accord,

They agreed to the divine law.

Thus the saints would share alike the same things,

Both blessings and dangers.

Already they were singing the praises of the ancestors.”

Here we have an attempt to explain the passover killing of the first born in Egypt. This story seems to imply that the Egyptians had killed Israelite children first. However, in the story in Exodus, chapters 11 and 12, there is no indication of this. This was simply the 10th plague after all the other plagues had failed to change the mind of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Apparently this is a reference to the persecution and story of the birth of Moses in Exodus, chapters 1-2, but it is unrelated to the Passover events. It is true that in this story of the Passover, the Israelites were warned ahead of time about the angel of death. Obviously, God’s righteous people were saved (λαοῦ σου σωτηρία μὲν δικαίων). The enemies were destroyed. They had a sacred meal that has become the Passover because the holy ones (τοὺς ἁγίους) were willing to follow the divine law (τῆς θειότητος νόμον). This became the central part of the Israelite religion as they shared both the blessings and dangers of being an Israelite.

The birth of Moses (Ex 2:1-2:10)

“Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman.  The woman conceived and bore a son.  When she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months.  When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch.  She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river.  His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.”

Two unnamed Levites had a son and a daughter.   The mother hid the son and put him in a basket along the banks of the Nile River, in the high reeds.  Then his sister watched to see what would happen.  

“The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river.  She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it.  When she opened it, she saw the child.  He was crying, and she took pity on him. ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said.   Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’  Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’  So the girl went and called the child’s mother.  Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.’  So the woman took the child and nursed him.  When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son.  She named him Moses, ‘because’ she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’”

Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing in the Nile with her attendants, when she came across the basket with the baby.  The unnamed child’s sister asked the lady if she wanted her to get a Hebrew nurse maid.    This girl then got her mother, the mother of the child.  Then Pharaoh’s daughter asked her to nurse the child and she would pay for it.  In a strange twist of fate, Moses’ mother is paid to breast feed him and then turn him over to Pharaoh’s daughter.  Thus Moses grew up in the household of Pharaoh.  Even though he was a known Hebrew, there was no mention of a circumcision.  Nevertheless, he appeared to be separate from the Hebrew culture and more accustomed to the good life in the Pharaoh’s household.  His name Moses in fact was Egyptian and not a Hebrew name, given to him by Pharaoh’s daughter.