The Birth of Moses: A Bible Story Summary

Moses' birth set the stage for Israel's rescue from slavery

Moses saved from the waters, fresco by Giovanni Battista Ronchelli (1715-1788), villa Recalcati, Varese, Lombardy, Italy, 18th century

De Agostini/ M. Ranzani/Getty Images


Moses was a prophet of the Abrahamic religions and the youngest son of Amram and Jochebed. It was Moses who was destined to lead the children of Israel from Egypt and receive for them the Holy Torah on Mount Sinai.

Story Summary of the Birth of Moses

Many years had passed since the death of Joseph. New kings were enthroned in Egypt who had no appreciation for how Joseph had saved their country during a great famine. The birth of Moses would mark the beginning of God's plan to free his people from 400 years of Egyptian slavery.

The Hebrew people became so many in Egypt that Pharaoh began to fear them. He believed if an enemy attacked, the Hebrews might ally themselves with that enemy and conquer Egypt. To prevent that, Pharaoh ordered that all newborn Hebrew boys must be killed by the midwives to keep them from growing up and becoming soldiers.

Out of loyalty to God, the midwives refused to obey. They told Pharaoh that the Jewish mothers, unlike Egyptian women, gave birth quickly before the midwife arrived.

A handsome male child was born to Amram, of the tribe of Levi, and his wife Jochebed. For three months Jochebed hid the baby to keep him safe. When she could do that no longer, she got a basket made of bulrushes and reeds, waterproofed the bottom with bitumen and pitch, put the baby in it and set the basket on the Nile River.

Pharaoh's daughter happened to be bathing in the river at the time. When she saw the basket, she had one of her handmaidens bring it to her. She opened it and found the baby, crying. Knowing he was one of the Hebrew children, she took pity on him and planned to adopt him as her son.

The baby's sister, Miriam, was watching nearby and asked Pharaoh's daughter if she should get a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for her. Ironically, the woman Miriam brought back was Jochebed, the child's mother, who nursed her own baby until he could be weaned and raised in the house of Pharaoh's daughter.

Pharaoh's daughter named the child Moses, which in Hebrew means "drawn out of the water" and in Egyptian was close to the word for "son."

Points of Interest From the Birth of Moses

  • Raised in the Egyptian court, Moses learned to read and write, equipping him to later write the first five books of the Bible.
  • Pharaoh's order to kill all male babies must have been withdrawn because Moses' brother Aaron was younger than him. Aaron played key roles as Moses' spokesman and later as high priest.
  • After the birth of Moses, we are told nothing about his upbringing. We don't know whether Pharaoh knew his adopted grandson was a Hebrew or whether Pharaoh's daughter eventually got married.
  • Just as Moses was drawn out of the water, God would later draw the Hebrew people out of the water—the Red Sea—to save them from the pursuing Egyptians.
  • Moses was a type of Christ —that is, a foreshadowing of the Messiah. Pharaoh ordered the killing of Hebrew male babies, and King Herod ordered the slaughter of all male babies in Bethlehem to try to eliminate Jesus. Moses' mother took him to safety on the Nile, and Jesus' parents took him to safety in Egypt. Moses freed God's people from slavery in Egypt, and Jesus freed God's people from the slavery of sin.