I posted a while ago about what I think is a misunderstanding of the parable of the wise and foolish builders. I think they both built their houses on the sand, but one dug down to rock first.
Anyway, here’s another Sunday school favourite I think we’ve got wrong. Whenever anyone tells the story of the baby Moses, even in children’s Bibles and in television adaptations, Moses is launched downstream in his basket, his mother saying a sad farewell to him, and sending Miriam to watch what will become of him. I have searched Exodus 2 in vain to see where this idea comes from.
Moses was placed in a basket in the reeds along the bank of the Nile (Ex 2:3). This was first of all so he wouldn’t be seen or heard (rivers have at least a moderate amount of background noise at all times). But it was also so he would not float away.
What mother in her right mind would launch her baby out to float down a river? He would die of hunger or exposure or drowning before long. No, her plan was surely that he remained hidden in the reeds, and she would come regularly and feed him. Miriam wasn’t left to see where the basket would float off too, but to keep an eye on it (watch out for crocodiles or something). In Ex 2:5, we see that the basket was still in the reeds when Pharaoh’s daughter saw it.
From verse 6, we get the impression that the basket had a lid – another feature rarely told in the story. This would serve to keep him a lot quieter. The gentle noise of a river wouldn’t be enough to block out the crying of a 3 month old baby on its own.
I’m not opposed to artistic license when telling Bible stories, but the whole idea of launching Moses off to no particular destination has never struck me as at all convincing.