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To: Salvation
From the Navarre Bible Commentary

First Reading: From: Exodus 2:1-15a

The Birth and Early Years of Moses


[1] Now a man from the house of Levi went and took to wife a daughter of Levi. [2] The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. [3] And when she could hide him no longer she took for him a basket made of bulrushes, and daubed it with bitumen and pitch; and she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds at the river's brink. [4] And his sister stood at a distance, to know what would be done to him. [5] Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, and her maidens walked beside the river; she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to fetch it. [6] When she opened it she saw the child; and Io, the babe was crying. She took pity on him and said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children." [7] Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?" [8] And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Go." So the girl went and called the child's mother. [9] And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child away, and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages." So the woman took the child and nursed him. [10] And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son; and she named him Moses, for she said, "Because I drew him out of the water."

Moses in Midian


[11] One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. [12] He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. [13] When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together; and he said to the man that did the wrong, "Why do you strike your fellow?" [14] He answered, "Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid, and thought, "Surely the thing is known." [15] When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh, and stayed in the land of Midian.



2:1-10. With lots of detail and good psychological insight, the sacred text recounts the birth and upbringing of Moses, the man whom divine providence had chosen to be the liberator and leader of the chosen people. What we have here is not so much chronological or topographical data as information which profiles the religious personality of the man who was both the guide and the prototype of the people.

In a masterly way the sacred writer highlights those aspects of his life and personality which most clearly show Moses to resemble the people and show divine intervention to be at work. Moses grew up during a period of severe persecution, but thanks to the good offices of three women (his mother, his sister and the pharaoh's daughter) he is received into the Egyptian court and shown every honor. His tranquil childhood reflects the pleasant lifestyle of the sons of Israel in Egypt prior to the onset of oppression and persecution.

In this entire account of Moses' birth there is no mention of the names of his parents (Amram, according to Ex 6:20 his father, and Jochebed, his mother: Num 26:59) or his sister, Miriam (Ex 15:20). The sacred writer prefers to concentrate on Moses, making it clear that God takes care of him in birth and infancy, as he will also do of the people. Even the popular etymology of Moses' name ("taken from the waters") is an indication of God's intervention. The name in fact is Egyptian, meaning "son" or "born", as can be deduced from the names of some pharaohs Tut-mosis (son of the god Tut) or Ra-meses (son of the god Ra)--but that does not matter: the important thing is that Moses is "the first to be saved", just as the Hebrew people is the first people to be saved, and that God is taking great care of him with a view to the important mission he has planned for him.

2:1-3. The Hebrew term translated here as "basket" is the same one as used for the Noah's "ark" (cf. Gen 6: 14-9, 18, where it occurs 27 times). What we are told about the basket links Moses to Noah and his salvation from the waves of the flood Which occurred so much earlier and in such dramatic circumstances. After the flood, mankind was reborn; now a new people is being born.

2:10. According to Egyptian law an adopted son had the same status as any other son. The text stresses that the pharaoh's daughter made him her son. In this paradox we can once again see God's providence at work: the child whom the Egyptians should have put to death is raised to great dignity, given the best of educations and thereby groomed for his future mission. Extra-biblical documents show that during this period the pharaohs trained select foreign youths for posts in their civil service. However, although Moses spent his early years in the pharaoh's palace, he received from his true mother not only physical nourishment but also the faith of his ancestors and love for his people.

Origen, whom many Fathers follow, interprets this wonderful story in an allegorical sense: Moses is the law of the Old Testament, the pharaoh's daughter is the Church of Gentile background, because her father was wicked and unjust; the water of the Nile is Baptism. The Church of the pagans leaves her father's house, that is, leaves sin behind, to receive cleansing water, that is Baptism, and in the water she finds the law of Moses, that is the Commandments. Only in the Church, in the royal palace of Wisdom, does the Law acquire complete maturity. "So," the ancient Christian writer concludes "even if the pharaoh were our father, even if the prince of this world had begotten us in works of evil, by coming to the waters we receive the divine law, [...] We have a Moses great and strong. Let us not see anything mean in him..., for everything in him is greatness, sublimity and beauty. [...] And let us ask our Lord Jesus Christ to show us and make known to us this greatness and sublimity of Moses" ("Homiliae In Exodum", 2,4).

2:11-15. This is Act One in the calling of Moses. Because he carries out God's will he has to leave the pharaoh's palace, where he had a comfortable and easy life arid go out into the unknown. In this he is doing what the patriarchs did: first Abraham and then his descendants had to leave their homeland and their family (cf. Gen 12:1ff). The leader-to-be of Israel kills an Egyptian who is beating a Hebrew; and later he tries to make peace between two Hebrews. Freeing his people from oppression and slavery, and bringing about peace and unity among them are two of the goals of Moses mission. Here again the sacred writer, over and above the details of events (about which he makes no moral judgments) is building up his theological profile Moses and indicating the scope of his mission.

The same points are made when Moses is referred to in the New Testament. For example, according Stephen's reconstruction of these events in the Acts of the Apostles, Moses forty years of age at this time and "mighty in his words and deeds"; his intervention on behalf of a member his people was, presumably, inspired by high ideals: "He supposed that his brethren understood that God was giving them deliverance by his hand" (Heb 7:25). The Letter to the Hebrews adds that "by faith Moses [...] refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered abuse suffered for the Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward" (Heb 11:24-26). However, his own people rejected him, and the pharaoh condemned him to death, furious at the killing of one of his overseers and fearful lest it signal an uprising of Hebrew slaves. Another forty years had to pass before Moses was actually given his mission (cf. Acts 7:30). On the basis of all these testimonies, St Cyril of Alexandria goes as far as to compare this episode of Moses' life with the Incarnation of Christ: "Do we not say that the Word of God the Father, who took on our condition, that is, became man, in some way went away from himself and became anonymous? [...] He, left therefore to see his brothers, that is, the sons of Israel. For to them belong the promises and the patriarchs to whom the promises were made. And so he said, 'I have been sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.' But, on seeing that they were subject to a heavy and intolerable tyranny, he chose to set them free and to make them see that they could hope for deliverance from pain of any kind" ("Glaphyra In Exodum", 1,7).

2:15 It is not at all clear where Midian was. The Bible often refers to Midianites, who were descendants of Abraham (cf. Gen 25:1-4) and were therefore related to the Israelites; we meet them as traders who used to travel from one place to another (cf. Gen 37:36; Num 10:29-32); who engage the Hebrews in battle (Num 25:6-18 31:1-9) and are roundly defeated by Gideon (Judg 6-8). At the end of time, as the third part of the book of Isaiah announces, they will come to do homage before the Lord (Is 60:6). But none of this information tells us where exactly this place Midian was. Modern scholars are inclined to situate it somewhere in the Sinai peninsula, a desert region where people sought refuge who wanted to evade the Egyptian authorities.

Moses' flight into the wilderness is also part of his God-given mission, according to the interpretation in the Letter to the Hebrews: "By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king; for he endured as seeing him who is invisible" (Heb 11:27).


Gospel Reading: From: Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus Reproaches People for Their Unbelief


[20] Then He (Jesus) began to upbraid the cities where most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. [21] "Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. [22] But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. [23] And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to Heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. [24] But I tell that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you."



21-24. Chorazin and Bethsaida were thriving cities on the northern shore of the lake of Gennesaret, not very far from Capernaum. During His public ministry Jesus often preached in these cities and worked many miracles there; in Capernaum He revealed His teaching about the Blessed Eucharist (cf. John 6:51ff). Tyre, Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah, the main cities of Phoenicia--all notorious for loose living—were classical examples of divine punishment (cf. Ezekiel 26-28; Isaiah 23).

Here Jesus is pointing out the ingratitude of people who could know Him but who refuse to change: on the day of Judgment (verses 22 and 24) they will have more explaining to do: "Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required" (Luke 12:48).

4 posted on 07/15/2013 9:54:54 PM PDT by fidelis (Zonie and USAF Cold Warrior)
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To: fidelis

I can find this reading from Luke, but not the one from Matthew. Thank you for the first reading.

5 posted on 07/15/2013 9:57:09 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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