Friday, February 6, 2015

#BlackBiblicalHistory: Bithiah, the Egyptian Mother of the Prophet Moses

Biblical Reference: Exodus 2 & I Chronicles 4

Because of the relationship forged through the marriage of  Israel's son Joseph with the Egyptian courtier Asenath, it initially seemed as if the Egyptians and the Israelites would get along for ages. Because of this perception, it's no surprise that Israel's sons, grandsons, granddaughters, and the many wives involved all ended up moving to Egypt and settling in the Egyptian territory of Goshen. They presumably intermarried with Egyptian men and women and all seemed peaceful. But after a few generations, things took a turn, and the Israelites began to no longer live peaceably in Egypt. 
      A new Pharaoh arose, one who forgot about the long-passed Grand Vizier Joseph, the Israelite who had saved Egypt from famine and destruction.  Instead, this new Pharaoh feared the Israelites because of large numbers, and he doubted their loyalty to Egypt. So he enslaved them, as a way of oppressing their strength and, therefore, their potential power to rise against his country.
      Still, this did not fully reign in the Israelites, for they continued to grow as far as their population was concerned. So a new tactic was devised -  have all newborn Israelite males killed, to decrease the number of future men who could fight against Egypt. But the Bible lets us know many times over, that man can try all he can to fight the will of God and the destiny of God's people, but he will ultimately fail, for God always has a creative (and sometimes ironic) way of succeeding. This ironic salvation was provided for the enslaved Israelites through Pharaoh's own daughter, known as Princess Bithiah. The Bible does not give her name in the Exodus 2 account, but the name Bithiah comes up in I Chronicles 4:18, and is presumed to be a reference to Moses' Egyptian mother. Other Jewish accounts refer to Moses' Egyptian mother as Bithiah as well. 
      Bithiah was apparently a childless woman who was eager to hold an infant in her arms, for when she spotted a Hebrew baby floating in a basket down the River Nile, she decided to keep him as her own. This was done in spite of the fact that she correctly presumed that the baby boy was the child of an Israelite woman attempting to save him from Pharaoh's murderous decree. Bithiah decided to raise Moses as a Prince of Egypt, hiring his birth sister Miriam to be his caretaker and to arrange for him to be nursed by a Hebrew woman (who was actually his birth mother Jochebed). 
      Because of Bithiah's subterfuge, Moses -- the baby who should have been a Hebrew slave -- was presented as an Egyptian Prince, raised in the most cultured and intellectual court in the world at the time, trained by wisest and strongest leaders available to Egyptian royalty. It is partly because of this refined training that Moses was the best choice as the man who God would use to free the Hebrews from slavery. 
      Not much is said about Bithiah, but the fact that the Bible refers to her by a name that means "daughter of Yahweh" implies that she was accepted into the fold of Israel. I Chronicles 4:15 lists her as the wife of a Hebrew man named Mered, from the tribe of Judah. So Bithiah did in fact turn away from her homeland in Egypt to fully worship the God of the Israelites, joining with them when they left Egypt on the Great Exodus. Her faith was rewarded, for not only did she become an Israelite by conversion, she was grafted into the royal tribe of Judah through her marriage to Mered, and the priestly tribe of Levi, through her status as Moses' mother. 

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