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In the story of the baby in the basket, why did his mom send him down the river?

After Jacob and his sons moved to Egypt to escape the famine, discovering his son Joseph second in charge in that great country, their descendants stayed and began to repopulate over the next 400 years. They became quite numerous, threatening the security of the Egyptians who feared a a takeover from growing foreign minority within their borders.

In Exodus 1, the king of Egypt (Pharaoh) asked the Hebrew midwives to kill the boys and let the girls live. The midwives did not like that idea. The king of Egypt demanded that they die and ordered that all boys be thrown into the Nile River! The story picks up in Exodus 2:

Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.” Exodus 2:1-10

Moses’ birth mom technically followed orders (putting him in the Nile), but saved his life by putting him in a basket.

God orchestrated the union of baby Moses and Pharaoh’s daughter as part of the plan to save the Israelites. Moses would live on the inside of the Egyptian hierarchy and be able to get an audience with Pharaoh when needed.

The story contains all kinds of symbolism. The Nile was considered a god by Egyptian culture so Moses appeared as a gift delivered to Pharoah’s daughter by the gods of the Nile. However, it was God who was giving the gift. The basket is a type of ark, like Noah’s, that brings salvation to the people.

Moses also had a “born again” experience, a baptism in a sense, left to drown, but pulled from death to have a new life.