The peace in the palace did not last long. Soon Moses was a refugee in no man’s land, looking for a home.
The End of Egypt’s Tolerance
The relationships between Egypt and the Hebrew people did not get better with time. They got worse. In this area of the world, a source of water was essential for civilization, and civilization prospered along the Nile. We should remember that any livestock you hope to own or crops you hope to raise need water as well. Big cities need lots of water to survive. So Egypt, along the Nile, was a small paradise in the middle of a lot of barren, unoccupied land. If the land is not claimed, it is hard to tell who are the people in power and who are the refugees looking for a home.
Fear of losing access to that water might have put both the Egyptians and Hebrew people on the defensive. Yet only the Egyptians had any kind of inheritance claim to that land, especially after they ran out the previous invaders. Caring for Moses had been a political dalliance at best, and, as the tempers began to rise, the time for those games was over. There was no place for him in Egypt. Killing an Egyptian, regardless of the reason, was a perfect excuse to eliminate him from Egypt, and perhaps put the Hebrew people in their place once again.
A Refugee Looking for Home
Moses escaped into that barren wilderness, where only the nomadic shepherds knew how to survive. I wonder how Moses learned to survive out there, since he grew up among Egyptian royalty? This passage credits Jethro – a priest of Midian, who was in his own cultural battle with the nomadic shepherds. It does not tell us if the well belonged to Jethro or his people.
You can only keep what you have the power to guard, and Jethro was blessed with seven daughters and no mention of sons. Could it be that he could not guard this well, and his daughters were made to stand in line behind traveling livestock to get water for themselves and their animals? Or perhaps this was an unclaimed community watering hole. Either way, it was a perfect place for Moses, the refugee in no man’s land, to sit down and try to figure out what to do next.
Two Transitions for the Refugees looking for a home
As the hero’s journey goes, this is the final plot twist that takes us from the origin stories of Moses and the Hebrew people to the present time of action: Moses as an old shepherd. In these early accounts (Genesis and Exodus), we don’t get nearly as many stories about young people as we do about the older adults and how they led their people. This is not a story of one generation overthrowing the next. It is a story about a political leader who brought trapped people into a new place of their own. It is the transformation of an innocent bystander into a powerful leader.
This story is also about the identity of a people. The end of this passage is where the final straw breaks the camel’s back when one king of Egypt dies, and the next does not relent the oppressive relationship the Egyptians had with the Hebrew people. They could wait out an aged and dying king, but when they faced 40 more years of oppression with no end in sight, they could take it no longer. Finally, it says that they cried out to the God of their ancestors for help.
When have you experienced being or being in the presence of a refugee looking for home?
Where have you been slow to cry out to God for help?
What helps you find solid ground and a sense of home when you have lost that security?
What do you see here?
I’d love to hear what you see in this passage. You can comment below or send a text to 859-636-6965 for a faster response. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on refugees and those without a home.