Allow me to be a woman for a minute.
After all…I am a woman. For all minutes.
But allow me to be a woman looking in on scripture and interpreting it in a way only a woman can for a minute.
I’m in the book of Exodus. (I imagine “The Sound”. You know…the sound you hear in an auditorium full of people flipping through the fragile pages of the greatest love letter ever written. Searching for the words I wish to share from within it’s pages.) I’m in the first two chapters of the book of Exodus. “The Sound”.
“So Pharaoh issued a general order to all his people: ‘Every boy that is born, drown him in the Nile. But let the girls live.’ […] Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the Nile to bathe; her maidens strolled on the bank. She saw the basket-boat floating in the reeds and sent her maid to get it. She opened it and saw the child—a baby crying! Her heart went out to him. She said, ‘This must be one of the Hebrew babies.’ Then his sister was before her: ‘Do you want me to go and get a nursing mother from the Hebrews so she can nurse the baby for you?’ Pharaoh’s daughter said ‘Yes. Go.’ The girl went and called the child’s mother.” MSG
Now, I’ve heard this story countless times. I’ve probably read it even more. But here is what I had never thought of until today:
I don’t find it very likely that the Egyptians gave the Hebrew mothers maternity leave.
I don’t think that slaves in ancient Mesopotamia were given six months absence after giving birth.
They kept right on building the pyramids, or little brick huts, or whatever it was that the Pharaoh and his people had them do. They were in so much pain and anguish and torment all the time. But look deeper at what this story reveals to us when we are operating under this assumption.
A woman, who had just given birth (an extremely painful process), has her child taken from her. If the child is a girl…she is returned. If the child is a boy…any fleeting glimpse the mother had of the boy as he was being taken from the room is all she will every see of her baby. Intensify. There were no epidurals. If the “Nativity” move that came out a couple years ago is accurate, there was a rope to pull on and some women who made strange congratulatory noises when the baby had been born. There is pain afterward…for women who are doing nothing but laying in a hospital bed. And sometimes there is the deepest kind of pain involved with child birth…and that is the death of the child. As women in the twenty first century, at best we will deal with one of these pains at their most intense level.
These women were going through full birthing pains…the pain of losing their sons…and then:
they went back to work.
Long days. On their feet. Grueling heat. Drowned child. Returning home in the evening ready to feed the baby (really think), play with the baby, wash the baby, and then put the baby to sleep in his own bed. That now lays empty in the corner. This pain…with modern technology and medicine is unimaginable. But the story doesn’t end there.
This mother got a second chance. This mother, just after the pains of birth, put her youngest/newborn son in a basket and placed him in the river. She kept him afloat in the river he was supposed to be drowned in. His sister stood by to see what would happen. And in God’s ever fantastic ways…a miracle. The baby was found by the daughter of his attempted murderer who knew EXACTLY what was going on! She says, “‘This must be one of the Hebrew babies.'” And I can’t help believe, out in the middle of a river, bathing…after having just found a baby in a basket, suddenly a young girl jumps out and volunteers to go find a nursing mother for the child? She must’ve known this was a relative. She must’ve known this nursing mother was in fact his nursing mother. And yet…she allowed it. That is where this story comes truly and positively…unimaginable.