Jochebed, Abortion and the Simple Choice

January 22, 2015 marked the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. The anniversary brought some interesting coverage; among them were abortion stories from the Guardian. Citing that one in three American women will have an abortion by age 45, the Guardian gave voice to seven of these women.

The first was Renee Bracey Sherman. Renee became pregnant at age 19 and for her, the abortion decision wasn't the long-drawn-out and agonizing sort. She states straightforwardly: “I knew that I wanted an abortion. For a moment I entertained the idea of an adoption but I simply didn't want to be pregnant. It was just that simple.” [1]

I began my review of Jochebed the day these accounts were released and couldn't help but note the dichotomy between Jochebed’s defiant determination to preserve the life of her child and a story like Renee’s.

In Jochebed’s case, Pharaoh had commanded the death of all Hebrew baby boys. This included Jochebed and Amram’s third child and second son, Moses (Exodus 1:22-2:4; 6:20; 7:7). The couple has three children when we meet them in Scripture. Their eldest is a daughter named Miriam, and their second is a three-old son named Aaron (Exodus 7:7). We can reason that Pharaoh’s fatal decree comes sometime after the birth of Aaron and before the birth of Moses since Aaron is living and doesn’t appear to be in danger of the edict. Unfortunately for Jochebed, her third pregnancy meets the crisis of Pharaoh’s antinatalism.

It must have been an anxious pregnancy for the mother. Perhaps the child was a girl and all would be well. Yet, what if she carried a boy, a baby born only to die? Jochebed delivers to find a son. When she saw that Moses “was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank” (Exodus 2:2-3).

I wonder as I read: how early did Jochebed rise to prepare her basket? Were her eyes blurry with tears as she worked? Did her lips quiver in whispered prayers as she nursed her child for what may have been the last time? Did her heart pace within her as she set her son in the river? A daubed basket in the Nile was more merciful than the fatal hands of Pharaoh so Jochebed released it, trusting her baby to the water and ultimately to God. In all, she simply didn't want her child to die. It was just that simple.

And here, I’m reminded of a great Father whose will stands undaunted. He rules over history and time. And He is determined that His children should live and not die.

It is He who orders Jochebed’s drifting basket into the hands of Pharaoh’s daughter. The princess, moved with pity for the crying child, adopts him as her own. Watchful big sister, Miriam, intervenes on behalf of her mother and Pharaoh’s daughter employs a wet nurse to nourish and raise the boy until weaned. And so the mother who lays her infant in the Nile in the morning is paid with Pharaoh's money to nurse him again that night (Exodus 2:5-10). What a wondrous God we serve!

The boy Moses grows up to be a means of salvation for his people (Exodus 15:30-31). God uses him to lead Israel out of their bondage in Egypt and they are ultimately settled in the land promised to Abraham their father. In fact, all three of Jochebed’s children are recognized as key leaders in Israel--Miriam is even named as the first female prophetess in Scripture (Exodus 15:20). Just consider Micah 6:4: “For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.” Surely, God is gracious to Jochebed!

Thousands of years later, this same God places another Baby—the Savior of His people—in the arms of virgin mother (Luke 1:26-38). And as with Moses, He too is delivered from the bloody sword of a great king (Matthew 2:13-16). The Child, God’s own Son, goes on to live a sinless life but instead of praise, He is maligned and crucified on a Roman cross (Isaiah 53:5-10).

Yet His life and death becomes the means of salvation for many others. Depraved and helpless, these others were marked for death as they drifted in the sea of their own sins. The Father, moved with mercy and compassion, draws near to them and declares: “Live” (Ezekiel 16:4-6)! He removes their sins, lays them on the Savior and nails Him to the cross. Then taking the righteousness of the Son, He washes His children, dresses them beautifully and calls them “Mine” (Hosea 2:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21)! These redeemed children are placed in His righteous Son and promised eternal life through the Son’s glorious resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). I’m grateful to be among these children!

Though utterly undesirable, my Father wanted me. He choose life for me. He lavished His grace on me through adoption (Ephesians 1:7-8; 1 John 3:1). He simply didn't want me to die. It was just that simple.

*Thanks for reading! This post is part of my Mothers in the Bible Series; we are looking for glimpses of the gospel in the lives of biblical women--from Eve to Mary, the mother of Christ. Click here to see other writings. And please let me know your thoughts!

[1] "Relief. Anguish. Certainty: The story of my abortion." The Guardian. 22 Jan. 2015. 22 Jan. 2015.