This gripping story of Jochabed and baby Moses is applicable for any woman living in today's fearful and chaotic times. It is a call to fully trust and depend on Allah and watch Him provide, as only He does.
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Courage to Let Go
Copyright © 2018 GC WM
Jochabed – Courage to Let Go
Authored by Jamile Mansour Al-Kindi
Translation by Adventist Commons
Cover and Layout Design by Adventist Commons
Illustrations by Carlos Seribelli and Paula Lobo
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Courage to Let Go
“Hey, you, Woman!” An Egyptian soldier roughly pushed his way through the crowded marketplace to where Jochebed stood. The young woman froze in fear, forgetting the onions she had been selecting from the farmer’s cart. The soldier peered closely at the curve of her body, concealed as best as possible beneath a thick, oversized abaya. Pulling his sword from its sheath, the soldier touched the pointed end to her stomach. Jochebed trembled uncontrollably and dropped the onions.
“What are you hiding underneath that fabric?” The soldier taunted menacingly. Despite the loose, billowing fabric, it was impossible to conceal her bulging abdomen. The onion farmer tensed as the soldier twisted his sword, applying just enough pressure to frighten the woman. “Are you hiding some stolen onions?” He mocked, “Or something worse than that?”
“I am with child,” Jochebed whispered, tears of terror rising to her eyes.
“Gah, worse than onions!” He spat. “Just what I thought. More descendants of Ibrahim! Be aware, woman, the honorable Pharaoh has commanded all male infants of your people to be cast into the Nile River. We have enough of you filthy folk overrunning our glorious land of Egypt like cockroaches. So do not fear, if you have any reservations about tossing your boy into the river, we will be more than glad to assist you in this task.” Shoppers in the busy marketplace paused to watch.
“Where do you live?” he demanded harshly. She stammered the answer, watching the sword twist at her belly. “I’ll make sure someone checks up on you,” he glowered. Dropping the weapon to his side, he disappeared out of sight.
Later that evening, after Jochebed’s husband, Amram, returned from a long and grueling day of labor, she took a bit of comfort in listening to him soothing their two children to sleep. “Goodnight, my little lambs,” she overheard him saying. “Sleep well and remember what Papa always tells you: Allah is going to raise up a deliverer to take us out of the hand of Pharaoh. Never think like slaves; we are victors, and it is only a matter of time before Allah restores to us our honor.” He snuffed the oil lamp and she heard him kiss little Harun and Maryam. “Sweet dreams, my little lambs.” Soon he came to join Jochebed.
“Amram, I’m so afraid,” she whispered. “Yesterday they made raids on the next street over and found three mothers who were hiding baby boys. They killed the children and also the mothers for disobeying. Oh, Amram! What are we going to do? My time is soon.”
Amram took his wife’s hand and squeezed it gently. “Try not to think too much about the child in your womb,” he told her, hoping to spare her tender emotions. “Don’t let yourself be attached to it. If it is a girl, we may keep her and love her.”
“And if it’s a boy?” Jochebed searched her husband’s face for an answer.
“Like I said,” he replied, trying to weigh his words carefully, hoping she wouldn’t sense the lump in his own throat, “Let’s try not to get too attached to the unborn child.”
Promise of a Coming Prophet
The next day, Amram was gone by the time Jochebed and the children arose. Pharaoh’s recent increase of work quotas had forced most of the men from the People of Ibrahim to work longer hours. They mined stones, farmed, baked bricks, and built infrastructure in Pharaoh’s cities. Meanwhile, Jochebed stayed home to care for her children and the household duties. Much of the time, she struggled with an overwhelming sense of anxiety, worrying about what the future held for her and her small family. Yet she found comfort in remembering the prophecy Allah made through Prophet Yusef and his great-grandfather Prophet Ibrahim: their people would remain in Egypt for 400 years as slaves, but Allah would raise up a prophet to deliver them from Pharaoh’s grip! The 400 years was nearly expired now; would the prophet come during her lifetime?
Several days passed in the same manner. Jochebed fulfilled the duties of a wife and mother, constantly keeping one ear alert for the sound of soldiers on the street outside. She worked hard to keep her mind off her worries, and above all, she firmly resisted thinking about the child in her womb. Try not to get too attached, she repeated Amram’s words to herself.
But the day she gave birth, everything changed.
A Mother’s Love
After hours of hard labor in which she had not been allowed to moan or cry out for fear of being detected, a tiny cry pierced the sweaty stillness. The midwife took a soft cloth and tried to muffle the newborn’s voice. Jochebed fell back on her pillow in relief. She saw the midwife attending to the baby silently, mechanically.
“You’re so quiet,” Jochebed murmured. “You offer me no congratulations. It’s a boy, isn’t it?” The midwife nodded. A long silence ensued. The midwife cleared the newborn’s nostrils and eyes, dried him and swaddled him in cotton cloth.
“Let me see him,” Jochebed whispered. The midwife turned, her eyes full of compassion.
“Don’t do it,” the old woman shook her head sadly. “Don’t look at him. It will be easier for you. Let someone else care for him, in case…” She left dangerous words unsaid. In case he is discovered and the soldiers come to take him away…let someone else care for him because it will hurt you too much to let him go…
“I want to see him!” Jochebed spoke more firmly. Compliantly, the midwife brought the swaddled newborn and laid him in her arms. She gasped in awe. The child’s features were so perfectly formed and his face glowed with a loveliness that captivated the weary mother. She had never seen a more beautiful child. Suddenly, she loved the tiny boy with a fierce maternal instinct that began to roar within her like a lion. Her anxieties and fears seemed to crumble to the ground. Soldiers or no soldiers, this was the boy Allah had given her!
For three months, Jochebed hid the tiny, beloved boy in their home. With each day, the little infant became more deeply loved by Jochebed and her family. But with her growing love came mounting anxiety. Most days, Jochebed could barely sleep from fear of being discovered. Fear notwithstanding, she pressed forward in her mission of preservation. Courage doesn’t mean I’m not afraid, she reminded herself each day. Courage is going forward when I am terribly afraid, trusting in Allah to help me.
The Courage to Let Go
After the third month, she received a tip from a neighbor that someone had alerted the authorities about their house. Their secret was known; it would only be a matter of time before soldiers came to mete out the consequences of disobeying Pharaoh. But the mother’s love knew no bounds.
Hurriedly taking bulrushes from the river’s edge, she carefully wove a sturdy, flat-bottomed basket just the size of a baby bassinet. Then she daubed a thick layer of slimy mixture on the outside, which soon dried and became waterproof. Lining the inside of the little “boat” with soft cloth, she laid her precious baby boy inside and fitted the lid on top. Jochebed took her daughter Maryam and made her way to the Nile River.
Oh Lord, Jochabed sobbed, looking towards the sky, I’m not strong enough for this! Give me courage to let my child go. Looking one last time into her baby’s plump, glowing face, she tenderly kissed his forehead. “Don’t be afraid, my child—Allah is your father. Allah is your mother. He will keep you safe.” Her heart beat harder, faster. “I love you,” she whispered. “But I have to let you go now.”
White-knuckled and trembling, she fastened the lid of the basket and placed the little ark in the water. Fearing the strong current in the middle of the river, she nestled the boat among the reeds near the riverbank. She watched it bob up and down as the waves rocked her child to sleep. This is the moment, then, Jochabed thought. Lord, take him! She turned away from the river.
“I’ll stay and watch him,” Maryam offered, her young face crinkled with concern. “I’ll stand far away and act as if I’m playing so no one will guess he’s my brother.” Jochabed nodded her consent and hurried back to their home before anyone saw her.
Maryam busied herself by the water’s shore, keeping one sharp eye on the bobbing basket. She lingered all day to keep watch over him. As the sun began to touch the horizon, a small huddle of women approached the banks of the river. One woman, dressed in luxurious colors, began to remove her headdress and bangles and handed them to her attendants. For the first time, little Maryam looked around and realized that she stood quite near to Pharaoh’s palace. The attendants chattered among themselves as they helped the royal woman prepare for her bath. This lady must be none other than the Princess of Egypt!
Suddenly, the woman caught sight of a strange basket floating near the bank. Stretching out an imperial arm, she pointed towards the place where the baby lay.
“What is that?” She inquired. A murmur of interest spread among the ladies. One of the attendants splashed into the water and towed the basket towards land. The Princess bent down and opened the basket, unsure of what to expect. The beautiful little face of a baby startled and captivated her. Afraid from being alone all day, shut up inside a hot basket with no milk to satiate his hunger, the child began to cry in distress. The Princess tenderly lifted him from his little boat and laid him against her bosom.
“This must be a child from the People of Ibrahim,” she gasped. Her attendants gathered near and crooned over the crying infant, trying to quiet his cries of hunger. Her bath forgotten, the Princess thought only of the tiny child that she had pulled out of the river.
“I will name him Musa,” she smiled down at the chubby face.
“Musa?” A lady in waiting queried. “What does it mean?”
“It means ‘One who I drew out of the water.’ No, no, little one—don’t cry, I will not let you perish.” Musa’s screams for food grew louder, and the Princess looked around in puzzlement. How could she feed him? She had no breast milk of her own. Maryam, watching the situation, approached at just the right moment.
“Madam?” She waded carefully towards the huddle of women. “Would you like me to bring a woman from the People of Ibrahim who can nurse this child for you?” The Princess looked at her in surprise.
“Why, yes—yes, I suppose that would be a good solution. Go and bring her.” Running as fast as her feet could take her, Maryam burst into her home, told Jochabed the good news, and dragged her to where the Princess waited, futilely attempting to soothe the famished baby.
“Here, take this child and nurse him for me,” she said, handing Musa to Jochabed. “I will pay you a fair wage. When he is grown, you must bring him to me in the palace.” Jochabed nodded her agreement, stunned. Holding Musa tightly to her breast, she hurried home, praising Allah in her heart every step of the way. Like a lion roaring in conquest, her heart seemed like it would burst any moment. “I am weak, but my Lord stands up for me,” she exulted. “I am fearful, but He is mighty! And He hears a mother’s cry. He hears even me!”
Courage for Today
Many women today are, like Jochabed, living in fearful and chaotic times. The world is a dangerous place. It takes courage—courage for a young woman to leave home to attend college; to move as a refugee to a foreign country; to marry the young man she’s only met twice; to take a job to support the family’s struggling finances; to let go of hatred. Life demands courage, but Jochabed’s story reminds us that women need courage—not a foolhardy sense of fearlessness, but rather a courage that goes forward, even in knee-knocking fear, with utter trust and dependence upon Allah. It is Allah that provides the substance behind our courage.
Jochabed learned to surrender everything into the Lord’s care when she left her baby floating in the Nile River. Almost immediately, Allah responded to her wholehearted trust by returning the baby into her bosom. It is a story of courage, trust, and finally, rejoicing.
Is there something in your life that causes you intense fear? Something you can’t give up, somewhere you can’t move forward? Trust it completely, unreservedly into the Lord’s care, and see if He doesn’t recompense you richly with rejoicing. Allah will not let your trust in Him be disappointed. Take courage and do it. Walk to the river. Let the basket go. Let go of whatever fears, anxieties, or troubles you have. See Allah’s miracles for your life.
A cruel decree has gone out from Pharaoh: all baby boys from Jochabed’s tribe must be killed. In this gripping narrative, the mother of Prophet Musa braves all odds to save her baby from death.
More stories from the Tawrat and Injeel:
Abigail / Hajar / Naomi / The Woman at the Well
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