*In those days, 3500 years ago*, whether in Pharaohnic Egypt or anywhere,  mothers suckled their infants longer than they do today. Today, it’s a year at most. Then – 3500 years ago – suckling could last four years. Even longer sometimes.

This was the one thing Jochebed could be thankful for, because extended suckling enabled her to keep her precious baby boy, Moses, with her for a number of years before he went to live permanently with his adoptive mother, Hatshepsut, at the royal palace in Heliopolis.

Giving up a baby is never easy for a mother, not even today. Jochebed can therefore be excused for extending as long as possible her suckling of baby Moses. Even after Moses had ceased suckling, Jochebed continued to tell Hatshepsut he was still suckling.

“This is amazing”, said Hatsheput to Jochebed one day, “it’s seven years now, and you say Moses still isn’t weaned? He looks healthy to me. I know other boys his age who were weaned long ago, and they look as healthy as Moses. Is there anything the matter with him?”

“Nothing at all, ma’am. Not all babies are the same. You can see, can’t you, that Moses is very, very special? He’s unusually beautiful, and unusually intelligent. So, being unusual, he’s going to be unusual in when he’s weaned. You can’t hurry this. If you do, you could damage him permanently. You want him to be perfect, don’t you, ma’am?”

“Of course. Of course. But if he isn’t weaned soon, I’m going to think you’re not being entirely truthful with me, and I’ll have to act.”


Jochebed, realising the game was up, told Hatshepsut when next she visited Moses that he was now ready for his new home at the royal palace.

“I would so like it, ma’am” said Jochebed, “if you could allow me to visit Moses at the palace every now and again, in the way I’ve allowed you to visit him at my home every now and again. My heart is broken at giving him up. If I can’t visit him it’ll be too much for my broken heart, and I’ll die.”

“I’m afraid I can’t allow visits. Moses is going to know only one mother from now on. Which will be me. I want him to forget you completely, which he only can if he never sees you again. I’m frightfully sorry.”

“You’ve just signed my death sentence. I can’t go on living if I can’t see my baby boy again.”

“I do understand your heartbreak. You’d have to be a monster not to be heartbroken. Time, though, heals everything, even broken hearts. You and Amram can always have another baby. It’ll make you forget Moses so completely you’ll wonder why you were ever sad at giving him up.”

“This is easy for you to say, ma’am. What if I have another boy? He’ll just be drowned in the Nile according to *the Pharaoh’s decree.*”

“You can rest assured,” said Hatshepsut “that my father will lift this decree. I will persuade him to. I have no doubt on this. I know how to wrap him around my little finger. Trust me.”

“With all due respect, ma’am, you don’t know how broken my heart is at giving up my beloved baby boy. You’re young, rich, beautiful. I also know you’re unmarried and have never borne children. I, on the other hand, am getting on in years, am a poor Hebrew slave, and am decidedly not beautiful. I’ve been long-married and have borne three children. You and I are so different, we could be of different species. You simply cannot know how I’m feeling. You cannot even imagine how I’m feeling, so don’t even try.”

“Even though you’re all those things you described yourself as” said Hatshepsut, “you certainly don’t lack courage, for you would surely know I could order you drowned in the Nile for speaking to me in so contumacious a manner. If Moses has inherited even a smidgen your courage he will do great deeds, and his name will be spoken of in awe by all the generations to come. Were he to remain with you, the world would never know of him. By coming to live with me, he will become immortal. You should be grateful for this, not sad.”

Source: Exodus 2, 10

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6 Responses to Gratitude

  1. Cheri says:

    I had to look up “contumacious.” Excellent word to describe Jochebed’s attitude when she learned that Moses would be permanently off-limits to her. Thinking about this situation by today’s standards…what would happen?

    • Christopher says:

      Don’t feel bad about having to look up “contumacious’, for hardly anyone today would know what it means.

      But, here’s the thing, both Hatshepsut and Jochebed knew what it meant. If, for instance, the poor slave-woman, Jochebed, hadn’t known what “contumacious” meant, she would surely have told Hatshepsut this.

      But she didn’t, which indicates that a poor and probably uneducated slave-woman 3500 hundred years ago, knew a contemporary-to-today word that almost none of today’s English-speakers have ever come across.

      What does this say about today’s education and today’s culture?

  2. Giscard says:

    Je suis fan de votre blog. L’écriture est brillante, et les histoires sont captivantes.

    J’avoue que je considère la Bible seulement en tant que la littérature et la mythologie.

    Tout le monde devrait lire la Bible parce que c’est l’un des piliers de la culture occidentale. Donc, si on n’a pas lu au moins une partie de la Bible, on est un barbare culturel.

  3. Christopher says:

    Je partage votre avis.

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