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Upon the Waters

October 21, 2018

“Moses in the Bulrushes” by Elizabeth Jane Gardner (1878), (PD-Art, Old-95)

But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank.  And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him” (Exodus 2: 3-4).

When Moses’ mother, Jochebed, could no longer hide him from the Egyptian authorities bent on murdering Israelite male children, she placed him tenderly in a basket and delivered him to the Nile.

Trusting God

But Jochebed had not consigned her child to fate or the whims of Hapi, the pagan god Egyptians thought controlled the river.  Unwilling to see Moses murdered before her eyes, Jochebed had entrusted her beloved son to the care of God Almighty.

In doing so, Jochebed placed Moses’ welfare before her own.  She was undoubtedly aware that saving his life could mean her death.  The Egyptians were determined to keep the Israelite population down, which is why their ruthless policy was instituted.

A Woman of Compassion

Pharaoh’s daughter, Bithiah (who had the child drawn from the Nile) knew instantly that Moses was Hebrew.  In fact, she sent for a Hebrew wet nurse.  It does not, however, seem that Bithiah was aware the nurse summoned was Moses’ mother, Jochebed.  We know this because she paid Jochebed wages for her services.

The Bible praises Bithiah for her compassion.  Moses was raised in the royal household with all the advantages of a prince.

Silence and Distance

It is unlikely Moses realized that Jochebed was his birth mother, until he was again reunited with her as an adult.  We can surmise that Jochebed kept silent about their true relationship – and kept her distance from Moses, during the intervening years – in order to protect him.

Modern Day Parental Sacrifice

Despite the passage of time, any parent can understand Jochebed’s actions and intentions.  With few choices at her disposal, she quite literally cast her bread upon the waters, risking everything to give her child the chance for life.  Then she gave him up for his own good, sacrificing her happiness for his.

Not surprisingly, refugees at America’s border are doing the same today.  The ACLU (which has assumed responsibility for reuniting refugee children with the families from which the Trump Administration policy of “zero tolerance” separated them) reports that repatriated families are refusing reunification [1].

Parents who emigrated to the United States because of the violence and death in their countries of origin view the fact their children are now safe as consolation for the pain of separation from them.  This does not, of course, justify the policy.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration is considering a new plan for families attempting entry at the border [2].   Under this approach – known as “binary choice” – migrants will be permitted to choose between remaining in family detention for an indefinite period that may last years as their legal case proceeds, or allowing their children to be removed to a government shelter where relatives or other guardians can pursue custody [3].

It is difficult to imagine a more heartbreaking choice.

Casting Bread

Cast your bread upon the waters,
For you will find it after many days
” (Ecc. 11: 1).

Commentators think Solomon was referring in this passage to ships he had sent out to foreign ports with trade goods [4A].  On their way, they would face all the perils of the high seas – opposing winds, raging storms, possibly pirates.  They might be gone for weeks or even months.  But they would persevere.  In the end, they would return home laden with treasures.

Like Jochebed, refugee parents are risking everything for the sake of their children.  Like Solomon, they are braving the dangerous trek to a land of plenty, a land that holds the promise of a bright future for their children.

And what of us?  Will we, like Bithiah, welcome and nurture those children?  Will we be generous, “faithful and steadfast in giving of our resources” [4B]?

Or will we turn away – fearful, like the Egyptians, that the impoverished migrants pleading at our door may deprive us of the prosperity to which we believe ourselves entitled?  And if we do, how long can we expect God to extend His blessings?

[1]  Reuters, “Migrant families separated by the US are refusing reunification over dangers:  ACLU” by Tom Hals, .

[2]  Washington Post, “Trump administration weighs new family-separation effort at border” by Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey, and Maria Sacchetti, 10/12/18,

[3]  Over the summer, some $10 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funding was redirected to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in part, for “adult detention beds and transportation removal programs.”  See, AJC, “Trump administration diverted $10 million in FEMA funding to ICE, documents show” by Theresa Seiger, 9/12/18,

[4A and 4B]  Open the Word, “What it means to cast your bread upon the water” by Barb Smith, 9/15/16,


  1. Great post Anna!
    Beautiful art work as well..
    I pray for this whole situation of refugees.. I have heard that many of the children who are in refugee camps have been victim of child sex trafficking.. Those who have become orphans through war, or separated from their family.Also men approach parents and offer to arrange marriage to the rich.. but this is only a ploy.. they are taken into child prostitution..

    • You are so right, Mary. Refugees and their children are terribly vulnerable. Perhaps I feel so strongly about the subject b/c my own parents and grandparents were war refugees.

  2. I’m sure my comment won’t be nominated for “comment of the year”, but here goes…

    I completely understand a parent desperately wanting to give their child hope for a better life. Who wouldn’t? Yet how can a nation guilty of murdering nearly 60 million innocent babies be so hypocritical as to think they can offer a better life to the children of immigration?

    This nations leaders on both sides reek of evil in what they have done, yet we choose to focus instead on the children of immigrants while we continue to murder our own at will? This is the epitome of hypocrisy!

    I’m sorry Anna, I don’t mean to offend and if I have, I offer my apologies.

    • You haven’t offended me at all, Ron. The value of life covers a broad range of topics. Too many people compartmentalize them. That you see the connection does you credit.

  3. Thank you, Anna. You are a “voice” for many.

    • You are very kind, David. I hope all is well w/ you and yours.

      • We are good, Anna. Busy.. very busy season here since Maija took principal position at this small christian school… but we are all really good. 🙂 If you have time at some point, and want to email, I’d love to catch up on some details on your end sometime. 🙂

        Your brother


  4. Amazingly beautiful piece Anna !!
    Loved it

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