When Jacob, who was given the name Israel by God, went to Egypt to join his son Joseph, he brought along his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, who were seventy people altogether! They kept growing until they were a nation within another nation-the Hebrews.
After everyone in Joseph’s generation had died, a new pharaoh took the throne. He did not remember how Joseph had saved Egypt from famine. All he could see were people who were different from the Egyptians. He was afraid that there were too many of them and he did not trust them to be loyal to Egypt. So he decided to force them to do hard work for the Egyptians with just enough food and supplies to survive.
The Egyptians forced the Hebrews to work in the fields and mix straw and mud to make bricks. They built cities for the pharaoh to store his supplies. But no matter how much the Hebrews were mistreated, God blessed them and their families grew larger, and needed even more land to live on. Pharaoh and the rest of the Egyptians looked down on them and wanted to get rid of them.
When Pharaoh heard the Hebrew babies crying he boiled with anger. He ordered Shiphrah and Puah, the two women in charge of the Hebrew babies to rid the land of their sound. But they were brave and remained faithful to God. They watched over the babies and gave them to their mothers.
But the pharaoh’s anger kept growing. A woman named Jochebed heard how cruel he could be to the Hebrew children. So when she had a son, for three months she never took him anywhere and did her best to keep him quiet. But she knew she had to find another way to keep him safe from the pharaoh.
“Hush, hush!” she told her beautiful baby boy, as she made a basket for him. Then, in the early morning when no one was looking, she walked to the river with the baby and his older sister Miriam. They waded in among the tall grass that lined the edges of the Nile. Jochebed put the basket with her son in it on the water and let it float down the river, trusting him to God’s care. Miriam continued to follow the basket, while staying hidden among the reeds.
As Miriam followed along, she heard the sounds of young women talking. It was the princess, Pharaoh’s daughter, taking a bath in the Nile River. Miriam stood frozen, watching to see what would happen. When the princess saw the basket in the tall grass she sent one of her servants to pull it out of the water. She was surprised to find a little baby crying in the basket. Knowing that he must be one of the Hebrew children, she felt sorry for him. She took him in her arms and tried to comfort him.
“I will call you Moses,” she told him. “Because I pulled you out of the water.”
Fearlessly, Miriam came forward and addressed the princess. “Do you want me to find a Hebrew woman to take care of the baby for you?”
“Yes,” she replied, as they smiled at one another.
Miriam ran to her mother to tell her that God had provided a safe home for her brother. Jochebed got to raise her own son in the palace, while the hard-hearted Pharaoh, who tried to harm the Hebrews, paid her to take care of him. The princess adopted Moses, so that when he was older, he would become a prince of Egypt.
One day, Moses would become a great leader for God’s people. But that never would have happened if it had not been for the bravery of five heroines: Shiphrah, Puah, Jochebed, Miriam, and the princess, who all did what was right, instead of what they were told.