Open Exodus 2:1-10.
In the opening chapters of Exodus, it’s the women who are the heroes:
- Shiphrah and Puah (midwives) feared God rather than Pharaoh, disobeying the king of Egypt (1:17).
- Jochebed (Moses’ mother) dared to disobey Pharaoh by floating her baby in a basket on the Nile (2:1-3).
- Miriam (Moses’ sister) watched over the baby to guard his life. She approached the princess, and negotiated for their mother to raise Moses (2:7-8).
- Pharaoh’s daughter changed the course of history by defying her father and rescuing a helpless Hebrew baby from his water-borne basket.
- Zipporah (Moses’ wife) later recognized his life was under threat, and took action to save him (4:24-26).
The narrator does not present these heroines as meekly submissive to male authority. They are strong characters, independently choosing to obey the heavenly ruler even when that means defying earthly rulers (who happen to be male in this patriarchal era).
Since Pharaoh’s daughter gave Moses back his life, she also gave him his name. It’s a name that reflects the significance of her role in the Exodus narrative: in drawing Moses out of the water, she has acted in concert with YHWH who draws Israel out of Egypt (2:10).
Later, a Jewish man spoke of Gentiles who — though they didn’t have the heavenly sovereign’s Torah — did by nature what his Law requires (Romans 2:14). Pharaoh’s daughter is a great example of the kind of person he had in mind.
To be a servant of God, you don’t have to be a powerful person. You don’t have to be male: these were all female. You don’t have to be Jewish: two were gentile. You can have the status of a slave or be the princess of Egypt.
Being God’s servant has nothing to do with your own prowess; it’s all about the power of the one you serve. Authority in the kingdom of God does not come from being Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. It comes from God — the heavenly sovereign who is forming us all into one new humanity in Messiah Jesus (Galatians 3:28).