There are two incidents in Exodus 2 that show Moses’ sense of social justice. We do not normally think of Moses as a figure dedicated to social justice, but it is written plainly in the pages of scripture. Let us therefore examine both incidents and what they say about Moses. Ironically enough, even though Moses’ strong sense of social justice kept him from being a good prince of Egypt, it got him a wife, and made him qualified to rule over God’s people, even if the congregation of Israel in the wilderness was not an ideal people to rule over.
What Good Is A Kingdom If A Man Loses His Soul?
Exodus 2:11-15 gives the first story of Moses’ sense of social justice. Though there are many other lessons that can be drawn from this passage, let us look at how Moses’ sense of justice is offended by oppression both when the Egyptian is oppressing the Israelite and when one Israelite is oppressing another. Let us also ponder why Israelites, who themselves are being oppressed by the Egyptians, would go about oppressing others as well.
Exodus 2:11-15 reads as follows: “Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?” Then he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” So Moses feared and said, “Surely this thing is known!” When Moses heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.”
First, let us note how Moses’ sense of social justice works. For him to have even seen the Egyptian taskmaster beating the Israelite he must have been moved to see how his brethren lived. Given his cloistered life in the palace, the oppression his brethren were suffering and the sorrow of their lives must have been a terrible shock to him. He was moved to avenge his brethren (he knew of his own identity, after all), and was also moved by righteous anger when he saw his own fellow Israelites oppressing each other. After all, how could people themselves who suffered and cried out from oppression oppress others?
And why would they do so? Let us ask, and answer, this question. What would lead people who themselves were oppressed harshly, and who cried out about the oppression, to themselves oppress other people? There are a few reasons. For one, oppression would have been the behavior modeled around the Israelites by people of power, leading those who desired to be or to feel powerful to behave in the same way towards others, whether relatives or brethren or not. Additionally, some Israelites may have consciously mimicked the behavior of the cruel Egyptians in the mistaken belief that religious beliefs teaching kindness and gentleness towards others was “slave religion,” preferring the “master religion” of domination and coercion and force. Beyond this, people often complain of harsh treatment that others give to the while being ignorant of the way in which they treat others. Hypocrisy is all too common a vice among human beings. Any of these reasons, all of these reasons, or other reasons, could have accounted for the fact that Israelites, despite being the victims of oppression, themselves oppressed others. Nothing says that someone has to be either a bully or a victim. You can be both.
A Sense Of Justice Comes In Handy Sometimes
Let us not feel too unhappy about the losses suffered by Moses as a result of his sense of social justice. More happily, Moses’ sense of social justice led him into marriage with Zipporah, daughter of the godly Midianite priest, Jethro. This story is told in Exodus 2:16-22. Let us read this story and see how the same sense of justice that led Moses to throw away his position as an Egyptian prince allowed him to find a wife in a strange land.
Exodus 2:16-22 reads as follows: “Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. When they came to Reuel [or Jethro] their father, he said, “How is it that you have come so soon today?” And they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and he also drew enough water for us and watered the flock.” So he said to his daughters, “And where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom, for he said, “I hve been a stranger in a foreign land.”
Here again we see Moses quick to stand up to bullies, even in a strange land. His desire to rise up in defense of those who were being oppressed or bullied or mistreating was such that it overwhelmed the normal desire for safety. His sense of justice was deeply ingrained in him, such that even after having to flee into exile because of his justice, he cannot help but rise up in defense of seven young women without a brother to defend them against the shepherds. Jethro, knowing a protector when he sees one (or hears about him) invites Moses to become a member of his household, where Moses was content to be, even though in a foreign land.
The fact that Moses’ sense of justice led him to find a wife ought to be encouragement of those of us who are just and remain single. It would appear that Moses’ sense of justice helped his calling in another way. His universal sense of justice and fair play made him a very appropriate godly leader, as he was immune from any insecurity about not wanting others to share in the glory, nor was he interested in his own cliques. He worked hard, had noble goals, and was frustrated by the immaturity of the people he was asked by God to lead. Only a person with so fair and just a standard of behavior could be a fitting leader to give God’s law to a nation and model godly leadership, even if it went unrecognized. Therefore, we must examine ourselves to see if that same sense of justice is in us, so that we can be suitable leaders of those whom God calls from oppression and unjust surroundings. For our world is no more just than the world of the Israelites in Egypt. Do we have Moses’ sense of justice burning within us?