Read the account of Moses and the bulrush cradle in Exodus chapter 1 – chapter 2:10.
Jacob and his family (70 members in all) settled in the Goshen area of Egypt in about 1876 B.C. Moses was born about 350 years later. In the interim years, the Israelites becoming so numerous that Goshen was filled with them. A new pharaoh came to power who did not know the history of Joseph helping Egypt. Feeling threatened by the number of Israelites living in Egypt, the new Pharaoh made them slaves. He ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all Israelite newborn males. The midwives worked around Pharaoh’s edict and the numbers of Israelites continued to grow. Still determined to reduce the number of Israelites, Pharaoh ordered that every Israelite male infant must be thrown into the Nile River where the infant would die.
When Moses was born to an Israelite family, his mother was determined to keep him alive. She crafted a cradle made from bulrushes and coated it with bitumen (tar-like substance) to make it water resistant. Moses’ mother placed him in the cradle and put the cradle among Nile River reeds. Moses’ sister, Miriam, was tasked with guarding the baby in the cradle. Guarding the cradle was dangerous; predators, e.g., wild animals, crocodiles, and snakes, lived in and around the Nile River reeds.
Pharaoh’s daughter came to the Nile River to bathe and saw the cradle floating among the reeds. She sent a slave girl to get the cradle. When Pharaoh’s daughter opened the cradle, she recognized a Hebrew baby. Feeling compassion for the baby, Pharaoh’s daughter decided to make the baby her son. At that time Miriam stepped forward. Miriam asked Pharaoh’s daughter, if should obtain a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby. When Pharaoh’s daughter agreed, Miriam went home and returned with Moses’ mother. Pharaoh’s daughter directed her to nurse Moses until he was weaned. In ancient times, it was common to nurse infants for two to three years. Probably, Moses’ mother nursed him the maximum time possible. After Moses was weaned, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and Moses became her son. In the Hebrew language, Moses meant “drawn from the water,” while in Egyptian Moses meant “son of” or “born of.”
The Bulrush Cradle
The bulrush cradle was made from the Cyperus papyrus, a stately aquatic reed also called the Nile papyrus. The reed is indigenous to Africa and other countries around the Mediterranean Sea. For optimal growth, reeds need full sun. Throughout Africa many swamps, shallow lakes, and stream and river banks are dominated by papyrus reeds; however, in Egypt the papyrus plant is now rare. In Israel there are only limited papyrus reeds, generally in tended gardens. In ancient Egypt, the bulrush had multiple uses. The reed was renowned as the source of ancient Egyptian paper called papyrus. In Egypt, references to papyrus paper occurred as early as 3100 B. C. Bulrushes were excellent pens because air-spaces in the stems could hold ink. Papyrus reeds were used to make boxes and baskets because they were light weight. Giant stems were buoyant, therefore, used in construction of reed boats, cradles, and bed mattresses. Today in sub-Saharan Africa, mothers craft reed or wooden cradles for newborns that they call a Moses’ Basket.
For the first time this year, local nurseries were selling the Cyperus papyrus. I bought several for the church Bible garden. They were a great hit especially with the children. I planted them in part sun and part shade and watered them frequently. Unfortunately they are an annual but perhaps they will regrow next year if I mulch their roots this fall.
Symbolism of the Papyrus: Absorb
The symbolism of the bulrush reed is related to its ability to absorb. The Hebrew word for bulrush is derived from the Hebrew word gâmâ’ which means “to absorb.” Moses’ cradle was made of porous bulrushes which absorbed air; thus, it was buoyant and floated and saved Moses’ life. In the English language, the meaning of absorb is to take in and make part of an existent whole.
The body of Christ is the world-wide universe of believers who have God’s spirit living in them (I Corinthians 12: 12-13; Ephesians 1:25; Colossians 1: 24). When we accept Christ as our lord and savior, we automatically become members of the body of Christian believers. Then, ideally we affiliate with and are absorbed into a local body of believers. Being absorbed into a local body of believers takes several intentional steps. First, we need to find other Christian believers. Second, we need to open ourselves to fellow Christians so we can absorb the essence of Christ-likeness in them. Third, we need to willingly give the Christ in us to others.
God tells us “not to give up meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25); but where do we find members of the body of Christ? Generally, we find them in a Bible-believing church. Finding a Bible-believing church can begin with exploring church websites. Most churches describe their doctrine and beliefs on their website; believers can ascertain if a church’s doctrine is congruent with the Holy Scriptures. After evaluating a church’s doctrine and beliefs, believers can attend the church.
When we moved to Roanoke, we started looking for Bible-believing churches. After prayer, receiving friends’ recommendations, and evaluating church web-sites, we decided to visit several churches. Some were large, others were small. One met in a movie theater on Sunday mornings; another in a large century-old stone church. Some churches we eliminated after one visit; however, generally we made several visits to each church. Not limiting ourselves to churches in our present denomination was a big step. It was hard to act on our belief that we were members of the body of Christ, rather than members of a certain denomination. Finally, with continued prayer we agreed on a church that promoted Christian growth and development in an inclusive body of believers.
Making an effort to be absorbed into the Church’s body of believers is work. In addition to Sunday church, we attended Sunday morning Bible School. Attending Bible school was important because we heard the teacher’s point of view and that of congregates who participated in discussions. We joined ministries that used our spiritual gifts and talents. My husband and I noted repeatedly that congregates “knew their Bible” and applied it to situations encountered in meetings and ministries. We participated in a number of one-day mission/community outreach activities where we interacted with more church members.
Not every individual slides automatically into fellowship with others in the church. My husband is outgoing and is comfortable in just about any setting. I’m just the opposite; I prefer to stay at home, have my personal devotions, journal, and meditate. At one time I felt inadequate because I was introverted. Now I realize that God does not require us to change our personality (I Corinthians 12:12–30). Within the body of Christ, there is room for individual differences. What God expects is for each of us be absorbed into a body of believers (Hebrews 10:25).
Thought: How we absorb and are absorbed into the body of Christ can take many forms. What form is your absorption taking?
Copyright: August 25, 2014: Carolyn A. Roth