When at some point famine was afflicting (the children of Israel) ... they descended from the land of Canaan to Egypt; about seventy five souls, as it is written. And as the time crept, their race multiplied. For it has been written: “And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.” (Ex 1:7) And because the one who happened to be the ruler of the land of the Egyptians was not unaware of the growth of the Jews, he plotted against them and appointed for them overseers of the labours so that they maltreat them at work. And the way of being maltreated was the sweat over digging, a lengthy construction of bricks without compensation and building strong cities for the Pharaoh. ...

            And the tyrant, was adding to the labours another plot. For he was ordering the midwives of the Jews, if they were delivering who were already in the pangs of labour and birth, to strangle whom they suspected to be male and to keep alive the females. ...

            But let the word of the narrative pause at this point. Let us bring the mind into the inner meaning of this:  We were labouring under the sin inherited from our first parents, and were heavy burdened by our deprivation of all that was good. What is more, we had been enslaved in the savage dominion of that wicked ruler Satan, and set under those brutal overseers, the unclean spirits. We had come to the extremity of our trouble. Nothing could have been added to the sum of our misery and degradation. Then it was that God took pity upon us, lifted us up and saved us. And we shall understand how this was so, from those things that follow in the

text. For all that is written about the blessed Moses we affirm to be an icon and a type of that salvation which comes in Christ.

            “And there was a certain man of the tribe of Levi, who took to wife one of the daughters of Levi. And she conceived, and bore a male child; and having seen that he was fair, they hid him for three months. And when they could no longer hide him, his mother took for him an ark, and besmeared it with bitumen, and cast the child into the river. And his sister was watching from a distance, to learn what would happen to him. And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to the river to bathe; and her maids walked by the river's side, and having seen the ark in the water, she sent her maid, and took it up. And having opened it, she sees the babe weeping in the ark; and the daughter of Pharaoh had compassion on it, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children. And his sister said to the daughter of Pharaoh, Wilt thou that I call to thee a nurse of the Hebrews, and shall she suckle the child for thee? And the daughter of Pharaoh said, Go: and the young woman went, and called the mother of the child. And the daughter of the Pharaoh said to her, Take care of this child, and suckle it for me, and I will give thee the wages; and the woman took the child and suckled it. And when the boy was grown, she brought him to the daughter of Pharaoh, and he became her son; and she called his name Moses, saying, I took him out of the water:”

            Because, then, God the Father had mercy on those on earth, which were serving an unholy tyrant and most cruel thief, he did not spare his own son, according to what has been written, but delivered him on behalf of all of us. ... and as the wise Evangelist John says, “he came unto his own~ For he was sent, as he himself says somewhere, “unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” but “his own received him not”: ... Because, therefore, the descendants of Israel failed and they did not recognize the natural and true Master, those who were worshipping the idols have been invited through the faith, and the unholy and disgusting multitude of those who denied God acknowledged the Saviour. ...

            And when Emmanuel came to be among us ...  he escaped in the beginning the notice of the ruler of this world (for the child had been hidden, that is Moses), and when he grew in age, the Synagogue which gave birth to him, ... enclosed him in a tomb. And Moses could become a clear symbol of this, since he had been placed down into the so-called basket by the hand of his own mother. For the Synagogue of the Jews alienated itself from Emmanuel, but the daughter of Pharaoh, which is the Church of the gentile nations, even though she had Satan as her father, discovered him in the waters, which can be understood as a type of holy baptism through which and in which we discover Christ, and she opened up the wicker basket. For Christ did not remain among the dead but rather rose to life again, trampling death underfoot and rising from the tomb, so that they might come to belief, through faith in him who through us came to death that he might regain life on our behalf.

             And she finds the child crying. And we will also find Christ narrating the profanity of the Jews and the events referring to him and crying. Because he says in a manner hard to bear: “They pierced my hands and my feet, they counted all my bones. And they observed and looked upon me; they parted my garments among themselves and cast lots among my raiment:” And indeed somewhere else: “They gave me also gall for my food and made me drink vinegar for my thirst:”

            And that Christ came into being from the Jews the Church from the Gentiles knew very well. For, he says, “Pharaoh's daughter said; this is from the children of the Hebrews:” And that in time the Synagogue of the Jews will accept Christ, from the Church of the gentiles, that is to say by being initiated into the mystery concerning him, would be indicated without much effort by the fact that the one who gave birth to the child accepted it from the Pharaoh's daughter.

            And so, as in the fullness of time the Synagogue of the Jews shall receive the Christ from the Church of the gentile nations, this is clearly and mystically signified in the way the daughter of Pharaoh gives back the child to its mother. For even though the Synagogue of the Jews once, as it were, exposed and cast off Jesus through faithlessness, even so in these last days it shall receive him, being initiated into the mystery through the teachings of the Church. And then it may indeed have the confidence that it shall not miss its reward, but rather a great hope shall be offered to it. And this is why the daughter of Pharaoh is said to promise a reward to the mother of Moses if she will nurse her own child.

            Therefore Moses’ birth and the things concerning him would indicate extremely clearly to those who are right in their minds the mystery of Christ through whom and with whom the glory belongs to God together with the Holy Spirit, now and always and to the ages without end. Amen.


Saint Cyril of Alexandria: Commentary on Exodus First Discourse pp 9-37 (condensed)

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