What does Exodus 2:11-15 really mean?

Exodus 2:11-15 is about Moses fleeing from Egypt after witnessing an act of injustice, foreshadowing his future role as a deliverer of the Israelites from oppression.

11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people.
12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?”
14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.”
15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.


Setting the Scene for Exodus 2:11-15

In Exodus chapter 2, we find Moses, who had been raised as an Egyptian prince but was actually a Hebrew by birth, witnessing an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. Filled with righteous anger, Moses looked around and, seeing no one, struck down the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. The next day, he saw two Hebrews fighting and tried to intervene, but one of them questioned his authority, saying, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Realizing that his secret deed was known, Moses became afraid and fled to the land of Midian.

The scene is set in the harsh and arid landscape of ancient Egypt, with the sun beating down on the sandy terrain. The air is filled with the sounds of labor and suffering as Hebrew slaves toil under the oppressive rule of the Egyptians. Moses, a conflicted figure torn between his Egyptian upbringing and his Hebrew heritage, finds himself at a crossroads as he witnesses the injustice and cruelty inflicted upon his people. This pivotal moment sets the stage for Moses’ journey towards becoming the great leader who would eventually lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

What is Exodus 2:11-15 about?

Moses, a central figure in the Old Testament, experiences a pivotal moment in this verse. Moses, despite being raised as an Egyptian prince, chooses to defend a Hebrew slave who is being mistreated. This act signifies Moses’ recognition of his true identity and his commitment to justice and righteousness. Moses is embodying the values that would later define his role as a leader and prophet of the Israelites by standing up for the oppressed and marginalized. Moses is forced to flee to Midian to escape the wrath of the Egyptian authorities as a result of his actions. This journey marks a significant turning point in Moses’ life, as it leads him to a new land and a new chapter in his personal journey of faith and leadership. Moses encounters the daughters of a priest at a well in Midian and helps them water their flocks. This act of kindness and assistance demonstrates Moses’ humility, compassion, and willingness to help others in need, traits that will later shape his character as he becomes the instrument of God’s will in leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.

Reflecting on this verse, we can see that Moses’ actions serve as a powerful example of courage, integrity, and compassion. They challenge us to consider how we can stand up for justice, embrace our true identities, and extend kindness to others in our own lives. Like Moses, we are called to be agents of positive change, to defend the oppressed, and to show kindness and compassion towards those in need. Through these actions, we can embody the values of justice, righteousness, and love that lie at the heart of our faith and humanity.

Understanding what Exodus 2:11-15 really means

In Exodus 2:11-15, we witness a crucial turning point in the life of Moses, a man caught between two worlds – raised in Pharaoh’s household but born a Hebrew. As he observes the suffering of his people, a deep sense of empathy stirs within him, prompting him to take action. This decision sets in motion a series of events that will shape his destiny as the leader who will lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

“He went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor,” a simple yet profound statement that underscores Moses’ connection to his Hebrew heritage. Despite his privileged upbringing, he identifies with the struggles of his people, showcasing his empathy and roots. Witnessing an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew, Moses is moved to intervene, revealing his innate sense of justice and protection for the oppressed.

The narrative takes a dramatic turn as Moses, in a moment of impulse and perhaps righteous anger, kills the Egyptian and conceals his actions. This act, though driven by a desire for justice, also hints at the internal conflict and struggle with identity that Moses will grapple with in the future. The complexities of leadership are further highlighted as Moses encounters two Hebrews in conflict, foreshadowing the challenges he will face in uniting his people.

The question posed by the Hebrews, “Who made you ruler and judge over us?” serves as a poignant reminder of the resistance and skepticism Moses will encounter from his own community. Fearing the consequences of his actions, Moses flees to Midian, a pivotal moment that sets the stage for his preparation for the monumental task ahead. This fear and uncertainty mark the beginning of Moses’ journey towards understanding his purpose and calling.

The relevance of this passage extends beyond ancient history, resonating with themes of identity, justice, and the courage to confront oppression that are still pertinent today. It challenges us to reflect on our own connections to our communities, urging us to empathize with the struggles of others and take a stand against injustice. Just as Moses faced moments of fear, doubt, and the burden of leadership, we too are called to navigate similar challenges in our quest for justice and righteousness.

In a modern context, we can envision individuals who, like Moses, feel a deep sense of solidarity with their community’s struggles and are compelled to act in the face of injustice, even at personal risk. Their journey mirrors Moses’ own, fraught with moments of uncertainty and self-discovery, ultimately leading to growth and a deeper sense of purpose. The story of Moses serves as a timeless reminder of the complexities of leadership and the imperative to champion justice, inspiring us to examine our roles in advocating for a more just and compassionate world.

Do we defend the oppressed like Moses did?

Yes, the actions of Moses as described in the verse show a clear display of defending the oppressed. Moses witnessed an Egyptian taskmaster mistreating an Israelite slave and took immediate action to intervene and protect the oppressed individual. This act of defending the oppressed was in line with Moses’ upbringing and values, as he himself was an Israelite raised in the household of the Egyptian Pharaoh.

Moses’ response to the oppression he witnessed serves as a powerful example of standing up for those who are vulnerable and suffering injustice. His courage and willingness to confront the oppressor despite the potential risks involved demonstrate a strong sense of empathy and moral integrity. Moses exemplifies the importance of using one’s privilege and position to advocate for those who are marginalized and mistreated in society by taking a stand and defending the oppressed. We can draw inspiration from Moses’ actions to actively support and defend the oppressed in our own lives. Whether it be through speaking up against injustice, advocating for policy changes, or providing support to those in need, we can uphold the value of justice and compassion that Moses demonstrated. We can contribute to creating a more equitable and compassionate society by following in his footsteps and championing the cause of the marginalized.


Be the Moses in your life, ready to speak out for what is just and fair. Rise up against injustice and stand firm in your beliefs, even when the road ahead seems daunting. Embrace the call to be a beacon of hope and change in your community. Will you heed this ancient call and become a champion for righteousness in your modern world?