Humanities › History & Culture Why Was Baby Moses Left in a Basket in the Nile? Share Flipboard Email Print Natasic / DigitalVision / Getty Images History & Culture Ancient History and Culture Figures & Events Ancient Languages Greece Egypt Asia Rome Mythology & Religion American History African American History African History Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By N.S. Gill Ancient History and Latin Expert M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota B.A., Latin, University of Minnesota N.S. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. our editorial process N.S. Gill Updated October 14, 2019 Moses was a Hebrew (Jewish) child who was adopted by Pharoah's daughter and raised as an Egyptian. He is, nevertheless, faithful to his roots. In the long run, he delivers his people, the Jews, from slavery in Egypt. In the book of Exodus, he is left in a basket in a clump of reeds (bulrushes), but he is never abandoned. The Story of Moses in the Bulrushes The story of Moses starts in Exodus 2:1-10. By the end of Exodus 1, the pharaoh of Egypt (perhaps Ramses II) had decreed that all the Hebrew boy babies were to be drowned at birth. But when Yocheved, Moses' mother, gives birth she decides to hide her son. After a few months, the baby is too big for her to hide safely, so she decides to place him in a caulked wicker basket in a strategic spot in the reeds that grew along the sides of the Nile River (often referred to as bulrushes), with the hope that he will be found and adopted. To ensure the baby's safety, Moses's sister Miriam watches from a hiding place nearby. The baby's crying alerts one of the pharaoh's daughters who takes the baby. Moses' sister Miriam watches in hiding but comes out when it is clear the princess is planning to keep the child. She asks the princess if she would like a Hebrew midwife. The princess agrees and so Miriam arranges to have the real mother get paid to nurse her own child who now lives among the Egyptian royalty. The Biblical Passage (Exodus 2) Exodus 2 (World English Bible) 1 A man of the house of Levi went and took a daughter of Levi as his wife. 2 The woman conceived, and bore a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. 3 When she could no longer hide him, she took a papyrus basket for him, and coated it with tar and with pitch. She put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river's bank. 4 His sister stood far off, to see what would be done to him. 5 Pharaoh's daughter came down to bathe at the river. Her maidens walked along by the riverside. She saw the basket among the reeds, and sent her handmaid to get it. 6 She opened it, and saw the child, and behold, the baby cried. She had compassion on him, and said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children." 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Should I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?" 8 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Go." The maiden went and called the child's mother. 9 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child away, and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages." The woman took the child, and nursed it. 10 The child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, and said, "Because I drew him out of the water." The "baby left in a river" story is not unique to Moses. It may have originated in the story of Romulus and Remus left in the Tiber, or in the tale of Sumerian king Sargon I left in a caulked basket in the Euphrates.