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Jochebed: Bible

by Carol Meyers

Jochebed, wife of Amram and mother of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, is mentioned by name only in Exod 6:20 and Num 26:59, both genealogical listings. The narrative in Exodus 2 about Moses’ birth introduces her, without providing her name, as a member of the priestly tribe Levi; she marries a Levitical man, also unnamed here. The mother, in defiance of the Pharaoh’s order that every male Hebrew child be killed, hides her newborn son for three months and then places him in a basket in the Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter (also unnamed) finds the child and accepts the offer of Moses’s sister Miriam, who witnesses the rescue of her brother, to find a Hebrew woman as a wet nurse for the infant. The narrative cleverly places Jochebed as the caregiver for her own son.

The story in Exodus 2 clearly focuses on Moses, whose rescue from the river resembles other birth tales presenting culture heroes. The omission of the names of the child’s family members contributes to the heightened interest in Moses. The genealogical information about his mother, as not only the daughter of Levi but also as the wife (and aunt!) of a Levite, serves to highlight the priestly pedigree of both Moses and Aaron. In addition, Jochebed, whose name (Hebrew yokheved) apparently means YHWH is glory,” is notable as the first person in the Bible to have a name with the divine element yah, a shortened form of YHWH. The tradition that Moses announces to the Israelites that YHWH is the name of their God (Exod 6:1–8) is thus embedded in his maternal lineage: if his mother bears YHWH’s name, Moses learned it from her.

Bibliography

Meyers, Carol, General Editor. Women in Scripture. New York: 2000.

More on: Mothers, Bible

How to cite this page

Meyers, Carol. "Jochebed: Bible." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on August 20, 2014) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/jochebed-bible>.

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