Just a short post today to draw attention to Moses meeting Reuel’s daughters.
Have you noticed this pattern in scripture: A man goes to a distant place, encountering a woman at a well? Water is drawn, and the young woman tells her family about the man’s arrival. The man is offered hospitality and a meal, and wedding plans follow shortly thereafter. Eliezer found Isaac’s wife, Rebecca, and Jacob met Rachel watering sheep at a well.
The priest of Midian had seven daughters. They came and drew water, filling the troughs and watering their father’s sheep. When some shepherds came and chased the girls off, Moses came to their rescue and helped them water their sheep.Exodus 2:16-17 MSG
In Exodus 2, a young Moses flees Egypt because he knows he has been discovered. He struck an Egyptian, and he expected reprisal from Pharaoh. Moses flees to Midian, a desert region, and stops by a well. He hasn’t been there long when the seven daughters of Reuel (also known as Jethro), priest of Midian, come to water their flocks. But the local men harass these sisters. Moses steps in, protects the women, and waters their flocks for them, helping them actually to complete their chores early. We note this is the third time in a few short verses that Moses has defended the weak! He’s a leader in training.
When the sisters arrive home early, their father is curious. When they explain that an Egyptian helped them, Reuel offers Moses hospitality. The story lacks detail; we don’t know how long Moses enjoys the hospitality of Reuel before he is given Zipporah as his wife – maybe a few days, maybe longer! But clearly, a romance begins at the well!
Notes on this pattern
What should we make of this pattern? It’s helpful to recognize that ancient authors did specific things to help readers understand what they were communicating. The same thing happens in media genres today. For example, in a scary movie, the moment that the characters decide to separate, you know it’s not going to go well for one or both of them. And in old western films, the sheriff is always able to draw his weapon before the other guys. In the same way, ancient authors could communicate that someone was about to meet their wife simply by portraying a man encountering a woman at a well. Readers would recognize right away what was about to happen. Technically, this kind of patterning has been called a “type-scene” by Robert Alter in his book, The Art of Biblical Narrative. … Through their similarities, these stories connect the figures to one another by the same historical and theological thread. In other words, like Isaac and Rebekah, so also Jacob and then Moses will lead the nation in their covenant relationship with Yahweh.Caressa Quinn
As we read Exodus, it’s interesting and fun to note the patterns! May God open our eyes to see the literary patterns while He is teaching us the bigger truths of His story!