In Shemot 2 Paro's daughter Batya takes three-month-old Moshe from the water, speculates that he is a Hebrew child, and decides to adopt him. She then has Miriam find a wet-nurse (Yocheved) to take the child away until he's weaned; it's unclear how immediately this happens, because according to Rashi (citing Sotah 12b and Sh'mot Rabbah 1:25), they looked for an Egyptian wet-nurse first. So Batya might have had the infant for some time or not, but in either case became his adopted mother when he was weaned probably a couple years later.

Meanwhile, Paro had this decree against Hebrew male children.

How did Batya explain having this child to her father? We know that the child wasn't a secret from Paro because of the midrash where Moshe takes Paro's crown, the advisors suggest testing him to see if he's a usurper, and he passes the test and thus isn't killed.

I can think of a few possibilities, but couldn't find any commentaries that support any of them:

  • Batya spent a couple years not in close contact with her father, so that she could credibly say that the child was her own. This means passing Moshe off as Egyptian, and also raises a question about claimed paternity.

  • Batya had actually been pregnant, miscarried, and made a substitution. This too means passing Moshe off as Egyptian.

  • Batya admitted that the child wasn't hers but persuaded Paro to let her keep him anyway. Maybe she passed him off as Egyptian, or passed him off as older (born before the decree), or argued that he couldn't possibly be their savior because she was going to raise him right.

  • Batya had enough power to simply adopt the child regardless of her father's wishes.

As I said, that's all unsupported speculation. What actually happened, according to our tradition?

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    Btw, your unsupported speculation is pretty darn good. I'm sure if you looked through the text in detail you could find indications that would support one or more of those theories, and certainly if you look in the commentaries... +1 for a good question and good potential answers Jan 5, 2018 at 16:50
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    Thanks. Indications, like correlations, aren't necessarily signs of correctness -- saying "the text is consistent with this theory" is much weaker than somebody actually making the case. I didn't find anything stronger in Rashi or the commentaries shown in the Stone chumash. Thanks for your help and answer. (I didn't know your famous Maamar Chazal.) Jan 5, 2018 at 16:54
  • Oh, I see -- you're reacting to my "anything to support". I meant commentaries, but I see how that came off as not finding any indications in the text itself. Thanks; will fix. Jan 5, 2018 at 16:57
  • For your first point, absolutely. (Re: the Maamar Chazal, you might have heard it before, but didn't take note of the details. Or, more likely, Iit's not that famous and I was just reminded of it by this question which quotes it judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/88317/…) Jan 5, 2018 at 17:07
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    Side point,isnt her name Bisya?
    – sam
    Jan 5, 2018 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


2:10 וַיִּגְדַּ֣ל הַיֶּ֗לֶד וַתְּבִאֵ֙הוּ֙ לְבַת־פַּרְעֹ֔ה וַֽיְהִי־לָ֖הּ לְבֵ֑ן וַתִּקְרָ֤א שְׁמוֹ֙ מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַתֹּ֕אמֶר כִּ֥י מִן־הַמַּ֖יִם מְשִׁיתִֽהוּ׃

2:11 וַיְהִ֣י׀ בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיִּגְדַּ֤ל מֹשֶׁה֙ וַיֵּצֵ֣א אֶל־אֶחָ֔יו וַיַּ֖רְא בְּסִבְלֹתָ֑ם וַיַּרְא֙ אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י מַכֶּ֥ה אִישׁ־עִבְרִ֖י מֵאֶחָֽיו׃

As usual, link to Mefarshim (2:10) is here.

Netziv gives the following answer based on the famous Maamar Chazal about Mosheh being 10 Amos tall:

ויגדל הילד – איתא בשמו״ר (א,כו): כ״ד חודש היניקתו ואתה אומר ״ויגדל הילד״? אלא שהיה גדל שלא כדרך כל הארץ (עכ״ל). ואמרינן בשבת פרק הזורק (צב,א) שמשה היה גבוה עשר אמות, א״כ ממילא בהיותו בן שתי שנים היה גדול לפי ערך שאר הילדים בני הרבה שנים, ומשום הכי לא נודע לפרעה כי הצילתו בשעת הגזירה.

He speculates that since Mosheh was incredibly tall, likely when he was a young child he looked much older than that, and thus, Pharaoh did not think that she had saved him at that time, but rather, before the decree had started. This works very well with the Midrash that his mother had nursed him for 2 years first (a source that would fit in well with your question), which Netziv brings. See also Ibn Ezra and Keli Yakar to 2:6 (scroll up in the link above).

I will add another couple of points which may be of importance.

  1. R' Avraham Ben Harambam here notes that it was common practice for the daughter of the king to take children and raise them, so perhaps Pharaoh did not think of it as much if it was happening all the time.

ויהי לה לבן – כלומר כבן על דרך בנות המלכים ליקח לעצמן בנים שהן מגדלות אותם ומחבבות אותם כבנים.

  1. Rashi on 2:11 (based on another Chazal) seems to imply that he was already old when he arrived at the palace, which would contradict the famous "crown" Midrash

ויגדל משה – הלא כבר כתב ויגדל הילד (שמות ב׳:י׳), א״ר יהודה ב״ר אילעאי הראשון לקומה, השיני לגדולה, שמינהו פרעה על ביתו מפני חכמתו.

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