Exodus 18:3b-4, 8-9 One son was named Gershom, for Moses said, “I have become an alien in a foreign land”; and the other was named Eliezer, for he said, “My father’s God was my helper; he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.” … Moses told his father-in-law about everything the LORD had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the LORD had saved them. Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians.
The names Moses gave to his two sons are quite significant for this faithful man of God.
The forty years he had spent ‘breathing’ Egyptian culture that had no place for the God of his fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, combined with the future prospects of a probable long struggle through strange lands to the ‘Promised Land’, inspired the name ‘Gershom’ (Hebrew for ‘foreigner’) for his first son.
His knowledge and recent experience of the fact of his absolute dependence on this God’s HELP in every detail of the mammoth task entrusted to him inspired the name ‘Eliezer’ for his second son. ‘Eli’ is Hebrew for ‘My God’, as we recognise from Jesus’ cry from the cross, ‘El[o]i, El[o]i, lama sabachtnani’ (cf Mark 15:34), and ‘ezer’ comes from the Hebrew verb to ‘help’, as in Samuel’s naming of ‘Ebenezer’, ‘stone of help’ (1 Samuel 7:12).
Much later we will be told of a far deeper significance of ‘Gershom’ when the Author of Hebrews lists the ‘Heroes of Faith’. including Moses, and says of them that “they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13b-16), and, like Abraham, were “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10).
And we are constantly aware of our need of God’s help in everything we do.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we all call our children ‘Gershom’ and ‘Eliezer’, but it is good if we adopt Moses’ mind-set as we pray for them and guide them through all the struggles and trials they will face on their journey to the ‘Promised Land’.
– Bruce Christian