I received the following question:

Exodus 2:11. Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.

Did Moses know he was a Hebrew? Did Pharaoh? The Hebrews?

Pharaoh’s daughter knew it immediately, as we can see from Exodus 2:6.

6. And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”

Probably, there were some characteristic physical differences between the Egyptians and the Hebrews. So no doubt Pharaoh knew as well. Yet women had a lot of power in Egypt compared to most ancient societies, and the princess’ will prevailed. Pharaoh certainly would not be the first or the last ruler to not apply the same standards to himself and his family as he did to other people.

Moses was a 40-year-old man in verse 11 (according to Stephen in Acts 7:23,) and he had been brought up in the best schools in Egypt. He hardly could have been unaware of his background. Moreover, Exodus 2:11 that you quoted seems to clearly imply that he knew.

11. Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.

Stephen makes this clear as well in Acts 7:23.

23. “Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel.

So yes, he definitely did know. If for no other reason, no doubt his mother/Pharaoh’s daughter’s nurse told him so as a child.

If there was a difference in his physical appearance from how an Egyptian looked, then no doubt the Hebrews did as well. Moses obviously expected them to when he “supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand.” (Acts 7:25)

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