Summary: God provides his people with a savior through the birth and life of Moses.
Last week we did an overview of the book of Exodus, and we saw that it’s about how God rescued his people from slavery, taught them how to worship him, and then came down to dwell with them. Tonight we’re going to look at each of these more specifically as we begin a verse-by-verse study starting in chapter one:
Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob. 2Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. 5And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already. 6And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. 7And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.
This first section bridges the gap between Genesis and Exodus. The first generation dies in Egypt, but not before they all had sons of their own. The tribes continued to grow until they became a nation within the nation of Egypt.
8Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.
Everything up to this point has been pretty good. God promised seed as countless as the stars, and he seems to be giving it. But now there’s a little trouble: the new government doesn’t know anything about Joseph. All his wisdom and the way he saved the world from famine is forgotten.
9And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 10Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.
The new king realizes he has a problem: if a war breaks out Israel poses a threat as an internal enemy. They might join forces with some outside group, bring Egypt down, and leave the country, so he stirs up the people and encourages them to enslave the Israelites. He wants to put them to work so they won’t have the time or the energy to fight or organize. Unfortunately the rest of Egypt thinks this is a pretty good idea:
11Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.
They were so oppressed that they were forced to build two cities for the Egyptians. They’re called “treasure cities” because they could store actual treasure or weapons or food, or whatever, but the point is they were big, and Israel had to build them. This stands in contrast to what God will have them do once he sets them free; they’ll be his slaves then, and they’ll build the tabernacle which would house the only real treasure on earth. But in the meantime they’re forced to endure, but it’s all for their good:
12But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.
It might be hard to believe, but there’s a connection between their suffering and their growth. The worse things got, the more the promise to Abraham was fulfilled.
And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. 13And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: 14And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.
The Egyptians are perplexed because the plan backfires. The harder the Israelites work, the more they grow. The only solution is to work them even harder, but it gets the same result! Finally the king admits it’s not working, and he reveals a new plan:
15And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: 16And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
If harsh labor doesn’t do the trick, then certainly extermination will. The midwives help the Israelites in their labor and delivery, and they’re the first ones to see the babies, so they’ve been given this command: if it’s a girl let her live, but if it’s a boy kill him. The idea, I suppose, is that the girls don’t carry the family name, and they can intermarry with the Egyptians. It’s a great big win for Egypt because they can steal the promise of seed from Abraham but still get rid of Abraham.