Summary: Learn about God giving courage to those who needed to try their faith as he prepares a leader to rescue Israel from slavery to sin and as a picture of God rescuing us from sin as well.
Exodus means "exit, or departure." Exodus is a book of rescues, reintroductions, intercession, and second chances. In it we see God rescue Israel from the evil rulers of Egypt after they intercede - but we also see him rescue Moses from death - multiple times. And we see that despite our own weaknesses - God continues to express His mercy and grace to us. The people He rescues might be classified as "the reluctant victims."
You may know that sometimes a kidnap victim survives by identifying with their captor. Perhaps the most famous example of this is Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army in the 1974. Patty ended up participating in bank robberies with the SLA until she was "rescued" (arrested, really). Patty claimed that she only went along under duress - but was sentenced to 7 years in prison - a sentence later commuted by President Jimmy Carter.
The children of Israel complain loudly about their captivity and slavery in Egypt - but when released they clung to the ways and memories of their days in Egypt. They misbehaved so much that God intended to wipe them out. Only through the intercession of Moses are they spared.
For us, Exodus is a picture of slavery to sin, the intercession of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who was sent down to our Egypt to lead us out into salvation and the Promised Land. It’s a fun book - like an action movie - where we see God beat the tar out of the evil rulers and the good guys ride off into the sunset. It is also a book where a nation is birthed and God introduces His character through the Law, and worship through the Tabernacle.
The events of the book probably occurred somewhere between 1580 and 1321 B.C.
Verses 1 - 7
The names here are grouped here by their mothers - in Genesis 46 we see a listing of the families as they went down to Egypt - more of a charter than a passenger manifest. Now they are listed just as tribal leaders. 70 people went down - millions came back up
Just as God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the sand of the sea - the 70 people who went down had many many babies and they were everywhere in Egypt. You couldn’t turn a street corner without running into one.
We see a somewhat analogous situation in the United States - where large numbers of Hispanics are moving in to communities - especially in the southwest and northwest U.S. The large numbers of Hebrews became a great concern to Pharaoh - even though it wasn’t a democracy - large groups could hold large power. It was a threat, no doubt - a threat that had to be neutralized. But the king of Joseph’s day would not have done anything - he had welcomed Israel into his land - but kings don’t last forever.
Verses 8 - 10
There is a two part problem here - political and economic. Politically, Pharaoh worries that if a power more friendly to the Hebrews were to invade, they could have a huge revolt on their hands. Economically, the Hebrews no doubt contributed extensively to the gross domestic product of Egypt. So Pharaoh must keep them in the country and out of power - the best way to do that is to make them slaves.
It says that they acted "shrewdly." The Egyptians I doubt had the power to simply show up with chains and say - "you are now a slave." That in itself would cause a revolt. It is possible that because the Hebrews were not actually citizens, but guests in Egypt that some sort of economic arrangement was made - the Hebrews’ labor in exchange for continued privileges of living in Goshen - or something like that. Then as time went on they morphed into slaves and masters.
The words "Slave masters" is actually a technical term for supervisors of forced labor gangs. It is a different word used later in the book - so it supports the idea that the actual "slavery" was a gradual thing.
Just a word here - when it comes to slavery to sin - the enemy doesn’t come at us and say "you are going to be a slave to this sin." No - it actually starts pleasurably - but the more we subject ourselves to sin, the more it becomes a cruel task master. We think we can stop anytime - but you are only fooling yourself. Before we came to Jesus sin ruled us - it is only through the death of Christ that the chains of slavery to sin are broken. More on that as we progress through the book.