20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty. 21 And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses. 22 And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.
The midwives made a clear choice of who their master would be. Rather than fear the Pharaoh, who held their lives in his hand, they cast their lot with God, who held their souls. For their faithfulness, we are told, God rewarded them with houses. It doesn’t say how they came to possess those houses, but one would assume it wasn’t the Pharaoh, given that the midwives had failed to meet his demands. However it came to pass, the midwives were taken care of, and we are told it was because they were Godfearing and faithful.
As for Pharaoh, he only became more emboldened. Where he had conspired against the Israelite children in secret, now he expressed his desires publicly, proclaiming to “all his people” that they should grab any newborn Israelite son and cast him into the river! What a horrible realization this must have been for the Israelites, seeing that they would be denied the right to the lives of their own children.
And on this sober note we conclude Exodus 1. The stage has been set. We have had detailed for us the Israelites’ terrible bondage. They were hated of their neighbors, stripped of personal freedom, forced into heavy labor, and losing their lives at the Pharaoh’s whim. It is into this most hopeless of circumstances that Moses would be born, a most unlikely hero to be sure.