Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 1:20-22

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.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 1:15-19

15 And 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:

16 And 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.

17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.

18 And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?

19 And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.

In today’s verses the actions of the Pharaoh become even more horrifying. Not only did he subjugate and oppress the Israelites because of an unfounded fear, but now he seeks to commit mass infanticide! Seeing that he spoke to only two women, we must assume that they were overseers for all the other midwives, and it was expected that they would carry out their miserable orders by compelling the many under their care to do the terrible deed for them.

Of course what Pharaoh was asking was morally wrong, and also directly against the chief function of a midwife, which is to safely preserve the life of the child and mother through the birthing process. All that being said, by giving this command the Pharaoh had shown he was willing to kill even the most innocent to achieve his ends, so why not the midwives if they failed to obey him? Thus, Shiphrah and Puah showed great courage in defying his commands. The excuse they bring back to the Pharaoh is obviously false, and I find it hard to believe that he was fooled in the least. If so, these two women had just put their own lives on the line in place of the Hebrew sons.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 1:11-14

11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.

12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.

13 And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour:

14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.

In yesterday’s verses we read about the Pharaoh’s anxiety for the Israelites growing even more numerous and mighty than the Egyptians themselves. What a strange thing, then, that the weaker nation would be able to subjugate the greater.

Perhaps Pharaoh was simply exaggerating when he said the Israelites were more mighty than the Egyptians. Or perhaps he was saying that the Israelite’s trajectory was greater than their own, so they would become more numerous and powerful if things went unchecked. Whether he was using hyperbole, or anticipating the future, or speaking for what was literally the case, the fact still remains that the Israelites were a large and powerful entity. How, then, did the Egyptians overpower them? Why would the Israelites accept subjugation when they could have fought back or moved away?

Some scholars have suggested that verse 11 is describing a gradual process. Perhaps Pharaoh did not totally enslave the Israelites to the degree they were at when Moses came on the scene. As the Israelites were a separate nation, Pharaoh might very well have imposed a special tax or tribute upon them. Then the burden could be made more and more heavy, one step at a time. Certain social restrictions and curfews might have gradually been imposed, always uncomfortable, but never so much at once as to to trigger a full-blown rebellion, at least not until it was too late, and the Israelites had already surrendered too much freedom to resist.

Sadly, this sort of incremental-subjugation approach has been employed countless times, including by Nazi Germany against the more modern-day Israelites. In short, we do not know if the Egyptians employed such a gradual, infesting form of oppression, but it certainly is possible.

Either way, the downfall of the Israelites is an analogy for one of the two great troubles we face in life. If the subjugation was slow and progressive, then it is a type for how we become seduced by gradual temptation to sin. If they were taken suddenly, in a moment, then it is a type for the sharp tragedies of sickness and death that suddenly befall us. Whichever way it happened, the Israelites now found themselves “made to serve with rigour,” and “their lives were bitter with hard bondage,” and only an act of God would deliver them!

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 1:8-10

8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.

9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:

10 Come 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.

Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.

This verse is, of course, a most pivotal passage in the story of the Israelites. In just a few words the entire fate of the Israelites turned on its head. Without this verse, the story which the entire book of Exodus is dedicated to relating wouldn’t have occurred.

This verse describes the passage from one king of Egypt to another, notably one that never knew Joseph personally. We were told that Joseph lived to the age of one hundred and ten, and depending on the age of the Pharaoh who first made him a prince, it is entirely conceivable that this new pharaoh was three or four generations after that previous ruler. It is also possible that this new king was not the very next ruler born after the death of Joseph, for all we know decades might have passed between the sunset of Joseph and the rise of this new leader. In any case, to this new ruler Joseph was nothing more than a story, and clearly he had no respect to the man’s kin.

And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:

Come 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 Pharaoh was frightened of the Israelites. It seems he didn’t expect them to start a war directly, but if another enemy arose, he thought Israel might join in with them. Apparently he did not know that it was never in the cards for the Israelite people to have a hand in the destruction of Egypt. At various times God would command the descendants of Abraham to eradicate certain nations, but only those in the land of Canaan. That was the land of their inheritance, not Egypt. The Pharaoh of Egypt had nothing to fear.

But, of course, these facts would mean nothing to a Pharaoh who approached the Israelites the same as any other nation. This is not the last time that a foreign nation in the Bible will view God’s chosen people with the same skepticism and pessimism as they held for all the rest of the world. Sadly, many times the godly are punished by the distrust of the ungodly.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 1:1-7

1 Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.

2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,

3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,

4 Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.

5 And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.

6 And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.

7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.

Exodus takes a step backwards and recaps some of the information that we had at the end of Genesis. It reiterates all of the sons of Jacob who lived with him in Egypt, it reminds us that there were seventy descendants in their party, and it reminds us of the passing of Joseph.

Not only Joseph, though, it further extends the narrative to state that all of that generation were passed away. This truly marks the end of an era. The age of the patriarchs is officially closed and now begins the time of the Israelite nation.

Seventy descendants might make for a large family gathering, but hardly an entire civilization. Verse 7, however, shows that the Israelites “increased abundantly,” even to the point that “the land was filled with them.” Let us remember that this is the fulfillment of a promise that God had been making to the patriarchs ever since Abraham: that they would become a great nation. The fulfillment of other promises is still to come, but this is the one upon which all those others was predicated. At times the fulfillment of this promise appeared quite uncertain, as Abraham’s lineage remained a very small population in danger of extinction at every turn, but in this verse we see that God proved faithful through it all.

But while this represents one step forward, we are of course about to hear about another string of setbacks, enslavement and genocide, making the success of Abraham’s descendants uncertain once more. Yet again, faith will be required, the Israelite nation will be the perpetual underdogs, and they will have to depend on God’s salvation at every hand.