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.
16 And the fame thereof was heard in Pharaoh’s house, saying, Joseph’s brethren are come: and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants.
17 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan;
18 And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.
19 Now thou art commanded, this do ye; take you wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come.
20 Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours.
Joseph had promised great things for his family, including a new home in the land of Egypt. As it turns out, Pharaoh totally supported him in this promise. In fact, Pharaoh improved on the promise, telling the Israelites to use his own wagons to carry their household to the new land. He also declares that they might leave behind whatever things they wish, and they will all be replaced freely in the land of Egypt!
The Israelites had a heritage of patriarchs who worked hard to obtain the things that they had. Abraham was a digger of wells and Jacob was a great shepherd, but now an equal increase and more was being offered freely by a stranger. They had grown to current stature by a combination of hard work and the blessing of God, but now the blessing was being repeated, and God alone was responsible for it.
The Lord can give and take entirely according to His own will. Here was the greatest want the land had ever known, and the Israelites were receiving a ridiculous abundance! Of course, on the other hand, they will still be living off the fat of the land when another Pharaoh will suddenly turn them all into slaves! Thus, the risings and fallings of the world are impossible to predict, and the only assurance is to rest in the flock of the Lord. For through high times and low, He ultimately led the Israelites to the promised land.