ISRAEL IS ENSLAVED
Read Exodus 1:1-22
As we begin our study of the book of Exodus, we need to remind ourselves of the context. The people of Israel have been living in Egypt. Godâ€™s people enjoyed special favour in the land under the capable leadership of Joseph.
When Israel arrived in Egypt to escape the famine in Canaan, they numbered about seventy people. Verses 1-5 give the names of the sons of Israel who were heads of their families. Over time, Joseph and the whole generation that had gone down to Egypt died (verse 6). Godâ€™s blessing remained on the nation, however, and they grew in numbers. Notice in verse 7 that they â€śwere fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.â€ť This was clear evidence of Godâ€™s blessing on their lives.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brownâ€™s commentary tells us that about sixty years after the death of Joseph there was a revolution in the land of Egypt:
About sixty years after the death of Joseph a revolution took placeâ€”by which the old dynasty was overthrown, and upper and lower Egypt were united into one kingdom.
This was a period of unrest in the nation of Egypt. The new king, who came into power because of this revolution, was not familiar with Joseph and the great work he had done in the land (verse 8). When he came to power, he took note of the Israelites. Because this was a tense time politically, the new king wanted to do everything in his power to assure his position and the stability of his government. He saw the Israelites as a threat to him and his government.
Fearing that the Israelites would revolt against him and join forces with their enemies, the king put slave masters over them. Notice also in verse 10 that he was afraid that they would leave the country. We need to remember that the promise of God to Israel was that they would have their own land. Satan knew this promise and would do his best to thwart this purpose of God.
The new king felt that the best option for him, in these times of unrest, was to make the Israelites his slaves. He put slave masters over them and forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses, which he used as store cities for the wealth of the nation (verse 11). This was a radical change for the people of God who had enjoyed blessing and wealth in the days of Joseph. Likely, many of them wondered why God had allowed this to happen to them.
Notice in verse 12 that God still blessed His people in these evil times. The more the Egyptians oppressed the Israelites, the more they multiplied. This teaches us something very important. Sometimes our greatest growth takes place under oppression and difficulties. This has certainly been the case in my own life. God will allow problems and pain to enable us to grow closer to Him. He releases special blessings into our pain and suffering. We are refined and become stronger through the obstacles He sends our way.
Notice the response of the Egyptians to Godâ€™s blessing on His people in verse 12. They came to dread the Israelites. The word â€śdreadâ€ť could also be translated by the words â€śanxiousâ€ť or â€śdistressed.â€ť In other words, the blessing of the Lord on the lives of the Israelites distressed the Egyptians and made them anxious. They were not sure how to take what God was doing in the lives of His people. They began to realize that they were not dealing with an ordinary people. There was a power at work in the lives of the Israelites that caused the Egyptians to fear. Do people see this power at work in your life today? Is there evidence of the strength and blessing of God even in difficult times?
The only way the Egyptians knew to deal with the Israelites was to increase the persecution. They made their lives more difficult. They forced them to work even harder making bricks and working in the fields (verse 14).
These efforts to oppress the Israelites did not work. They continued to multiply. The king decided that he needed to do something more drastic to slow down the growth of the Israelite population. He commanded the midwives to kill any male child that was born to Israel (verse 16).
While the midwives heard the kingâ€™s command, they feared God more than they feared the king and they let the boys live (verse 17). These midwives knew the power of God and made a choice. They chose to risk their lives, disobeying Pharaoh rather than risk the wrath of Israelâ€™s God. While God expects us to obey the powers He places over us, there are times when those powers ask us to do things that are contrary to the Word of God and His purposes. In that case, we need to follow the example of these midwives and choose God over our leaders.
When the king saw that male children were still being born to the Israelites, he questioned the midwives. They responded by telling him that the Hebrew (Israelite) women were stronger than the Egyptian women and give birth even before they could arrive to help them (verse 19).
Notice from verse 20 that the Lord was kind to the midwives because they feared Him and did not obey the command of the king. God blessed them with families of their own (verse 21). Despite the efforts of Pharaoh to kill them, the people of Israel grew in number. God was showing Himself to be more powerful than the king of Egypt.
Pharaoh intensified his efforts to deal with the Israelites and the threat they posed to his people. In verse 25, he commanded his people to throw every male child into the Nile River. It is hard to imagine ...