The great theme of Exodus is deliverance. God delivered Israel in the past and Exodus implies that He will deliver Israel in the future. No matter how terrifying and hopeless, God will deliver them just as He had delivered them in the past. God always saves His people. He has always saved them when they were in trouble. We too can be assured that God will always save and deliver us. God cares and will help us no matter what the circumstances are. He will even work all the trials and circumstances for our good. This is the promise of God to His people, to those who love and follow Him (Romans 8:28). God will deliver us; He will save us.
Exodus 1:1-5 God had delivered and saved Israel, some 400 years earlier. He had led every member of Jacob’s household, down to Egypt. Why had God led Israel into Egypt? There was moral decay in the family, Reuben, Levi, Simeon and Judah were living immoral, violent, and lawless lives. The family was being immersed in the worldliness of their environment. They were starting to follow the life-style of the Canaanites. Through intermingling and intermarriage, they faced the threat of becoming a part of the Canaanite people. They could have easily lost their distinctive identity as the people of God, to become lost as a separate nation so God set out to save His people to fulfill His purposes for them. God made three moves.
First, He took one of the sons of Jacob, Joseph, and set him up as the ruler of Egypt. Second, God caused the entire family to move from the worldly temptation and influence of the Canaanites by using a famine to drive them down to Egypt. Third, God placed them beside the Egyptians who would have nothing to do with them so that they would not intermingle and intermarry with them. This kept Israel to themselves and its godly identity. They were forced to live in the district of Goshen, apart from the Egyptians which allowed them to keep the godly line of their descendants pure. God always delivers and saves His people, through all the crises and trials of life no matter how painful they may be. God’s care for Israel is an indication of His care for us. To the natural mind, Egypt would be the last place a person would choose as a place of refuge. But it was God’s place. How often we miss God’s will because we give in to the ways of the world instead of following the ways of God.
Exodus 1:6-7 God proved faithful and kept His promise through the generations. The key guarantee was the Messiah but also the promise to create a great nation. God would bring the world a redeemer through His chosen people and a nation that would be entrusted with the oracles of God (Romans 3:2). A people who would be a strong witness to the only living and true God. A people who would love and worship God. A people through whom He would demonstrate the truths about life and salvation to the world, and how a person becomes acceptable to God. The multiplication of Israel is a dramatic picture of God’s fulfilling His promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-2), Isaac (Genesis 26:2-5) and Jacob (Genesis 46:2-3) that He would make him a great nation and to give him the promised land. These verses chronicle God’s faithfulness to His promise. They were now a populous nation that would numbered more than two million people (Numbers 1:46; Psalms 105:24; Deuteronomy 26:5). We can trust God to keep every promise He’s ever made.
Exodus 1:8-10 the world rejects God and persecutes His children. Persecution can range from being mildly shunned or ridiculed to being physically enslaved, abused, or even killed for one’s faith. This portion of Exodus describes the persecution and enslavement of Israel. It relates how Israel overcame the oppression. Egypt is a picture of the world that persecutes God’s people. This passage serves to remind believers that God will always deliver His people. There are three reasons why people persecute Believers. 1. Ignorance – The new king knew nothing about Joseph, and he knew nothing about God. A nation or person who enslaves others show they knows little about God and as such do not fear Him. Pharaoh was ignorant of the contribution Joseph had made to Egypt. Joseph literally saved Egypt and the surrounding nations from starvation and helped establish Egypt as one of the greatest nations on earth. Both believers and unbelievers, often find themselves in situations like Israel when a new ruler assumes power and brings suffering because of his ignorance. This occurs not just in government but also in the marketplace as well. The answer to oppression and persecution is believing and trusting in God who delivers all who trust in Him (Ps 34:19; Ps 50:15; Is 43:2; John 14:1-2; Rom 8:28).
2. There was the fear of people (Israel) Exodus 1:9. The new king feared that Israel was a threat to his nation and their way of life. He feared their numbers and strength. Their population was exploding and becoming a potential threat just by virtue of their numbers. He feared that might align themselves with one of Egypt’s enemies. They were also totally different than the Egyptians in appearance, life-style, and religion. It is this kind of fear that causes people to persecute others. Believers preach and teach love, but the world wants the right to dislike others. The right to hate and retaliate against others when others mistreat them. Believers preach and teach righteousness. God demands purity, sexual morality, clean speech, a disciplined life, and honesty. Most people want the right to do as they please so they stand against believers who live and teach righteousness which is a threat to their way of life. Believers preach and teach unselfishness and sacrificial giving considering the needs of others. This demands our time, talents, and money, sacrificial giving of what we are and have. Most don’t want to hear that message. They want the world and its possessions of this world. Sacrificial giving is a threat to their way of life. The people of the world fear believers because they are a threat to their way of life. Therefore, they will do all they can to compromise God’s people trying to silence them. It is done by taking away the rights of believers; and sometimes even abusing, enslaving, and killing them (Mat 10:17; Mat 24:9; John 15:20).
3. The fear of the loss of position, power, and wealth. The king believed that if Israel left the land Israel’s labor and economic power would be lost to Egypt. The loss of Israel’s wealth and trade would be a devastating blow to Egypt. The population of Israel was about two million at this time. The loss of two million peoples labor and trade would wreck the economy the nation that had grown to depend on that income. Pharaoh had to make sure that Israel’s labor and trade was not lost to Egypt. The world rely on position, power and wealth and when threatened will do evil things to maintain it. There is nothing wrong with position and power and wealth unless it causes us to hurt others to maintain and acquire it. Pharaoh began to persecute and enslave Israel in order to protect his wealth and the wealth of his nation. This is the spirit of anti-messiah.
Exodus 1:11-14 The first attack by the king was oppression and enslavement. But it was overcome by God’s purpose and promise. Pharaoh set slave-masters over them forcing them to work for the state. The Egyptians wanted to stop Israel’s population growth; to break their spirit and keep them from bearing children. To have numbers of them die from hard work and harsh treatment. They were forced to build the storage cities of Pithom and Rameses which might have been used for the storage of military supplies, or as shrines for Egyptian leaders who died (there weren’t enough graves in Egypt so you brought us out here to die Exodus 14:11).
The attack was a deliberate attempt to cut the population growth of Israel. God thwarted the persecution by allowing Israel to multiply by bearing more and more children. In fact, the more the people were persecuted, the more they grew. How was this possible when the Egyptians were inflicting so much suffering on the people? They were wearing the people out, trying to make them so tired that they would not have the strength to conceive children? There is only one answer: God.
God’s promise to send the promised seed through Israel which had to be fulfilled. God also promised to make the nation as numerous as the sand of the desert and the stars in the sky. No man, not even the Pharaohs and rulers of the earth, can stop God from fulfilling His promises to His people. God gave the people of Israel strength to conceive and bear children. God caused the people to multiply despite their suffering. Multiplication also served to build up Israel so that they would be able to occupy the Promised Land when God would bring them out of Egypt.
In response the Egyptians forced more labor on the people making life even more bitter for the Israel. The Egyptians became more vicious and evil. They forced the Jews to make their own brick and mortar rather than being supplied with it to build the cities for the Egyptians. In their fields they were forced to plant, harvest, and clear new fields. The word “rigor” or ruthless in Hebrew means a back-breaking labor so harsh that it literally breaks the body down. Pharaoh was willing to launch any evil in order to keep the people as slaves to serve his desires.
Exodus 1:15-21 Then the king ordered the two supervising midwives to see that all baby boys were killed at birth. To kill them without their mothers knowing it. The two midwives were obviously supervisors over all the midwives. Israel’s population was around two million at this time. The names of the midwives listed were Shiphrah, which means beauty and Puah, which means splendor. However, God overcame this through the faith of the midwives who feared God more than they feared the king. So, they refused to obey the king. They let the boys live. When questioned about their actions they avoided a direct answer but gave a true answer: The Hebrew women were more vigorous in giving birth than Egyptian women. They gave birth before the midwives could reach them. Remember: the Hebrew women were slaves, which means they worked hard and were physically strong. This answer was acceptable to Pharaoh, for he did not strike out against the midwives. They were neither imprisoned nor executed. Rather, they were free to leave and continue their lives and work as midwives. God blessed the midwives and continued to bless Israel. He kept on multiplying the people and He gave the midwives families of their own. He blessed them for blessing His people (Genesis 12:3 ; Num 24:9).