Bible Reading / Book By Book: Genesis to 2 Samuel
Day 9 / Exodus 1
The rest of Genesis tells of Abraham’s earliest descendants. Isaac has two sons, and one, Jacob, is chosen to Abraham’s heir in building the Nation of Israel. Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel, has 12 sons, who father 12 families or tribes who will make up the eventual Nation of Israel. A large part of the second half of Genesis tells the story of one of Jacob’s sons, Joseph. Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers but becomes second in command in all of Egypt, the most prominent nation in the world at that time. The book of Genesis ends with all of Jacob’s descendents moving to Egypt. Exodus is also believed to have been written by Moses, except Exodus would have been written based on what he experienced firsthand.
The chapter today doesn’t give the details of the shift from privileged guests in Egypt to slavery, but by this time, Israel is a large and growing population. They have been in Egypt for 430 years and are being oppressed to the point of being killed, simply due to their ethnicity. It seems strange that Israel would be treated like this, but had they not been oppressed, they probably would have been absorbed into the Egyptian population and never would have had a separate national identity.
Even in oppression God had a plan. Our story also raises an interesting question. It appears God is pleased that the midwives lied. One way of resolving this is to assume God was pleased that the midwives saved innocent lives, but not with their lying. Another is to see that lies are almost always connected to injustice. The Ten Commandments forbid false testimony, which would cause the wrong person to be punished. Lies usually cause injustice, either allowing a guilty person to avoid punishment or causing an innocent person to be blamed. In this case the midwives lied, or at least misled Pharaoh, in order to prevent an injustice. Perhaps God finds this type of deception acceptable.
We’re only capable of having a short-term view in life. God has a plan that goes beyond today, beyond our lifetime and beyond the lifetime of the nation of which we are a part. Difficulties today could be setting things up for God’s later solutions. We need the faith to believe that.
Exodus 1 (NASB)
Israel Multiplies in Egypt
1 Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah;3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.7 But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.
8 Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are [f]more and mightier than we.10 Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.” 11 So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. 13 The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; 14 and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.
15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; 16 and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.”17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live. 18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?”19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.” 20 So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. 21 Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.”