THE GREAT EGYPTIAN AFFLICTION
A great story always begins with a great problem. That is the nature of story-telling. The human experience may desire peace and prosperity, but it always sees its greatest achievements in the context of trials and troubles.
THE COVENANT COMMUNITY
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 And all
the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph
was already in
author takes the close of the book of Genesis and then builds a bridge for the
reader to take him from Joseph’s death to the beginnings of the Moses
narrative. The book of Exodus begins
where the book of Genesis leaves off.
That book ended with the Israelites having settled in
The summary statement tells us that all the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number. This is a significant number because it is the same number that we see listed in Genesis 10 in the Table of Nations (assuming that we exclude Noah and his three sons). When we come to the book of Deuteronomy, we are told that this correspondence is deliberate:
7 Remember the days of old,
Consider the years of all generations.
Ask your father, and he will inform you,
Your elders, and they will tell you.
8 When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
When He separated the sons of man,
He set the boundaries of the peoples
According to the
number of the sons of
9 For the Lord's portion is His people,
Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. (Deuteronomy 32:7‑9).
says that the boundaries of the peoples are according to the number of the
is seen in the ministry of Jesus when He appointed seventy disciples and sent
them out to every city and place where He Himself was going to come
(Luke 10:1). They were going out to the
A MIGHTY MULTITUDE
6 And 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. (Exodus 1:6-7).
One generation has passed away and another generation has arisen. If we are to take the various numberings in Genesis, Exodus, and Chronicles literally, then several hundred years intervened between the passing of Joseph and the advent of Moses. In that time, the Israelites continued to grow and to multiply.
narrative makes no mention of the political events in
AN INTENTIONAL AFFLICTION
8 Now a
new king arose over
Israelites had enjoyed great favor in the days of Joseph, but it was an imposed
favor that was brought about by Joseph’s exalted position. Even in his day, there were the foundations
of anti-Semitism at work in
First, the Israelites were shepherds by trade. This was a profession that was looked upon with disdain by the Egyptians. Genesis 46:34 tells us that shepherds were loathsome to the Egyptians.
the Israelites were Semitics and therefore considered to be akin to the Hyksos,
the Semitic invaders who had entered
the Israelites were located in
A MURDEROUS COMMAND
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.” (Exodus 1:15-16).
The pharaoh hit upon a plan to keep the Israelites helpless in their subjugation. The plan was that all male children be put to death. This was the first Jewish holocaust. To accomplish this, the pharaoh sought to enlist the aid of two of the midwives. The actions of this pharaoh are echoed in the actions of another king who sought to put male children to death. I am speaking of Herod who tried to have the Christ assassinated by gaining the unknowing participation of the magi. As in that case, these Gentiles did not align themselves with the enemies of God’s people. Instead, they took a deliberate stance to align themselves with the people of God.
A number of years ago, I saw a Christian berated and heckled by an unbeliever. It happened rather quickly and without warning and was over almost before it began, but I watched and did nothing. Upon reflection, I determined that whenever I saw a Christian taking a stand, I would stand with him.
A DEVOTED DISOBEDIENCE
17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of
We are told at the outset that the motivating factor in the actions of these midwives is that they feared God. Their disobedient actions with respect to the Egyptian king was not as a result of a disrespect for authority, but rather because they saw a higher authority. They took the stance described by Peter in Acts 5:29 when he said, “We must obey God rather than men.”
At the same time, we must ask whether it was right for them to lie. They told a deliberate deception. They lied. Is this a case of situational ethics in which it is okay to do wrong for the right reason? I don’t believe it to be necessary to take such a stance.
At the outset, we must point out that the Scriptures in this case make no specific judgment about whether their action was right or wrong. We are told the facts of the matter without any corresponding moral commentary. On the other hand, we can see in verses 20-21 that the Lord blessed the midwives and established households for them. However, we are not told that this blessing came because of their lie, but rather because of their fear and respect of God. Here is the principle. God sees the heart and blesses accordingly, even when the actions are not necessarily correct.
A ROYAL DECREE
Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you are to
cast into the
the Pharaoh takes a more direct approach.
He had previously moved in secret; now his oposition
to the people of God is made public as it takes the form of a royal edict. The edict is that all baby boys are to be put
to death by throwing them into the
This passage prepares us to hear the story of Moses. God was going to move in this dark episode of history to send His deliverer who would rescue the people from their bondage. We will see the birth of Moses in the next chapter and will compare his birth and deliverance with the birth of the Greater Deliverer, Jesus Christ.
Born of simple parents
Born of simple parents
The pharaoh issues a decree to kill all male children
Herod issued a
decree to put all the male children in
Moses would grow up to be the deliverer of his people
Jesus would grow up to be the Deliverer of all men
It is in this last contrast that we see the true greatness of Jesus. While Moses became the deliverer of all the Israelites, the deliverance of Jesus is such that it reaches out to all mankind, even to those who were guilty of trying to put the Chosen One to death.