A New Chapter
Exodus is the sequel to Genesis and it begins with a recap of Jacob, his children, and the death of Joseph. Joseph’s brothers had also died in Egypt, and for some time after Joseph’s death, the Israelites had increased per God’s promise. God's people were strong, and they filled the land. God's story is continuing in such a way that the promises of salvation from Genesis are now worked out in the events that follow. Chapter one of Exodus introduces us to the storyline of the book and sets the context for us by explaining the situation of God’s people. They needed rescue, and their situation seemed hopeless. God would bring his power and grace to provide them with a way out.
Oppression And Infanticide
The Israelites experience a cataclysmic change in their relationship to the Egyptians. Once lauded and given power rivaled only by Pharaoh, they find themselves at enmity with their neighbors. A new Egyptian dynasty launched a new initiative toward the Israelites that would change their history forever. These kings were especially sensitive to the possibility that a foreign challenger might attempt to push into Egypt and they feared that the Israelites might assist these potential invaders. Fear drove Pharaoh to oppress the people of Israel, and it consistently intensified. The Israelites were enslaved, and taskmasters placed heavy burdens on the people. They were subjected to heavy labor with bricks and mortar and yet they continued to increase and spread abroad. Fear increased, and so did the Egyptian brutality. Josephus indicates that they were also forced to dig canals and work on irrigation projects. Fear can cause people to behave in unimaginable ways and the Pharaoh resorted to population control. Two Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah, and Puah were ordered by Pharaoh to kill all male infants at the birth stools. The birth stools were nothing more than two stones over which the women would crouch at the time of birth. These two women feared God and could not bring themselves to commit infanticide. When Pharaoh called them to account for their insubordination, they excused their behavior by pointing to the vigor of the Hebrew women in childbirth, indicating that the children were already delivered by the time they arrived. Perhaps there was some truth in what the midwives said, but certainly, it was not the whole truth. God blesses these two courageous midwives with families of their own, and the Israelites continued to increase in Egypt. Finally, the persecution becomes so severe that Pharaoh gave the order to throw Israelite male infants into the river, and the Israelites themselves were subject to this law, and no doubt they were under a death sentence if they did not carry it out.
Thing To Consider:
- Why are genealogies important?
- Why do God's people increase?
- Why do you think that God allowed enmity to happen between Israel and Egypt?
- Why do you think God allowed his people to become slaves to Pharaoh?
- Why do you think he allows hardship into the lives of those whom he loves?
- How did God's people thrive under persecution?
- What does the incident with the midwives have to say to us about current debates over abortion?