Exodus 1-3 Pharaoh commanded his people to kill the newborn sons of Israel

From Exodus 1-3

02 ExodusThe story of Moses’ birth is prophetic. It looks forward to the birth of another saviour. King Jesus, the one who saves us from sin and death. Follow this saviour, he will lead you out of slavery.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

The book of Exodus starts where Genesis left off. Our passage today is the first chapter.

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. (Ex 1:1–7)

The people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly. God has been faithful to his covenant promises to Abraham and his offspring.

Exodus starts alluding to God’s faithfulness to his people. He is still faithful.

Their numbers however will cause a problem, which we now turn to.

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves. (Ex 1:8-14)

Because they get so great in number the Egyptians decide to put them in slavery. Fear, desire for power and cruelty govern their actions. Slavery can be a horrible thing. It depends on who the master of the slave is. The Egyptian king, Pharaoh, is a cruel and ruthless master.

15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. (Ex 1:15-17)

All the Hebrew sons shall die. The midwives however ‘feared God’. Their conscience rebels against Pharaoh’s command and they disobey him.

God raises up women in every age and calls them to make a stand against evil.

Perhaps some were killed, but many Hebrew sons were spared because of their compassion.

18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” (Ex 1:18)

Their lives are in danger. If they respond truthfully Pharaoh will probably kill them and make sure the baby sons are killed. How will the midwives respond?

19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” (Ex 1:19–22)

The midwives lie to Pharaoh. Whether we think this is right or wrong, God deals well with the midwives because they acted to save the young boys. He gives them families.

Consequently the people of Israel continue to multiply and grow in numbers. Pharaoh commands more and more people to kill the sons of Israel.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.

Exodus is the story of salvation for the Jews. The driving force behinds God’s actions in saving his people is his covenant faithfulness and love.

God is faithful to his promises to Abraham and lovingly cares for the people under his care. Through all of Israel’s history God’s promises are remembered and celebrated. Israel in the early chapters of Exodus was under the cruel rule of a king who feared God’s people.

Story of Jesus

The same kind of situation manifested itself about the time Jesus as born. The three magi had just visited and worshiped baby Jesus. Jesus like Moses was under threat. The ruling king wanted him dead and was prepared to kill many sons in order to do so.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation,

Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene. (Mt 2:16–23)

The story of Moses birth is prophetic. It looks forward to the birth of another saviour. King Jesus, the one who saves us from sin and death.

Follow this saviour, he will lead you out of slavery.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.