The Word Made Fresh
1The sons of Israel who came with their families to Egypt with Jacob were 2Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah, 3Isachar, Zebulun and Benjamin, 4Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher; 5there were seventy of them in all (Joseph was already there).
6Joseph and his brothers all died, 7but the Israelites were prolific and became numerous and filled the land. 8Then a new king came to the throne in Egypt who didn’t know about Joseph. 9He said to his people, “These Israelites outnumber us and have become a threat. 10We have to be careful or they will multiply even more. If there is a war they might side with our enemies and leave the land.”
11So, foremen were put in charge of the Israelites and they were forced to build cities – Pithom and Rameses – as supply depots. 12But the more they were forced to work the more children they had so the Egyptians became somewhat alarmed. 13They drove the Israelites even harder, 14and made their lives miserable working with bricks and mortar, and laboring in the fields. The Egyptians showed them no mercy. 15The Egyptian king ordered the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, 16“When you help the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill it. If it’s a girl, you can let it live.
17But the midwives obeyed God instead of the king of Egypt, and let the boys live.
18The king summoned them and asked them, “Why do you let the boys live?”
19They said to Pharaoh, “The Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women. They are strong, and their children are born before the midwife gets there.” 20God protected the midwives, and the Israelites grew even more numerous. 21God gave the midwives families of their own because they were faithful.
22Then Pharaoh commanded his people, “Let the girls live, but throw every boy that is born to the Hebrews into the Nile!”
1-7: A review. Jacob (Israel) came to Egypt with eleven of his sons and their families (Joseph was already in Egypt). They flourished and multiplied but were never assimilated, making them a threat to the Egyptian government.
8-14: Egypt’s primary rivals in the world at the time are to the northeast – the Hittites and the Assyrians. The land of Goshen where the family of Jacob settled is in the northern part of Egypt. If Egypt is invaded, the invaders will likely come through that part of the country now heavily populated by the Hebrews. A new Pharaoh perceives the threat and decides to use the Hebrews as slave laborers to carry out his ambitious building projects. The supply cities probably are intended to help fulfill the Egyptian military’s defense needs.
15-22: An order is given to the midwives who assist the Hebrew women in birth to kill all the boys born to the Hebrews, but let the girls live. It is a policy that will not, in the end, serve the Egyptians well if forced labor is a major component of their economy, but it will diminish the threat that the Hebrews might represent as mercenary soldiers in an invasion force against Egypt. The midwives do not carry out orders, however, and when questioned they simply claim that Hebrew women are stronger than Egyptian women and give birth before they can get there.
Exodus begins with setting the stage following the death of Joseph; God’s people have been subjected to slavery, but even so, they are now so numerous that they pose a threat to the Egyptian hierarchy. It doesn’t matter what your situation is – if God wants you to serve a purpose in God’s plan God will see to it that your situation is merely a temporary red light along your way. Red lights never stay red.