Let us take up the Book of Exodus- Chapter 1, Verse 1 onwards. Remember, the Book of Exodus is the second book of the Bible. Where Genesis stops, it signals the beginning of the Book of Exodus.
Overview of Exodus
Let’s read Exodus 1:1, “These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household.” Sons of Israel means sons of Jacob. These were the people who came from the promised land, the land of Canaan. From the land of Canaan, they came to Egypt. They settled there in Egypt for almost 430 years. Then, there was a return journey back to the promised land. Many a times, I used to wonder, why did they have come to Egypt in the first place? They could have continued in the land of Canaan. Now the whole family had come to Egypt and settled there for 430 years. After they had suffered, they were going back to the land of Canaan again. The whole journey of 40 years to the promised land is called the ‘Exodus’. So, it’s like a drama that the Lord is unfolding.
Why was Exodus necessary?
The family of Jacob and his 12 children came to the land of Egypt and stayed there for 430 years in slavery and struggle. Then they go back to the land from which they came. By the time they returned to the promised land, the land was occupied by many others. They had to defeat everyone and chase everyone out so that they could occupy the same land that once upon a time was theirs. Why did all this happen? The first reason is that if the Sons of Israel had continued in the land of Canaan, they would have died because of the world-wide famine and the lack of food everywhere. But during the time of the famine, Joseph was ruling over Egypt, and the only place where there was ample food was Egypt. The Sons of Jacob went there to collect food and that’s how they survived. But why did God take the whole family to Egypt? They could’ve continued living in the land of Canaan, because having the whole army under his authority, Joseph could have surely provided food for them whenever they needed it. Why did Joseph take the whole family to settle in Egypt? Why did God allow this? God knew that one day they would become slaves. Why did God not protect them in the promised land (Canaan) so that they could avoid the whole exodus.
For this we need to understand the plan of God. This is salvation history. The second reason God allowed all this to happen was that God was preparing a nation for the coming of the Savior. The Lord was leading the whole nation for the coming of the Savior. It was the plan of God that Israel, as a nation, should grow, be led by God, and be prepared for the Savior to be born. If they had continued in the land of Canaan, they would’ve disappeared. How? In the land of Canaan, there were several other tribes surrounding Israel. There were Philistines, Canaanites, and many other tribes where Jacob and his family were settled. Within no time, they would’ve started getting into mixed marriages and slowly, these children of Israel would have disappeared among these tribes. Reuben had already taken a wife from another tribe. Hence soon the purity of that nation would not be sustained and protected. The Lord wouldn’t be able to make them into a big nation because they would slowly disappear.
Why God chose Israel to be in Egypt?
God had already promised to Abraham that He will make a great nation out of him. God had also promised the same thing to Isaac and also to Jacob. In order to preserve them, one family, one nation, God had to take the children of Israel from the promised land to Egypt. Why Egypt? The Egyptians had their own identity. They considered themselves as the highest and most superior race, and regarded all others as low-grade. They never mingled or mixed with other races. They never married outside their race. According to their law, they would never eat with any another race. That’s why, as we have discussed already, Joseph, a Hebrew and in-charge of the whole of Egypt, never ate with his own soldiers. Even though he was the Prime Minister of Egypt, he was still considered as the lesser race. Not one of his soldiers, including his friends, ate with him. They had separate food and separate eating tables. Why? Because they never mingled with the Israelites or any community other than the Egyptian race. God knew that if Israel was planted in Egypt, then the nation of Israel would not disappear. It would not be possible for them to be involved in mixed marriages. Thus, they would continue to grow and multiply as one nation. This would culminate into a big preparation for the coming of Jesus and His Kingdom. This was the plan of God. He allowed these things to happen so that after 430 years, they would become a huge nation—one community, one family—coming back to the land of Canaan. If they had stayed in the land of Canaan, they would have disappeared in 50 to100 years or so by mingling with the other tribes. This is the introduction that we need to keep in mind, as to why God permitted them to be re-planted in Egypt.
Who are the Sons of Israel?
Let’s read once again, Exodus 1:1-4 “These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher.” These were all the Sons of Israel. Joseph was no longer mentioned because he was already in Egypt. Exodus 1:5 “The total number of people born to Jacob was seventy. Joseph was already in Egypt.” All the seventy people belong to the family of Jacob, including his sons, their wives, their sons/daughters, and the grandchildren. Two people were not mentioned. They were Joseph and his wife. Joseph was already married to an Egyptian woman. In Genesis 41:44, “Moreover Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” See, Pharaoh made Joseph the Prime Minister of Egypt and he told him that without his permission no one could lift a hand or foot in Egypt. The Pharaoh bestowed the most powerful position upon Joseph putting him in control and in charge of Egypt.
Genesis 41:45, “Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, as his wife. Thus, Joseph gained authority over the land of Egypt.” This is something that we need to remember. It was a special privilege that was given to him. Through the permission of the Pharaoh, Joseph was given preference and given Potiphera as a wife. So, the two of them plus the seventy people from the land of Canaan makes seventy-two. If you read in the Bible, when Exodus started, Moses selected leaders in Israel. How many leaders were selected? 70 elders. When Jesus started His public ministry, how many did Jesus select? There were seventy people. Some tradition says, He selected seventy-two. Likewise, in Moses’ case, tradition says, he selected 72 elders. It’s the same with the Exodus 1, it says that 70 came among the family of Jacob. But we can’t strictly say there were seventy because Joseph and his wife were already in Egypt. The same confusion was already there in the beginning. But we can see the connection as to why there’s this confusion.
Exodus 1:6, “Then Joseph died, and all his brothers, and that whole generation.” Where Genesis stopped, it continued in the story of Exodus. Now, 430 years had passed. Joseph had already died almost 430 years before the Exodus. Now, they begin to speak of their situation at that time. Exodus 1:7 “But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” This is very important. They were (1) fruitful, (2) prolific, and (3) they multiplied. What does it mean? They were obeying God. What was the first command of God? After creating Adam and Eve, what did God say? God said, in Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. This is, in fact, the first commandment that God had given. In Exodus 1:7, the Israelites were fruitful, prolific, and they filled the earth, that is, the whole of Egypt. This means they were obeying the first commandment. That’s why their country, their nation was so strong. Why are today’s nations not strong? Why is Christianity not so strong? Because we are disobedient. We are trying to control our generations. We are not grateful to God and we don’t allow God to work through us. We are telling God, ‘Enough, don’t control too much.” We are using birth control methods. We are placing our will in the place of His command. The Lord doesn’t want this. The Lord wants us to welcome the children whom God provides.
Why did the Israelites become slaves?
We read in Verse 8, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” Why did Israelites become slaves in Egypt? They were not slaves for 430 years. Many people, including me, mistakenly used to say in our preaching, the Israelites were slaves under the Egyptians for 430 years. In fact, that is not the case. They were not slaves all throughout these 430 years. During the time of Joseph, that had many privileges. Even after the death of Joseph, they continued having these privileges for many years. They were able to multiply very fast because of all the privileges and benefits given to them. All the children were given good care. All the blessings were there. There was nothing that hindered them from having more children. In many countries, in spite of all the benefits they have, the people are not ready to give birth to children. But the Israelites were ready to give birth to children. They welcomed children because God wanted them to multiply and be fruitful. And so, God blessed them.
Some Bible scholars and theologians say, they were slaves only for 284 years based on the history and the different pharaohs that ruled in Egypt. Some other scholars say, 134 years. Anyway, they were not slaves for 430 years. They were slaves for 134 to 284 years. Why did they become slaves? Because a new person, a new king who did not know Joseph came into power. Then he started controlling the Hebrews. Exodus 1:9-10, He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” There’s a tradition that says the Egyptians were very powerful. They had chariots that no other kingdom had. They were very advanced in technology. At the time, their main enemy were the Hittites. Hittites used to come and attack them every once in a while. Once, when the Hittites came to attack the Egyptians, some of the Hebrews who lived in Egypt supported these enemy nations. Some of them were working as spies for these Hittites and the Egyptians came to know about this. As a result, the Egyptians were very angry at the Hebrews. Some Scholars say, this was the reason why the Egyptians wanted to control the Hebrews. That’s why they said, “let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us.” So, they had to be shrewd. That’s when they started thinking of making slaves of the Hebrews.
Exodus 1:11 “Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh.” Most of the powerful cities were built by the Hebrews. By making them slaves, they worked day and night. They had taskmasters set over them as they built the cities. It wasn’t the pyramids. The pyramids were made before these years so we can’t say they were made by the Hebrews. The pyramids were already built before the time of the Exodus. But most of the technology were done by the Hebrews because they were all slaves.
How did the persecutions show the real power of Israel?
Exodus 1:12, “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.” This is something we need to remember; the Egyptians wanted to destroy and control the Israelites. But the more control and power was used against them, the more they multiplied. They became stronger. This is how God works. We all need to remember: the more you are suffering, attacked, insulted, wounded, persecuted, the more you will become powerful. We know that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. After 40 days of his temptations, He became more powerful. We will read in the Word of God; He was filled with power. Among the early Christians from the first to the third centuries, in all these three centuries, all the eleven Caesars’ and emperors of the Roman Empire tried to eliminate Christians from the world. They were taken and crucified. But within 300 years, Christians controlled the empire of Rome. In 313 AD, through the Edict of Milan, Emperor Constantine made Christianity as the main religion of the whole Roman Empire. How did they do this? Because for 313 years, Christians went through extreme torture and persecution. The Lord blessed them so powerfully. The real power of Christianity was shown during these 313 years. If anyone dares to attack Christians, let them listen to this- because when Christians are attacked, then they will be able to show their real power in this world. This is exactly what happened to the Hebrews: the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied. Let’s read in Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, says the Lord.” This is our heritage: Any weapon fashioned against us shall never prosper. Let the weapons come, we will still prosper. Not ‘they’ but ‘we’ will prosper. If we are not prospering, it’s because no weapons are coming.” Wherever there was persecution, the Christians flourished. Wherever there is safety and protection, Christianity may die because the safety and protection come from God. Tertullian said in the first century, ‘the blood of the martyrs’ was the seed of the Church.
Let’s continue reading, Exodus 1:13-14, “The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.” Then in Exodus 1:15, “The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah,” So there were Hebrew midwives. Every tribe had their own midwives. Those who did not bear any child served as midwives. The meaning of the name Shiphrah is beauty, while Pua means splendor. This does not mean that these two women were the only Hebrew midwives. There were many of them. But maybe, these two were in charge of all the midwives. The king told the Hebrew midwives, in Exodus 1:16, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” The king was afraid of Hebrew men. He didn’t want the Hebrew men to be born and grow in number. He wanted to kill all the Hebrew men, and allowed only girls to grow. In fact, the king was making this an official law. It means he was making abortion legal in Egypt. He gave permission for the nurses to kill the babies. This edict was the reason why all the firstborn Egyptians were killed in Egypt later. This king saw before his eyes the whole Egyptian army and his followers perish and drown in the Red Sea. This happened because the Egyptians killed the Hebrew babies by throwing them in the Nile River. ‘As you have done, it shall be done to you.’ Any sin that we do will follow us. We read, in the Word of God, the sins we commit will come after us. This king didn’t realize that the sins he and his people committed would come after them. That’s what happened in this case.
They feared God, and so they did not do as the king commanded them
Exodus 1:17 “But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live.” Thank God these midwives were good women and God-fearing nurses. They were unlike many of us, who compromise and who think, ‘Okay, it’s legally allowed by the government’ They passed the law supporting abortion so why can’t I support the doctors, why can’t I assist in the abortion. There are so many nurses and doctors who take it for granted. They don’t care about killing babies in the womb of the mother. The womb of the mother is supposed to be the safest place for a baby, but now it isn’t. Thank God these midwives feared God. Why has abortion increased? No fear of God. Why so many doctors and nurses support abortion? No fear of God. They think they can make their own rules, but they will be answerable to God. But these midwives feared God. They did not do as the king had ordered them. It is true we should not go against the rule of the country. We have to follow the law of the country because all authority comes from God. We read in Romans 13:1-3, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval;” Now the Word of God tells us to be obedient to the governing authority of the country but on one condition only; the government should pass laws that are righteous, that promote good conduct, and doesn’t go against the divine law. If the government passes laws which do not support the divine law, you are not bound to obey, according to the Word of God. Therefore, just because abortion is legalized and the murder of a child in the womb of the mother is legalized, it does not mean that as Christians, we should obey it. For us, there is an authority above the worldly kings and queens, prime ministers and presidents. Our authority is our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Bible. We are not supposed to obey any law that goes against the divine law. These midwives understood the government law. The king himself had said, ‘kill the babies.’ But the scriptures say, they feared God.
Obedience to God and to the divine law supersedes our obedience to human laws
Let’s read from the New Testament. In Acts 4:18, “So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” So, the authorities and the ruling government ordered Peter and another apostle not to speak or preach in the name of Jesus. But what did they do? In Acts 4:19, “But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge;” Should we listen to God or should we listen to you? This is exactly what we need to examine before we obey any law, especially with regard to laws that are against the divine law. Should we obey God who speaks to us through the Bible or should we obey human beings who are ruling and in power. Peter and John disobeyed these leaders. They obeyed God. This is exactly the same thing that was done by the midwives. They risked their lives. Many nurses and doctors are not ready to take such risks. They think they will lose their jobs. They may lose their jobs but they will not lose their lives. But if those midwives were caught, they would have lost their lives. They would have been killed by the king. Yet, they risked their lives. We are afraid of losing our jobs, losing our salary, or losing something that we think is valuable, and so we are ready to kill babies.
The persecutions and the slavery made them vigorous and strong
Exodus 1:18-19, So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” 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.” The midwives replied that they could not kill the babies because by the time they came, the baby was already in the mother’s hand. They were not lying. It was, in fact, true. The Hebrew women were working hard because they were slaves, while the Egyptian women were idle and doing nothing. They did not exercise and so it was not easy for them to give birth without much effort. On the other hand, the Hebrew women were always active, always working hard for their husbands and their families. They were slaves and so they were vigorous and easily gave birth even before the midwives came to them. What they said was right. They did not lie. But, at the same time, they also made sure to come late so that the Hebrew women may give birth to their babies before they arrived. In other words, they worked shrewdly, according to the need of the hour.
If you save the babies and protect life, God will save and protect you
Exodus 1:20-21, “So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.” Why were the midwives given families? The midwives were selected for this job because they didn’t have children. Now, because of their good work in preserving life God blessed them and gave them families. A good family comes from a family that protects another family. If you are ready to protect families—your own family and even other families—God will bless your children with good families. Many a times we fail in this. We destroy families, our own and others, and destroy our generation. Why are families being destroyed in many families? Why family stability has gone wrong? Why many families are divided and separated? Because many husbands and wives, many parents, and many people are disobeying God. By doing this they are hurting their own children. Abortions are legalized and being promoted, especially in most developed countries. There are thousands of children being killed every day. Therefore, in all these countries, the sanctity of marriage has been desecrated. Families are disappearing. The children are brought up not by their own father or mother but mostly by the social workers. We have to examine our conscience. Where did we go wrong? Why are these families like this? What has happened to us? On one side, we kill babies inside the womb. On the other side, our families are being destroyed. Everything is connected. Some may say, “This is nonsense.” But this is utter nonsense only for those who do not know the Bible. But when you read the Bible, you will be able to see the connections everywhere clearly. There is a spiritual realm in this world. If you close your eyes to the spiritual realm, you will not understand the hidden reality and it will all be nonsense to you. Let’s examine our conscience- Is it not our duty to protect our children and our families? Let’s protect life. If we protect life, we will protect families.
The more we are persecuted, the stronger we become in the Presence of God
Exodus 1:22, Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.” This is the final judgment. The Pharaoh gave a command to the Hebrews and to all the Egyptian people, to throw the male babies of the Hebrews into the river Nile. Suppose, your neighbor was an Egyptian and you give birth to a baby. If your neighbor knew you have a baby boy, the neighbor could come inside your home, take your baby and throw it into the river Nile. That was the order of the king. And so, the Hebrew people had to go through tough times. They went through many tortures and persecutions. You must have heard about the genocide during Hitler’s time and the terrible persecution that the Hebrews had to go through. It’s because they are the chosen people of God. In the same way in the present days, Christians are being persecuted in many countries. This is because the Christians, like the Hebrews, are the chosen people of the same God. We are now being persecuted everywhere. The evil one is not happy with us. We may seem to be victims, but in reality, the world does not know that the more we are persecuted, the stronger we become in the presence of God.