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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Exodus 1

Verse 1

Now - Literally, “And,” indicating a close connection with the preceding narrative. In fact this chapter contains a fulfillment of the predictions recorded in Genesis 46:3 and in Genesis 15:13.

Every man and his household - It may be inferred from various notices that the total number of dependents was considerable, a point of importance in its bearings upon the history of the Exodus (compare Genesis 13:6; Genesis 14:14).

Verse 5

Seventy - See Genesis 46:27. The object of the writer in this introductory statement is to give a complete list of the heads of separate families at the time of their settlement in Egypt. See the note at Numbers 26:5.

Verse 7

In no province does the population increase so rapidly as in that which was occupied by the Israelites. See the note at Genesis 47:6. At present it has more flocks and herds than any province in Egypt, and more fishermen, though many villages are deserted. Until the accession of the new king, the relations between the Egyptians and the Israelites were undoubtedly friendly. The expressions used in this verse imply the lapse of a considerable period after the death of Joseph.

The land was filled with them - i. e. the district allotted to them Genesis 45:10.

Verse 8

The expressions in this verse are special and emphatic. “A new king” is a phrase not found elsewhere. It is understood by most commentators to imply that he did not succeed his predecessor in the natural order of descent and inheritance. He “arose up over Egypt,” occupying the land, as it would seem, on different terms from the king whose place he took, either by usurpation or conquest. The fact that he knew not Joseph implies a complete separation from the traditions of Lower Egypt. At present the generality of Egyptian scholars identify this Pharaoh with Rameses II, but all the conditions of the narrative are fulfilled in the person of Amosis I (or, Aahmes), the head of the 18th Dynasty. He was the descendant of the old Theban sovereigns, but his family was tributary to the Dynasty of the Shepherds, the Hyksos of Manetho, then ruling in the North of Egypt. Amosis married an Ethiopian princess, and in the third year of his reign captured Avaris, or Zoan, the capital of the Hyksos, and completed the expulsion of that race.

Verse 10

Any war - The Northeastern frontier was infested by the neighboring tribes, the Shasous of Egyptian monuments, and war was waged with Egypt by the confederated nations of Western Asia under the reigns of the successors of Amosis. These incursions were repulsed with extreme difficulty. In language, features, costume, and partly also in habits, the Israelites probably resembled those enemies of Egypt.

Out of the land - The Pharaohs apprehended the loss of revenue and power, which would result from the withdrawal of a peaceful and industrious race.

Verse 11

Taskmasters - The Egyptian “Chiefs of tributes.” They were men of rank, superintendents of the public works, such as are often represented on Egyptian monuments, and carefully distinguished from the subordinate overseers. The Israelites were employed in forced labor, probably in detachments, but they were not reduced to slavery, properly speaking, nor treated as captives of war. Amosis had special need of such laborers, as proved by the inscriptions.

Treasure cities - “Magazines,” depots of ammunition and provisions 1 Kings 9:19; 2 Chronicles 8:4; 2 Chronicles 32:28.

Pithom and Raamses - Both cities were situated on the canal which was dug or enlarged in the 12th Dynasty. The former is known to have existed under the 18th Dynasty. Both were in existence at the beginning of the reign of Rameses II, by whom they were fortified and enlarged. The name “Pithom” means “House or temple of Tum,” the Sun God of Heliopolis (see Exodus 13:20). The name of Raamses, or Rameses, is generally assumed to have been derived from Rameses II, the Sesostris of the Greeks, but it was previously known as the name of the district. See Genesis 45:10; Genesis 47:11.

Verse 14

The use of brick, at all times common in Egypt, was especially so under the 18th Dynasty. An exact representation of the whole process of brickmaking is given in a small temple at Thebes, erected by Tothmosis III, the fourth in descent from Amosis. Immense masses of brick are found at Belbeis, the modern capital of Sharkiya, i. e. Goshen, and in the adjoining district.

All manner of service in the field - Not merely agricultural labor, but probably the digging of canals and processes of irrigation which are peculiarly onerous and unhealthy.

Verse 15

Hebrew midwifes - Or “midwives of the Hebrew women.” This measure at once attested the inefficacy of the former measures, and was the direct cause of the event which issued in the deliverance of Israel, namely, the exposure of Moses. The women bear Egyptian names, and were probably Egyptians.

Verse 16

Upon the stools - Literally, “two stones.” The word denotes a special seat, such as is represented on monuments of the 18th Dynasty, and is still used by Egyptian midwives.

Verse 21

Made them houses - i. e. they married Hebrews and became mothers in Israel. The expression is proverbial. See the margin reference.

Verse 22

The extreme cruelty of the measure does not involve improbability. Hatred of strangers was always a characteristic of the Egyptians (see Genesis 43:32), and was likely to be stronger than ever after the expulsion of an alien race.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Exodus 1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/exodus-1.html. 1870.