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Oppression of the Israelites
5. Seventy souls] Jacob himself is included in the number: cp. Genesis 46:8-27. Of the seventy, sixty-eight were males. If to the direct descendants of Jacob we add the wives of his sons and grandsons, and the husbands of his daughters and grand-daughters, and all their servants with their families, it appears that the total number of those who entered Egypt was very considerable, several hundreds if not thousands. This fact, as well as the acknowlodged prolificness of the Hebrew nation, serves to account for their rapid increase in Egypt. At the time of the exodus they must have numbered about three millions: see on Exodus 12:37.
7. Observe the number of words denoting increase. The land is the land of Goshen in the Delta of the Nile.
8. This verse marks the turn of the tide in the fortunes of Israel. Hitherto they have been tolerated and honoured; now they are feared and oppressed. The change of treatment is here said to be connected with a change in the government of Egypt. As mentioned in the Introduction, Egypt for several hundred years was ruled by an alien dynasty, called the Hyksôs, or Shepherd kings. These were Asiatics, and would therefore naturally tolerate the Hebrew race with whom they may have had affinity. But the Hyksôs were at length expelled, and a native dynasty once more occupied the throne of Egypt. It is usually supposed that this new dynasty is meant by the new king which knew not Joseph. One of the most famous kings of the nineteenth dynasty was Rameses II (about 1340 b.c.). He was a great architect, and many monuments remain to attest his greatness, such as the temples at Luxor, Abydos, etc. He is generally held to be the Pharaoh of the Oppression, and his son and successor (Merenptah or Mineptah) the Pharaoh of the exodus: see on Exodus 14:28. Against this, however, is to be considered the fact that this Merenptah has left monuments in which he records that he has invaded Palestine and destroyed the Israelites, who are represented as living there at his time. Accordingly the oppression and exodus of the Israelites are by some placed much earlier than the time of Rameses and Merenptah, as early as the 15th cent. b.c.
11. Treasure cities] store cities, situated on the frontier, and serving both as strongholds for defence against invasion and as military depots of provisions and arms. Pithom] i.e. the ’Abode of the Setting Sun,’ has been identifled with Tel-el Maskhuta, between Kassassin and Ismaїliyeh. The walls of this ancient city are found to have been constructed of bricks made of Nile mud and chopped straw. Raamses] or Rameses, has not yet been identified, but is supposed to have been situated at the modern Tel-el Kebir. It was in existence at the time of Joseph, as appears from Genesis 47:11, so that it was probably repaired or enlarged at a later date.
12. The more they multiplied] The whole history of the exodus and sojourn in the wilderness is designed to show that nothing can destroy the people of Israel, or thwart the divine purpose with regard to them.
14. Service in the field] This refers to the construction of irrigation canals and embankments, as well as to the making of bricks for building. With what rigour the system of forced labour was employed may be judged from the fact recorded by Herodotus that 120,000 workmen lost their lives in the construction of a canal connecting the Nile and the Red Sea in the time of Pharaoh Necho. In modern times Mohammed Ali’s canal from the Nile to Alexandria cost 20,000 lives.
15-22. Failing to weaken or diminish the Israelites by such severe labour, the Egyptian king has recourse to a more direct method, that of infanticide. He orders the slaughter of all the Hebrew male children at birth. This also fails, Pharaoh’s own daughter becoming one of the links in the chain of deliverance.
With Pharaoh’s edict may be compared that of Herod ordering the Massacre of the Innocents of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16;).
15. The names of only two of the mid-wives have been preserved. These two were probably connected with the royal palace.
16. Stools] RV ’birthstool.’
19. There was, no doubt, some truth in what the midwives said, though their womanly instincts led them to evade the unnatural command of the king.
21. Made them houses] i.e. blessed them with marriage and many descendants: cp. Ruth 4:11; 2 Samuel 7:27; 1 Kings 11:38.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Exodus 1". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany