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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 1

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-6

Note: Commentary on Pentateuch, including Exodus, was written by Dr. G.F. Crumley. The hardback version of this commentary contains charts and pictures

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF EXODUS (verse by verse comments follow this introduction)

AUTHOR: There is no valid reason to suggest that the author of the Book of Exodus is any other than the one to whom tradition assigns it: Moses. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Jews, and Samaritans alike affirmed the Mosaic authorship of Exodus. In addition, Jesus Himself attributed Exodus to Moses, on various occasions, e.g. Mt 19:8; Ex 21:7-11.

TITLE: Hebrew-speaking Jews designate the Books of the Pentateuch by their initial word(s): the first Book, Bereshith, "In The Beginning;" the third Book, Vay-yikra, "And He Called;" and the second Book (Exodus), Ve-eleh shemoth, "And These Are the Names." The name "Exodus" was first applied to the second Book of the Pentateuch by the Hellenistic Jews in Alexandria who translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, the Septuagint (LXX).

"Exodus" is from ek, meaning "out," and hodos, meaning "way or road." It means "way out" or "departure." It is a fitting title for the Book which chronicles the departure of Israel from Egypt.

The earliest translation into Latin was made from the Greek, and it retained the Greek title untranslated. From this translation it passed into the Latin Vulgate, by Jerome, and thus into the languages of the Western world.

SUBJECT: The subject-matter of the Book may be divided into three general topics:

(1) Israel’s growth and development from a tribe into a nation, chapter 1.

(2) Israel’s departure from Egypt, and the manner in which it was accomplished, chapters 2-18.

(3) Historical and legislative matters, relating to the adoption of Israel as God’s own peculiar nation by the Law given and the Mosaic Covenant made at Sinai, chapters 19-40.

The Book contains the account of events covering about 360 years, between the death of Joseph, and the giving of the Law at Sinai and the establishing of the Divine government over Israel.

CHRONOLOGY: There is one point of difficulty in determining the chronology of the Book of Ex 12:40 reads, "The sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years." A more literal translation: "The sojourning of the children of Israel, which they sojourned in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years." The Septuagint translation reads, "The sojourning of the children of Israel and of their fathers, which they sojourned in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years." If we follow the Hebrew text, 430 years elapsed from the time Jacob went down into Egypt until the Exodus. If we follow the Septuagint text, the time will be cut in half, for it was exactly 215 years from the time Abraham entered Canaan until Jacob went into Egypt.

Paul appears to confirm the Septuagint chronology, Ga 3:17. But note that Paul quoted from the Septuagint, the Greek translation with which his readers would have been more familiar. His purpose was not to establish an accurate period of time, but it was to confirm the antiquity of the Covenant of Grace, in contrast to the Covenant of Law.

The genealogical table of Ex 6:16-20 appears to confirm the shorter period, of 215 years. If this table is complete, the longest possible number of years from Jacob’s entrance to Egypt to the Exodus was 350 years. This assumes that Kohath, Levi’s son, was one year old when carried into Egypt (Ge 47:11), that Amram was born in the last year of Kohath’s life, and that Moses was born in the last year of Amram’s life. However, it was common among the Hebrews to condense their recorded genealogies, calling any male descendant a son.

There appears to be no valid reason to question the Hebrew Text of Ex 12:40, that the time Israel spent in Egypt, beginning with Jacob’s descent into Goshen and ending with the Exodus, was indeed 430 years.


Verses 1-6:

"Now" in verse 1 is literally "and." This is an example of the Scripture writers to connect one book with another in the closest manner possible, by use of the copulative "and."

Those listed in these verses are those who came with Jacob into Egypt, along with their families. Joseph and his family were already in Egypt. Jacob’s sons by Leah and Rachel are listed first, in their order of seniority. The sons of the secondary wives, in order of their birth, are next listed.

Verse 5 is a repetition of Ge 46:27. The number 70 includes Joseph and his two sons, and Jacob himself. This inclusion is a typical Oriental custom.

Verse 6 is a reference to Ge 50:26. Note the declining life span of the patriarchs. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all lived more years than did Joseph

Verses 7-14

Verses 7-14:

Verse 7 begins the real saga of the Exodus. Briefly outlined in verses 7-14 are: (1) Israel’s rapid multiplication; (2) a change of dynasties in Egypt; (3) the new king’s manner of dealing with Israel.

The narrative contains no reference to elapsed time. There is no note of how long Israel’s increase continued before the new Pharaoh came to the throne, nor how long it continued before he took note of it, nor how long the attempt continued to check this increase by forced labor.

Israel’s increase from "seventy souls" to the 600,000 mature men (Ex 12:37) is remarkable. Some critics declare this is to be impossible, and dismiss the entire Exodus narrative as fantasy, or allegorical. However

The "70 souls" (Ge 46:8-27) include only two women. The wives of Jacob’s sons are not included among them. To add the wives of 67 males, the actual number of Jacob’s family was 137 persons. In addition, each son’s family was accompanied by its "household" (Ex 1:1), likely consisting of many dependents. If each of Jacob’s sons had 50 servants or retainers, and Jacob himself had a household like that of his grandfather Abraham (Ge 14:14), the entire number who went into Egypt would have been at least 2,000 persons!

It is an established fact that population tends to double itself every 25 years, if not checked by disease, famine, or war. At this rate, assuming Jacob’s household numbered 2,000 people, this number would expand to 2,048,000 in 250 years. Only 500 persons would expand to this same number in 300 years, or 130 years before the Exodus!

In addition, the Land of Goshen was a broad, fertile region, and ideal for a large population. The Delta region of Egypt covers about 8,000 square miles, with the Land of Goshen occupying about half that area. A population of about 2 million people is what one would expect, at the rate of 500 to 600 people per square mile.

The king under whom Joseph served was likely Apophis, the last of the Hyksos kings. This dynasty was expelled about 1700 or 1600 BC. The "new king" who arose and who was hostile toward Israel was either Rameses I, founder of the 19th Dynasty, or his son Seti I who succeeded him.

This new king "knew not Joseph" He had no personal knowledge of Joseph, and he was ignorant of his history. Between two and three centuries had passed since Egypt enjoyed the benefits of Joseph’s administration.

The new Pharaoh became concerned over the population explosion among the Israelites. He feared that they would form an alliance with a potential enemy, to overthrow Egypt’s government. Although there was no war at that time, there was the potential threat from the east, the Hittites, who were a great power of Syria.

Pharaoh also recognized in the peaceful, wealthy Israelites a source of revenue. He feared that they would leave Egypt. To counter this possibility, he instituted a forced labor policy. The Israelites were not citizens of Egypt; thus they had no legal protection from forcible conscription of their persons or property.

Pharaoh appointed over the Israelites "taskmasters," literally "lords of tribute." The term used is the official title for overseers of forced labor. Among the tasks assigned was the manufacture of bricks, and the building of the treasure cities Pithom and Raamses, literally the "cities of store," containing depots of provisions and military hardware. The locations of these two cities are uncertain today.

In addition to the rigorous labor of the brickyard, Israel was conscripted to tend the royal flocks and herds, as well as to the menial work of the fields. The geography of Egypt requires year-round cultivation and attention to the fields. The crops depend almost entirely upon irrigation, requiring an extensive system of canals. The labor is exhausting, under the hot Egyptian sun, from sunrise to sunset.

Verses 15-22

Verses 15-22:

Pharaoh’s strategy to control Israel’s population growth by the means of forced labor, did not succeed. He devised another scheme: one involving genocide.

Pharaoh ordered the midwives who attended the Israelite women, to kill all boy babies at birth. It is unlikely these two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, were the only two who served the vast Israelite population. They were likely the superintendents, in charge of the guild of midwives, who gave orders to others who worked under their authority.

The midwives "feared God." They refused to obey Pharaoh’s cruel edict. They told Pharaoh that the healthy Israelite women had already given birth when the midwives arrived. This was not true. But "God dealt well with the midwives," and blessed them by giving them children of their own to care for them in their old age.

Did God bless a lie? No! The midwives did not have to lie in order to save their lives, or the lives of the Israelite male babies. By lying, they made it possible for God to demonstrate His power in a miraculous way to save His own people. But God blessed their fear of Him and their reverence for life.

It is never right to lie! God will not condemn lying in one instance and approve it in another. He would have us tell the truth at all costs -- and then depend upon Him to protect and provide deliverance.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 1". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/exodus-1.html. 1985.
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