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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 1

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-22

Exodus 1:1. The children of Israel. Some think we should read here, the sons of Israel. Paul, Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:5, makes a distinction between children and sons, in the words νηπιοι and υιοθεσιαν .

Exodus 1:7. The land was filled with them. The prodigious increase of the Israelites while in Goshen is accounted for, from the peculiar fruitfulness of their females, who often had, as the Jews allow, two, three, and four children at a birth; from their indulgence in a plurality of wives, and the longevity of the fathers. What a diversity of providence, that in two hundred and fifteen years, while they wandered as shepherds, the males should be no more than seventy or seventy five; and in two hundred and fifteen years more, the men able to bear arms were more than six hundred thousand. The whole number could not be less than three millions.

Exodus 1:11. Pithom and Raamses. The former of these is said to be Pelusium, now Damiette, situate at the eastern mouth of the Nile, a strong frontier town. Raamses was called Heliopolis, after the Emperor Helius, who surrounded it with a triple wall. The Greeks say it was built by Peleus, father of Achilles, which has little probability of truth. They built also pyramids and other public monuments. Greek πυρος , wheat, grain, probably gave the name of pyramids, because those buildings have a resemblance to a stack of wheat.

Exodus 1:19. Are lively. This no doubt was often true, and the king believed it. These midwives had the character of confessors of righteousness, because they risked their lives for their religion, and their people. Women engaged in some laborious employment have a great advantage over those of softer habits of life, at the time of parturition, because of their superior hardiness and strength. This edict, it would seem, was too cruel to be of long continuance.

Exodus 1:21. Made them houses. Their fortitude in resisting the king’s bloody decrees, so exalted their character, that they were married into the first families of Levi; or the Lord blessed them with a vast posterity in their houses.

Exodus 1:22. Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, that the land might not be polluted with blood. Elijah took the prophets of Baal to the brook and slew them. In many parts of Africa the blacks preserve this custom, and in the West Indies many instances of this kind have occurred.


This short chapter comprises a considerable number of years, during which the Hebrews increased in number, increased in wickedness, and almost lost their religion. They worshipped the gods, and revered the abominations of Egypt. Joshua 24:14. Ezekiel 20:8. Circumcision, the grand seal of their covenant fell into total disuse, Joshua 5:0.; and having partially adopted the idolatry of their oppressors, they made little scruple of intermarrying with the daughters of the Egyptians. Leviticus 24:10. Exodus 12:38. Hence the Lord permitted the sorest calamities to befal his people. Hence also ministers, and the heads of houses may learn, that among a numerous people, rigour of discipline must be preserved. If the reins are once abandoned to passion and the populace, a nation is in full route to become an object of divine visitation.

We may farther observe, that the first strokes of God’s afflictions are to sanctify rather than destroy. Israel in bondage cried unto the Lord: and it is very remarkable that God never brought a man, or a people to distinction and honour, but he began, or very early accompanied his work by affliction. The oppression of the Israelites had a most salutary effect, in weaning their affections from Egypt, and preparing them for the hardships of the desert. Let us then be supported under all our troubles, by a firm persuasion, that soon or late it shall appear that they were intended for our good.

Pharaoh and his court, who decreed the destruction of the male infants, show us that when wicked men are assailed with fears and menaced with danger, they are apt to substitute policy for prudence and cruelty for justice; and in that case, they are sure to fall into the pit they dig for another, as the history before us amply proves. Ah, how many dreadful portraits have we in sacred and profane history of the character of man. To what an extent of wickedness may he not rapidly attain? And who can be preserved, that does not properly believe in God, doing all things in his sight.

In the midwives who feared God, and risked their lives for righteousness, persons may learn how to conduct themselves in the crisis of temptation and trouble. When a man is poor, and persecuted, and friendless, what has he left but his God? And if he, in those circumstances, forfeit the divine favour, he is ruined indeed. Joseph, abandoned in prison, and long forgotten of the butler, had nothing left but his piety; and it proved a hundredfold reward in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting. Let us learn therefore to reject the wisdom of the flesh, and to cherish the wisdom from above, which is pure, peaceable, full of mercy and of good fruit.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 1". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/exodus-1.html. 1835.
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