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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 1

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-7


The name of the book is also the main subject of the book: the exodus of Israel from Egypt.

In Genesis we have a richness of different topics. These topics are often only touched upon there in order to be further elaborated on in the following Bible books. The redemption is an example of this. Only in Genesis 49 the redemption or salvation is mentioned (Genesis 49:18), while in the book of Exodus we have an elaborate description of that subject. In fact, Exodus has only two objects:
1. The redemption of the people of Israel from slavery (Exodus 1-24);
2. The dwelling place of God, the tabernacle, among His people (Exodus 25-40).

Another difference between Genesis and Exodus is that Genesis gives us general histories, which are mainly connected with detailed biographies of various persons. Exodus is entirely dedicated to the history of the people of Israel. The only biography we find in it is that of Moses.

There are still a few important events in this book. We see that the law is given (Exodus 20) as the foundation of God’s relationship with His people. We also see that the priesthood (Exodus 28-29) is given on the basis of the grace of God for His people. Through the priesthood, it is possible to maintain the relationship between the people and God if the people fail in the holiness appropriate to God’s dwelling among His people.

God did not dwell with Adam or Abraham. He can only dwell in the midst of a redeemed people. That is why it is necessary for Israel to be redeemed. This is expressed in the song of redemption that Moses and the Israelites sing after redemption from Egypt and from the Egyptians (Exodus 15:13; Exodus 15:17).

In the redemption of Israel from Egypt, God shows a picture of the real redemption we find in the Lord Jesus. Moses, used to deliver the people, is a type or picture of the Lord Jesus. Stephen clearly shows this in his speech to the Council or Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court, which is mentioned in Acts 7.

Everything that happens to the people in Exodus has happened to them as examples for us (1 Corinthians 10:6; 1 Corinthians 10:11). Through all that has happened to Israel, God wants to make clear to us Christians what redemption is. Redemption means that God frees a people from any form of slavery and brings them to a place where He can have them all for Himself.

Before we know what salvation is, we must know what oppression is, what slavery is. You only long for salvation when you need to be saved from something. That is why the first chapters of Exodus are so important.

Exodus is the book of the “smoking oven and a flaming torch” (Genesis 15:17). The oven speaks of oppression and the torch speaks of hope. God brings tribulation upon the people, that they may learn to call to Him. Before God redeems a man, that man must first realize his oppression and the bondage of sin. At the time when the Israelites are doing well in Egypt, they do not feel the need of salvation. Those who enjoy sin and all that the world has to offer, do not long for salvation.


The character of Egypt is different in Exodus and is not the same as in Genesis. In Genesis Egypt is the picture of the world blessed by God through the reign of Joseph, the picture of the Lord Jesus. In Exodus, Egypt is the picture of the hostile world ruled by a king who did not know Joseph and who oppresses the people. The king of Egypt, Pharaoh, is in this book a picture of satan.

The Sons of Israel in Egypt

The oppression does not start immediately after the arrival of the “sons of Israel” in Egypt, it is remarkable that it says that they came into Egypt “with Jacob”. The expression “sons of Israel” characterizes their position, as God sees them: “sons of the prince of God” (Israel means “prince of God”). The expression “with Jacob” refers to their conduct, to the discipline God must exercise over them.

They come with a total of seventy people. Under the grace of God, they are fruitful and grow into a mighty people who, at the time of their exodus alone, number about six hundred thousand men (Exodus 12:37). If we include women and children, the total population will have been around three million people.

Verse 8

A New King

A new king is going to rule Egypt. His characteristic is that he has no bond whatsoever, or even a memory of Joseph (Acts 7:18).

He, to whom all of Egypt owe their life and who had done so much good for that people, is totally forgotten. So it is with the world of which satan is the god – he is called “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) – and of which he is also the controller; the Lord Jesus calls him “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31). “The Savior of the world” (John 4:42) has no place here, one does not think of Him. On the contrary, satan keeps the people of the world in slavery.

Verses 9-14

The Israelites Afflicted

For the king of Egypt, this fast-growing people is a threat. He calls on his people to act “wisely” against the Israelites. This is the imagination of the world, which believes it is wise to define a strategy to nip impending danger in the bud. The Pharaoh thinks that by affliction he can keep his grip on them. He starts by afflicting the adults and makes them slaves. Later on he attacks the children. Egypt is beginning to become the “smoking oven” of Abraham’s vision (Genesis 15:12-Ecclesiastes :; cf. Deuteronomy 4:20). But God begins to fulfill the promise He made in the same vision of Abraham.

Man, who is subject to satan in slavery helps to build his kingdom, whether he is aware of it or not. He is dragged further and further along, deeper and deeper into satan’s realm. If someone hangs onto money, every additional dollar that he gets is an extra link in the chain around his neck. The love of money increases with the increase of money.

Someone who wants to free himself from sin is increasingly caught in the grip of sin. That is the experience of the person in Romans 7, who is becoming increasingly desperate. Until he exclaims: “Wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24). Then salvation is near. In what happened to Israel in Egypt, we see a picture of this.

Pharaoh’s ‘wise’ actions do not have the effect intended by him. Quite the contrary, because the harder the affliction gets, the more the people expand. God works on His plan, using the evil plan of Pharaoh. It is not Pharaoh who has the power, but God. That God has the power is not yet visible, for the Egyptians made the lives of the Israelites “bitter with hard labor”. But faith looks beyond it to God and that He will eventually be glorified.

Verses 15-22

The Midwives

*Literally ‘two stones’, like the ‘wheel’, literally ‘pair of stone discs’, of the potter in Jeremiah 18 (Jeremiah 18:3), where the word ‘wheel’ is the same word as the word translated here with ‘two stones’. Presumably, the use of the birthstool points to the method of childbirth in which the woman was sitting on two stones. It may also be the custom that the woman was supporting herself on two stones in a crouching position during childbirth.

When Pharaoh sees that his ‘wise’ strategy does not have the desired effect, he turns against the newborn boys. His cruelty and ruthlessness are now clearly visible. What is more defenseless, but also more endearing than a newborn baby? Anyone who offends against it is heartless. We see this today in the blatant abortions of God-given life.

The Pharaoh demands that midwives kill the boys shortly after birth. But God makes use of these women who fear Him: they let the boys live. The midwives slyly circumvent the command of Pharaoh. They are more obedient to God than men (Acts 5:29) and God blesses their conduct. He sees what they do for His people as done for Him.

There has been speculation about whether the women have been allowed to use a ‘lie of distress’. Such speculation is not necessary. It is clearly stated that God was good to the midwives. Such a case we also see with Rahab who hides the spies and lies to those who want to capture them. But God judges it as an act of faith: “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace” (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25). In general, it is easy to judge certain acts of believers in circumstances we do not know. Therefore, in such situations, we must be careful when pronouncing a conviction. It may be that we turn against God.

The Pharaoh’s command to kill all the boys is reminiscent of the child murder in Bethlehem by Herod (Matthew 2:16). In the actions of Herod and of Pharaoh we see the actions of satan, the dragon: “And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth, he might devour her child” (Revelation 12:4).

If Pharaoh does not reach the goal, he wants by means of the midwives, he calls upon his whole people to help in the killing of newborn boys. That must be done by throwing them into the Nile. The Nile symbolizes the natural, earthly blessings. All blessing in Egypt it owes to the Nile.

If we apply this spiritually, we see here a very strong trick of satan to suffocate the spiritual life of those who have only recently come to faith and have therefore become part of the people of God, the church, in the earthly blessings.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Exodus 1". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/exodus-1.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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