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The Rapid Growth of the People
v. 1. Now these are the names of the children of Israel which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob:
v. 2. Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,
v. 3. Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,
v. 4. Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.
v. 5. And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls; for Joseph was in Egypt already. The order is: the sons of Leah, the son of Rachel, the sons of Rachel's handmaid, the sons of Leah's handmaid. As in Genesis 46:27 , seventy souls are mentioned as the forefathers of the children of Israel, it being expressly stated that the sons came, each with his family, with his wife and children. The small number serves as a fine contrast over against the immense multitude that is spoken of at the time of the Exodus.
v. 6. And Joseph died, and all his brethren and all that generation. Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years, Genesis 50:26, apparently the first one of the brothers to be taken away; but he was soon followed by the other members of his own generation, Levy dying about twenty years after him, Exodus 6:16.
v. 7. And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. The heaping of the expressions, five different terms being used to emphasize this point, indicates the extraordinary growth of the people, a factor brought about not only by natural fertility and the eagerness for children, but above all by the fulfillment of God's promise to all the patriarchs. They filled the entire land, particularly Goshen, so that the country swarmed with their numbers. God's promises never fail, and it is a matter of wisdom to trust in them with firm confidence.
Pharaoh Plans to Curb the Growth
v. 8. Now there arose up a new king over Egypt which knew not Joseph. The expression "arose up" indicates either that the new Pharaoh adopted entirely new policies with reference to the strange people within the boundaries of his land, or that a new dynasty was founded by conquest or by the overthrow of that which had been friendly to the people of Joseph, the savior of Egypt. This new Pharaoh knew not Joseph, either because he was entirely unfamiliar with the history of the strange people in Goshen, or because he determined to set aside the high regard in which the strangers had been held. A careful comparison of Biblical and secular history seems to show that Thothmes I must have been the Pharaoh of the oppression, while the Pharaoh of the Exodus was Amenhotep II.
v. 9. And he said unto his people, to the high officials and representatives of the people, who were his counselors, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we. This was an exaggeration to emphasize the unwelcome growth of the Israelites which showed the abject fear of the despot.
v. 10. Come on, let us deal wisely with them, make use of political sagacity combined with despotic craftiness and malice, lest they multiply, and it come to pass that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. The children of Israel were no citizens of Egypt, they had never become Egyptianized, neither in language nor in religion nor in customs, and so the new despot scented a danger which his policy bade him remove in time. He did not fear the conquest of his own country, but merely the departure of the Jews in case of a war. He considered the Israelites subject to his jurisdiction to the extent of treating them as serfs and bondmen .
v. 11. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. The counselors advised impressing the Israelites into peonage, practically into slavery, by setting officers over them, the purpose being to enfeeble the people, both in body and mind, by enforced labor, to take the heart out of them by the grievousness of their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. Certain cities had been set aside as places to store the annual tax of the harvest which Joseph had introduced, Pithom, which was situated on the canal connecting the Nile with the Arabian Gulf, and Raamses, later known as Heroopolis, in Goshen, about twenty-two miles east of Pithom, as nearly as may be determined at the present time.
v. 12. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. God spoiled the success of the Egyptians' plans by continuing to bless the Israelites in spite of all the measures intended to destroy their fruitfulness. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. They were not merely disgusted at them, but they felt an increasing horror of the mysterious power that was aiding the children of Israel.
v. 13. And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigor;
v. 14. and they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar and in brick and in all manner of service in the field; all their service wherein they made them serve was with rigor. Chagrined at the failure of their first plan, the Egyptians added ill treatment and cruelty to oppression. Two new forms of service were laid upon them, brick-making, which included both the preparing of the clay and the drying of the brick, and the hard field labor on the soil which had to be irrigated. Thus all the work which the Egyptians performed through the Israelites was done under hard pressure upon the latter. To this day tribulation and persecution is the lot of the people of God, but such crosses bring them only blessing and gain.
The Command to Kill all the Male Children
v. 15. And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah, their names being recorded to their lasting honor;
v. 16. and he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools, in determining the sex; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him, the male children should be killed right after birth; but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. Whether these two women were the only midwives in Israel, or whether they were the heads of the order of midwives, is immaterial, the devilish command to use inhuman violence referred to all male children among the Hebrews.
v. 17. But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive. They placed the reverential fear of God before the slavish fear of the tyrant.
v. 18. And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, he stormed at them with an angry cry, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?
v. 19. And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, full of life and energy, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. This was not a mere evasion or deception, but agreed with the general experience, although in this case art untruth would have been defensible.
v. 20. Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, gave them evidence of His goodness ; and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty under their ministrations, the remarkable growth of the children of Israel continued.
v. 21. And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that He made them houses. He blessed them with abundant prosperity.
v. 22. And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born (to the Hebrews) ye shall cast into the river (Nile), and every daughter ye shall save alive. Since his first plan had failed, he made use of open, violent brutality in not only giving permission, but even a command that his people might at any time drown the male babies of the Israelites. No Christian will permit himself to be made the instrument of a tyrant who seeks to destroy the Church of God. And it will be found that it is to the advantage of believers to obey God rather than men, even here in time.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Exodus 1". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany