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Chapter 1. The Sufferings of Israel (Exodus 1:1-22 ).
This chapter is the background to what follows and can be analysed thus:
a The growth of the children of Israel (Exodus 1:1-5).
b Pharaoh fears that they will multiply and puts them to hard labour (Exodus 1:6-11).
b The children of Israel multiply and are put to hard service (Exodus 1:12-14).
a Pharaoh seeks to destroy the growth of Israel through its midwives (Exodus 1:15-22).
Note how ‘a’ contrasts with its parallel ‘a’, while ‘b’ and ‘b’ demonstrate an ongoing situation.
The chapter describes briefly how the children of Israel arrived in Egypt and began to multiply. Then follows the suspicion that resulted because of the threat that Pharaoh felt that they might pose to Egypt in case of war, resulting in their being put to hard labour. But in spite of the afflictions they continued to multiply so that the Egyptians then set them to hard service. And finally the Pharaoh decided that measures must be taken to curtail their growth and called on first the midwives, and then the people of Egypt, to arrange for the slaughter of their male children.
The Growth of the People of Israel (Exodus 1:1-5 ).
Note the balanced pattern of the section.
a The names of the sons of Israel who came into Egypt (Exodus 1:1 a)
b Every man and his household came with Jacob (Exodus 1:1 b).
c Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah (Exodus 1:2).
d Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin (Exodus 1:3).
c Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher (Exodus 1:4).
b All the souls that were come out of the loins of Jacob (Exodus 1:5 a).
a For Joseph was in Egypt already (Exodus 1:5 b).
Note how in ‘a’ the sons of Israel in Canaan are paralleled with the son of Israel in Egypt. In ‘b’ the households make up the household of Jacob, while in the parallel the major heads of the households all come from the loins of Jacob
‘Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came into Egypt, every man and his household came with Jacob.’
This verse continues on the narrative of Genesis. It takes up where Genesis left off, summarising what has gone before in a few verses. Those who entered Egypt with Jacob were his eleven sons (excluding Joseph who was already in Egypt) and their ‘households’. The households would include servants and retainers. Thus they may well have numbered in all a few thousand. We can compare how Abraham’s household contained 318 fighting men (Genesis 14:14). All would be seen as ‘children of Israel’.
Jacob had come back from Paddan Aram with considerable resources and probably many servants, and these had been joined with the family tribe of Abraham and Isaac. Thus they were at some stage fairly numerous. On the other hand famine may have reduced their numbers somewhat. But they would nevertheless be a strong group, not just a few semi-nomads.
‘Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls, and Joseph was in Egypt already.’
The names of Jacob/Israel’s sons are now listed. This statement assumes the existence of material such as we find in Genesis 46:1-27 where the ‘seventy’ is explained. We note, however, that here the sons are placed in a different order with the sons of the full wives placed before the sons of the slave wives.
“All that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls.” The number seventy indicates divine completeness, being an intensification of seven (see also Deuteronomy 10:22). But here Jacob, in contrast with Genesis 46:0, is seemingly not included in the seventy, unless he can be seen as being in his own loins, demonstrating again that ‘the seventy’ is an artificially contrived figure intended to denote this divine completeness, as we saw on Genesis 46:0. It is conveying an idea, and is not intended to be seen as a mathematical calculation. The fact is that neither reader not writer were interested in how many there were. They are interested in the number in view of what it conveyed, the divine completeness of the group. It is saying that Jacob came into Egypt in divine completeness. (It is not to be seen as ‘incorrect’. It is in fact more correct to the ancient innumerate mind than a mathematical figure would be. It certified the divine perfection of the group entering Egypt).
We note also that women, children and servants were mainly ignored. Everything centred on Jacob and his male seed for they were the heads of their households. This was the foundation on which Israel was to be built, but all, males, women, children and servants would be a part of ‘the children of Israel, as they had been of their ‘father’ Abraham.
The People Multiply And Are Put To Hard Labour (Exodus 1:6-12 ).
The careful patterning continues:
a Joseph dies and all his generation (Exodus 1:6).
b The children of Israel are fruitful and multiply (Exodus 1:7).
c A new king arises who does not know Joseph (Exodus 1:8).
d He calls on his people to deal wisely with the children of Israel (Exodus 1:9-10).
c They set over them taskmasters and make them do building work (Exodus 1:11).
b The numbers of the children of Israel continue to grow (Exodus 1:12 a).
a The Egyptians are disquieted because of the children of Israel (Exodus 1:12 b).
Note how in ‘a’ we have the death of Joseph, which is paralleled by the resulting Egyptian disquiet. In ‘b’ the children of Israel multiply, and in the parallel their numbers continue to grow. In ‘c’ the new king arises who did not know Joseph, and in the parallel his actions in setting taskmasters over them is described. Central to the whole is his concern for his people’s welfare and for the threat in their midst.
‘And Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.’
So quickly do we pass over the lives of the children of Israel and their households in Egypt. Joseph died, his brothers died, all that generation died one by one. Time is passing. Women, children and servants are included in ‘all that generation. During that time they had no doubt as a whole prospered and enjoyed great freedoms. But they all died. We can compare this emphasis here with Genesis 5:11, where it is continually stressed, ‘and he died’. Death is writ large in human existence in the Scriptures. It was the result of the Fall, and it still applied to all.
‘And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and expanded exceedingly greatly, and the land was filled with them.’
However, although death continued, God was with them and conditions were ripe for their expansion. All they required was provided for them while Joseph was alive and by the time he died they were well established and not needing favours. As a result of his wisdom they were mainly sited in the land of Goshen in the delta region where many Semites could be found who had sought shelter in Egypt. The result was their great expansion in numbers both by natural birth and by taking on further retainers and household servants. So much so that the land was ‘filled with them’. They seemed to be everywhere. God was prospering them.
We can compare here the picture in Genesis 10:0 which was also a picture of expansion following deaths. That too is a picture of huge expansion. Life triumphed over death. God’s power counteracted the power of the grave as His purposes moved forward.
“The children of Israel.” This term is now gradually crystallising to signify them as a people, but always contains within it the reminder of their ‘descent’ or close family connection with Jacob/Israel, who represented the fathers to whom the covenant promises were given. They were the ‘children’ of the covenants God had made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But this does not indicate that they were literally all descended directly from Jacob/Israel. They were ‘children’ in that they were members of his clan, and the expression incorporated all who joined the households.
Note the multiplication of words to describe their increase. It was clearly well beyond the ordinary. ‘Fruitful -- increased abundantly -- multiplied -- expanded exceedingly greatly -- the land was filled’.
This being so we must ask why they did not now return to their homeland. The visit to Egypt had been in order to escape famine, and once Joseph was dead they had no reason for staying there. Certainly Joseph had expected them to return (Genesis 50:24-25). But the pleasures and ease of Egypt seemingly seemed to offer more than the land which had been promised to their forefathers, and they remained in Egypt. It was not that they were not warned. God had already pointed out that in Egypt only suffering awaited (Genesis 15:13-14), and we might therefore have expected them to take heed. But they did not do so, and thus by their dilatoriness ensured the fulfilment of the prophecy.
We see here the two sides of God’s sovereignty. On the one hand the quiet call to them based on His promises to Abraham was to trust God and go home, on the other was the fact that God had already prophesied that they would not do so (Genesis 15:13-14). The whole history of salvation is cluttered with similar failures of God’s people to obey Him, and His merciful and final triumph over their disobedience as He patiently brings about His will. It is all a part of His sovereign working. His people are foolish and disobedient and He regularly has to drag them kicking and screaming into salvation.
‘Now there arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph.’
Once Joseph died the influence of what he was would gradually decrease until eventually it would cease altogether. This was especially true in this turbulent period of Egyptian history. The Pharaoh of Joseph’s day was either pre-Hyksos or Hyksos, and therefore once the Hyksos arrived, and then when they were expelled over a hundred and fifty years later, new eras in Egypt’s history began. But the point is not that. The attitude of the new king was rather an explanation of why this king acted as he did in view of the previous history that has been recounted. It assumes the existence of the narrative in Genesis 37:0 onwards.
“Did not know Joseph” might mean did not acknowledge his authority because of a change of dynasty, or simply that such time had passed that Joseph’s influence was no longer recognised. But the words assume a knowledge of the traditions in Genesis.
The Hyksos, or ‘rulers of foreign lands’, were Semites who gained prominence in lower Egypt and then suddenly or gradually took over the kingship of Egypt by the use of horses and iron studded chariots, and the Asiatic bow. Their period of rule was from about 1720 BC to 1550 BC. They only ever ruled the lower part although at times possibly exacting tribute from upper Egypt. They thus ruled in Northern Egypt for over a hundred years. They established their capital at Avaris in the East Delta and assumed the full rank and style of traditional royalty, taking over the Egyptian state administration and gradually introducing people of their own appointment, including the famed chancellor Hur. But in fact Semites could rise to high office in Egypt in any number of dynasties, as archaeology clearly reveals, so that this is no pointer to when Joseph lived, especially as his position was said to be due to unusual circumstances.
Whatever the relationship of Joseph to them it will be quite apparent that once the Hyksos were expelled, all Semites, especially large groupings of them living together, would be looked on with suspicion. Having experienced Semite subjection Egyptians would be looking for any possibility of another such threat. The kings responsible for the defeat of the Hyksos were King Kamose and his successor King Ahmose I. The former defeated the Hyksos and confined them to the East Delta, the latter expelled them and their Semite and Egyptian supporters, and defeated them comprehensively in Palestine. Yet they may not be the king referred to here, for the children of Israel seemed to have remained loyal and not to have taken part in the fighting. So it may well have been a later king who enslaved them because he had particular plans in view for building projects for which he could utilise them. Building was a favourite hobby of many Pharaohs as they sought to immortalise their names, and archaeology bears witness to many of such projects. And as far as he was concerned all the people (apart from the priests) were his slaves. This was the custom in Egypt after what the great famine had brought about (Genesis 47:19-22). When he was strong enough he could do with them what he would.
‘And he said to his people, “See, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal wisely with them lest they multiply, and it results that when there falls out any war they also join themselves to our enemies and fight against us, and get them up out of the land.” ’
It would seem from this that the children of Israel had kept themselves apart from the actual conquests of the Hyksos, for they remained where they were and were not engaged in fighting against the Egyptians. It would appear that they had maintained their loyalty to the state. Moreover had they wished to leave Egypt they could clearly have done so under the Hyksos. Thus while we can understand the fears that the king had it would seem that they were unjustified, and at least partially arose because he saw in them a good supply of labour for any attempted projects he may have, a supply which he wanted to find an excuse to call on and that he did not want to lose.
“More and mightier than we.” Clearly this meant in the area in which they dwelt. They had partly ‘taken over’ in parts of Goshen (an area whose exact boundaries we do not know, but it was quite widespread). The fear expressed is that they might join in any rebellion or invasion. But the fact that they had not previously done so in the most auspicious of circumstances rather negates the suggestion that it was a justified fear. It would, however, be sufficient to arouse the passions of many Egyptians who would have anti-Semite feelings as a result of the Hyksos activity, and who would even more importantly have an eye for the possessions of these resident aliens.
“And get them up out of the land.” This is probably the real reason behind his statement, the fear that they would leave the land. Semites were always moving in and out of the land in smaller numbers, but he looked on these as permanent residents and he did not want to lose them as a valuable source of slave labour. Once they had become too strong who would be able to prevent them leaving?
This serves to confirm that the children of Israel were well settled in Egypt and had at this time no intention of leaving. Although still aware of the covenant of God with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they were neglecting the promises of that covenant, and ignoring the hints that had been given that they should eventually return to the promised land. It would have been so simple for them to leave under the Hyksos had they retained the vision to settle in God’s promised land (Genesis 12:7 and often). But they had settled down and were even philandering with false gods. This whole situation is confirmed by Joshua 24:14 where there is reference to the ‘the gods which your fathers served -- in Egypt’. Their faithfulness to Yahweh was in grave doubt.
‘Therefore they set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens, and they built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses.’
From a human point of view we have here the nub of the matter. A supply of building labourers was required and Pharaoh was looking around for potential slaves for use in his building projects. They would include many other than the children of Israel, but the children of Israel would form a major source of supply in that area. Thus their prospects completely changed and they became slave labourers for Pharaoh. One moment they were living their lives pleasantly as they had always lived them, watching over their herds and flocks, (even though it may have been getting more difficult), the next the soldiers of Pharaoh arrived and they found themselves enslaved and recruited into forced labour of an extreme kind. It was not unusual for kings to call on people for forced labour when the need arose (compare 1 Kings 5:13-14; 1 Kings 9:15; 1 Kings 9:21). It was a pressing into an unwelcome service which was common through the ages. But it was naturally hated, and especially when it became as severe and extended as this period in Egypt, for here there was a further purpose in mind, the humiliation and crushing of a people into complete subservience.
We have here the same motif as in Genesis 3:0. The sinfulness and disobedience of those who were His now resulted in their being driven to hard labour. The sentence of Genesis 3:0 is again applied. If man disobeys God it would only be to his detriment.
“Store cities.” The purpose of these, among others, was to act as places where grain, oil, wines and so on, obtained from taxation, could be stored. They also probably stored weapons and armaments for maintaining frontier and defence forces. The cities were fairly close to the border.
“Store cities, Pithom and Raamses.” Around 1300 BC Sethos I began large building programmes in the North East Delta and had a residence there. It may be that it was he who founded the Delta capital largely built by his son Rameses II. who named it Pi-Ramesse, ‘the house of Rameses’. Rameses II extended his building programmes throughout the whole of Egypt. Thus he may have been the Pharaoh in question which would date the Exodus in 13th century BC.
The sites of these cities are possibly known. However, their identification is by no means certain. Rameses has been identified with Avaris (Tanis), the previous Hyksos capital, which was destroyed and left waste after their expulsion and rebuilt by Sethos and Rameses. But this identification has been questioned. Another possibility is a site near Qantir. Rameses became Rameses II’s main residence. Pithom (‘dwelling of Tum’) has been identified with Tel er-Retaba or Tel el-Maskhuta in the Wadi Tumilat (Tel el-Maskhuta is often identified as Succoth). Thus whether these were ‘new’ cities, or refurbishing of older ones, is also not certain. But if the majority view on the sites is accepted there had been no building projects there prior to these ones since the time of the Hyksos, which would leave a choice between the two periods for the ‘Pharaoh who knew not Joseph’.
In Genesis 4:17; Genesis 11:1-9 the building of cities was connected with man’s rebellion against God. The same motif is found here. If His people would not listen to Him and would not seek to establish themselves as the people of God within the land promised to their forefathers, and establish His worship there, they would be compelled to build cities in a strange land. Compare how Cain departed from the land of his father to build a ‘city’ (possibly a gathering of dwellings, such as caves or tents) in a strange land (Genesis 4:0), as did the builder of cities in Genesis 10:11; Genesis 11:1-9. Israel also were now in a strange land, and had chosen to remain there. Thus they became involved in doing what was contrary to God’s will for them. They began to build cities.
‘But the more they afflicted them the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And they were disquieted because of the children of Israel.’
The activity did not serve to diminish the numbers of the children of Israel. Rather they seem to have continued to expand in numbers, no doubt also introducing into their numbers other Semites by marriage and assimilation, people who found comfort in joining a larger community, so that their superiority of numbers become a matter of alarm to the Egyptians. It seems clear that in all this they retained their identity as a people, and their ‘tribal’ organisation and worship, even if not as purely as they should have.
The result was that the Egyptians really did become alarmed. They wanted to keep this supply of slaves but they were concerned at the way their numbers were growing. Something had to be done about it.
The Children of Israel Are Put To Hard Service (Exodus 1:13-14 ).
a The Egyptians make the children of Israel serve with rigour (Exodus 1:13).
b They make their lives bitter with hard service (Exodus 1:14 a).
b In mortar and brick and all manner of service (Exodus 1:14 b).
a In all their service in which they make them serve with rigour (Exodus 1:15).
Note the use of hard rigour in ‘a’ and its parallel, and the idea of service and its effects in ‘b’ and its parallel. But the fact that they ‘served’ (slaved) is stressed all the way through.
‘And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour, and they made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and in brick and in all manner of service in the countryside, all their service in which they made them serve with rigour.’
Note the stress on their ‘service’ or slavery. The result was that their pleasant lives had been turned upside down. ‘In mortar and in brick.’ Contemporary Egyptian texts speak of the Egyptians employing the ‘Apiru in dragging the huge stones required for the construction of temples in different parts of Egypt. These would then be set in place under the supervision of Egyptian experts. These ‘Apiru probably included the children of Israel, the ‘Hebrews’ (1:15-16; 2:11-13), whom Egyptians would see as ‘Apiru ( see article, " "). We should note that the term ‘Hebrew’ is only ever used of Israel when seen in terms of their being foreigners (thus Genesis 14:13; Genesis 39:14; Genesis 39:17).
“To serve with rigour, and they made their lives bitter with hard service.” Emphasis is laid on the hardness of their lives and the bitterness with which they looked back on better times. But their service was not limited to building, for others of them were forced to work in the countryside. This would have included the gathering of straw and stubble to make bricks and the digging of canals and irrigation channels, and the construction and use of different methods of transporting irrigation water. They had become an even more enslaved people than the Egyptians, seen as suitable for degraded work. Brickmaking by foreigners under the eye of Egyptian taskmasters is readily witnessed to in inscriptions.
Pharaoh Seeks To Destroy Israel Through Its Midwives (Exodus 1:15-22 ).
a The king of Egypt calls on the Hebrew midwives who are told at births to slay sons and let the daughters live (Exodus 1:16-17).
b The midwives fear God and do not obey him but save the male children alive (Exodus 1:17).
c The king of Egypt demands why they have done this (Exodus 1:18).
d The midwives reply that it is because of the quick births of the children (Exodus 1:19).
c God deals well with the midwives and the people multiply (Exodus 1:20).
b Because the midwives feared God He made them houses (Exodus 1:21).
a Pharaoh charges the Egyptians to cast all males into the Nile but to save alive the daughters (Exodus 1:22).
Note that in ‘a’ the midwives are charged with the decimation of the male babies while in the parallel it is the Egyptians who are then charged with it. In ‘b’ the midwives fear God and behave rightly and in the parallel God rewards them for their right behaviour. In ‘c’ the king of Egypt demands why they have done this, and in the parallel the greater than the king shows His approval by blessing them. Central to the section are the quick births of the children which are multiplying the Israelite population.
‘And the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah.’
“The king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives.” The king spoke, of course, through his representatives. His representatives spoke on his authority. All that happened in Egypt was described as done by the king, for his people were his slaves. The words spoken were to those midwives who had responsibility for ‘the Hebrews’. The named midwives may have been the ones who had overall charge of midwifery, not the only midwives. There would also be many experienced women who were not officially midwives but who fulfilled the task when necessary. The actual names are testified to among the North-western Semites of the 2nd millennium BC, one attested in the 18th century BC, the other in the 14th and are clearly genuine.
When giving birth a woman would crouch, possibly on a pile of stones (see Exodus 1:16). Comparatively modern comparisons demonstrate how easily a slave worker could give birth behind a bush and then continue working. The midwives would first assist in the actual birth, and then by cutting the umbilical cord, washing the baby in water, and salting and wrapping it (compare Ezekiel 16:4).
Note here the silence as to the king’s name, in contrast with the midwives. We may spend hours trying to work out who the king was, but we know instantly the names of the midwives, the servants of God, for their names are written before God. This emphasis on the recording of the names of His people continues on throughout Scripture. Each one who faithfully serves Him is known to Him by name.
It is all the more noteworthy here, and clearly deliberate in that apart from Moses everyone else is anonymous, even Moses’ parents, although their descent is mentioned in order to demonstrate that they were suitable parents for God’s chosen one. The emphasis is on the fact that God was at work and only His special instruments are named, because they were instruments of God. The remainder were simply a part of the great tapestry of His will.
‘And he said, “When you do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the two stones, if it is a son then you shall kill him but if it is a daughter then she shall live.” But the women feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but saved the men children alive. And the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing and have saved the men children alive?” And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women, for they are lively and are delivered before the midwife comes to them.”
The order given by the authorities was clear. Male children born of Israelites must be smothered at birth. A series of ‘accidents’ must happen. The authorities wanted it done discreetly. Even they did not want to be involved in open genocide. This is a typical statement of bureaucrats who have not thought through the situation and cannot conceive that they will be disobeyed. Thus a supply of slaves will continue, while the prospectively dangerous ones will be got rid of by a cull. The girls could then be married to non-Israelites to produce further slaves, and the unity of the nation would cease to exist.
“On the two stones.” This may literally refer to two stones or more probably to a small pile. ‘Two’ can mean ‘a few’ (compare 1 Kings 17:12). They would sit or squat on them in such a way as to aid the birth.
“The women feared God.” The contest has already begun between the king of Egypt, acknowledged in Egypt as one of the gods of Egypt, and God. These women feared God and obeyed Him, rather than obeying Pharaoh.
“God.” We note here that in the first two chapters of Exodus there is no mention of Yahweh. In a foreign land, and voluntarily away from the covenant land the description is in terms of God (Exodus 1:20-21; Exodus 2:22-25). Note how this was also true for their adventures in Egypt in the final chapters of Genesis (Genesis 40-50 with the exception of Genesis 49:18 which is probably a standard worship saying). In Egypt they no longer ‘knew Yahweh’. For while they no doubt continued to worship Him as such (Moses’ mother or ancestor is called Yo-chebed’) it was outside the covenant situation, and they could not look for His covenant help in that land. They lost the realisation of Who and What He was. Indeed some worshipped Him alongside other gods. It is only once He begins His preparations for their return that the name Yahweh is again brought into mention (Exodus 3:2; Exodus 3:4; Exodus 3:7; Exodus 3:15-16), and equated with God (Exodus 3:4). For He on His part has remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 2:24) and has ‘come down’. The case was different for Joseph in his captivity (Genesis 39:0). Then Yahweh was with him for he was there within Yahweh’s purpose for His covenant people. But to a people dwelling without much thought in Egypt with no thought of returning to the covenant land, He could only be ‘God’. He had not forgotten them, as what happens demonstrates, but His actions in the land of Egypt were by Him as their God and not as Yahweh, the name which links with covenant activity.
“They are lively.” Those who live as the slaves do find birth easier and quicker than those who are more pampered. There was thus some truth in this statement, and as the phenomenon could no doubt be testified to, their explanation was seemingly accepted.
‘And God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew extensively. And it happened that, because the midwives feared God, he made them houses.’
God prospered His people because the numbers of people continued to grow and expand rapidly, and God prospered the midwives and they too were fruitful (see Psalms 128:1-3). ‘He made them houses’ probably means that they had many children so that their houses were established (compare 2 Samuel 7:11). This would probably be true of all the midwives not just the two mentioned. None would lose by obeying God. They prospered all round. They did what God desired, and God gave them what they desired. It is possible, however, that it means that they were provided with decent living accommodation.
The lesson for us all from this situation is that God does not necessarily step in to make life easy for His people even when He prospers them. Whom the Lord loves, He chastens for their good. Sometimes we may not understand what is happening, but if we saw things as He does we would realise what purpose He has in it.
Indeed we are challenged here about our own way of life. Is our prime purpose to serve God and do His will, or do we concentrate our efforts on ‘building cities’? We must ask ourselves, which is most important to us?
‘And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you shall cast into the Nile and every daughter you shall save alive.”
The surreptitious method having failed all pretence was laid aside. The order goes out from Pharaoh to all Egyptians that all Hebrew new born sons are to be thrown into the Nile, probably under the pretext of offering them to the gods. They were to be sacrificed to the Nile god. The daughters, however, were to be protected. They would cause no trouble and would have their uses. This served a twofold purpose. It demonstrated their loyalty to the Nile god, and it would in time limit the strength of Israel.
It is noteworthy that open murder was not the option. The killing was first to be hidden as due to childbirth and then to be seen as a religious act, as an offering to the Nile god. By this means they preserved their consciences. How easily men can make their religion a pretext for what they want to do, even when it is patently wrong. (Irreligious people find some other pretext).
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 1". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30