1:8 Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
1:9 He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we.
1:10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.”
1:11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh.
1:12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.
1:13 The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites,
1:14 and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.
1:15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah,
1:16 “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.”
1:17 But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live.
1:18 So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?”
1:19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.”
1:20 So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong.
1:21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.
1:22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”
2:1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman.
2:2 The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months.
2:3 When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river.
2:4 His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.
2:5 The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it.
2:6 When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said.
2:7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?”
2:8 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother.
2:9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it.
2:10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”
A new threat towards the nation of Israel was now on the scene and taking over. The Israelites had found themselves in a situation in which they were being tormented, abused and forced to work hard labor at the expense of the Egyptians. Pharaoh had no interest in what Joseph had done with the land. The only thing he set his eyes on was on gaining power and control. He would not stand for another race or culture to become strong in numbers as the Egyptians.
However, right from the start of danger and chaos, God already had a plan in motion. The first time Pharaoh issued a decree for the baby boys of the Israelite nation to be put to death, God immediately stepped in and used the midwives as a means to save them. As a result of their fear and reverence towards God, He blessed them and the nation of Israel grew in numbers.
The second time Pharaoh issues a decree for the baby boys to be killed, God again intervenes and saves the one whom He was about to use to ultimately free the nation of Israel and use them to be a means to spread the Gospel to the entire world. Moses was not only spared but he was reunited with his mother and given the chance to be God’s major tool in bringing about His plan to save the Israelites.
Even though we often times can’t see what God is doing in a hard situation, we can always trust that He is constantly working behind the scenes to bring about the best plan for our lives. God knew that the nation of Israel would need a leader and someone who would be His tool to orchestrate His grand redemptive plan for Israel and eventually the world.
The freedom of the Israelites would be a small picture of God’s redemptive plan to save the entire world from sin. Later on, Jesus Christ came to end not only the separation between the Jewish people and the rest of the world but also to sin’s grasp on all of humanity. This passage gives us a glimpse on just the beginning of when all that would take place. Jesus’ death and resurrection marked the final act of redemption and without this back story of Moses, we never would be able to see just how powerful and amazing God is and it is through this passage that we can go back and trace God’s hand and bring it full circle.
Someone asked me once why God allowed the Hebrews to be enslaved by the Egyptians. What wrong had they committed that would call for such a thing? I believe the answer lies in the fact that God never commanded them to stay in Egypt. He told Abraham that he and his descendants would posses the land of Canaan, not a part of Egypt. God called on them to settle in a certain region and they did for only 3 generations. Once Joseph was sold into slavery and then landed in Egypt, he saved his family from the famine in Canaan. However, they never returned to Canaan after the famine was over. They stayed in Egypt and enjoyed the wealth and security that Joseph could provide for them. However, this was not the covenant that God and Abraham made. They were to remain in Canaan.
We can see that even in the earliest days, Israel was not keeping the covenant that was made between Abraham and God. Because of this they set themselves up for disaster. Likewise, we as Christians are part of a covenant with the Lord. Ours may be one of grace, but God has not promised to save us from our own stupidity. If we go about living foolish lives, our covenant with the Lord is not going to help us or save us from danger. We cannot spit in the eye of a viper and then call on God to save us. We must know what the Lord expects of us by studying the word of God and then live by them.
[Featured image is from 1867, by Edward Poynter – “Israel in Egypt”]