The Book of Exodus, being written in continuation of the history recorded in Genesis,
is carefully connected with it by a recapitulation which involves three points:
ü The names of Jacob’s children;
ü The number
of Jacob’s descendants who went down into
ü The death of Joseph.
In no case, however, is the recapitulation exact, or (so to speak) mechanical. The
“households” of v. 1 had not been mentioned previously; Joseph had not in Genesis
been separated off from his brethren, as he is in v. 5; nor had the deaths of
“his brethren” been recorded, much less of “all that generation.” Thus there is
here no “vain repetition.” New facts come out in the course of the recapitulation; and
the narrative advances while aiming especially at maintaining its continuity.
1 “Now these are the names of the children of
every man and his household came with Jacob.” Now these are the names.
Literally, “And these are the names.” Compare Genesis 46:8, where the phrase
used is the same. We have here the first example of that almost universal practice
of the writers of the Historical Scriptures to connect book with book in the closest
possible way by the simple copulative “and.” (Compare Joshua 1:1,
Judges 1:1, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.) This
practice, so unlike that of secular writers, can only be explained by the
instinctive feeling of all, that they were contributors to a single book, each
later writer a continuator of the narrative placed on record by his
predecessor. In the Pentateuch, if we admit a single author, the initial vau
will be less remarkable, since it will merely serve to join together the
sections of a single treatise. Which came into
two words of the original, “with Jacob,” belong properly to this clause.
The whole verse is best translated, “Now these are the names of the
with his household.” So the Septuagint, Pagnini, Kalisch, Geddes, Boothroyd,
etc. Every man and his household. This is important in connection with
the vexed question of the possible increase of the original band of so-called
“Israelites” within the space of 430 years to such a number as is said to
Abraham comprised 318 adult males (Genesis 14:14). The
“households” of Jacob, his eleven sons, and his numerous grown-up
grandsons, have been with reason estimated at “several thousands.” (Kurtz,
‘History of the Old Covenant,’ vol. 2 p. 149, E. T.)
This early instance of emigration shows:
Ø Unexpected. Jacob little
expected to end his days in
Ø Mysterious. An apparent reversal of the
lines on which
hitherto been moving. Yet:
Ø Distinct. Jacob had no doubt that God’s call had come to him. It came
first in providence, and was ratified by direct Divine permission
(Genesis 46:2-5). Many have the indirect call, who can scarcely doubt
that it is also a direct one.
o Causes of emigration:
§ Want and distress at home, with reasonable prospect of
comfort and plenty abroad;
§ opening of a better field for talents and energies;
§ state of health, necessitating change of climate;
§ persecution, as in case of Huguenots, Pilgrim Fathers, etc.
Ø God accompanies him (Genesis 46:4).
Ø He can serve God yonder as well as here.
Ø He is furthering wise and beneficent purposes. Little doubt of that,
if he is leaving at
for the tribes:
o A home.
o Room to grow.
o Education in arts and letters.
o Valuable discipline
all preparatory to
spiritual mission to the world.
The terminus is not
of the better
keep in view a “better country, that is, an heavenly” (Hebrews 11:16).
Ø It is not always advantageous.
o Not always advantageous to the country left. A country that by
misgovernment, bad laws, excessive taxation, or persecution, drives its
best subjects from its soil, may be compared to a man who humors an
insane bent by occasionally opening a vein.
o Not always advantageous to the country settled in. Emigrants may
carry with them — too often do — low and immoral habits, and prove a
curse, rather than a blessing, to the populations in whose midst they settle.
o Not always to the emigrant himself. His step may prove to have been
hasty. He may have taken it on impulse, or on insufficient information, or
in a spirit of adventure. He finds when too late that a sanguine disposition
has deceived him. This is to go forth without a clear call. But:
Ø Emigration, wisely and judiciously conducted, is of great benefit to
o It thins an overstocked country, and so relieves pressure on the means
o It occupies territory needing population to develop its resources.
o It affords room and scope for the vigorous expansion of a young race.
o It benefits native populations. The Egyptians would profit by the
residence of the Hebrews in their midst.
o It may be made subservient to the diffusion of the knowledge of the
How seldom is this thought of, yet what a responsibility rests
on those who leave Christian shores, carrying with them, to lands sunk in
the night of heathenism, the blessed truths of Christianity! The conclusion
of the matter is: Let emigration be an act of faith. Do not, in so important a
step in life, lean to your own understanding. Ask guidance and clear
direction from on High. But if the way is open and the call plain, then, like
Jacob, go forth, and go boldly, and in faith. Trust God to be with you. He
goes before you to seek you out a place to dwell in, and will surely bless
you in all you put your hand to (Deuteronomy 1:33; 15:10).
2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,
4 Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.” The sons of the legitimate wives
Leah and Rachel are placed first, in the order of their seniority (Genesis 29:32-35;
30:18-20; 35:18); then these of the secondary wives, or concubines, also in the
order of their birth (Genesis 30:6-13). The order is different from that
observed in Genesis 46, and seems intended to do honor to legitimate, as
opposed to secondary, wedlock. The omission of Joseph follows
necessarily from the exact form of the opening phrase, “These are the
names of the children of
5 And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy
souls:” This is manifestly intended as a repetition of Genesis 46:27,
and throws the reader back upon the details there adduced, which
make up the exact number of “seventy souls,” by the inclusion of Jacob
himself, of Joseph, and of Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. The
inaccuracy by which Jacob is counted among his own descendants, is
thoroughly Oriental and Hebraistic, however opposed to Western habits of
thought. To stumble at it shows a narrow and carping spirit. (Compare
on Genesis 46:15.) “for Joseph was in
i.e., has not been mentioned with the other sons of Jacob, since he did not
the clause to the commencement of the verse, which is made by the Septuagint,
6 And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.”
And Joseph died. Or, “So Joseph died” — a reference to Genesis 50:26 —
and all his brethren. All the other actual sons of Jacob — some probably before
him; some, as Levi (ch. 6:16), after him. Joseph’s “hundred and ten years” did not
constitute an extreme longevity. And all that generation. All the wives of Jacob’s sons,
their sister Dinah, and the full-grown members of their households who accompanied
The Patriarchal Names (vs. 1-5)
· THE NAMES IN THEMSELVES. Nothing seems to the ordinary reader of
Holy Scripture so dry and uninteresting as a bare catalogue of names. But
“ALL Scripture,” rightly viewed, “is profitable” (II Timothy 3:16). Each
Hebrew name has a meaning, and was given with a purpose. Jacob, the
supplanter (Genesis 27:36); Reuben, the son of God’s gracious regard
(Genesis 29:32); Simeon, the proof that God hears prayers and answers them
(ib. v. 33); Levi, the bond of association between wife and husband; Judah, he
for whom God is praised; Issachar, the son given as a reward; Zebulon, he
who will make the husband and wife dwell together; Benjamin “son of my
strength,” otherwise Benoni, “son of my sorrow” (Genesis 35:18); Dan, the
sign that there is a God who judges us; Naphtali, “one wrestled for”; Gad,
“good fortune cometh”; Asher, “the happy one”! How the private life of
Jacob, how the rivalries and heats and contentions of that polygamist
household, come before us, as we read the names! What a desire is shown
to have children! What a pride in the possession of many children!
Already “the Desire of all nations” (Haggai 2:7) was looked for, and each
Hebrew mother hoped that in the line of descent from her might be born that
Mighty One, who would “bruise the serpent’s head” (Genesis 3:15),
and in whom “all the nations of the earth would be blessed” (Genesis
12:3; 18:18). Thus this list of names, if we will consider the meaning of
them and the occasion of their being given, may teach us many a lesson,
and prove “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
nstruction in righteousness.” (II Timothy 3:16)
given assigns a just advantage to legitimate and true marriage over even
the most strictly legal union which falls short of true marriage. Let men
beware lest they forfeit God’s blessing upon their domestic life, by
contracting marriage in any but the most solemn way that is open to them.
There is a sanctity in the relation of husband and wife, that should lead us
to surround the initial contract with every sacred association and every
holy form that the piety of bygone ages has provided for us. Primogeniture
is in a certain sense, a law of nature. The elder brother, superior in strength,
in knowledge, and experience, rightfully claims respect, submission,
reverence from those younger than himself. In a properly regulated family
this principle will be laid down and maintained. Age, unless by misconduct
it forfeits its privilege, will be assigned the superior position; younger
children will be required to submit themselves to elder ones; elder children
will be upheld and encouraged to exercise a certain amount of authority over
their juniors. There will be a training within the domestic circle in the habits
both of direction and submission, which will prepare the way for the after
discipline of life in the world.
undoubtedly to show from what small beginnings God produces
the greatest, most remarkable, nay, the most astounding results. From the
stock of one man and his twelve sons, with their households, God raised
up, within the space of 430 years, a nation. Similarly, when “in the fulness
of time” the New Dispensation succeeded the Old, from “the Twelve” and
from “the Seventy” (Luke 10:1), the original “little flock” (Luke 12:32) was
derived that “general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Hebrews
12:23) which is a “great multitude that no man can number” (Revelation
7:9). How wonderful is such increase! How clearly the consequence of
Divine favor and blessing!
Exodus here points back to Genesis. How had he come there? Joseph’s descent into
The cruel wrong done to Joseph had saved from starvation his father and his father’s
house, had preserved the entire people of the Egyptians from extreme suffering,
and had brought Joseph himself to the highest honour. “God’s ways are not as
our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8) He is potent to bring
good out of evil, and to turn the worst calamity into the choicest blessing.
The Twelve Foundations (vs. 1-6)
The heads of the covenant race had hitherto been single individuals.
Abraham — Isaac — Jacob. The one now expands into the twelve. Glance
briefly at this list of the patriarchs.
Ø With the original unfitness of most of these men for the position of
dignity they were afterwards called to occupy. How shall we describe
o Recall Reuben’s incest;
o Simeon and Levi’s cruelty;
o the “evil report” which Joseph brought to his father of the
sons of the handmaids.
The picture in the later chapters of Genesis is crowded with shadows,
and it is chiefly the sins of these men which are the causes of them.
Joseph is the one bright exception. The rest appear to have been men
of a violent, truculent disposition, capable of selling their younger
by willful falsehood on their aged father. Even in Benjamin, traits of
character were discernible which gave ground for the tribal prediction:
“Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf” (Genesis 49:27). How unlikely that
men of so ungodly a stamp, who began so ill, should end by being
exalted to be patriarch heads of a covenant nation! And neither in truth
were they, till, by God’s grace, a great change had passed upon them.
Their crime in selling Joseph was, in a sense, their salvation. It was an
act for which they never forgave themselves. Compunction wrought in
them a better disposition, and laid the basis for “a train of humiliating
and soul-stirring providences, tending to force on them the conviction
that they were in the hands of an angry God, and to bring them to
repentance of sin and amendment of life.” See:
o The natural unfitness of man for God’s service; “that which is born
of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6).
o What the grace of God can make even of very bad men. “By grace ye
are saved” (Ephesians 2:5).
o How those whom God designs for honor in His kingdom, He first
prepares for that honor. Whatever disciplines are needful for that
purpose — and they may not be few — He will not withhold.
Ø With the variety of gifts and dispositions found amongst them. This
variety is taken note of in the blessings of Jacob and of Moses, and is
reflected in the history.
were heads of what subsequently became the royal tribes. Reuben’s
impulsiveness reminds us of Peter, but he lacked Peter’s underlying
constancy. Levi’s zeal wrought at first for evil, but afterwards for good.
The other brethren were less distinguished, but, as shown by the
blessings, all were gifted, and gifted diversely. Does this not teach us?
o That God can use, and
o that God requires, every variety of gift in His service. Hence,
o that there is both room and need in His kingdom for all types
and varieties of character — for every species of gift.
A type of religion is self-condemned which cannot find room in it for
the play and development of every legitimate capability of human nature.
This is but to say that the goal of God’s kingdom is THE PERFECTING
OF HUMANITY, not in part, BUT IN THE TOTALITY of its powers
and functions. Grace does not suppress individuality; it develops and
sanctifies it. It does not trample on gifts, but lays hold upon, transforms,
and utilizes them.
Ø With the existence of a law of heredity in spiritual as in natural descent.
The characteristics of the patriarchs were stamped with remarkable
distinctness on the tribes which bore their names. Reuben’s instability,
etc. This reappearance of ancestral characteristics in the descendants is a
fact with which we are familiar, and is only explained in part by inherited,
organization. Inheritance of ideas, customs, family traditions, etc., plays
quite as important a part in producing the result. A law this, capable of
being the vehicle of much good, but also of much evil. — as potent to
punish as to bless.
fortuitous. Twelve (3 × 4), the symbol of the indwelling of God in the
human family, of the interpenetration of the world by the Divinity. Three,
the number of the Divine; four, the number of the world. Hence, twelve
tribes, twelve cakes of shewbread, twelve apostles, twelve foundations and
twelve gates of the New Jerusalem. The number twelve is kept up in spite
of actual departures from it in fact. The “twelve tribes” are spoken of in the
days of the apostles (Acts 26:7; James 1:1), though, counting
Levi; there were really thirteen tribes, and after the Captivity only two. It
was doubtless with reference to the twelve tribes of
the number of these patriarchs, that Christ chose the twelve apostles. View
the patriarchs, accordingly, as representing the covenant race, not only:
Ø In its natural heads, but symbolically —
Ø In its spiritual privilege as a people of God, and
Ø In its world-wide destiny.
An Ending (v. 6)
1. An ending.
2. A beginning.
It closed one chapter in God’s providence, and opened a new one. It
the sojourn in
complicated series of events which separated Joseph from his father, raised
to power in
character, and prepared the way for the ultimate settlement of, the whole
There is now to be a pause, a breathing space, while the people are
gradually multiplying, and exchanging the habits of nomadic life for those
of agriculturists and dwellers in cities. The death of Joseph, and of his
brethren, and of all that generation, is the proper close of this earlier
period. Their part is played out, and the stage is cleared for new
Ø They died — so must we all. The common fate, yet infinitely pathetic
when reflected on.
Ø They died — the end of earthly greatness. Joseph had all he could wish
for of earthly power and splendor, and he enjoyed it through a long
lifetime. Yet he must part with it. Well for him that he had something
better in prospect.
Ø They died — the end of earthly disciplines. The lives of the brethren
had been singularly eventful. By painful disciplines God had molded them
for good. Life to every one is a divinely ordained discipline. The end is to
bring us to repentance, and build us up in faith and holiness. With some,
the discipline succeeds; with others it fails. In either case death ends it.
“After this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). The fact of discipline an
argument for immortality. God does not spend a lifetime in perfecting a
character, that just when the finishing touches have been put upon it, He
may dash it into non-existence. Death ends discipline, but we carry with us
the result and the responsibility. The psalmist said “The Lord will perfect
that which concerneth me.” (Psalm 138:8)
Ø They died — Joseph and his brethren — happily in faith. There was a
future they did not live to see; but their faith grasped God’s promise, and
“Joseph, when he died, gave commandment concerning his bones”
(Hebrews 11:22). And behind
better — an inheritance which they and we may share together.
Joseph in Death with all His Generation (v. 6)
There are some sayings so trite that we can scarcely bring ourselves to repeat them,
so vital that we do not dare to omit them. One of these is that immemorial one:
“We must all die.” (II Samuel 14:14) Joseph, great as he had been, useful as his life
had been to others, unspeakably precious as it had proved to his near kinsmen, when
his time came, went the way of all flesh — died like any common man, and “was put
in a coffin” (Genesis 50:26) and buried. So it must always be with us all. This is
always to be borne in mind; and no excessive reliance is to be placed on individuals.
The Church is safe; for its Lord is always “with it,” and so will be “even to the end
of the world.” (Matthew 28:20) It is important therefore for the Church to detach
itself from individuals, and to hold to two anchors — Christ and the Faith of Christ —
which can never cease to exist, and can never fail it. For, when our Joseph dies, there
die with him, or soon after him, “all his brethren, and all that generation.”
The great lights of an age are apt to go out at once, or if a few linger on, they burn
with a dim luster. And the generation that hung upon their words despairs,
and knows not which way to turn itself, until the thought comes — “Lord, to
whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) Then,
in resting upon Christ, it is well with us. Well, too, for each generation to remember,
it will not long stay behind — it will follow its teachers. Joseph dies — his brethren
die; wait a few years, and God will have taken to himself “all that generation.”
All the wives of Jacob’s sons, their sister Dinah, and the full-grown members of
households who accompanied them into
TO THE PHARAOH’S CHAGRIN (vs. 7-14)
Here the real narrative of Exodus begins. The history of the
Israelites from and after the death of Joseph is entered on. The first point
touched is their rapid multiplication. The next their falling under the
dominion of a new king. The third, his mode of action under the
circumstances. It is remarkable that the narrative contains no notes of
time. How long the increase continued before the new king arose, how
long it went on before he noticed it, how long the attempt was made to
cheek it by mere severity of labor, we are not told. Some considerable
duration of time is implied, both for the multiplication (v. 7) and for the
oppression (vs. 11-14); but the narrator is so absorbed in the matters
which he has to communicate that the question what time these matters
occupied does not seem even to occur to him. And so it is with the sacred
narrative frequently — perhaps we should say, generally. The
chronological element is regarded as of slight importance; “A thousand
years in the Lord’s sight are but as yesterday” (Psalm 90:4) — “one day
is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (II Peter 3:8)
Where a profane writer would have been to the last degree definite and particular,
a sacred writer is constantly vague and indeterminate. We have in the Bible
nothing like an exact continuous chronology. Certain general Chronological ideas
may be obtained from the Bible; but in order to construct anything like a complete
chronological scheme, frequent reference has to be made to profane writers
and monuments, and such a scheme must be mainly dependent on these
references. Archbishop Ussher’s dates, inserted into the margin of so many
of our Bibles, are the private speculations of an individual on the subject of
mundane chronology, and must not be regarded as in any way
authoritative. Their primary basis is profane history; and, though taking
into consideration all the Scriptural numbers, they do not consistently
follow any single rule with respect to them. Sometimes the authority of the
Septuagint, sometimes that of the Hebrew text, is preferred; and the result
arrived at is in a high degree uncertain and arbitrary.
7 “And the children of
and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; (a duplicated adverb, bim’od m’od,
“much, much.” [Clearly, an astonishing increase is intended] - from “seventy souls” to
“six hundred thousand that were men” – ch. 12:37 - ) and the land was filled with
The multiplication of the Israelites in
souls” to “six hundred thousand that were men” (ch. 12:37) — a
number which may fairly be said to imply a total of at least two millions —
has been declared to be “impossible,” and to stamp the whole narrative of
Exodus with the character of unreality and romance. Manifestly, the
soundness of this criticism depends entirely on two things — first, the
of time- during which the stay in
in which the original number of the children of
to have been “seventy souls.” Now, as to the first point, there are two
theories — one, basing itself on the Septuagint version of ch. 12:40, would make
the duration of the Egyptian sojourn 215 years only; the other, following the clear
and repeated statement of the Hebrew text (ibid. vs. 40-41), literally rendered in our
version, would extend the time to 430 years, or exactly double it. Much may be said
on both sides of this question, and the best critics are divided with respect to it. The
longer period is supported’ by Kalisch, Kurtz, Knobel, Winer, Ewald, Delitzsch,
and Canon Cook among modems; by Koppe, Frank, Beer, Rosenmuller,
Hofmann, Tiele, Reinke, Jahn, Vater, and J. D. Michaelis among earlier
critics; the short period is approved by Calvin, Grotius, Buddeus, Morinus,
Voss, Houbigant, Baumgarten; and among our own countrymen, by
Ussher, Marsham, Geddes, and Kennicott. The point cannot be properly
argued in an “exposition” like the present; but it may be remarked that both
reason and authority are in favor of the simple acceptance of the words of
the Hebrew text, which assign 430 years as the interval between Jacob’s
respect to the number of those who accompanied Jacob into
were assigned the
is important to bear in mind, first of all, that the “seventy souls”
enumerated in Genesis 46:8-27 comprised only two females, and that
“Jacob’s sons’ wives” are expressly mentioned as not included among them
(ib. v. 26). If we add the wives of 67 males, we shall have, for the actual
family of Jacob, 137 persons. Further, it is to be borne in mind that each
family which went down into
“household” (here, v. 1), consisting of at least some scores of dependants.
If each son of Jacob had even 50 such retainers, and if Jacob himself had
a household like that of Abraham (Genesis 14:14), the entire number which
“went down into
According to Malthus, population tends to double itself, if there be no
artificial check restraining it, every twenty-five years. At this rate, 2000
persons would expand into 2,048,000 in 250 years, 1000 would reach the
same amount in 275 years, and 500 in 300 years; so that, even supposing
the “seventy souls” with their “households” to have numbered no more
500 persons when they went down into
unless artificially checked, have exceeded two millions at the expiration of
three centuries — that is to say, 130 years before the Exodus! No doubt,
the artificial checks which keep down the natural tendency of population to
increase began to tell upon them considerably before that time. The “land
peopled, and the rate of increase gradually subsided. Still, as the Delta was
space of from 7000 to 8000 square miles, and the
probably about half of it, a population of two millions is very much what
we should expect, being at the rate of from 500 to 600 persons to the
It is an interesting question whether the Egyptian remains do, or do not,
contain any mention of the Hebrew sojourn; and if they do, whether any
light is thereby thrown on these numbers. Now it is admitted on all hands
about the time of the Hebrew sojourn, there was in
race, often employed in forced labors, called Aperu or Aperiu, and it
seems impossible to deny that this word is a very fair Egyptian equivalent
for the Biblical עצרים, “Hebrews.” We are forced, therefore, either to
that there were in
races with names almost identical, or to admit the identification of the
Aperu with the descendants of Jacob. The exact numbers of the Aperu are
nowhere mentioned; but it is a calculation of Dr. Brugsch that under
Rameses II., a little before the Exodus, the
foreign races in
whom the Aperu were beyond all doubt the chief, “amounted certainly to a
third, and probably still more,” of the whole population (‘History of
to 8,000,000, One-third of this number would be from 2,300,000 to
The writer of Exodus does not, however, as yet, make anything like a
definite calculation. He is merely bent on having it understood that there
had been a great multiplication, and that the “family” had grown into a
“nation.” To emphasize his statement, he uses four nearly synonymous
verbs (“were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and
waxed-mighty”), adding to the last a duplicated adverb, bim’od m’od,
“much, much.” Clearly, an astonishing increase is intended.
Tarry Thou the Lord’s Leisure (vs. 1-7)
Introduction to the Book of Exodus. How much summed up in so few
words. When men live history, every month seems important; when God
records history a few sentences suffice for generations. Man’s standpoint
in the midst of the tumult is so different from God’s: He “sitteth above the
waterflood” and seeth “the end from the beginning” (Psalm 29:10;
Isaiah 46:10). From God’s standpoint we have here as of main consequence:
them than seems at first sight. If I say, “William, Arthur etc., came to
warrior; Arthur, a great inventor; we feel at once that with them elements
are introduced which may prove important. In these early times names are
connected with the characters of the men who bear them. All these names
are significant. Illustrate from their meaning as given in Genesis 29., etc.,
and expanded in Jacob’s blessing, Genesis 49. We are supposed, too, to
know something of the men from the previous history. The whole, taken
together, shows us, as it were, a nation in embryo — a nation of which the
characteristics were wholly different from those of the Egyptians. “Seventy
Ø Seed souls; bound to develop through their offspring the
characteristics they exhibited.
Ø United, not isolated; a nation in embryo, not a collocation of units.
All died - Joseph and all that generation. The common lot, but, from God’s
standpoint, the ordained method of development (John 12:24). What
wailing, as each patriarch, in his own time, passed away! Yet with each
death the harvest of the future was being ever more securely sown. Death,
as it were, rounds off the life; pedestals it; sets it where it can become
exemplary. So set it becomes fruitful; the old husk drops away, and the
true life-grain is enfranchised, Gad, Asher, and the rest, very ordinary men,
or, if not ordinary, not very high-class men; and yet, once dead, they are
rightly reverenced as the fathers of their tribes. Which is better, the day of
death or the day of birth? The day which makes life possible for us, or the
day which, by sanctifying our memory, makes that life an ennobling
influence for others?
the vicissitudes of life; the varieties of character; the monotony of death —
God works on, slowly but certainly, to His destined end. New generations,
each more numerous, succeed the old. Power and prosperity, for a time, go
hand-in-hand with increased numbers — the people “waxed exceeding
mighty.” [The shepherd life,
tribes learned their first lessons in discipline and war.
conquered and cleared, but God could take his own time about it. When at
length the hour should come, it would find His preparations perfected.
Application: — Would that man — God’s child — would be content to
copy his Father’s methods — slow; thorough; a definite end in view; quiet,
persistent preparation. No haste, no hurry, no delay (Isaiah 28:16).
there arose up a new king over
There arose up a new king. It is asked, Does this mean merely
another king, or a completely different king, one of a new dynasty or a new
family, not bound by precedent, but free to adopt and likely to adopt quite
new principles of government? The latter seems the more probable
supposition; but it is probable only, not certain. Assuming it to be what is
really meant, we have to ask, What changes of dynasty fall within the
period of the Israelite sojourn in
most likely that allusion is here made? Some writers (as Kalisch) have
supposed the Hyksos dynasty to be meant, and the “new king” to be Set,
or Salatis, the first of the Hyksos rulers. But the date of Salatis appears to
us too early. If Joseph was, as we suppose, the minister of Apophis, the
last Hyksos king, two changes of dynasty only can come into consideration
— that which took place about B.C. 1700 (or, according to some, B.C.
1600), when the Hyksos were expelled; and that which followed about
three centuries later, when the eighteenth dynasty was superseded by the
nineteenth. To us it seems that the former of these occasions, though in
many respects suitable, is:
(a) too near the going down into
which evidently took place before this king arose (see v. 7), and
(b) unsuitable from the circumstance that the first king of this dynasty was
not a builder of new cities (see v. 11), but only a repairer of temples.
We therefore conclude that the “new king” was either Rameses I, the founder
of the nineteenth dynasty, or Seti I, his son, who within little more than a
year succeeded him. It is evident that this view receives much confirmation
from the name of one of the cities built for the king by the Hebrews, which
was Raamses, or Rameses, a name now appearing for the first time in the
Egyptian dynastic lists. Who knew not Joseph. Who not only had no personal
know]edge of Joseph, but was wholly ignorant of his history. At the distance
from two to three centuries the benefits conferred by Joseph upon
especially as they were conferred under a foreign and hated dynasty, were forgotten.
good is oft interred with their bones.” Had Joseph been a tyrant, a conqueror,
an egotist who crushed down the Egyptians by servile toil for the purpose of
raising a huge monument to his own glory, he would no doubt have remained
fresh in the memory of the nation, and his name and acts would have been
familiar even to a “new king,” who was yet an Egyptian and an educated man.
But as he had only been a benefactor of the nation, and especially of the kings
(Genesis 47:20-26), he was utterly forgotten — as some think, within
sixty-five years of his death, but according to our calculations, not till
about 275 years after it. This is about the space that separates us from
Queen Elizabeth, who is certainly not forgotten, as neither are her
ministers. So Christian nations would seem to have better memories than
heathen ones. In time, however, every man is forgotten; and Christians
should therefore not make their object the praise of men, or posthumous
fame, but the praise and approval of God, which will continue for ever.
“God is not unrighteous to forget” (Hebrews 6:10)
9 “And he said unto his people,
Behold, the people of the children of
more and mightier than we:” Literally, “great and strong in comparison with us.”
Actual numerical superiority is not, perhaps, meant; yet the expression is no doubt
an exaggerated one, beyond the truth — the sort of exaggeration in which unprincipled
persons indulge when they would justify themselves for taking an extreme and unusual
10 “Come on, let us deal wisely with them; 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.”
Come on. “Come then” is better. Let us deal wisely. “The children of this world
are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” (Luke 16:8) Severe
grinding labor has often been used as a means of keeping down the aspirations
of a people, if not of actually diminishing their numbers, and has been found
to answer. Aristotle (Pol. 5:9) ascribes to this motive the building of the Pyramids
and the great works of Polycrates of Samos, Pisistratus of Athens, and the
had the same object (Liv. 1:56; Niebuhr, ‘Roman History,’ vol. 1. p. 479). Lest,
when there falleth out any war, they join also to our enemies. ‘At the
accession of the nineteenth dynasty, though there was peace, war
threatened. While the Egyptians, under the later monarchs of the eighteenth
dynasty, had been quarrelling among themselves, a great nation upon their
borders “had been growing up to an importance and power which began to
the Egyptian supremacy in
immediately after their accession to engage in a war, which was rather
defensive the, offensive, with the Khita, or Hittites, who were the great
may well have feared a renewed invasion like that of the Hyksos, which
would no doubt have been greatly helped by a rising of the Israelites. And
so get them up out of the land. Literally, “And go up out of the land.”
Pharaoh already fears that the Israelites will quit
peaceful and industrious habits, and in some cases of considerable wealth
the revenue of the monarch.
refugees, and loath to lose them. We find in a treaty made by Rameses II.,
the son of Seti, with the Hittites, a proviso that any Egyptian subjects who
quit the country, and transfer themselves to the dominion of the Hittite
shall be sent back to
11 “Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their
burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.”
They did set over them taskmasters. Literally, “lords of
tribute,” or “lords of service.” The term used, sarey massim, is the
Egyptian official title for over-lookers of forced labor. It occurs in this
sense on the monument representing brick-making, which has been
supposed by some to be a picture of the Hebrews at work. (See Cook, in
the ‘Speaker’s Commentary,’ vol. 1. pt. 1. p. 253, and compare Brugsch,
Among the tasks set the laborers in the representation above alluded to
are the carrying of huge lumps of clay and of water-jars on one shoulder,
and also the conveyance of bricks from place to place by means of a yoke.
They built for Pharaoh treasure-cities, Pithom and Raamses. By
“treasure-cities” we are to understand “store-cities,” or “cities of store,” as
the same word is translated in I Kings 9:19 and II Chronicles 8:4.
Such cities contained depots of provisions and magazines of arms. They
were generally to be found on all assailable frontiers in ancient as in
modern times. (Compare II Chronicles 11:5, 12) Of the
cities here mentioned, which the Israelites are said to have “built,” or
helped to build, Pithom is in all probability the Patumes of Herodotus
which was not far from
uncertain, but if identical with the Thou, or Thoum, of the ‘ Itinerary of
An-tonine,’ it must have lain north of the
most maps place it. The word means “abode of the sun,” or rather “of the
setting sun,” called by the Egyptians Tam, or Atum. Names formed on the
model were very common under the nineteenth dynasty, Rameses II.
built a Pa-Ra, a Pa-Ammon, and a Pa-Phthah in
the cities of this period (ib. p. 99), but appears in the records of the
twentieth dynasty as a place where the Setting-Sun god had a treasury
(‘Records of the Past,’ vol. 6. p. 54). The name Rameses is probably put
for Pa-Rameses (as Thoum for Pa-Tum), a city frequently mentioned in the
inscriptions of the nineteenth dynasty, and particularly favored by
Rameses II., whose city it was especially called (‘Records of the Past,’ vol.
it. p. 77; vol. 6. p. 13), and by whom it was greatly enlarged, if not wholly
built. We incline to believe that the building was commenced by Seti, who
named the place, as he did his great temple, the Rameseum, after his father.
city was, according to Brugsch, a sort of suburb of
and his son Menephthah was the ordinary residence of the court. Hence the
miracles of Moses are said to have been wrought “in the field of Zoan,” i.e.
A Multiplying People and a King’s Fears (vs. 7-11)
useful people, and he dreaded their departure (v. 10). But their staying
was almost equally an occasion of uneasiness. Their position in Lower
Revolutions were not infrequent, and many things were less likely than a
future Hebrew dynasty. Hence the policy of breaking their power, and
checking their increase, by reducing them to servitude.
1. Natural — that is, not miraculous, but due to the superabundant blessing
of God on ordinary means — it was yet,
2. Extraordinary, and
3. Invincible — defying the efforts of the tyrant to check it. It may be
legitimately viewed as a type of the spiritual increase of the Church. This
Ø Excites astonishment. So great a fruitfulness had never before been
known. It was a marvel to all who witnessed it. Like surprise is awakened
by the facts of the history of the Church. Consider
o The smallness of the Church’s beginnings.
o The rapidity of her growth.
o What opposition she has encountered.
o What efforts have been made to crush her.
o How she survives, and has from time to time renewed her youth.
o How she has even thriven in the fires of persecution.
o How, notwithstanding formidable resistance, and great internal
lukewarmness and corruption, her progress is being steadily
Ø Awakens jealousy and fear. The world does not relish the progress of
the Gospel. It resents it as full of danger to itself. The filling of the land
with sincere believers would mean the downfall of its power. Its spirit
shown in opposition to revivals of religion, in decrying missions, in anger
at bold and fearless preaching of Christ, followed by saving results, etc.
Ø Can only be accounted for by ascribing it to God as its author,
Naturalistic explanations have been offered. Gibbon has enumerated
“secondary causes.” So “secondary causes,” might be pointed to in
explaining the increase of
There was implied a Divine power, imparting to ordinary means an
extraordinary efficacy. As little can the success of Christianity be explained
on grounds of mere naturalism.
o The Bible attributes it to Divine efficiency.
o Those who experience its power unhesitatingly trace it to this
o The Church is successful only as she relies on Divine assistance.
o Naturalistic theories, one and all, break down in their attempts at
Each new one that appears founds itself on the failure of its predecessors.
It, in turn, is exploded by a rival. The supernatural hypothesis is the only
one which accounts for all the facts.
GENERALLY. Leave it to describe itself, and it is:
o Unsentimental. Napoleon was unsentimental: “What are a
hundred thousand lives, more or less, to me!”
o A necessity of the time.
Describe it as it ought to be described, and it appears in a less favorable
o Ever awake to selfish interests.
o Acute to perceive (or imagine) danger.
o Unrestrained by considerations of gratitude. The new king
“knew not Joseph.” Nations, like individuals, are often
forgetful of their greatest benefactors.
o Regardless of the rights of others.
o Cruel — stops at nothing. It will, with Pharaoh, reduce a nation
to slavery; or, with Napoleon, deluge continents with blood. Yet:
o Is essentially short-sighted.
All worldly policy is so. The King of Egypt could not have taken a more
effectual means of bringing about the evils that he dreaded. He made it certain,
if it was uncertain before, that in the event of war, the Hebrews would take
part with his enemies. He set in motion a train of causes, which, as it actually
happened, led to the departure of the whole people from
outwitted itself, proved suicidal, proclaimed itself to be folly.
Ø The folly of trusting in man. “Beware of men” (Matthew 10:17).
Ø How futile man’s wisdom and cunning are when matched against
Ø The short-sightedness of selfish and cruel action.
12 “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.
And they were grieved because of the
very insufficiently renders the Hebrew verb, which “expresses a mixture of loathing
and alarm” (‘Speaker’s Commentary,’ vol. 1. pt. 1, p. 251). Kalisch translates
if inelegantly — “They had a horror
of the children of
God the Protector of His people (vs. 7 and 12)
comes to man by His blessing. As He gave the original command, “Be
fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28), so He in
every case gives the new lives by which the earth is replenished. “Children,
and the fruit of the womb, are an heritage and gift that cometh of the
Lord” (Psalm 127:3). He gives or withholds offspring as He pleases;
enlarges families, tribes, nations, or causes them to decline, decay, and die
out. Increase is a sign of His favor:
ü To the individual — “Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of
them” (Psalm 127:5);
ü To the nation — “I will multiply them and they shall not be few; I
will also glorify them and they shall not be small” (Jeremiah 30:19)
ü To churches — “Walking in the fear of the Lord, and the comfort
of the Holy Ghost, they were multiplied” (Acts 9:31). A nation or
church that increases has, so far at any rate, a sign of God’s approval
of it, of His favor, of His having in His eternal counsels work for it to
do for Him in the present and the future. One which dwindles has, on
the contrary, a note of God’s disapproval — at the very least, a
warning that all is not with it as it should be. Nations, when they can
no longer do God service, die out; churches, when they become effete
and useless, have their candlesticks removed (Revelation 2:5).
of persecution was the very opposite of what was intended. “The more they
afflicted them, the more they multiplied”. So is it ever with God’s people.
Persecutions always “fall out for the furtherance of the Gospel”
(Philippians 1:12). “They which were scattered abroad upon the
persecution that arose about Stephen, travelled as far as Phoenice, and
brought Paul to
many converts in the very citadel of Satan, the headquarters of the enemy.
So marked was the prevalence of the law, that among the early Christians it
became a proverb, that “the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the
Church.” After each of the ten great Imperial persecutions, the Church was
found within a brief space to be more numerous than ever. And so it will be
to the end. “The gates of Hell” cannot prevail against the Church. (Matthew
16:18) Out of the last and greatest of all the persecutions, when Antichrist
shall be revealed, the Church will issue triumphant, a “great multitude,
which no man can number” (Revelation 7:9).
The Wisdom of the Wise Brought to Naught (vs. 10-12)
God is wont to “destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the
understanding of the prudent” (I Corinthians 1:19). He “makes the
devices of the people of none effect” (Psalm 33:10). Humanly
speaking, the Pharaoh had done “wisely,” had counselled well: many a
people has been crushed utterly under the yoke of an oppressor, ground
down by hard labor — even after a time well-nigh exterminated. It was a
clever and crafty plan to avoid the risk and discredit of a massacre of
unoffending subjects, and at the same time to gain advantage by their heavy
labors while effectually thinning their ranks through the severity of the
toils imposed on them. Unless God had interfered, and by his secret help
supported and sustained his people; enabled them to retain their health and
strength under the adverse circumstances; induced them, bitter and
hopeless as their lot seemed, still to contract marriages, and blessed those
marriages, not only with offspring, but with superabundant offspring (see
vs 12, 20) — the result anticipated would without doubt have followed: the
multiplication of the people would have been checked — their numbers
would soon have begun to diminish. But God had determined that so it
should not be. He had promised Abraham an extraordinary increase in
the number of his descendants, (Genesis 15:5; 22:17) and was not going
to permit a cruel and crafty king to interfere with the carrying out of His
designs, or the performance of His gracious promises. So the more that
Pharaoh and his subjects afflicted them, “the more they multiplied
and grew” — “the little one became a thousand, and the small
one a strong nation” — the Lord “hastened it in His time” (Isaiah
60:22). Christians therefore need never fear the devices of their enemies,
however politic they may seem. God has the power, and if He sees fit will
exert it, to turn the wisdom of the world into foolishness, to upset all
human calculations, confound all prudent counsels, and make each act
opposition to His will help to work it out. In
labor and unceasing toil which made their lives bitter (v. 14), was at
once needed to wean their minds from the recollection of the “fleshpots”
16:3) and other delights of
quit it; and also it was required to brace them for the severe life of the
wilderness — the hard fare, the scant water, the scorching heat by day, the
chill dews at night; to harden their frames, relaxed by a time of sensual
indulgence, and nerve their minds to endurance.
13 “And the Egyptians made the children of
The word translated rigor is a very rare one. It is derived from a
root which means “to break in pieces, to crush.” The “rigor” would be
shown especially in the free use of the stick by the taskmaster, and in the
prolongation of the hours of work.
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.” (While stone was the material chiefly employed
by the Egyptians for their grand edifices, temples, palaces, treasuries, and the like,
brick was also made use of to a large extent for inferior buildings, for
tombs, dwelling-houses, walls of towns, forts, enclosures of temples, etc.
There are examples of its employment in pyramids (Herod. 2:136; Vyse,
‘Pyramids of Gizeh,’ vol. 3. pp. 57-71); but only at a time long anterior to
the nineteenth and even to the eighteenth dynasty. If the Pharaoh of the
main for that great wall which he commenced, but did not live to complete,
(Birch, ‘Egypt from the Earliest Times,’ p. 125). All manner of labor in
the field. The Israelitish colony was originally employed to a large extent
in tending the royal flocks and herds (Genesis 47:6). At a later date
many of them were engaged in agricultural operations (Deuteronomy 11:10).
and ploughing, whence the remark of Herodotus (2:14); but in other
respects exceedingly heavy. There is no country where care and labor are
so constantly needed during the whole of the year. The inundation
necessitates extreme watchfulness, to save cattle, to prevent the houses and
the farmyards from being inundated, and the embankments from being
washed away. The cultivation is continuous throughout the whole of the
year; and success depends upon a system of irrigation that requires
constant labor and unremitting attention. If the “labor in the field”
included, as Josephus supposed (1.s.c.), the cutting of canals, their lives
would indeed have been “made bitter.” There is no such exhausting toil as
that of working under the hot Egyptian sun, with the feet in water, in an
open cutting, where there can be no shade, and scarcely a breath of air,
from sunrise to sunset, as forced laborers are generally required in do.
Me-hemet Ali lost 20,000 laborers out of 150,000 in the construction of
the Alexandrian Canal towards the middle of the present century.
The life of a people, like that of an individual, to a great extent is shaped by
for much growth; few opportunities for national organization; the tendency
would be for the families to separate, each seeking pasturage for its own
(compare Abraham and
had to be placed:
o where they might increase and multiply, and
o where their slightly connected elements might coalesce
o and be welded into one.
attain this object God led His people into
o Hothouse where plants may strike and grow before being
planted out, and
o Deuteronomy 4:20. Furnace where metal may be smelted
into one homogeneous mass and the worst of the dross
We may notice in this view:
and the means of subsistence plentiful, ample room and ample provision.
Happy years without a history, passed in a land which even now yields the
largest revenue in
than in any other province. Probably no incident of more importance than
some occasional skirmish with border tribes. No wonder that “they
increased abundantly and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty.”
Prosperity has its uses as well as adversity. The long unnoticed years
through which the fruit-tree attains maturity are necessary antecedents to
the fiery summers which see the fruit ripening. Not much to notice in such
years. Still their existence is noteworthy. They make no small portion of
the sum of human life, whether viewed in its national or individual aspect.
History grows out of them even whilst it is compelled to forget them in its
records. The fruit of Life draws from them its substance, though other
years may give it its color and flavor.
Pharaoh’s natural jealousy at the increasing influence of an alien race, it
took the form of enforced labor, such as — perhaps owing to Joseph’s
land law (Genesis 47:23, etc.) — he clearly had the acknowledged right
to levy at will from all his subjects. Pharaoh however was but the
instrument which God used for the education of His people; He knew that
adversity was needed to carry on the work which prosperity had begun.
(I have on my desk a saying which a friend gave to me over twenty years
ago shown below:
also, I once read that:
Adversity will either make you bitter or better!
CY – 2017)
Ø Affliction did not hinder progress. We gather from v. 12 that it really
advanced it. Prosperity long continued may be a greater hindrance than
adversity. It tends to produce a stagnant condition [compare the opening poems
in Tennyson’s ‘Maud’]. The
after-history shows us that
extent, morally deteriorated; and moral deterioration in the long run must
lead to physical degradation. (It is from this angle that I argue that laws
which promote or legitimize immorality is unconstitutional under
the United States Constitution because they do no promote the general
welfare of its citizens. CY – 2017) When the stock needs pruning the
pruning process stimulates growth.
Ø Affliction proved morally helpful. The people had been getting careless
and slothful, forgetting God (compare Joshua 24:14, Ezekiel 20:5-8) or
paying Him a merely nominal service. Now, however, see ch. 2:23-25, God
could hear their cry because their cry was genuine; He could have respect
unto them because they were learning to have respect unto Him.
Ø Affliction ensured national union. Hitherto the people was just a
collection of families, united by a common name and common traditions.
Mutual need begets mutual helpfulness, and it is by mutual help that tribes
are dovetailed into one another and come to form one nation. [Isolated
fragments of ore need smelting in the furnace to produce the consolidated
metal.] It is in the heat of the furnace of affliction that rivalries, jealousies,
and all kinds of tribal littlenesses can alone be finally dissolved. And
affliction still has such uses. Prosperity is good, no doubt, but, in this
world, it requires to be complemented by adversity. “Why is trouble
permitted?” Because men cannot otherwise be perfected. It is just as
necessary for our moral ripening as heat is necessary for the ripening of the
o It need not hinder any man’s progress;
o If rightly used it should purge out the dross, from us and make us
o It tends to dissolve the barriers which selfishness erects between man
and man, and works towards the formation of that holy brotherhood
which embraces in one family all the nations of the earth.
sincere desire to serve his country, and yet he was his country’s worst foe.
The service rendered by wickedness is in the end rebuke and ruin.
GREATER (vs. 10-12).
Ø The bondage was imposed to prevent their multiplying: “but the
more they afflicted them the more they multiplied and grew.”
Ø The trouble was at first simply a possibility detected by the statesman’s
keen eye, and now all
gone too far to retreat.
be crushed. From being compelled to labor in the erection of strong cities,
their lives are made bitter by all manner of hard bondage. Evil grows with
an inward necessity. When a nation makes an unjust demand it does not
mean murder, yet that is its next step. Satan dare not whisper all his
counsel at first but BY-AND-BY he can tell it all and have it all accomplished.
The Bondage (vs. 11-14)
one in Pharaoh’s position, where there was the will to enslave, there would
soon be found the way.
Ø The Israelites were politically weak. “The patriarchal family had grown
into a horde; it must have lost its domestic character, yet it had no polity -
a people in this state was ripe for slavery” (Maurice).
Ø And Pharaoh had no scruples. Those engaged in tillage and keeping of
cattle could easily be ruined by heaping on them tributes and exactions.
listed. Of the rest, large numbers were probably already employed — as
forced laborers — on Pharaoh’s works of construction. Over these (v. 11),
it was proposed to set “taskmasters” — “chiefs of tribute” — to afflict
them with their burdens.
Ø Complaint was useless. The Hebrews soon found, as expressed
afterwards (ch. 5:19), that they were “in evil case” — that a
general conspiracy, from the king downwards, had been entered into to
rob, injure, and oppress them. Their subjugation in these circumstances
was easily accomplished. Learn:
o A nation may outgrow itself. It will do so if intelligence and morals,
with suitable institutions, do not keep pace with numbers.
o Great prosperity is not always an advantage.
§ It excites jealousy;
§ tempts greed, avarice and materialism;
§ usually weakens by enervating.
Ø Is a punishment for sins. The Hebrews had doubtless greatly corrupted
around them. This was in them a sin that could not pass unpunished. God
cannot suspend His moral Laws even for His own people. If they do wrong,
they must, no less than others, suffer for it. Nay, they will be punished with
even greater severity than others are for similar offences. It is this which
explains the bitter servitude
condition which is at once a fit retribution for its own sin, and an apt image
of the condition of the sinner generally. For SIN IS SLAVERY! It is inward
bondage. It is degradation. It is rigorous service, and bitterness, and
misery. God’s law, the soul’s own lusts, an exacting world, become in
different ways taskmasters. It is unprofitable service. It sends a man to the
husks, to the swine-troughs. (Luke 15) It is slavery from which NOTHING
BUT THE POWER OF GOD ALMIGHTY can redeem us. We bless God
for our greater Moses (Hebrews 3), and the grander Exodus.
Ø As a trial of faith. It would be so in a very especial degree to the godly
silence while His people were broiling and perishing under their terrible
tasks? Did it not seem as though the promise had failed and God had
forgotten to be gracious? (Psalm 77:8-9.) Truly we need not wonder at
anything in God’s dealings with His Church when we reflect on how long
and how fearfully
must have come out of the furnace seven times purified,
Ø As a moral preparation. It is now manifest, though it could hardly have
been seen then, how needful was this affliction, protracted through
To wean the people’s hearts from
o To make them willing to leave it.
the thought of
o To break up trust in self and man.
o To lead them to cry mightily to God.
The same reasons, in whole or part, serve to explain why God lays trials on
ourselves; indicate at least the ends which affliction is used to subserve.
Had everything been prosperous:
o their hopes would have been forgotten;
o even their God would in time have been renounced.
THE INFANTICIDAL POLICY OF PHARAOH
THE CONDUCT OF THE MIDWIVES (vs. 15-22)
Some time — say five or six years — having elapsed and the Pharaoh’s first plan
having manifestly failed, it was necessary for him either to give up his purpose,
or to devise something else. Persevering and tenacious, he preferred the latter
course. He bethought himself that a stop might be put to the multiplication of the
Israelites by means of infanticide on a large scale. Infanticide was no doubt a crime
almost any action, since the king was recognized as a god; and the wrongs of a
foreign and subject race would not sensibly move the Egyptian people, or
be likely to provoke remonstrance. On looking about for suitable
instruments to carry out his design, it struck the monarch that something,
at any rate, might be done by means of the midwives who attended the
Hebrew women in their confinements. It has been supposed that the two
mentioned, Shiphrah and Puah, might be the only midwives employed by
the Israelites (Canon Cook and others), and no doubt in the East a small
number suffice for a large population: but what impression could the
monarch expect to make on a population of from one to two millions of
souls by engaging the services of two persons only, who could not possibly
attend more than about one in fifty of the births? The midwives mentioned
must therefore be regarded as “superintendents,” chiefs of the guild or
faculty, who were expected to give their orders to the rest. (So Kalisch,
Knobel, Aben Ezra, etc.) It was no doubt well known that midwives were
not always called in; but the king supposed that they were employed
sufficiently often for the execution of his orders to produce an important
result. And the narrative implies that he had not miscalculated. It was the
disobedience of the midwives (v. 17) that frustrated the king’s intention,
not any inherent weakness in his plan. The midwives, while professing the
intention of carrying out the orders given them, in reality killed none of the
infants; and, when taxed by the Pharaoh with disobedience, made an untrue
excuse (v. 19). Thus the king’s second plan failed as completely as his
first — “the people” still “multiplied and waxed very mighty” (v. 20).
Foiled a second time, the wicked king threw off all reserve and all attempt
at concealment. If the midwives will not stain their hands with murder at
his secret command, he will make the order a general and public one. “All
his people” shall be commanded to put their hand to the business, and to
assist in the massacre of the innocents — it shall he the duty of every loyal
to cast into the waters of the
birth he has cognizance. The object is a national one-to secure the public safety
(see v. 10): the whole nation may well be called upon to aid in carrying it out
15 “And the king of
name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: (It is
questioned whether the midwives were really Hebrew women, and not rather
Egyptian women, whose special business it was to attend the Hebrew women in
their labors. Kalisch translates, “the women who served as midwives to the
Hebrews,” and assumes that they were Egyptians. (So also Canon Cook.) But the
names are apparently Semitic, Shiphrah being “elegant, beautiful,” and Puah, “one
who cries out.” And the most natural rendering of the Hebrew text is that of
16 “And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and
see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a
daughter, then she shall live. The stools. The explanation furnished by a remark
of Mr. Lane (‘Modem Egyptians,’ vol. 3. p. 142) is more satisfactory than any
time of delivery, the midwife conveys to the house the kursee elwiladeh, a
chair of a peculiar form, upon which the patient is to be seated during the
birth.” A chair of the form intended is represented on the Egyptian monuments.
17 “But the midwives feared God,” (much more than can be said of modern
abortion doctors and proponents of the abortion industry today – see Abortion
Rationale 2009 – this web site – CY – 2010) The midwives had a sense of religion,
feared God sufficiently to decline imbruing their hands in the innocent blood of a
number of defenseless infants, and, rather than do so wicked a thing, risked being
punished by the monarch. They were not, as appears by v. 19, highly religious —
not of the stuff whereof martyrs are made; they did not scruple at a falsehood,
believing it necessary to save their lives; and it would seem that they succeeded in
the king. “and did not as the king of
saved the men children alive.” 18
“And the king of
midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have
saved the men children alive?”
The Duty of Opposing Authority when its Commands are Against God’s Law
(There is no right way to do the wrong thing!) - Few lessons are taught in Holy
Scripture more plainly than this, that the wrongful commands of legitimate authority
are to be disobeyed. “Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants
that they should kill David” (I Samuel 19:1). But Jonathan positively refused,
and rebuked his father: “Wherefore wilt thou sin against innocent blood?”
(ibid. v. 5). Uzziah would have usurped the priest’s office; but Azariah the priest
“withstood him” (II Chronicles 26:16-21), and God signified His approval by
smiting the king with leprosy. Ahasuerus commanded that a “reverence” trenching
upon God’s honor should be done to Haman (Esther 3:2). Mordecai
“transgressed the king’s commandment,” and it is recorded of him to
his credit. The “Three Children” disobeyed Nebuchadnezzar when he
would have had them “worship the golden image which he had set up”
(Daniel 3:18) on the plain of Dura. Daniel disobeyed Darius the Mede when
required to discontinue his daily prayers. The Apostles disobeyed the
Sanhedrim, when forbidden “to preach at all or teach in the name of
Jesus” (Acts 4:18). God’s law is paramount; and no human authority may
require anything to be done which it forbids, or anything to be left undone
which it commands. The argument is unanswerable: “Whether it be right in
the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye” (ibid.
v. 19). So the midwives, because they “feared God,” disobeyed the king. No
doubt the lesson is to be applied with caution. We are not to be always flying in
the face of authority, and claiming it as a merit. More especially, in States
calling themselves Christian and retaining even partially a Christian character,
opposition to the law is a serious matter, and, if resorted to, should only be
resorted to under a clear and distinct conviction that the Divine law and the
human are in absolute opposition. (Romans 13:1-4) - The men who
rightfully resist authority are “the salt of the earth.” They save the
world from a rapid and complete corruption. The remembrance of their
acts continues, and is a warning to authorities, preventing hundreds of
iniquitous laws and orders, which would otherwise have been enjoined and
enacted. Their example is an undying one, and encourages others on fitting
occasion to do the like. All honor then to the noble band, who, when the
crisis came, have “obeyed God rather than man,” and taken their chance
of the consequences! Not that the final consequences to themselves can be
doubtful. “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, blessed are ye!”
(I Peter 3:14). In this life, the consequence may be success, severe
punishment, or occasionally) neglect and oblivion. But in the world to
come there wilt be a reward for rightful resistance undoubtedly. “God
made the midwives houses.” For all whom a tyrannical authority makes to
suffer because they fear and obey him, he will reserve in his own house
“mansions” where they will enjoy bliss eternal. (John 14:1-3)
19 “And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are
not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the
midwives come in unto them.” They are vigorous. Literally, “they are lively.”
In the East at the present day a large proportion of the women deliver themselves;
and the services of professional accoucheurs (male mid-wives) are very rarely
called in. The excuse of the midwives had thus a basis of fact to rest upon, and
was only untrue because it was not the whole truth.
20 “Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied,
and waxed very mighty. Literally, “And God did well,” etc. (see v. 21). Because
they feared Him sufficiently to disobey the king, and take their chance of a
punishment, which might have been very severe-even perhaps death — God
overlooked their weak and unfaithful divergence from truth, and gave them
21 “And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that He made
them houses. He blessed them by giving them children of their own, who
grew up, and gave them the comfort, support, and happiness which
children were intended to give. There was a manifest fitness in rewarding those
who had refused to bring misery and desolation into families by granting them
domestic happiness themselves).
The Conduct of the Midwives (vs. 15-21)
“They did not as the king
children alive,” and this conduct was made possible because behind it there
was a praiseworthy feeling. “The midwives feared God.” They saw how
real was the power of Pharaoh in enslaving and oppressing the Israelites,
but they were not thereby misled into supposing the power of Pharaoh to
be greater than THE POWER OF GOD! They had ample opportunity,
even more than the rest of
extraordinary ,increase in the numbers of the people. Their very
professional experience was of a kind to impress them deeply with the fact
processes of nature. They could not see God as they saw Pharaoh, but his
superior power was made evident by the things He did. Then, on the other
hand, with all the manifestations of Pharaoh’s power, it was impossible for
him to conceal that he was afraid himself. Moreover, as the oppression and
people, and the-more confirmed would the midwives be in their fear of
Him. Hence it would have been a very poor sort of prudence to comply
with Pharaoh’s order, to avoid his displeasure, perhaps to gain his rewards,
and then find themselves face to face with an angry God, FROM WHOM
THERE WAS NO ESCAPE! What a rebuke, out of these depths of bondage
and suffering, and out of a very imperfect moral state, these two women give
to us! They feared God, and that fear kept them safe, and made them
prosperous. The fear of man ever bringeth a snare (Proverbs 29:25); but a real,
practical and all-dominating sense of THE PRESENCE AND THE POWER
OF GOD takes snares and stumbling-blocks out of our path.
must not be supposed that because they feared God, and God dealt well
with them, everything therefore which they did was quite as it should be.
With all their deep sense of God’s presence, these women were living but
in the twilight of the revelation, as far as they personally were concerned.
They knew enough to fear God, i.e. they knew the reality and greatness of
His power, but they did not know enough to love Him. With them,
conscience was in such a half-enlightened, half-awakened state, that while
they felt it wrong to obey Pharaoh’s command, and would probably not
have obeyed it if the sword had been hanging over their heads, yet they
have no scruple as to deceiving Pharaoh. Undoubtedly, women who had
been fully instructed in all the will of God, and who were fully alive to all
the round of duty, would have faced the king boldly, and said, “We cannot
do this thing, come what may.” But they were living, as we have already
noticed, in a very imperfect moral state. They honestly felt that deceiving
Pharaoh was a quite permissible way of showing their obedience to God.
Hence, while upon certain considerations we may excuse their deception,
we must not slur it over as a matter of no moment; and though it is said
that God was pleased with them as it was, this does not prevent us from
feeling that he would have been even better pleased if they had said straight
out to Pharaoh, (like Joseph - “How can we do this great wickedness and
sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9)
ILLUSTRATIVE OF A CERTAIN STAGE IN THE PROGRESS OF
SINNERS TOWARDS GOD. There are many who have got so far as to
fear God, and this is no small attainment. It may be that there is something
slavish, terrifying, paralyzing even in the fear; but, even so, it is better to
have the fear than be as those who are completely destitute of it. For, with
a feeling of real fear to lay hold of, God can do great things. He can
gradually bring us nearer and nearer, so that we shall love as well as fear
Him. He can show us His loving spirit, and His power to fill our lives with
blessing and surround them with security. He can show us that there is
really no more reason to live in restless dread of Him than there is for a
little bird to fly hastily away at the approach of some kind-hearted human
being. But where there is no fear of God, WHAT CAN BE DONE?
When the chief thing you dread is the laughter of fools; or the censure of
unsympathizing friends and neighbors or threatening superiors; or the fear
of temporal loss and pain in general.; what can then be done? Be thankful if
you have got so far as to fear God. Fearing him, dreading him, trembling
before him, feeling His power more than any other of His attributes — this
is a long way short of loving Him, but nevertheless it is a stage toward that
glorious state of the heart; and it is incomparably better than to have no
feeling for God at all, and to let an arrogant world fill HIS PLACE! It is
a great point gained, when once we clearly perceive, and act upon the
perception, that to be safe and right with man is a mere trifle to the great
necessity of being safe and right with God. One Pharaoh goes and another
comes, but the God of Israel, the God who is bringing all these men-children
to the birth, abides for ever. Before we begin to pity Shiphrah and Puah for
their defective notions with regard to truth, we had better make sure that they
do not rise in the judgment against us, on account of our GROSS
INDIFFERENCE TO THE MAJESTY AND AUTHORITY OF GOD!
God’s Acceptance of the Midwives Imperfect Obedience (vs. 18-21)
The midwives had not the courage of their convictions. They did not speak
out boldly, like Daniel, and the “Three Children,” and the Apostles. They
did not say, “Be it known unto thee, O king, that we fear God, and will
not do this thing.” They cast about for an excuse, which should absolve
them of the crime of disobedience, and so perhaps save them from
punishment, and they found one which was no doubt partially true. God
condoned it. He accepted their good deeds and their reverent fear of Him.
No man but One has rendered an obedience that was perfect, our Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ, God’s Only Begotten Son - All we, the rest,
offend in many things; and “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive
ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8) - Well for us that God,
for His Son’s sake, and through His atonement on the cross, forgives
our offences, and despite our many misdeeds reward our acts of
faithfulness! (Matthew 6:4; 10:42; 16:27; Luke 6:35; I Corinthians 3:14)
22 “And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye
shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive”.
Every son that is born. The words are universal, and might
seem to apply to the Egyptian, no less than the Hebrew, male children. But
they are really limited by the context, which shows that there had never
been any question as to taking the life of any Egyptian. With respect to the
objection sometimes raised, that no Egyptian monarch would possibly have
commanded such wholesale cold-blooded destruction of poor innocent
harmless children, it is to be observed, first, that Egyptian monarchs had
very little regard indeed for the lives of any persons who were not of their
own nation. They constantly massacred prisoners taken in war — they put
to death or enslaved persons cast upon their coasts (Diod. Sic. 1:67) —
they cemented with the blood of their captives, as Lenormant says
(‘Manuel d’Hist. Anc.,’ vol. 1. p. 423), each stone of their edifices. The
sacredness of human life was not a principle with them. Secondly, that
tender and compassionate regard for children which seems to us
Englishmen of the present day a universal instinct is in truth the fruit of
Christianity, and was almost unknown in the ancient world. Children who
were “not wanted” were constantly exposed to be devoured by wild beasts,
or otherwise made away with (Dollinger, ‘ Jew and Gentile,’ vol. it. p.
246); and such exposition was defended by philosophers (Plat. ‘Pep.’ 5. p.
would probably not have cost an Egyptian Pharaoh a single pang to
condemn to death a number of children, any more than a number of
puppies. And the rule “Salus publica suprema lex” (the health and welfare
of the people should be the supreme law) which, if not formulated, still
practically prevailed, would have been held to justify anything. The river.
Though, in the Delta, where the scene is laid throughout the early part of Exodus,
were many branches of the
(ch. 2:3, 5; 7:20-21; 8:3,etc.), because one branch only, the Tanitic, was
readily accessible. Tanks (Zoan) was situated on it.
This prosperity was not a mere appearance, nor a passing spurt of fortune.
It was a deep, abiding, and significant reality. Nor was it something
exaggerated in order to make an excuse for the cruelties of a suspicious
tyrant. There was indeed only too much to make Pharaoh uneasy; but
altogether apart from his alarms there is a plain and emphatic statement of
summoning us m the most imperative way to a special notice of this
prosperity. Let us therefore take a general view of
prosperity as it is set before us in all the extent of this first chapter. Note:
only plainly stated, but the chapter abounds in indications of Jehovah’s
Ø The wonderful way in which God had brought a whole family into
usually get scattered; but
here are the children of
children all kept together. The very means which they had employed in
order to get rid of one of their number who was an offence to them, had
ended in their being brought together more closely than ever. Joseph went
before, and all unconsciously made a solid foundation for the building of
their prosperity. Through all domestic jealousies, in the perils of famine,
and in their journeys between
preserved these twelve men so that not one of them was lacking in his
to the future excellency of
Ø The name by which they were
described — the children of
had said to Jacob (Genesis 32:28), “Thy name shall be called no more
Jacob, but Israel,” and yet down to the end of his life he is sometimes
called Jacob and sometimes
natural character and also his new position and privileges gained in the
memorable wrestling at Peniel. These twelve men, the fathers of the tribes,
many things to show the meanness and corruption of fallen human nature,
and his sons had been not one whit better than himself (consider the
revengeful action of Simeon and Levi in Genesis 34:25; the conduct of
Reuben in 35:22; and especially the conduct of the brethren towards
Joseph and the father who so doted upon him). But these sons of Jacob,
with all their personal demerits, were also the children of him who by his
sublime, persistent, courageous, and successful struggle had gained the
full of significance, recalling a glorious experience in the past and
promising a still more glorious experience in the future. It was a name not
to be forfeited even in the greatest apostasies, and perhaps its chief
splendor lay in this, that it pointed forward to a still more glorious
fatherhood enjoyed by those who through the gracious work of Him who
taught Nicodemus concerning regeneration, are permitted to say, “Now are
we the children and heirs of God.” (Romans 8:17)
Ø The apprehensive attitude of Pharaoh. He is a witness to the greatness
more valuable because he gives His evidence unconsciously. The more we
consider his unaffected alarm and his continuous and energetic efforts to
prosperity was, how it was nourished by the secret and unassailable
strength of God. It should be a matter of great rejoicing to God’s people
when the world, in its hatred, suspicion, and instinctive sense of danger,
takes to the instruments of persecution, for then there is unmistakable
indication of prosperity within.
the accumulation of external possessions. The Israelites might have
remained comparatively few or have increased in a way such as to excite
no attention. Their increase might have been in external wealth, and this
would have been reckoned, by many, true prosperity. But it would not
have been prosperity after a godly sort. It was the purpose of God to show
from the quality of the life which He puts within. Hence the prosperity of
circumstances. It was shown by the manifestation of a miraculous fullness
of life. The husbandman does not reckon it anything wonderful that there
should be among the trees of his vineyard a certain increase of fruitfulness,
corresponding to the carefulness of his cultivation. But if all at once certain
trees begin to put forth a fullness of fruit altogether beyond expectation, the
husbandman would not claim that such a result came from him. There is
the greatest possible difference between the prosperity lying in mere
external possessions and that which comes from the energy of a Divine life
working in us. It needs no special help from God to make a man a
millionaire. There are but few who can be such; but place them in
favourable circumstances, and the immense results of their industry and
attention are quite intelligible. But to produce such a result as appears in
the peculiar prosperity of
energy. We have not only unmistakable indications of the prosperity of
peculiar character is an indication of the presence of God. He was doing
what none but Himself could do. Learn then that our spiritual prosperity
must be something produced by God manifesting His power in Our hearts.
There is no chance of attributing it to our unaided industry, attention, and
prudence. It is a growth more than anything else, and must show itself in
the abundant and beautiful fruits of a Divine life within us.
prosperity as is indicated in v. 7 could not but produce apprehension and
opposition on the part of Pharaoh — inevitably assuming, as it did, the
appearance of a menace to his kingdom. But it was better for
on increasing with the increase of God, even in the midst of persecutions,
than to be without the persecutions on condition of being without the
increase. Spiritual prosperity not only may be, but must be, accompanied
with afflictions of the natural life. That is a very doubtful spirituality which
manages to keep clear of all temporal troubles. They that will live godly
must suffer persecution. Let us pray for spiritual prosperity, and hail its
coming, and secure its stay, whatever pains be suffered and whatever lesser
comforts be lost. The more the life of God is in us, the more we must
expect the powers of evil to be stirred against us. “....all that will live
godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (II Timothy 3:12)
The Policy of Pharaoh (vs. 8-22)
was a policy of selfish fear, proceeding upon an unconcealed regard for the
possible, swept completely out of the way. Pharaoh was dealing, not with
the necessities of the present, but with the possibilities of the future. He
made no pretence that
fashion. There was no attempt to cloak the cruelties of the tyrant under the
aspect of needful severity against evil-doers. The fear of Pharaoh is seen in
the very language he employs. It was not true as yet that the Israelites were
more and mightier than the Egyptians: but Pharaoh feels that such a state
of things is not improbable, and may not be remote. Something has already
happened very different from what might have been expected. Who was to
suppose that a handful of people from
alarming rapidity? Seeing that such unexpected things have already
happened, what may not be feared in the future? Who knows what allies
attitude and utterance of Pharaoh we learn:
Ø Not to make our safety and our strength to consist in an unscrupulous
weakening of others. The true strength, ever becoming more and more
sufficient, is to be gained within ourselves. Pharaoh would have done more
for his own safety and the safety of his people by putting away idolatry,
and oppression, than by
all his frantic attempts to destroy
It is a sad business, if we must hold our chief possessions at the expense of
others. If my gain is the loss or suffering of some one else, then by this very
fact the gain is condemned, and however large and grateful it may be at
present, it will end in the worst of all loss. Surely the luxuries of the few
would become utterly nauseous and abhorrent, if it were only considered
how often they depend on the privation and degradation of the many.
Pharaoh’s kingdom deserved to perish, and so deserve all kingdoms and all
exalted stations of individuals, if their continuance can only be secured by
turning all possible enemies into spiritless and emasculated slaves.
Ø Not to set our affections on such things as lie at the mercy of others.
Pharaoh had to be incessantly watching the foundations of his vast and
imposing kingdom. Other nations only saw the superstructure’ from a
distance, and might be excused for concluding that the magnificence rested
upon a solid base. But we may well believe that Pharaoh himself lived a life
of incessant anxiety. The apprehensions which he here expresses must have
been a fair sample of those continually passing through his mind. The
world can give great possessions and many opportunities for carnal
pleasure; but security, undisturbed enjoyment of the possession,
IT CANNOT GIVE!
keep the numbers of
this end Pharaoh began by trying to crush the spirits of the people. He
judged — and perhaps not unwisely, according to the wisdom of this world
— that a race oppressed as he proposed to oppress
not increase to any dangerous extent. If only the rate of
did not gain on the rate of increase in
Pharaoh firmly believed that if only
a state of bondage and oppression ever becoming more rigorous. Notice
that he had peculiar advantages, from his point of view, in making this
course of treatment successful. The Israelites had hitherto lived a free,
wandering, pastoral life (Genesis 47:3-6), and now they were cooped up
under merciless taskmasters and set to hard manual toil. If any human
policy had success in it, success seemed to be in this policy of Pharaoh.
Nevertheless it utterly failed, from Pharaoh’s point of view, for, whatever
depressing effect it had on the spirits of the Israelites, there was no
diminution in their numbers. The extraordinary and alarming increase still
went on. The more the taskmasters did to hinder
particular matter of the numerical increase, it seemed to prosper. It was all
very perplexing and unaccountable, but at last Pharaoh recognizes the
failure, even while he cannot explain it, and proceeds to a more direct
method of action, which surely cannot fail in a perfectly efficacious result.
He commands the men-children of
here he fails even in a more conspicuous and humiliating way than before.
He was a despot, accustomed to have others go when he said “Go,” and
come when he said “Come” Accordingly, when he commanded men to
become the agents of his harsh designs, he found obedient servants in
plenty, and probably many who bettered his instructions. But now he turns
to women — weak, despised women, who were reckoned to obey in the
most obsequious manner — and he finds that they will not obey at all. It
was an easy thing to do, if it had only been in their hearts to do it; for what
is easier (and I will say cowardly – CY - 2017) than to take away the breath
of a new-born infant? They do not openly refuse; they even pretend
compliance; but for all that they secretly disobey and effectively thwart
Pharaoh’s purpose. When we find others readily join with us in our evil
purposes, then God interferes to disappoint both us and them; but we cannot
always reckon even on the support of others. Notice lastly, that in carrying
out this policy of defence against
of the one course which might have given him perfect safety. He might have
desirable, it was one of the very things he wished to guard
a continual source of alarm and annoyance, a people beyond management,
an insoluble problem; but it never occurred to him that
with them away. It would have had a very bad look to send them out of the
land; it would have been a confession of inability and perplexity which those
proud lips, so used to the privileged utterances of despotism, could not bring
themselves to frame.
attaining the particular end which it had in view, it did not fail altogether;
nay, it rather succeeded, and that with a most complete success, seeing that
in doing so it effectually served the purpose of God. Pharaoh failed as
dealing with the children of
but in profound ignorance of all that this description involved. He did not
in their old age, contrary to all expectation and entirely of promise. But
Pharaoh succeeded in a way he did not anticipate, in so far as he was
dealing with the posterity of Jacob, the heirs of human infirmity. They did
become, in the course of time, slaves in spirit as well as in body, personally
so undeserving of freedom that when they had received it, they wished
immediately to go back to the creature comforts of
to its vomit, or a sow to her wallowing in the mire. (II Peter 2:22) Hence we
see that God served Himself, alike by Pharaoh’s failure and Pharaoh’s success.
Pharaoh’s failure showed how really and powerfully God was present with
His people. It was another instance of the treasure being in an earthen vessel
that the excellency of the power might be of God and not of men.
(II Corinthians 4:7) And Pharaoh by his very success in making the iron to
enter into the soul of
For a considerable time
and comfort from the relation of the children of
Joseph. But Joseph dies, and then little by little it becomes plain that
will be anything but a land of happiness. What the Israelites might have
become if Pharaoh had not persecuted them, it is vain to speculate, as vain
as to speculate what might happen to the sinner if he could go on
SINNING WITHOUT SUFFERING! We have to thank Pharaoh for
helping to set before us in such a clear way the bitter bondage of sin,
and the greatness of that deliverance by which God will liberate us from it.
God moves in a mysterious way. He fills
even in bondage and oppression their numbers are miraculously increased,
but He denies to them the strength whereby they might have overthrown
their oppressors. We can now see the why and wherefore of all this mysterious
dealing. By the work of His Son God fills us with a life which, through all the
discomforts of the present state, goes on undestroyed and still increasing into
a state where these discomforts will be unknown. But at the same time God
makes it clear that we cannot escape all the sufferings that belong to sin.
So far as we have sown to the flesh, we must also out of the flesh reap
corruption. (Galatians 6:8) Our joy is that, even in this world, amid all
tribulation and all reaping the temporal results of sin, there is also the
opportunity for another and better sowing, and the consequent opportunity
for another and better reaping.
Steps in Sin (vs. 15-22)
Bad men, like Balak (Numbers chapters 22 and 23), they would outwit
God; or rather, not realizing His existence, they would force fortune by a
combination of inventiveness, perseverance, and audacity. When one means
fails, they do not lay aside their design, but seek another means, never
cognizant of the fact that God is working against them. And their second plan
is almost always more wicked than their first. Pharaoh follows up the cruel
thought of grinding oppression by the still more cruel resolve to effect his
purpose through murder. And not liking to incur the odium of open murder,
he devises a secret system, a crypteia, which shall rid him of a certain number
of his enemies, and yet keep him clear, even of suspicion. The midwives,
had they come into his plan, would of course have said that the children
they murdered were stillborn, or died from natural causes. But this crafty
scheme likewise fails; and then what follows? His subtle brain invents a third
plan, and it is the cruelest and wickedest of all. Grown shameless, he openly
avows himself a murderer, takes his whole people into his confidence, (LIKE
THE LAWYERS AND JUDGES OF TODAY – CY – 2010) compels them,
so far as he can, to be a nation of murderers, and extends his homicidal project to
males. “Every son that is born ye shall
cast into the river.” The
according to his own religion, was a god, and no Egyptian corpse ever
defiled it; but everything must give way that the king may work his wicked
will, and the restraints of the national creed are as little regarded as those
of natural morality. Facilis descensus Averni (the descent into hell is easy)
the steps by which men go down the road to hell are easy; each is in
advance of the other, a little further on in guilt; there is no startling
transition; and so, by little and little, advance is made, and the neophyte
becomes a graduate in the school of crime.
A King’s Edicts (vs. 15-22)
MALES (v. 16). This was a further stage in the persecution of the
Hebrews. Happily the command was not obeyed. There is a limit even to
the power of kings. Stronger than kings is”
Ø The power of religion. “The midwives feared God” (v. 17).
Ø The force of patriotism. They were “Hebrew midwives” (v. 15), and
would not, even at the king’s bidding, be murderers of their race.
Ø The instincts of humanity. These came in to thwart both this and the
next expedient for destroying the children.
Ø The cunning of evasion. It is hopeless to attempt to force laws upon a
people determined not to obey them. The midwives had only to stay away,
and let the Hebrew women help themselves, to reduce the, king’s decree
to a dead letter. And this was probably what they did (v. 19). The result
shows how much better it is, even at some risk, to obey God than to obey
man. The midwives:
o Lost nothing.
o Retained a good conscience.
o Were signally honored and rewarded: God made them houses
(v. 21). Kindness shown to God’s people never fails of its
THE RIVER (v. 22). He must indeed have been a foolish king, if he
thought to secure obedience to so inhuman a decree. Parents would not
obey it. The work was of a kind which would soon grow hateful even to
those who might at first be willing to do it for reward. The hearts of the
most abandoned ere long sicken at murder. (abortion doctors?)Public
sympathy does not appear to have gone with the edict, and the number of
males at the Exodus makes it certain that it was not long in operation. Its
chief fruit was one little contemplated by the tyrant — the salvation and
courtly upbringing of Moses.
Ø How one cruelty leads to another, and increasingly hardens the heart. It
is told of Robespierre that when
before he took his place in the popular mind of
one of the bloodiest monsters of myth or history, he resigned his post
in a fit of remorse after condemning a criminal to be executed. “He is a
criminal, no doubt,” he kept groaning to his sister, “a criminal no doubt;
but to put a man to death!” (Morley).
Ø The impotence of human devices.
Ø The certainty of the Church surviving under the worst that man can do
against it,. The more Pharaoh persecuted, the more the people
multiplied and grew (vs. 12, 20).
The Way of Sin (vs. 15-22)
Ø Murder was intended from the first — the hope was that the people
should be diminished — but the intention was veiled.
Ø (vs. 15-16.) The crime was now looked in the face, but it was so
arranged that it might be done secretly. (Jesus said, “For every
one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light,
lest his deeds should be reproved.” - John 3:20)
Ø When this failed, then public proclamation was made that the murder
should be deliberately and openly done (v. 22). No man steps at first
into shameless commission of sin. Every sin is a deadening of the
moral sense and a deepening of shame.
Ø The refusal of the midwives was service to God.
o It prevented secret murder.
o It rebuked Pharaoh’s sin.
Ø Their refusal was justified because it sprang from obedience to a higher
authority: “they feared God.” Disobedience to human law must have a
higher sanction than a factious spirit.
Ø God gave them inheritance among His people. In that dread of sin and
heroism for the right they were fit allies for God’s people. Those who
separate themselves from evil God will lead into THE LIGHT!
The king appeals to his people and they make his crime their own. But
unjust laws will not protect us from GOD’S JUST JUDGMENT!
The wrong decreed by authority becomes by obedience A NATION’S
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