Exodus 1



                        THE OPPRESSION OF ISRAEL IN EGYPT


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 Egypt; and

ü      The death of Joseph.


  • Vs 1-4 are a recapitulation of Genesis 35:22-26; 
  • v. 5, of Genesis 46:27; and
  • v. 6, of Genesis 50:26.


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.


1Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt;

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

different sections of a single treatise. Which came into Egypt. The next

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

children of Israel which came into Egypt with Jacob: they came every man

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

have quitted Egypt with Moses (ch. 12:37). The “household” of

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.)



Removal to Egypt (v. 1)


This early instance of emigration shows:


  • How THE CALL to leave the land of one’s fathers may sometimes be:


Ø      Unexpected.  Jacob little expected to end his days in Egypt.

Ø      Trying. Canaan, the land of promise, where were the graves of his

ancestors, etc.

Ø      Mysterious. An apparent reversal of the lines on which Providence had

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.


  • What CONSOLATIONS the emigrant may carry with him.


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 God’s bidding. Israel’s residence in Egypt secured

for the tribes:


o       A home.

o       Provision.

o       Room to grow.

o       Education in arts and letters.

o       Valuable discipline


all preparatory to settlement in Canaan, and the fulfillment of their

spiritual mission to the world.


Ø      The terminus is not Egypt, but Canaan. Jacob never saw again the

Canaan he had left, but, dying in faith, he and his sons became heirs

of the better Canaan. Whatever his earthly destination, let the emigrant

keep in view a “better country, that is, an heavenly” (Hebrews 11:16).


  • The ADVANTAGES of emigration.


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

of subsistence.

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

true religion.


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 Israel, which came into Egypt with Jacob.  (v. 1)


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

note on Genesis 46:15.) “for Joseph was in Egypt already.” Joseph,

i.e., has not been mentioned with the other sons of Jacob, since he did not

“come into Egypt with Jacob,” but was there previously. The transfer of

the clause to the commencement of the verse, which is made by the Septuagint,

is unnecessary. 


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

them into Egypt.



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)


  • THE ORDER OF THE NAMES. The order in which the names are

            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.


  • THE NUMBER OF THE NAMES. The main purpose of the writer was

      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!



Joseph in Egypt (v. 5)


Exodus here points back to Genesis. How had he come there? Joseph’s descent into

Egypt is at the root of the whole of Exodus, underlies it and is its substratum. 

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.


  • THE MEN. Here we are struck —


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       Judah’s lewdness;

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

brother into Egypt, and afterwards, to screen their fault, of imposing

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. Judah is from the first a leader. He and Joseph

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,

Judah’s capacity of rule, Levi’s zeal, Dan’s agility, Benjamin’s fierceness,

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.


  • THEIR NUMBER. The number twelve not to be regarded as

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 Israel, and therefore to

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)


The descent into Egypt was:


1. An ending.

2. A beginning.


It closed one chapter in God’s providence, and opened a new one. It

terminated the sojourn in Canaan; brought to a harmonious conclusion the

complicated series of events which separated Joseph from his father, raised

him to power in Egypt, wrought for the purification of his brethren’s

character, and prepared the way for the ultimate settlement of, the whole

family in Goshen. It laid the foundation for new historical developments.

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 diedthe 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 the earthly Canaan loomed something

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

their households who accompanied them into Egypt.





                        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 Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly,

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

them.”  The multiplication of the Israelites in Egypt from “seventy

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

length of time- during which the stay in Egypt continued; and secondly, the

sense in which the original number of the children of Israel in Egypt is said

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

descent into Egypt and the deliverance under Moses.


With respect to the number of those who accompanied Jacob into Egypt,

and were assigned the land of Goshen for a habitation (Genesis 47:6), it

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

Israelite family which went down into Egypt was accompanied by its

“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 Egypt would have amounted to at least 2000 persons.


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

than 500 persons when they went down into Egypt, the people would,

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

of Goshen.”a broad tract of very fertile country, became tolerably thickly

peopled, and the rate of increase gradually subsided. Still, as the Delta was

a space of from 7000 to 8000 square miles, and the land of Goshen was

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

square mile.


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

that, about the time of the Hebrew sojourn, there was in Egypt a subject

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

suppose that there were in Egypt, at one and the same time, two subject

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 Egypt, of

whom the Aperu were beyond all doubt the chief, “amounted certainly to a

third, and probably still more,” of the whole population (‘History of

Egypt,’ vol. 2. p. 100, E.T.), which is usually reckoned at from 7,000,000

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

waterfloodand seeth “the end from the beginning” (Psalm 29:10;

Isaiah 46:10). From God’s standpoint we have here as of main consequence:


  • A LIST OF NAMES - vs. 1-5. Names of certain emigrants. More in

them than seems at first sight. If I say, “William, Arthur etc., came to

England at such and such a time,” not much. If I say, “William, a great

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

souls,” but:


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?


  • HOW THE DESCENDANTS PROSPERED.  (v. 7)  So — through

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, even in Egypt, ensured some knowledge of

warfare. Goshen, the border land — cf. “the borders’ in the wars with

Scotland. Perhaps Joseph had purposely placed his brethren as a defense to

Egypt against raids from the desert.] Families grew into tribes, and the

tribes learned their first lessons in discipline and war. Egypt, God’s

Aldershot — the training-ground for his armies. Canaan had to be

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).


8 “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.” 

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

probable period of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt, and to which of them is it

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 Egypt to allow time for the multiplication

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

of from two to three centuries the benefits conferred by Joseph upon Egypt, more

especially as they were conferred under a foreign and hated dynasty, were forgotten.



  • JOSEPH FORGOTTEN.   (v.8) - “The evil that men do lives after them — the

      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 Israel are

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

Cypselidae of Corinth. The constructions of the last Tarquin are thought to have

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

endanger the Egyptian supremacy in Western Asia” (Brugsch, ‘History of

Egypt,’ vol. 2. p. 2). Both Rameses I. and his son Seti had almost

immediately after their accession to engage in a war, which was rather

defensive the, offensive, with the Khita, or Hittites, who were the great

power of Syria (ib. pp. 9, 15, 16). At the commencement of his reign, Seti

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.”

The Pharaoh already fears that the Israelites will quit Egypt. As men of

peaceful and industrious habits, and in some cases of considerable wealth

(Joseph. ‘Ant. Jud.’ 2:9, § 1), they at once increased the strength of Egypt

and the revenue of the monarch. Egypt was always ready to receive

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

king, shall be sent back to Egypt (‘Records of the Past,’ vol. 4. p. 30).


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,

‘History of Egypt,’ vol. 1. p. 376.) To afflict them with their burdens.

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

(2:158), which was not far from Bubastis, now Tel-Basta. Its exact site is

uncertain, but if identical with the Thou, or Thoum, of the ‘ Itinerary of

An-tonine,’ it must have lain north of the Canal of Necho, not south, where

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.

having built a Pa-Ra, a Pa-Ammon, and a Pa-Phthah in Nubia (Brugsch,

‘History of Egypt,’ vol. it. p. 90). Pa-Tum itself has not been found among

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.

The city was, according to Brugsch, a sort of suburb of Tanis (‘History of

Egypt,’ vol. 2 p. 94). It was a magnificent place, and under Rameses II.

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.

the country about Tanis (Psalm 78:12, 43).



A Multiplying People and a King’s Fears (vs. 7-11)


The increase of Israel in Egypt excited Pharaoh’s jealousy. They were a

useful people, and he dreaded their departure (v. 10). But their staying

was almost equally an occasion of uneasiness. Their position in Lower

Egypt, so near the frontier, made them dangerous in case of wars.

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 Israel, yet these alone would not account for it.

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       Far-seeing.

o       Politic,

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 Egypt. His policy thus

outwitted itself, proved suicidal, proclaimed itself to be folly.


  • LEARN:


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 children of Israel.”  The word grieved

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

forcibly, if inelegantly — “They had a horror of the children of Israel.”



God the Protector of His people (vs. 7 and 12)


  • THE MULTIPLICATION OF ISRAEL. All increase is of God, and

            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).


  • EFFECT OF PERSECUTION ON ISRAEL. (vs. 7,12) - Note, that the effect

      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

            Cyprus, and Antioch preaching the word” (Acts 11:19). Persecution

            brought Paul to Rome, and enabled him to proclaim the Gospel and make

            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

done in opposition to His will help to work it out. In Israel’s case, the hard

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”

(Exodus 16:3) and other delights of Egypt, and so make them content to

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 Israel to serve with rigor: 

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

present passage was Seti I., the bricks made may have been destined in the

main for that great wall which he commenced, but did not live to complete,

between Pelusium and Heliopolis, which was to secure his eastern frontier

(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).

These, in Egypt, are in some respects light, e.g. preparing the land

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.




Israel in Egypt (vs. 7-14)


The life of a people, like that of an individual, to a great extent is shaped by

circumstances. In Canaan the Israelites might learn hardihood, but no room

for much growth; few opportunities for national organization; the tendency

would be for the families to separate, each seeking pasturage for its own

flocks (compare  Abraham and Lot – Genesis 13). To become a nation they

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.


To attain this object God led His people into Egypt. [Compare:


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:


  • PROSPERITY AND ITS USES. Compare  v. 7. In Goshen life was simple

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 Egypt, and where the population still increases more rapidly

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.


  • ADVERSITY AND ITS USES. Vs. 10-14 show how trouble came

to Israel, and the nature of the trouble which did come. Originating in

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 Israel had, to some

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

morally better;

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.




Egypt’s Sin (vs. 8-14)



DISASTER. The story of Egypt’s suffering begins with the story of

Egypt’s injustice. There was wisdom in Pharaoh’s statesmanship, and a

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 Egypt was “grieved because of the children of

Israel.” The way of wickedness is through a deepening flood.


  • WRONG GROWS INTO GREATER WRONG (vs. 13-14). Egypt had

gone too far to retreat. Israel’s enmity was now a certainty, and they must

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)


  • HOW EFFECTED? Doubtless, partly by craft, and partly by force. To

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.

Liberty once forfeited, they were at Pharaoh’s disposal, to do with as he

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.


  • WHY PERMITTED? This question may be answered by viewing the



Ø      Is a punishment for sins. The Hebrews had doubtless greatly corrupted

themselves in Egypt, and had become in their masses very like the people

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 of Israel. The nation is allowed to sink into a

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

portion of Israel. For why this long hiding of God’s face — this keeping

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 Israel was afflicted. The faith which endured this trial

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

successive generations:


o        To wean the people’s hearts from Egypt.

o        To make them willing to leave it.

o        To make the thought of Canaan sweet to them.

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        the hearts of Israel would naturally have clung to the fleshpots;

o        their hopes would have been forgotten;

o        even their God would in time have been renounced.






                     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

in Egypt, as in most countries except Rome; but the royal command would legitimate

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

subject to cast into the waters of the Nile any Hebrew male child of whose

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 Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the

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

Authorized Version.)


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

other. In modern Egypt, he says, “two or three days before the expected

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

deceiving the king. “and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but

saved the men children alive.”  18 “And the king of Egypt called for the

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

                                                            (v. 17)


 (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

a reward.


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 of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men

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 Israel, to mark the Hand that was producing this

extraordinary ,increase in the numbers of the people. Their very

professional experience was of a kind to impress them deeply with the fact

that Israel was increasing at a rate not to be accounted for by the ordinary

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

affliction of Israel increased, it became still clearer that God was with the

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)




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




   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.

460 c). In Syria and Carthage they were constantly offered to idols. At

Rome, unless the father interposed to save it, every child was killed. It

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,

there were many branches of the Nile, yet we hear constantly of “the river”

(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.




The Prosperity of Israel (vs. 1-22)


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

the prosperity of Israel in v. 7. It is a very emphatic statement indeed,

summoning us m the most imperative way to a special notice of this

remarkable prosperity. Let us therefore take a general view of Israel’s

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

favor towards Israel, and His peculiar watchfulness over it.


Ø      The wonderful way in which God had brought a whole family into

Egypt, and provided for their comfortable settlement in the land. Families

usually get scattered; but here are the children of Israel and children’s

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 Canaan and Egypt, the Lord had

preserved these twelve men so that not one of them was lacking in his

contribution to the future excellency of Israel.


Ø      The name by which they were described — the children of Israel. God

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 Israel, as if to keep before our minds both his

natural character and also his new position and privileges gained in the

memorable wrestling at Peniel. These twelve men, the fathers of the tribes,

were children of Israel as well as sons of Jacob. Jacob himself had done

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

name of Israel. It was a name to be transmitted from them to their children,

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

of Israel’s prosperity, and to the Divine and miraculous origin of it, all the

more valuable because he gives His evidence unconsciously. The more we

consider his unaffected alarm and his continuous and energetic efforts to

crush Israel, the more we feel what a real and Divine thing Israel’s

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

in Israel how our true resources come, not from things outside of us, but

from the quality of the life which He puts within. Hence the prosperity of

Israel was not the result of industry, personal ability, and fortunate

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 Israel in Egypt required a special influx of Divine

energy. We have not only unmistakable indications of the prosperity of

Israel; it is an equally important thing to notice that this prosperity in its

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 Israel to go

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)


  • THE PRINCIPLE OF THE POLICY. This is indicated in vs. 9-10. It

was a policy of selfish fear, proceeding upon an unconcealed regard for the

supremacy of Egypt. Whatever interfered with that supremacy was to be, if

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 Israel deserved to be dealt with in this merciless

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 Canaan, instead of blending with the

bulk of Egypt, would keep persistently separate and increase with such

alarming rapidity? Seeing that such unexpected things have already

happened, what may not be feared in the future? Who knows what allies

Israel may ultimately find, and what escape it may achieve? Thus from this

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,

injustice, and oppression, than by all his frantic attempts to destroy Israel.

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,



  • THE WORKING OUT OF THE POLICY. The thing aimed at was to

keep the numbers of Israel within what were deemed safe bounds; and to

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 Israel would assuredly

not increase to any dangerous extent. If only the rate of increase in Israel

did not gain on the rate of increase in Egypt, then all would be safe.

Pharaoh firmly believed that if only Egypt could keep more numerous than

Israel, Egypt would be perfectly secure. Therefore he put these people into

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 Israel, the more, in this

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 Israel to be slain from the womb. But

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 Israel, Pharaoh never seems to have thought

of the one course which might have given him perfect safety. He might have

expelled Israel altogether out of his coasts. But, so far from deeming this

desirable, it was one of the very things he wished to guard against. Israel was

a continual source of alarm and annoyance, a people beyond management,

an insoluble problem; but it never occurred to him that Egypt would be better

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.


  • THE TOTAL RESULT OF THE POLICY. Though it failed in

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 Israel. He called them the children of Israel,

but in profound ignorance of all that this description involved. He did not

know that Israel was the son of him who was born to Abraham and Sarah

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

almost immediately to go back to the creature comforts of Egypt like a dog

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 Israel, was unconsciously working a way to make the

stay of Israel in Egypt as full a type as possible of THE TYRANNOUS

BONDAGE OF SIN!   As Egypt presented its pleasant side at first, so does sin.

For a considerable time Egypt looked better than Canaan. There had been corn

in Egypt; there had been a land of Goshen; there had been a reflected honor

and comfort from the relation of the children of Israel to the all-powerful

Joseph. But Joseph dies, and then little by little it becomes plain that Egypt

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 Israel with a strength whereby

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

all the males. “Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river.” The Nile,

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.


  • LEARN:


Ø      How one cruelty leads to another, and increasingly hardens the heart. It

is told of Robespierre that when judge at Arras, half-a-dozen years

before he took his place in the popular mind of France and Europe as

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

Egypt’s sin is set at last in the light of Egypt’s desolation. Obedience to

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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