In our study of exodus chapter one, we will look at Egypt's dual role throughout the Bible. The nation would become known as a place of refuge as well as a prison for God's people. We will examine this and apply it to our lives as we walk with Christ.
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These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family:
At the end of the book of Genesis, we saw how Jacob (Israel) went to Egypt in search of food during a time of drought. This becoming a refuge during times of trouble is the first of Egypt's biblical roles concerning God's people. This role would be repeated as Jesus' parents would take Him to Egypt shortly after His birth to escape the king's order of death.
Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher.
Here, we have the list of the sons that traveled with Jacob to seek refuge in Israel. The order should be noted as they are not listed in the order of birth. The children of Jacob's wives are listed first in order and then the children of their servants are listed in order.
The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all: Joseph was already in Egypt.
We see that a relatively few people entered the land of Egypt (the refuge). In the number seventy, we see the promise that, at the end of a time, God will establish divine order on the earth. God's people were entering Egypt humbled by drought but, as we shall see, they will be raised up as His chosen people. This was a picture of the humble coming of Jesus and His being raised in honor from the grave (see Philippians 2).
Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.
What started as a trip for food would become a four hundred year period of time. During that time, life and death continued but the population of Israelites went from about seventy to between two and five million people. God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be numerous and that promise is being fulfilled.
Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. 'Look,' he said to his people, 'the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.'
As life continued in Egypt the old king that had shown Joseph favor died and was replaced. This new king did not know what Joseph had done for Egypt and thought of the Israelites as possible enemies. This ignorance of what Joseph had done for them brought fear and this fear caused the Egyptians to change from being a refuge to becoming a prison for the Israelites. The same thing can happen in our walk with the Lord (if we allow it). Fear is not of God and, if we let it into our hearts, it can lead us to do things that we would not normally do. When we face troubles, our reaction can be to remember what God has already done on our behalf and have faith in Him or we can act in fear on our own.
So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.
Fear makes men do some very evil things and here we see that the Egyptians' fear drove them to abuse the people of God. We might ask the question: Why would God allow this? We can look back and see that God was at work in growing His people but, at the time, they had to have been wondering what had happened and whether God had abandoned them. This same type of persecution has come before many large moves of God. We saw this same thing happen in Jerusalem after the death of Jesus Christ. God had the disciples concentrated around Jerusalem for a time to grow but, at the proper time, God allowed them to be persecuted in order to get them to leave their refuge and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. The same pattern is happening even now as it seems that persecution of Christians is happening all over the world. The bad news is that this will get worse but the good news is that a major move of God follows these periods of severe persecution. We will see this again with the 144,000 witnesses and the great revival that is described in Revelation 7.
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 'When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.'
We see much the same thing in the world today where many countries limit the number of children that a family can have because of a fear of over population. In other parts of the world, we see innocent children killed before they are born because of a fear that they cannot be supported or that they will cause problems for the parent. This is given the name "abortion" or "choice" instead of murder and is even sanctioned and approved by governments and courts. The good news is that Jesus died for those who have this done as well as the rest of us.
The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, 'Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?' The midwives answered Pharaoh, 'Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.' So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
Because the midwives feared God they disobeyed Pharaoh and let the boys live. They even went so far as to make an excuse when asked about it by the king. Because of their obedience to God, the Israelites became even more numerous and God blessed the midwives and gave them families. There are some (even pastors and leaders of the church) who blindly follow the orders of the government and even tell their congregations that God expects them to do the same. Here, we see just the opposite in the fact that God blessed the midwives for their disobedience. This may not seem like such a big deal right now but, in the last days, governments are going to become more and more corrupt. Eventually, all men will have to decide to obey them or God.
Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: 'Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.'
Pharaoh gave up on the midwives and instead decreed that all boys born to the Hebrews should be thrown into the Nile River.