Out of Bondage chapter 1

Chapter 1

First Moses lists the eleven male members of Jacob’s family who went to Egypt to live during the famine. He adds that there were seventy persons total produced by Jacob’s sons. Joseph was already in Egypt with his two sons.

Joseph and his whole generation died but the very productive offspring of Israel continued to reproduce and filled the land.

We remember what Genesis 15:13 – 16 says: “Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign country. They will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. But I will execute judgment on the nation that they will serve. Afterward they will come out with many possessions. But as for you, you will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will return here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its limit.”[1]

Hebrews were not well tolerated in Egypt and the Israelites were also shepherds which was an abomination to the Egyptians. The reigning king of Israel contemplated the disadvantage Egypt would have if all those shepherds decided to take over and put their own man on the throne or join with an enemy in a war. If he was a Hyksos king his capital was very close to Goshen. He talked it over with his advisors and they didn’t want to lose them as subjects but saw the need to control them. The plan was to work them so hard it would weaken them, but it seemed to make them stronger and more abundant.

Years passed and the Israelites continued to grow in number and strength. The plan wasn’t working and perhaps a new king was on the throne. Whatever the case the rulers devised a new plan they were sure would work to diminish the numbers of the Israelites. The plan showed how desperate and frightened the Egyptians were because it called for the Hebrew women who were midwives to destroy their own people.

“A good and honest life is a blessed memorial; a wicked life leaves a rotten stench.”[2]

Moses didn’t honor the kings of Egypt by naming them; but he recorded the names of the two Hebrew midwives the king ordered to kill the boy babies when they were born. These names mean beautiful and splendid and their refusal to slay the boy babies proved their characters to be beautiful and splendid. They even lied to the king about why the male babes were still alive – and Moses makes a point of telling his readers that God – Yahweh – was pleased with the midwives and gave them families of their own while the numbers of the Israelites continued to grow.

Pharaoh couldn’t trust the Hebrew mid wives to help him so he instructed all his people to drown all the boys in the Nile River.

The central theme of the following poem contrasts the inevitable decline of all earthly leaders and of the empires they build with their pretensions to greatness. Earthly kings fall into oblivion. Yahweh is the one and only King of kings and his kingdom is forever.

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Ozymandias by Percy Shelley

Yahweh is the hero of this story, but Shiphrah and Puah are the supporting frontrunners. They are the ones upon whom the reader’s attention is focused. We – and the people possessing the Promised Land – and learn a lot from their example. They feared their God, Yahweh, more than man, and they trusted him with their future and the future of the people of the Promise. They lived their faith in the place where Yahweh had placed them even though that faith required that they defied the highest power in the land..

Summary of Chapter 1

This beginning of the book of Exodus relates it to the book of beginnings and the Promise, the people of the Promise, and the Promised Land. We have a list of the sons of Israel who came out of the Promised Land and settled in Egypt. In Genesis Yahweh told Israel that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt for 400 years before Yahweh would take them back to the Promised Land.

Then Moses tells his readers how Israel’s position changed from favored relatives of Joseph to oppressed slaves.

When demoralizing and fear don’t diminish the strength and numbers of the Israelites the Egyptian rulers try to get rid of all the male babies to reduce that population by ordering the midwives to kill the male babies as they are being born. Moses names the honorable midwives to they will get the attention of his reader and never be forgotten. They are our example of how to walk with our God, Yahweh, in the paths of righteousness.

Prayer: Lord, it goes against the grain for my weak human spirit to turn my back on self-interest and let you lead me in all my actions. I pray constantly for you to help me to be dead to myself so you can live through me but so often find myself defending my own ego instead of seeking your will. I must put even my thoughts in submission to you, my God. Self-discipline is the hardest and most important discipline and I find myself failing at it so many times. I look to you alone to make me strong in the strength of your might as I surrender to your way and your will in my life. Thank you my precious God.

 

 

Things to think about

  1. Why do you think Moses listed the sons of Jacob who went into Egypt?
  2. Would the people going in to possess the Promised Land have remembered what Yahweh said to Jacob about his descendants being slaves in Egypt for so many years?
  3. What is the significance of the poem written by Percy Shelley?
  4. Who is the hero of this story?
  5. Who is the real King of kings?
  6. Why weren’t the Egyptian rulers able to cut the Israelite numbers down?
  7. What is the message for us and the people going in to possess the Promised Land?

 

 

[1] Net Bible Tagger Bible.org

[2] Proverbs 10:7

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