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Exodus 1-3 Listen
Pharaoh gets a little paranoid (Exodus 1:1-14)
1 Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.
2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,
3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,
4 Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.
5 And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.
6 And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.
7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.
8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.
9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:
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.
11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.
12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.
13 And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour:
14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.
From 70 family members (Genesis 46:26-27, see notes) in Egypt to an estimated 2,000,000 Hebrews living in Goshen - it was enough to cause this new Pharaoh to panic. He didn't know who Joseph was; he just knew, "Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:" (verse 9). That made him really, really uncomfortable. Pharaoh's fear was that Egypt's enemies might recruit the Hebrews to fight against Egypt (verse 10). So...Pharaoh enslaves the Hebrews and appoints cruel taskmasters over them to build his empire. There was still a problem though in verse 12, "But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel." Therefore, Pharaoh "made their lives bitter with hard bondage."
Incidentally, Abraham had been warned of this 400-year captivity of his "seed" in Genesis 15:13-16 (see notes). In that same passage, he was told that his "seed" would emerge from that captivity in verse 14 where God promised that they would "come out with great substance." Well...trouble is brewing down in Egypt, and here we go!
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:
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.
17 But the midwives feared God, 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?
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.
20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.
21 And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.
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.
"How are we going to control this population explosion among the Hebrews?" Pharaoh wondered. That's when he comes up with another lame solution in verses 15-16: Have the Hebrew midwives kill the Hebrew baby boys at birth. Result: The two Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, declined to follow through on Pharaoh's command; they lied to him in verse 19. Subsequently, verse 20 says that God "dealt well with them" (the Hebrew midwives) as a result of their successful duping of Pharaoh. Well, how about this solution then: Have his people (the Egyptians) throw all the boy babies into the river. Does it occur to you that this Pharaoh lacked skills in the area of strategic planning?
1 And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.
2 And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.
3 And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.
4 And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.
5 And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.
6 And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children.
7 Then said his sister to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?
8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child’s mother.
9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it.
10 And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.
Pharaoh's daughter finds a crying three-month-old Hebrew baby floating in the water in a homemade raft for one; the sight is very compelling. Moses' sister (probably Miriam) had kept an eye on the floating Moses and offers to get a nurse for the baby; she fetches Moses' own mother to do the job. Now, ironically, Pharaoh has a new grandson...and he's a Hebrew. As was the Hebrew custom (and apparently the Egyptian custom too), the name "Moses" reflected how Pharaoh's daughter came by the baby. "Moses" comes from a Hebrew verb meaning "to pull out" i.e. the water.
How do you suppose Pharaoh's daughter was so quick to identify Moses in verse 6 as "one of the Hebrews' children?" I'm just guessing here, but it was probably because Moses was circumcised, and Egyptian babies were not. When we get to Exodus 12 (see notes) on the occasion of their first Passover feast out of Egypt, all of the Hebrew men appear to have already been circumcised. Even in Egyptian bondage, established with Abraham back in Genesis 17:10 (see notes), circumcision was apparently still consistently practiced on newborn babies.
An interesting observation is probably worth noting here. There would have been an absence of Hebrew men later on in Moses' age bracket. According to Exodus 7:7, Aaron was three years older than Moses. Apparently Aaron was old enough to escape Pharaoh's death decree of Exodus 1:22. However, the fact that Moses' mother could no longer hide her child at three months old would indicate that the male babies at that time were scarce or non existent. We do not know how many years the male-baby death decree was implemented afterward. Since there were men younger than Moses in the Exodus, the practice must have been discontinued at some point.
Moses is not happy with what he sees (Exodus 2:11-15)
11 And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.
12 And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.
13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?
14 And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.
15 Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.
Moses does have it made in Egypt, but the sight of the persecution of his people grieves him. After he kills one of the abusive taskmasters over the Hebrews, he flees to Midian because Grandpa Pharaoh wants him dead. Whoa! It didn't take much to get on Pharaoh's bad side! Moses' new home, Midian, was on the other side of the Sinai Peninsula (east side), at least 200 miles from Egypt. According to Stephen's account in Acts 7:23 (see notes), Moses is 40 years old at this point.
Moses gets a new family (Exodus 2:16-22)
16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock.
17 And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.
18 And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon to day?
19 And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock.
20 And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread.
21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter.
22 And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.
While at the well in Midian, Moses assists some women in acquiring their water; the women had been hassled by some very rude shepherds. Their father, Reuel (aka. Raquel; aka. Jethro), is very impressed with Moses' gallantry; he directs them to invite him home, and he awards Moses one of his daughters, Zipporah, as his wife. Midian was the fourth son of Abraham by Keturah, so these Midianites were distant relatives. They named their first child Gershom. Now Moses is all settled down with his own family; it's a peaceful lifestyle. He settles into this lifestyle for the next 40 years. We know this by comparing Stephen's message in Acts 7:23 (see notes) with Exodus 7:7 (see notes) where we are told that Moses is 80 years old.
23 And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.
24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
25 And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.
Moses' adopted grandfather, the Pharaoh of Egypt, dies. God had regarded the groaning of the Hebrews and had respect toward their bondage. Notice verse 24 "And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob." A new day is about to dawn for the Hebrews; an unconditional covenant with God is about to be realized.
1 Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
3 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
4 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.
5 And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.
7 And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;
8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.
10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
11 And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
12 And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.
13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
16 Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:
17 And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.
18 And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.
19 And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.
20 And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.
21 And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty:
22 But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.
It is worth noting that Moses is shepherding his flock at the site of the giving of the law later on. Mount Horeb was a mountain range on the Sinai Peninsula; Sinai was one of its summits. While there, Moses sees the burning-but-not-consumed bush. From the bush, God speaks and tells him that he will lead the Hebrews out of Egypt and back to Canaan. Moses has a question though. "How do I convince the Hebrews to listen to me when I say let's pack up and leave?" God explains the plan to Moses - at least generally speaking: Moses will ask Pharaoh for a leave of absence for the Hebrews to head into the wilderness to sacrifice to their God; Pharaoh will say, "no!" God will "smite Egypt with all my wonders..." After that, the Egyptians will gladly let the Hebrews go; they'll even shower them with possessions as they leave. What God doesn't seem to mention here to Moses is that his greatest headaches will come from his own people, the Hebrews. I find it's best when we just follow God's plan one step at a time and leave the big picture to God, don't you? I'm thinking that if God had revealed the next 40 years to him that day at the burning bush, Moses might have been even less enthusiastic about going back to Egypt. Keep in mind, from the very outset of this exodus project, God explained to Moses that Pharaoh would resist their departure.
Two very significant words are found in this passage as God is talking to Moses. Moses expresses concern that the Hebrews may not be willing to follow him out of Egyptian bondage in verse 13, "And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?" God's reply to this very important question comes in verse 14, "And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." That's an interesting name for the God of the Hebrews, "I AM." Now let's roll ahead to Jesus' earthly ministry when he's in a verbal struggle with the scribes and Pharisees in John 8. Notice particularly John 8:57-58 (see notes), "Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am." Hey! That sentence doesn't seem to be grammatically correct! The word "was" there is translated from an "aorist" verb, indicating past, completed action. However, the words, "I am," reflect a redundancy in Greek (present tense implying continuous action) which literally expresses it this way, "I myself am." Undoubtedly, Jesus intended for that phrase to cause them to recall the words of God speaking out of the burning bush to Moses when he said, "I AM hath sent me unto you." In the very next verse (John 8:59) it says, "Then took they up stones to cast at him." They understood perfectly what Jesus was saying about his relationship to God.
Two notes of interest here. First: Canaan was northeast from Egypt; Mount Horeb (Sinai) was southeast. God told Moses in verse 12, "When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain." Later on, the arrival of the Hebrews at Mount Horeb was all in God's plan from the beginning. To be clear here: They were not lost! Second: the Israelites won't be leaving empty handed according to verse 22. The word translated "borrow" (KJV) in that verse contains no implication of a return of goods later on. It simply means that they will receive these things from the Egyptians on their way out.
Incidentally, Jesus quoted Exodus 3:6 to the Sadducees in Matthew 22:32, Mark 12:26 and Luke 20:37 (see notes) to prove the resurrection to those who did not subscribe to that doctrine.