Exodus 1:1-2:10

The book of Exodus opens with a recapitulation of the sons of Jacob, and with the fact that not only Joseph died but all his brethren and all that generation. But in spite of this their descendents multiplied exceedingly. God was with them and they grew to be a powerful people in the land of Goshen.

As the years lengthened out, a great change came over the whole situation, occasioned by the rising up of a new king, who "knew not Joseph." This expression may not mean that he was unaware of his existence but rather that, regarding him as an interloper and an oppressor, he ignored him altogether.

During the last century or so, our knowledge of Egyptian history has been greatly increased by the discovery of many monuments and other records of the past, coupled with the discovery of the secrets of their hieroglyphic writing, permitting it to be deciphered. It now seems certain that not very long after the death of Joseph the rule of the "Hyksos," or "Shepherd kings," came to an end. There was an uprising of the real, native Egyptians, which thrust them out and put a representative of their ancient dynasties on the throne. Joseph, being allied in race with the Shepherd kings, was of course anathema to the new rulers, and the people of Israel were regarded in a similar light and therefore as a potential danger for Egypt.

Verses 8-10, then, evidently refer to this state of things that developed as a century or two rolled by, and it led to a complete change in their fortunes. Egypt had been to them a place of refuge, a kindly sanctuary in the time of famine and affliction. It now became to them the house of bondage. It became the "smoking furnace" that Abraham had seen when the "horror of great darkness" fell upon him, as recorded in Genesis 15: 12. They were enslaved building treasure cities for Pharaoh under the taskmasters.

This did not, however, hinder what God had purposed. Verse 12 records that, "the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew." So here was an illustration and verification of the word uttered by the Psalmist, "Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress" (Ps. 4: 1). Pharaoh's efforts at suppression were completely neutralized by the abundant increase that God gave.

They did however succeed in making their lives "bitter with hard bondage" in all manner of rigorous service. Egypt is clearly a type of the world, and one of the first steps into spiritual blessing is when the world, that once fascinated us as the scene of our pleasures, is turned for us into a place of bitter bondage. Sin brings bitterness in its train and we cannot escape it. We shall see this presented again in this typical history recorded in Exodus, for in Exodus 12: 8, we read of the "bitter herbs," with which the Passover lamb had to be eaten; and again in Exodus 15: 23, we read of the "bitter" waters of Marah, that met them directly they entered the wilderness. Happy for us, it is, when "the pleasures of sin" lose their attraction and instead the bitterness of sin fills our souls.

The latter part of the first chapter reveals the desperate measures taken by Pharaoh in the effort to stem what God was doing. His first effort to destroy the male children failed since the fear of God was on the midwives. His second effort, that of casting all the male babies into the river, which was entrusted to the people generally, looked much more like achieving a complete success.

But we open Exodus 2, and we at once discover two things. First that there were still among the children of Israel men and women of faith. This is made plain in Hebrews 11: 23, where the faith, not of Moses, but of his parents is cited. Moses was born and, according to our chapter, his mother hid him for three months, seeing he was a "goodly child." The verse in Hebrews reveals that his father as well as his mother saw that he was "a proper child," and having the eye of faith fixed on God, they were not afraid of the king's commandment. A greater than Pharaoh commanded their allegiance.

The second thing we notice is that again God makes the wrath of man to praise Him. The wicked design of the king prepared the way for the future deliverer of Israel to be brought into his own house and court, and gain an experience of Egyptian customs and ways that stood him in good stead, when, as the fruit of God's discipline he was ready to act in the name of Jehovah. The story of Moses in the ark of rushes is so well known that one need hardly call attention to the skill of the Divine hand, which ordered that Moses should be nursed by his own mother, that she should be paid wages for doing so, and that finally he should be adopted by Pharaoh's daughter. Little did the Pharaoh of that day think that his design of death was preserving in life the man whom God would use in the days of his successor to overthrow the might of Egypt. But so it was.

Pharaoh's daughter called him Moses, meaning, "Drawn out," because she drew him out of the river. It was however an appropriate name since God had drawn him out, or rather called him out, to be a servant of His in a very special way.

In Exodus we are only told as to Moses so much as suits the purpose of this book, recording Israel's typical redemption from Egypt. Passing from verse 10 of chapter 2, to verse 11, we read what came to pass "in those days," and we might suppose that the incident recorded took place soon after he came under the protection of Pharaoh's daughter. From the address of Stephen, recorded in Acts 7, we learn that many years, probably more than 20, elapsed between those two verses. He attained to greatness, but it is passed over in silence as far as Exodus is concerned.

Stephen said: "Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds." This informs us that he was what the world would call a man of genius. Not a few men can be found who are good talkers—they have oratorical gifts, but are hardly men of action. Others there are, whose ability is seen in what they accomplish. Their actions are wise and powerful, but their powers of speech are small. The man who shines in both spheres is a rarity.

In Moses three things were combined—learning, oratory and action. We might have said: Here is a man fully equipped for God's service! But it was not so!