About Jesus      Steve Sweetman

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My Commentary On
The Book Of Exodus

 

ch. 1:1 - 22

 

Introduction

 

This commentary is based on the 1994 edition of the New International Bible.  Chapter titles in my commentary correspond to chapter titles in the New International Bible that make for easy comparison.  

 

The name "Exodus" means "the road out of".  Thus, this is the main story to the book.  The Jews enter Egypt as a family, but they leave as a strong nation.  After Joseph died, the Pharaoh's became progressively unhappy with Israel and so they enslaved them, as was foretold in earlier generations in Genesis 15.

 

When the departure from Egypt by the Jews took place is somewhat debatable.  The traditional date has normally been around 1445 BC, but with certain archeological finds, many scholars think the date is 1290 BC.    

 

When studying Egyptian history we note that there is no record of the Jews being in Egypt , which leads some liberal scholars to suggest that the Biblical record is simply a made up story.  However, we now have discovered a period of time in Egyptian history that we have little record of, and that is because the records were destroyed, or appears to be destroyed by the Egyptians themselves.  This would account for the reason why we don't see Jews in Egypt in Egyptian literature.  In this period of time where records have been destroyed, the Pharaohs who ruled Egypt were not Egyptians.  They were Semitic shepherd rulers.  This might be one reason why the Pharaoh was kind to Joseph since Jews were Semitic as well, assuming the Pharaoh was Semitic.  Semitic people originated far east of Egypt , in and around the Euphrates River.  This is where Abraham came from.   

 

Isaiah 52:4, in some texts, including the KJV state that the oppressing king of Egypt that oppressed Israel after Joseph died was an Assyrian.  The NIV does not state this.  The NIV says that God's people went down to Egypt, but "lately have been oppressed by Assyria ".  We've got two different thoughts here.  The KJV states that the oppressing king who was in power after Joseph died was an Assyrian.  The NIV jumps way into the future, far after Joseph's death,  by saying that the present day oppressor was an Assyrian.  My guess is that the NIV translators did not want to suggest that the Egyptian Pharaoh, or king, was Assyrian.  This "might" be due to a lack of understanding concerning the absence of Egyptian history, but that is a pure guess.  They probably think he was Egyptian.  So they relate the oppressing king to Isaiah's day instead of the days of the Exodus.  Why there is a difference between the two translations, I just don't know at this point in time.

 

All that being said, we now know there was a period in time when Egyptian Pharaohs were Semitic, not Egyptian.  At this point we have two opposing viewpoints.  One group of scholars say that this oppressing king that we will see in the first few chapters of Exodus is Semitic.  Others think he is Egyptian. Those who say he is Egyptian say that being Egyptian, he doesn't like Semites because Egypt had just come out of Semitic rule, and since the Jews were Semites, this Pharaoh didn't like them.  On the other hand, those who say this Pharaoh is Semitic say that he was insecure, and that the rise in numbers of Jews, although being slaves, was a threat to him, being a Semite himself.          

 

The problem comes down to this.  What time period did these Semitic kings rule Egypt ?  Depending on how you answer this question, will determine what nationality this Pharaoh was.     

 

I will comment on this later, but in Acts 7:18, when Stephen comments on this oppressing king, he speaks of this king being a "king of a different kind".  This might help confirm the idea that Egyptian rule had now switched from Semitic to Egyptian.   But, on the other hand, it might suggest just the opposite

 

As a side note, we learned from Genesis that the Egyptians did not like shepherds.  This might well be because of the ongoing hostility between the Semitic shepherd kings and the Egyptian kings. 

    

Conservative Bible teachers believe that Moses wrote the book of Exodus, along with the rest of the first five books of the Bible.  There are countless passages in both the Old and New Testament that say this.  This being said, it is clear that parts of these books could not have been written by Moses.  For example, he could not have written about his own death.  Conservative scholars and Jewish scholars believe that what Moses wrote was edited, probably by Ezra the scribe.  This is the same Ezra that wrote his own history book entitled Ezra.  Some suggest that Ezra didn't edited what Moses wrote, but Jeremiah edited it instead, or possibly someone else, although Ezra is the most common suggestion as being the editor. 

 

Concerning the number of Jews that fled Egypt, many Bible teachers say that there could have easily been up to two million Jews who fled the country.

 

Genesis 15:16 and following predicts that Israel would be enslaved in Egypt.  The text says that they would be enslaved all this time until the iniquity of the Amorties was filled up.  The idea that there is a measure of sin to be filled up, as in a cup can be seen in Jesus' comments in  Matthew 23:32.  He is blasting the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. He tells them to "fill up the measure of sin of your forefathers."  He's basically saying, "go all the way.  Sin more, so the whole cup of sin will be filled to the top, both your sin and your forefather's sin."   Paul says something similar in 1 Thessalonians 2:16 when he speaks of sin "being filled to the limit".  Many say the reason why Israel went into slavery was because of the Amorite sin of  Genesis 15;7 17.     

 

The Israelites Oppressed (ch. 1:1 - 22)

 

Verses 1 through 5 picks up on a bit of history.  It simply states the sons of Jacob that entered Egypt with him.  Verse 6 then mentions that Joseph and his brothers died in Egypt.

 

Verse 7 states that the children of Jacob grew in numbers while in Egypt and became a family to be reckoned with, fulfilling prophecy we saw in Genesis.  As I said earlier, some Bible teachers suggest that there might be up to two million Jews in Egypt by the time they fled the country.

 

Verse 8 tells us that a new king came to power that did not know Joseph.  The number of years from Joseph's death to this new king was about 30 years. 

 

In Acts 7:18 Stephen speaks of this new king.  He says "another" king came to power who did not know Joseph.  There are two Greek words for our one English word "another".  One means, "another of the same kind", and two means, "another of a different kind".  Stephen uses "another of a different kind".  Thus, this king, this Pharaoh could possibly be one of those Assyrian Semitic kings I spoke of in my introduction.  He was one of those "other kings", not an Egyptian.  Or, the converse might be true.  Maybe the line of Semitic kings had come to an end, and this Pharaoh was "another king", as in, an Egyptian king, not a Semitic king.  I personally can't say for sure what view point is right. 

 

Some people who say this Pharaoh was Semitic note in verse 9 the words "his people".  They say that "his people" refers to his the Semitic people.  They say this king is Semitic and therefore he's speaking to the Semites in Egypt, and not the national Egyptians.  But to me, that isn't conclusive.  Other people simply see the term "his people" to mean Egyptians.         

 

In verse 11 we see where the enslavement of Israel in Egypt begins.  The Jews were put under slave masters.  Two cities were set aside for the produce the Jewish slaves would gather for Pharaoh. 

 

In verses 12 and 14 we see that the more Egypt oppressed the Jews, the more babies they had.  Why this is so I don't know.  Maybe the Lord had something to do with this.  Because of all the babies being born, the Egyptian slave masters worked the Jews harder than ever.  They probably thought that both men and women would be too tired to attempt to make babies or even have more children.   The Jews worked in the fields, and worked hard at making bricks.  The NIV uses the word "ruthlessly" in relation to how hard the Jews were being worked.

 

It would seem to me that the great number of babies being born to Jewish women is from God Himself.  He said that the number of Jews would be so great that they could not be numbered, and so He is now beginning the process.

 

In verses 15 and 16 we see two Hebrew midwives mentioned.  Scholars believe that the Jews had more than two midwives, but only two were taken to the king at this point.  The king told them that they were to kill every baby boy that was born, and save every baby girl.  That would clearly prevent the growth of Israel through reproduction. 

 

Notice the word "stool" here, as in a "birthing stool".  The Egyptian system of childbirth is seen in these stools.  The stool was actually two rocks.  One rock was flat that the lady would sit on.  At one end of that flat rock was a bolder that the lady's back would press against as she pushed out the baby.    

 

In verse 17 we note that the midwives did not obey the king of Egypt.  They feared God, and so they could not kill the baby boys.   Here we have a clear example of how Godly people should live.  We respect our government, but when asked to do something against God's wishes, we obey God rather than man. The fear of God is very important in the lives of Christians. 

 

In verses 18 and 19 Pharaoh asks the midwives why they have disobeyed him.  Well, the last verse tells us that they did not obey the king because they feared God, but this isn't what they tell the king.  They say that the Hebrew women are vigorous in childbirth.  That is to say, they give birth real fast and the midwives can't get to them in time.  I really don't believe that this was the case.  The midwives just didn't want to tell the king the real reason.

 

There are a few people who say that a Christian can tell a lie if it favors the work of the Lord.  Some use this verse to support their claim.  But the verse does not say that God was in favor of this lie, assuming it was really a lie.  The text only states the historical record of this being said.  There is no moral comment on the midwives statement. So there is no defense in not telling the truth, even if it favors the work of the Lord.   

 

All of the above being said, not everyone believes these midwives were lying.  Some say that the Hebrew women did give birth quickly, and it might, and I say might, be a miracle from God to help them reproduce.  Some people suggest that the midwives deliberately took their time to go and help the birthing mother so by the time they got there the baby was born and hidden.  

 

In verse 20, despite the above lie by the midwives, the text states that God was kind to the midwives, and the Israeli women kept having babies despite all of the trouble they were going through.  Even though the Jews were slaves in Egypt, God was blessing them with children.

 

God judges His people. He disciplines His people.  During this judgment or discipline, He doesn't forsake them.  This is important to know when you think of Israeli history.  After 70 AD, God dispersed the Jews throughout the world, but He did not forget about them, and He certainly blessed individual Jews.  And, like the Jews in Moses day, the Jews in our day will inherit all the land that was promised to them when Jesus returns. 

 

Verse 20 says that God blessed the midwives.  Verse 21 tells us how He blessed them.  He gave them children of their own.  Without this blessing, it would be very hard for a woman to be a midwife.  Seeing all the other women having children and you not having children, especially in those days, would be very difficult for a woman.

 

In verse 22 Pharaoh commands his people, that is the Egyptians, that if they find any baby Jewish boys, that baby should be thrown into the river to die.  If the Jews didn't kill their boys themselves, the Egyptians would, and they were glad to do that, because by this time, the Egyptians hated the Jews.  This certainly reminds us of the time when Jesus was born.  Herod copied the Egyptian Pharaoh and commanded that all the baby Jewish boys under two years of age should be killed as well. 

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