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Deeper Commentary


Exo 1:1 Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, who came into Egypt (every man and his household came with Jacob)-
"Now these are the names" is the phrase used towards the end of Genesis (Gen. 46:8). Clearly the records are by the same editor / author, who is clearly Moses, according to how these writings are quoted in later scripture.

Exo 1:2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah-
Although Reuben was demoted from being firstborn, the list here seems to be in order of birth.

Exo 1:3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin-
The sons of Leah and Rachel are listed first. The sons of the concubines come secondly, perhaps reflecting how this was not God's ideal intention. What Jacob did was not right, but still God worked through his dysfunction to build up the foundation of His people. I suggested in commentary on Genesis that God's ideal intention was that Jacob marry Leah and have his children by her. But he insisted on also marrying Rachel, and had relations with his servant girls. He didn't act in marital life as God intended, but all the same God worked through it all. 

Exo 1:4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher-
Eleven sons are listed because these listed in :2-4 are those who came into Egypt; Joseph and his sons Ephraim and Manasseh were already in Egypt (:5).

Exo 1:5 All the souls who came out of Jacob’s body were seventy souls, and Joseph was in Egypt already-
LXX "seventy five". The Canaanite explanation of the family of the gods was that it contained a total of 70 gods – Ugaritic Tablet II AB 6.46 speaks of the “seventy sons of Asherah”. This is re-focused by the record of Genesis 10 – which speaks of 70 nations of men. Likewise Gen. 46:27 and Ex. 1:5 speak of the 70 sons of Jacob – and Dt. 32:8 says that the number of the Gentile nations was fixed “according to the number of the sons of God” or, “Israel” (according to some texts). The belief in the 70 gods of the Canaanite pantheon is therefore re-focused down to earth – where there were 70 sons of Jacob, 70 nations in the world around Israel, and Dt. 32:8 may imply that each is cared for by a guardian Angel in Heaven.

Exo 1:6 Joseph died, as did all his brothers, and all that generation-
He lived 110 years, which was not as long as his father Jacob, although he appears to have been more spiritual than his father. Length of life was not and is not the ultimate indicator of Divine blessing.

Exo 1:7 The children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly and multiplied, and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them-
The suffering of Israel at the time of the first Assyrian invasion of 2 Kings 15:29; Is. 9:1,3,4 is spoken of in terms of their experience in Egypt, which is clearly typical of the last days: "Thou hast multiplied the nation (as God did in Egypt - Ex. 1:7), and not increased the joy... thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder (the language of Israel in Egypt), the rod of his oppressor" (same word translated "taskmaster" in Ex. 1:11). Biblical history continually interconnects, demonstrating that the same Divine hand has worked throughout history, and likewise works in our lives according to the same style. See on Ex. 14:25; 15:21.

The situation was also a primary fulfilment of the promises to Abraham about the multiplication of the seed. Those same promises are made to us, and likewise have an element of fulfilment in this life, as well as in the Kingdom to come on earth at the last day.

Exo 1:8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who didn’t know Joseph-
"Know" seems used here in the sense of respecting Joseph- who had after all saved Egypt and done so much to establish the power of Pharaoh over the nation.

Exo 1:9 He said to his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more numerous and mightier than we are-
Clearly God had poured out His blessing upon Abrahams seed, until it seems there were more of them in Egypt than there were Egyptians- or at least, more than the members of the ethnic group then in power in Egypt.

Exo 1:10 Come, let us deal prudently with them, in case they multiply yet more and it happens that when any war breaks out, they also join themselves to our enemies, and fight against us, and escape out of the land-
Fear of possible consequence has led men to do the most awful things. So may crimes and murders are rooted in fear. And this horrific abuse of the Hebrews arose from this too. And we are to learn from this, and through faith live without fear, and all the bad things which fear leads to. 

Exo 1:11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens-
The taskmasters 'afflicted' Israel in their forced labour, the Hebrew meaning to browbeat/depress. These were exactly the tactics of Hitler's bully boys in the death camps. The Hebrew word translated "taskmasters" in the record of their persecutions is also used concerning Nebuchadnezzar (Is. 14:4) and peoples like Damascus, Tyre, Gaza etc. Concerning Israel's latter day deliverance from them, Zech. 9:8 reads, "I will encamp about mine house... because of him that passeth by (Passover language)... and no oppressor (same word "taskmaster") shall pass through them... for now have I seen" (cp. Ex. 3:7). Like the Nazis, the Egyptians seem to have excused their abuse of Israel with a concocted ideology. Stephen says that they "dealt subtly" with Israel, using the Greek word from which "sophistry" comes. Militant Islam has already developed an equivalent to this.


They built storage cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Raamses-
Seeing that all ultimately belongs to God, it is an utter delusion to think that we totally own anything. But the possession of wealth leads to just that illusion; because wealth is of itself a delusion. The very possession of wealth tempts us to amass more of it- it truly is potentially addictive of itself. The Hebrew word translated "treasure" is also that used for "store"- hence Ex. 1:11 AV "treasure cities", RV "store cities". The rich fool is a visual presentation of this fact; the more wealth is possessed, the stronger is the desire to store it, amass it- but not use it.

Exo 1:12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out. They were grieved because of the children of Israel-
I will argue throughout Ex. 1-15 that God's intention was that Pharaoh and Egypt should convert to Him. Israel at this time were worshipping the idols of Egypt and were far from Yahweh. But He blessed them by grace, and the more the Egyptians cursed them, the more the Israelites prospered. This was all from God, as part of His wider appeal to the Egyptians to accept Him by perceiving how Yahweh was with His people by grace- even if His own people had effectively rejected Him at the time. The same theme recurs in Ex. 1:20, where the attempt to slay the Hebrew babies results in the Hebrews growing even more.

Exo 1:13 The Egyptians ruthlessly made the children of Israel serve-
We must remember that all the criticisms and denunciations of 'Israel' are denunciations of Jacob, who primarily was the man Jacob, whose children shared his characteristics. Therefore in some ways we can feed back from the failures of Israel as a people and see the weakness of Jacob as a man. Thus the way Israel were made to "serve with rigour" in Egypt reflected the way Jacob served in the same way with Laban (Ex. 1:13,14), and thereby implies that Jacob was suffering for his sins and was also idolatrous as they were at that time (Ez. 20:8), while he served Laban.

Exo 1:14 and they made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and in brick, and in all kinds of service in the field; they ruthlessly made them serve in all their service-
The Passover, as the prototype breaking of bread, featured bitter herbs to remind Israel of their bitter experience in Egypt. The breaking of bread should likewise focus our attention on the fact that return to the world is a return to bondage and bitterness, not freedom. Israel didn't learn this lesson, they forgot the bitterness of Egypt, and longed to return to it.

"Slime" is the same word as "mortar" in Ex. 1:14, and "mortar" in Gen. 11:3 is the word translated "pitch" concerning how Moses' bulrush basket was made (Ex. 2:3). This conjures up the picture of Amram bringing home some mortar from the building site in order to make that ark.

Exo 1:15 The king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah-
The plan to slay the Israelite baby boys didn't apparently get too far, because there were six hundred thousand Hebrew men who left Egypt. So these midwives may have been very local to Pharaoh, perhaps amongst his servants. The command to kill the baby boys may therefore have just been quite localized. Puah, "one who cries out", would be representative of the Israelites as they cried out to Yahweh in their affliction. "Shiphrah" is LXX Zipporah.  

Exo 1:16 and he said, When you perform the duty of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birth stool; if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live-
One Egyptologist claims that "two or three days before the expected time of delivery, the midwife conveys to the house a chair of a peculiar form, upon which the patient is to be seated during the birth". The idea that they 'did the duty to the Hebrew women' could suggest these women were Egyptians, who came to fear Israel's God.  

Exo 1:17 But the midwives feared God, and didn’t do what the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the baby boys alive-
See on :19. Apparently they didn't kill a single child. This suggests that the plan to kill the babies was very localized and didn't work; see on :15.

Exo 1:18 The king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said to them, Why have you done this thing, and have saved the boys alive?-
We do well to ask ourselves questions as we read the Biblical narrative. What should they have said? What could they have said? What were their options as they stood there, in fear for their lives? We sense if it were Daniel and his friends, the answer may have been a blunt statement that they feared God more than the king. But they flunked that and came out with a lie, in that what they said may have been partly true but was a lie in that it wasn't the full truth. And God blessed them for that. We see here the eagerness of God to respond to any sign of faith or movement toward Him, even if it is far less than ideal.

Exo 1:19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women aren’t like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous, and give birth before the midwife comes to them-
It is possible that the midwives were in fact Egyptians who were told to take responsibility for the Hebrew births. But midwives were generally not used in primitive societies, as they aren't today. So these women may have been telling more or less the truth, although it was an untruth insofar as it was not the complete truth; for the women "feared God" (:17) and therefore disobeyed the king. As with the lie of Rahab being quoted in the New Testament as an act of faith, and the lies of the Gibeonites enabling them to enter the people of God, we see how morality and ethics are not all so black and white in reality. As discussed on :12,20, this statement that the Hebrew women were more vigorous than the Egyptians was another nudge of the Egyptians towards recognizing that there was something special about the Hebrews; their God was so gracious that He blessed them, even though they were patently unfaithful to them.

Exo 1:20 God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied, and grew very mighty-
This was all from God, as part of His wider appeal to the Egyptians to accept Him by perceiving how Yahweh was with His people by grace- even if His own people had effectively rejected Him at the time. The same theme recurs in Ex. 1:12.

Exo 1:21 It happened, because the midwives feared God, that He made them families-
The natural reading of this would be that the midwives were barren but had children after his incident. But the Hebrew phrase "made them families" isn't usually used to mean 'to give children / conception'. If that were the intention, another phrase would have been used. This is the phrase translated "provide for my own family" (Gen. 30:30), "establish a family" (1 Sam. 25:28; 2 Sam. 7:11). The sense is that their families were established. And yet there is no Biblical record of the families of these two women. Perhaps this potential blessing was disabled by subsequent failure within the families.

Exo 1:22 Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, You shall cast every son who is born into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive-
As noted on :15, this appears to be rather localized. For there was no "river" in Goshen where most of the Hebrews lived. We will read of how the family of Moses lived near to Pharaoh's palace, near the River Nile, to which Pharaoh and his daughter went regularly. The command was now given to all Pharaoh's people, i.e. his own ethnic group who were in power. But this too failed to stop the growth of God's people.