It continues to be a wonderful task to exposit the Old Testament. I preached through the book of Exodus in the second half of 2018 verse by verse and paragraph by paragraph. We left no word unread and did not skip the exposition of any section. It is a wonderful exercise for myself to go back now, chapter by chapter, and review the wonderful truth of this book. I pray that it is as beneficial for you, the reader, as it has been for me. More resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com
The title of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible is “Names.” It is so called, because that is how the book begins:
1 Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.
The sons of Israel lived in the land of Egypt for 430 years, and during that time, God caused them to greatly multiply. As a people, they had become a mighty nation, spreading out throughout the land of Egypt.
8 Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
This king was likely a Hyksos king, who took over Egypt for a period. As a foreigner, the king would not have known much about Joseph and his family. He was only worried that this people would be able to overpower him.
9 He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. 10 Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.”
The king calls his people to deal with the people of Israel wisely lest they were to continue multiplying and be able to join with the Egyptians and oust them from the land. The idiom translated here as “depart from the land” literally says “they will go up from the land.” In Hosea 2:1-2, this same phrase is used to mean that the people will multiply. It seems to picture the people growing up as a plant from the land. The king of Egypt feared the people of Israel, that they would continue to increase in might.
11 So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. 13 The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; 14 and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.
So the people, under the leadership of the Pharaoh, afflicted the Israelites with hard labor. The Israelites built the storage cities for Pharaoh. However, not even hard labor hindered the fruitfulness of the Israelites, for the harder they were worked, the more they multiplied. So the Egyptians continually made the labor harder and the lives of the Israelites more bitter.
15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; 16 and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.”
The king resorted to infanticide in order to control the population of the Israelites. His plan was probably to diminish the male population so that the females would be married off outside of the nation and be assimilated. What is fascinating here is that the names of the Hebrew midwives are the first characters named in this narrative. The parents of the baby were not named, nor the king of Egypt. But these midwives’ names were preserved in the biblical narrative. Why? Because:
17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.
The midwives feared God more than they feared Pharaoh. Their allegiance was with God, and so they defied the orders of Pharaoh. This is the kind of faith God would later desire from Moses and the Israelites throughout Exodus. The defiance of the midwives did not go unnoticed.
18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.”
The midwives made sport of the king and his people, implying that the Hebrew women were superior to the Egyptians. The Pharaoh, who supposed himself a god, was powerless against these women, and could not answer them! His plan was thwarted, and the people continued to multiply and increase in strength:
20 So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. 21 Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.”
Since the midwives feared God, He gave them households in Israel, and established them. So Pharaoh commanded the people to kill their sons by throwing them into the Nile River. Already, Pharaoh has been shown to be powerless to stop the people of Israel from multiplying and becoming mighty. No matter what he throws at them, the people continue to be fruitful and fill up the land.
Pharaoh was working against the Almighty God who had made a covenant with Abraham that He would make his descendants as the sand of the seas. In the years that they were in Egypt, God increased their number so that there were approximately two million Israelites. And He was continuing to expand that number at an incredible rate.
Next, God began to fulfill the promise of land by beginning the process of delivering Israel from Egypt to take them to the Promised Land. Of course, we know that the people of Israel were not all like the midwives. They did not yet fear God. They did not yet regard Him as superior to Pharaoh. In fact, their history is full of idolatry as they constantly turn away from worshiping the true God. Thankfully, God is patient, and He will soon bring all of His promises made to Abraham to fulfillment.
In the mean time, He has delivered a people from sin by sending His Son, born of the seed of Abraham, to die on a cross. In His death, Jesus, the Son of God, paid the full penalty of sin on behalf of those who believe in Him so that they may have everlasting life. They will rule with Him in the Kingdom when it is finally realized, and the people of Israel are securely in the land with Jesus reigning over them as King and dispensing blessing unto the whole world. Repent and believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior from sins, who will come to judge the world for its sin. Trust in Him, and you will gain eternal life with Him.
Imitate the faith and obedience of these two midwives who feared God rather than Pharaoh. Keep your focus on God who rules over all, standing firm on the truth that no one can overcome His will. Though Satan throws himself against the church with all his might, he will never overcome it. The harder he tries to destroy the church, the greater the church flourishes.