In our last post, it was established that the children of Israel had greatly multiplied in numbers. We also learned that their behavior was not like that of Joseph. He became second in command of all of Egypt yet faithfully worshiped and honored God.
“Now there arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, ‘Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and fight against us and go up out of the land.’”
Why would Pharaoh be worried about the Israelites? As we saw in verse six, their numbers had significantly multiplied, as the blessings of God had been poured out upon them as had been prophesied to Abraham. Joseph was known throughout Egypt as a man that followed and worshiped the God of heaven. But as the book of Genesis states, his brothers were not always good men. They had pretty much worn out their welcome in Palestine before they moved to Egypt.
These same evil tendencies came out in their children and their children’s children on down to what see in Exodus chapter 1. By in large, they were no longer a God-loving people. They began to absorb some of the idols and practices of the Egyptians. Their character became less and less honorable. They fought and quarreled with each other and with the Egyptians.
Fear arose in the heart of Pharoah. Fear that if war broke out, instead of the Israelites siding with them, they would side with their enemies. The Egyptians wanted to hold their power over the Israelites, do as all nations do; they began to oppress the Israelites.
I often use the term Christian to describe the Israelite nation before Christ was born. Why? Why would I use Christian to portray Israel as a nation and as individuals before Christ was born? The call of Abraham, seen in Genesis 12:1-3, is fascinating. The first 11 chapters describe the creation, then the fall of humanity by distrusting God. Believing the serpent’s lie that God was withholding something from them, thus causing the first woman to distrust God. Then we see humanity going deeper into sin when Cain kills his brother Able. Finally, the heart of humanity was so bent toward evil that God had to step back. He stepped back and honored the desire of humankind. They desired to live life without God which resulted in people thinking we do this on our own. As a result, God withdraws his presence, and creation is undone in the flood comes. Then comes the tower of Babel story. The languages of humanity were changed, and the people were forced to disperse across the face of the earth.
The call of Abraham was a call to put together that which had been dispersed by the flood and the events at the tower of Babel. The promise is given in Genesis 3:15 in that a Seed of the woman (descendant of the first woman) would be promised Messiah or Saviour of the world. The call of Abraham was to create a people that would reflect God’s character and bring God’s message to the world of who God is. Reveal God’s character to the world. Abraham and his descendants were to be a blessing to the world, and through them, the ultimate blessing would be born in the Messiah.
But when Exodus opens in chapter 1, the children of Israel are not representative of God, as Joseph had been. There was little difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians. Consequently, Pharoah looked over the Israelites and said, “We have a problem. These people are mighty in numbers and strength. If they chose to fight against us and for our enemies, we could be defeated. Therefore, let’s get the upper hand by oppressing them, making them slaves to do our work for us.
The problem didn’t go away with this action by Pharaoh. The Israelites continued to grow in numbers. So Pharoah twice gives orders to have all the male children from this point forward who are born will be killed. We see this in Exodus 1:15-16 and verse 22.
Despite Israel’s actions, God continued to bless them. As the passage states in Exodus 1:19-21. And the midwives said to Pharoah, “because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women: for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.” Therefore, God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty. And so, it was because the midwives feared God, that He provided households for them.
The passage is trying to let us know that there was little difference between them and the Egyptians regarding behavior and religious practices. Yet, some continued to worship and honored the true God of Israel. A God who called Israel to be His special people (Christians) to show the world who God is.