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Bible Commentaries

Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 1

Verses 1-22



The first five verses of Exodus indicate its continuity with the book of Genesis, for they confirm what is written in more detail in Genesis 46:8-27. This small number of 70 persons, however, rather than integrating with the Egyptian nation, which would be normally expected, maintained an identity totally distinct from them. Since that time too, even though Israel has been scattered for centuries among other nations, God has preserved a clear distinction between them and all Gentile nations, even giving their land back in 1948. After the death of Joseph and all his generation, the number of Jacob's descendants multiplied tremendously, so that "the land was filled with them" (v.7).



Joseph's influence in Egypt was forgotten after his death, and with the rise of a new king Israel could only expect to be discriminated against. The king perceived that the Israelites were becoming more numerous and strong than the Egyptians, and was alarmed that if ever war took place, Israel might become allies of their enemies (vs.9-10). He did not want them to leave Egypt, for their presence had actually made Egypt prosperous.

Therefore, his proposal was to reduce all Israelites to the status of slaves, putting them under slave-drivers to keep them continually under pressure of work so they could have no opportunity to organize and no strength to resist. They were forced to build two store cities, which were cities of provision for Pharaoh's troops, and in this way they were continuing to forge the chains of their bondage (v.11).

However, God's wisdom and power are infinitely greater than all the scheming artifice of the world. He used the affliction in such a way as to make Israel multiply greatly in number, which caused vexation and alarm among the Egyptians (v.12). they could imagine no other answer to this than to increase the rigor of Israel's bondage. As to the three areas of labor mentioned in verse 14, "mortar" would speak of their being made to work in order to help Egypt's unity, for it is mortar that unites. The "brick" speaks of Egypt's progress; and "all manner of service," of Egypt's prosperity. The world is determined to have believers bow to its authority for the sake of its own selfish ends.

In all the afflictions of Israel God was working in sovereign power and wisdom to make Israel a striking object lesson for all mankind. For Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is the picture of sin personified, and Egypt a type of the world in its willingly serving sin (John 8:34). But there are others, typified by Israel, in whom God is working, who find themselves helpless to resist the state of bondage into which sin has brought them. God in His wisdom allows the affliction to increase to such a point that the people virtually cry out in distress for deliverance.

The king then conceived the wicked plan of demanding that Hebrew midwives must kill every boy at the time of birth and keep the girls alive (vs.15-16). But the midwives, because their fear of God was greater than their fear of the king, did not obey the king's cruel commandment (v.17).

The king called the midwives to account for this disobedience, for which they have a good answer to the effect that Hebrew children were already born before the parents called a midwife: therefore the mother knew the child was alive. (vs.18-19).

Because of the faith of the midwives in thus putting the fear of God first, God further increased the population of Israel by providing households for the midwives (v.21), that is, giving them children.

Frustrated in his efforts, the king of Egypt takes more drastic action, commanding all his people (the Egyptians) that they should interfere in the Hebrews' households, to throw into the river every Hebrew boy who was born, allowing the girls to live. This reminds us of Herod's decree that all the boys under two years of age in the area of Bethlehem were to be put to death (Matthew 2:16). Satanic hatred was behind this in both cases, working by means of men's jealous lust for power and authority, but neither succeeded in destroying the child that God had destined as Israel's deliverer.

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Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Exodus 1". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.