Exodus 1

Israel Oppressed in Egypt

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; each came with his family:
2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah;
3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin;
4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher.
5 The total number of Jacob's descendants[a] was 70;[b] Joseph was already in Egypt.
6 Then Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died.
7 But the Israelites were fruitful, increased rapidly,[c] multiplied, and became extremely numerous so that the land was filled with them.
8 A new king, who had not known Joseph, came to power in Egypt.
9 He said to his people, "Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and powerful than we are.
10 Let us deal shrewdly with them; otherwise they will multiply [further], and if war breaks out, they may join our enemies, fight against us, and leave the country."
11 So the Egyptians assigned taskmasters over the Israelites to oppress them with forced labor. They built Pithom and Rameses[d] as supply cities for Pharaoh.
12 But the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied and spread so that the Egyptians came to dread[e] the Israelites.
13 They worked the Israelites ruthlessly
14 and made their lives bitter with difficult labor in brick and mortar, and in all kinds of fieldwork. They ruthlessly imposed all this work on them.
15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah,
16 "When you help the Hebrew women give birth, observe them as they deliver.[f] If the child is a son, kill him, but if it's a daughter, she may live."
17 The Hebrew midwives, however, feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt had told them; they let the boys live.
18 So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, "Why have you done this and let the boys live?"
19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, "The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before a midwife can get to them."
20 So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied and became very numerous.
21 Since the midwives feared God, He gave them families.
22 Pharaoh then commanded all his people: "You must throw every son born to the Hebrews[g] into the Nile, but let every daughter live."

Exodus 1 Commentary

Chapter 1

The Book of Exodus relates the forming of the children of Israel into a church and a nation. We have hitherto seen true religion shown in domestic life, now, we begin to trace its effects upon the concerns of kingdoms and nations. Exodus signifies "the departure;" the chief event therein recorded is the departure of Israel from Egypt and Egyptian bondage; it plainly points out the fulfilling of several promises and prophecies to Abraham respecting his seed, and shadows forth the state of the church, in the wilderness of this world, until her arrival at the heavenly Canaan, an eternal rest.

The children of Israel increase in Egypt after the death of Joseph. (8-14) They are oppressed, but multiply exceedingly. (1-7) The men-children destroyed. (15-22)

Verses 1-7 During more than 200 years, while Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived at liberty, the Hebrews increased slowly; only about seventy persons went down into Egypt. There, in about the same number of years, though under cruel bondage, they became a large nation. This wonderful increase was according to the promise long before made unto the fathers. Though the performance of God's promises is sometimes slow, it is always sure.

Verses 8-14 The land of Egypt became to Israel a house of bondage. The place where we have been happy, may soon become the place of our affliction; and that may prove the greatest cross to us, of which we said, This same shall comfort us. Cease from man, and say not of any place on this side heaven, This is my rest. All that knew Joseph, loved him, and were kind to his brethren for his sake; but the best and most useful services a man does to others, are soon forgotten after his death. Our great care should be, to serve God, and to please him who is not unrighteous, whatever men are, to forget our work and labour of love. The offence of Israel is, that he prospers. There is no sight more hateful to a wicked man than the prosperity of the righteous. The Egyptians feared lest the children of Israel should join their enemies, and get them up out of the land. Wickedness is ever cowardly and unjust; it makes a man fear, where no fear is, and flee, when no one pursues him. And human wisdom often is foolishness, and very sinful. God's people had task-masters set over them, not only to burden them, but to afflict them with their burdens. They not only made them serve for Pharaoh's profit, but so that their lives became bitter. The Israelites wonderfully increased. Christianity spread most when it was persecuted: the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. They that take counsel against the Lord and his Israel, do but imagine a vain thing, and create greater vexation to themselves.

Verses 15-22 The Egyptians tried to destroy Israel by the murder of their children. The enmity that is in the seed of the serpent, against the Seed of the woman, makes men forget all pity. It is plain that the Hebrews were now under an uncommon blessing. And we see that the services done for God's Israel are often repaid in kind. Pharaoh gave orders to drown all the male children of the Hebrews. The enemy who, by Pharaoh, attempted to destroy the church in this its infant state, is busy to stifle the rise of serious reflections in the heart of man. Let those who would escape, be afraid of sinning, and cry directly and fervently to the Lord for assistance.

Footnotes 7

  • [a]. Lit of people issuing from Jacob's loins
  • [b]. LXX, DSS read 75; Gn 46:27; Ac 7:14
  • [c]. Gn 9:7
  • [d]. Ex 12:37; Gn 47:11; Nm 33:3,5
  • [e]. Or Egyptians loathed
  • [f]. Lit birth, look at the stones
  • [g]. Sam, LXX, Tg; MT omits to the Hebrews

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO EXODUS

This book is called by the Jews Veelleh Shemoth, from the first words with which it begins, and sometimes Sepher Shemoth, and sometimes only Shemoth. It is by the Septuagint called Exodus, from whom we have the name of Exodus, which signifies "a going out"; see Lu 9:31, Heb 11:22, because it treats of the going of the children of Israel out of Egypt; and hence in the Alexandrian copy it is called the Exodus of Egypt; and so the Syriac version entitles it the second book of the law, called "the going out"; and to the same purpose the Arabic version. The Jews sometimes give it the name of Nezikin, as Buxtorf {a} observes out of the Masora on Ge 24:8 because in it some account is given of losses, and the restitution of them. That this book is of divine inspiration, and to be reckoned in the canon of the sacred writings, is sufficiently evident to all that believe the New Testament; since there are so many quotations out of it there by Christ, and his apostles; particularly see Mr 12:26 and that it was wrote by Moses is not to be doubted, but when is not certain; it must be after the setting up of the tabernacle in the wilderness; the greatest part of what is contained in it, he was an eye and ear witness of; it plainly points out the accomplishment of the promises and prophecies delivered to Abraham, that his posterity would be very numerous, that they would be afflicted in a land not theirs, and in the fourth generation come out of it with great substance. It treats of the afflictions of the Israelites in Egypt, after the death of Joseph, until their deliverance by Moses; of his birth, calling, and mission to Pharaoh, to demand of him to let the children of Israel go; of the ten plagues upon him and his people, for refusing to dismiss them; of the departure of Israel from Egypt, and the institution of the passover on that account; of their passage through the Red sea into the wilderness, and of the various exercises and afflictions, supplies and supports they met with there; of the giving of a body of laws unto them, moral, ceremonial, and judicial; and of the building of the tabernacle, and all things appertaining to it; and throughout the whole, as there is a figure and representation of the passage of the people of God out of spiritual Egypt, through the wilderness of this world, to the heavenly Canaan, and of various things they must meet with in their passage, so there are many types of Christ, his person, office, and grace, and of his church, his word, and ordinances, which are very edifying and instructing. The book contains a history of about one hundred and forty years, from the death of Joseph, to the erection of the tabernacle.

{a} Lexic. Talmud. col. 1325.

\\INTRODUCTION TO EXODUS 1\\

This chapter begins with an account of the names and number of the children of Israel that came into Egypt with Jacob, Ex 1:1-5 and relates that increase of them after the death of Joseph, and the generation that went down to Egypt, Ex 1:6-8 and what methods the Egyptians took to diminish them, but to no purpose, as by obliging to cruel bondage and hard service; and yet the more they were afflicted, the more they increased, Ex 1:9-14 by ordering the midwives of the Hebrew women to slay every son they laid them of; but they fearing God, did not obey the order of the king of Egypt, which when he expostulated with them about, they excused, and so the people multiplied, Ex 1:15-21 and lastly, by ordering every male child to be cast into the river, Ex 1:22 and which is the leading step to the account of the birth of Moses, which follows in the next chapter.

Exodus 1 Commentaries