And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour. — Exodus 1:14
The circumstances of Ruth Harshner’s life were bitter. Her husband was an alcoholic, and they lived with their five small children in a two-car garage with no running water or inside plumbing. All their water had to be carried from the neighbor’s house. Night after night, Ruth’s husband came home drunk. He had several guns, and one night he took one out into the front yard and shot it randomly up into the air. He did not know that their son was hiding in a tree right above him. Miraculously, God protected the child. Through all these difficult situations, Ruth chose to lean on the Lord. Time after time, God gave her strength, provided for her needs, and answered her prayers.
In our text today, the lives of the Hebrew people generated much bitterness. However, we can read the account of one couple who chose to trust God despite the circumstances. What emotions Jochebed must have felt as she hid her baby, Moses, in the bulrushes of the river! Even though she could not see the big picture of God’s plan for deliverance, she trusted God day by day for direction. She could have harbored resentment as she observed the Egyptian oppression of her family, her neighbors, and her people. She could have focused on the unfairness of the prejudice against them. She could have given in to despair and resigned herself to Pharaoh’s edict. She had the opportunity to allow depression to overwhelm her. She most certainly must have felt some fear; yet, she chose to put her trust in God.
This little infant’s life was spared in a most unusual way through the faith of his mother. God’s amazing plan was to use the daughter of the very designer of the evil plot of destruction to protect the life of Moses. God intervened again to prepare Moses’ heart to love and trust Him; Moses’ own mother was chosen to nurse him and, more importantly, to train him in the impressionable early years of his life. Later, God used the finest of the Egyptian schools to educate him.
It is not likely that we can see the big picture of our lives right now. However, our duty is to choose to daily trust in the Almighty and to respond to difficulties and suffering with God-given grace. God will carry us through whatever circumstances come our way. We can ask Him to open our eyes to signs of hope. He may be orchestrating events at this very moment to allow His deliverance to unfold!
This portion of text relates how Jacob’s family multiplied in Egypt until a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph came into power. He forced the Israelites into slavery, and declared that their male children were to be killed. It also describes the birth and miraculous preservation of Moses.
The first seven verses of the text tie the Book of Exodus to the Book of Genesis. The number seventy referred to Jacob’s direct descendants and would not have included their servants. They were a group small in number, but God greatly multiplied them as He had promised.
Scholars hold various opinions regarding who the Pharaohs were at this time. Many believe that the new king mentioned in verse 8 was a ruler from a different dynasty. It is possible that the rulers at the time of Joseph were foreigners, and when they were overthrown, the new leadership had strong dislike for those who were not native Egyptians. Whatever the case, the new Pharaoh had no regard for the important role Joseph had played in the preservation of Egypt.
Since Goshen was located in the Nile delta area in the northern part of Egypt, Pharaoh felt the Israelites could easily become allied with Egypt’s enemies. Therefore, he oppressed them and forced them into slavery. While scholars disagree regarding precise city locations and names, structures built during that time have survived to the present, providing evidence that the Hebrew people participated in many Egyptian construction projects.
The two midwives who were instructed to kill the male babies (verses 15-21) were likely the leaders of groups of midwives. The “stools” were seats or stones where women giving birth knelt or sat during the delivery. God blessed the midwives because they disobeyed the king out of respect and fear for God. In a further effort to control the multiplication of the Hebrews, Pharaoh commanded that the male children be killed by throwing them into the river (verse 22).
One courageous family ignored Pharaoh’s edict and hid their baby. The ark made by Moses’ mother was constructed from papyrus, a reed that grew on the edges of the Nile River. These reeds, which had a triangular stalk and at times reached sixteen feet in height, were used for making boats. The small basket would have blended in well when it was placed among the reeds along the riverbank. Moses was found and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. In time, he was given an education suitable for a prince. In the Egyptian language, the name Moses means “born,” or “son,” and sounds like a Hebrew word that means “to draw out” (of the water).
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. The oppression of Israel in Egypt
A. The bondage of Israel (1:1-22)
1. The cause of bondage (1:1-7)
2. The treatment within bondage (1:8-22)
a. Slavery (1:8-14)
b. Extinction of male children (1:15-22)
B. The deliverer for Israel
1. Moses in Egypt
a. His birth and concealment (2:1-4)
b. His rescue and early years (2:5-10)
Regardless of the challenges we face today, we can be assured of God’s control and that He can use our circumstances for His glory and purpose.