Exodus 1:1-4 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher.
The book of Exodus was written by Moses for the people of God around 1445 BC. It tells the story of how God delivered his people from Egyptian slavery, and made a covenant with them, including laws to govern them.
Israel was just a large family when it first went down to Egypt. But over the next four hundred years they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them (Exodus 1:7). Pharaoh felt threatened by their dramatic increase, so he turned the Israelites into slaves. Exodus tells the story of their deliverance from Egypt, and the beginning of their journey to the Promised Land.
Exodus 1:15-16 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.
This would reduce the number of Israelites and the risk of insurrection. Disobeying Pharaoh’s command could be deadly, but the midwives feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do (Exodus 1:17).
Shiphrah and Puah are an example of what Jesus taught many years later. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. . . . Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell (Luke 12:4-5). Disobeying Pharaoh could be fatal, but disobeying God could be even worse. The fear of God delivers us from the fear of powerful people.
We should also notice that the midwives are mentioned by name, but the Pharaoh is not. Most people would have known the Pharaoh’s name, but not the midwives’ names. Now we know the midwives’ names (Shiphrah and Puah) but not the Pharaoh’s name. The wicked will soon be forgotten, but the righteous will be known forever.
Exodus 2:1-2 Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son.
This begins the story of Moses, the man of God (Deuteronomy 33:1). The midwives refused to kill the boys at birth, but Pharaoh’s decree was still in place, so every Israelite boy was at risk. Moses’ parents may have prayed for a girl, and been disappointed when they had a boy. They could not bring themselves to part with their child at once, however, so they hid him for three months (Exodus 2:2). When he could no longer be concealed, they put him in a box, and placed it in the Nile River. When Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe, she saw the box and the baby inside. Her maternal instincts were instantly aroused.
Moses’ sister watched all this and said to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you? (Exodus 2:7). Pharaoh’s daughter agreed, and actually paid Moses’ mother to nurse her own son. This probably went on for years, until Moses’ mother brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and Moses became her son (Exodus 2:10).
God had a special plan for Moses, and watched over his life to be sure everything went according to plan. Moses was so important to God’s plan that nothing was left to chance. Remarkably, this is also true for all who believe in Jesus Christ.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:11), wrote Paul. Our lives do not always make sense to us, but one day we will see that everything went according to God’s plan—for our good and for his glory.
Growing up an Egyptian prince, Moses enjoyed every advantage, including the best education (Acts 7:22). His academic training equipped him to write Scripture. His leadership training equipped him to lead the nation of Israel. And his military training equipped him to fight the Lord’s battles (Numbers 21). Moses did not know it at the time, but God was preparing him for future service.
Then one day, Moses had an awakening. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt (Hebrews 11:26), says Hebrews.
Moses could have enjoyed a wonderful life if he had just settled down in Egypt. But all the treasures of Egypt were not enough for him. They appeared to be everything a man could want, but they could not satisfy Moses’ deepest need. God alone could meet that need, and all the treasures of Egypt were nothing by comparison. So Moses gave up Egypt in order to have God.
In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples (Luke 14:33), said Jesus. For many people, this seems like an exorbitant price. But what is the world, and everything in it, compared to Jesus Christ? He is the one for whom we were made, and he will give us everything else (Romans 8:32). Moses saw that the best of Egypt was only temporary, so he threw it all away, because he was looking ahead to his reward (Hebrews 11:26), says Hebrews. The best of everything cannot make us happy if it only lasts for a lifetime.
Reflection and Review
Does God want us to be afraid of him?
How did God prepare Moses to lead Israel?
Why did Moses choose God instead of Egypt?