The book of Exodus is the book of redemption. It is God’s picture book to show how he is going to save the world. God has sent Joseph into Egypt through the evil of his brothers so that he would be in a position to rescue his family when the famine struck. Seventy people in all from the family of Jacob came to Egypt. But that generation has died (Exodus 1:6). God had made a promise about blessings and deliverance in Genesis. In Genesis 46:4 God promised Jacob, “I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” (Genesis 46:4 ESV) God said he will go with them to Egypt and bring them out of Egypt again.
Now listen to the words of Exodus 1:7, after recording the sons of Israel in Exodus 1:1-6 in the same order as Genesis 35:23-26. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. (Exodus 1:7 ESV)
Here is what God said to Abraham:
I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:17–18 ESV)
Here is what God said to Isaac:
I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” (Genesis 26:4–5 ESV)
Here is what God said to Jacob:
And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 35:11–12 ESV)
Promise Threatened (1:7-14)
God is fulfilling his promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The people of Israel are becoming a great nation. The point is that God is blessing and keeping his promise. However, God’s blessing becomes a problem in verses 8-10. The new ruler over Egypt (notice he remains nameless throughout the account in Exodus) sees the Israelite people as a threat. They are “too many and too mighty.” The fear is that with their numbers and strength they will join other enemies and fight against Egypt (1:10).
What we are to see is that the ruler of Egypt has now set himself against the purposes of God. God’s purpose was the bless the Israelite people so that they would be fruitful and multiply. Further, God’s promise was that these people would return to Canaan, the land God would give them. Notice this Pharaoh wants to prevent them from multiplying (1:10) and prevent them from escaping the land (1:10). So we have a collision of wills of the King of Heaven and Earth and the King of Egypt. So Pharaoh intends to wear out the Israelites. He sets taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. But notice his failure: “The more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad” (1:12). Even in the face of affliction, God is continuing to bless his people. But Pharaoh did not relent. “So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service” (1:13). “In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves” (1:14). Pharaoh’s first plan to stop the promises of God fails. None of this was outside the foreknowledge of God. Listen to what God had told Abraham when he made the promise concerning his offspring:
Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.” (Genesis 15:13–14 ESV)
So this suffering is within the plan and purpose of God. God is blessing his people despite their suffering for he knows what he is going to do. Even our sufferings work together for God’s salvation purposes.
Kill The Hebrew Boys (1:15-21)
But Pharaoh is not done resisting God’s plan. He now orders the Hebrew midwives to kill the boys at the birthing stool. The point is to make it look like an accident. The woman cannot see what is going on in the birth. As the child is birthed, if the child was boy, the midwife was to kill the child likely by suffocation, making it appear as if the child died in birth. But listen to verse 17:
But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. (Exodus 1:17 ESV)
Here is one of the earliest example of doing what the apostles would later say, “We must obey God rather than men.” These midwives, at great risk to their own lives and welfare, feared God and did not do what the Pharaoh commanded. When he demands an answer as to why there are boys still being born to the people of Israel, they make an excuse that the children are already born before they can get there to do something to the boys. These midwives act with courage and disobey the command of the king. For doing so, God dealt well with the midwives. God blessed these midwives with families (1:21). But notice the greater message again: “And the people multiplied and grew very strong” (1:20). God is continuing to bless his people and keep his promise even though the king of Egypt is attempting to thwart God’s plan. We are seeing an example of Psalm 2 in this historical account.
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. (Psalm 2:1–4 ESV)
Kill The Hebrew Boys Again (1:22)
Yet again Pharaoh is not done resisting God’s plan. Now he commands all the Egyptians to take every son that is born to the Israelites and throw them in the river. It is not just Pharaoh who is accountable for trying to kill the Israelites boys. Now the whole nation is under judgment because they are going to be throwing the boys into the river.
Typology of Christ
We noted in our first lesson the Exodus event is God’s picture book of redemption and deliverance. When we read this book, we learning about what God would do later through Christ and for his people. As we study this book we are going to continue to have this lens as we study it. Let us look at how we see Christ in these events. The Gospel of Matthew gives us two fulfillments of the picture given in Exodus 1. Turn to Matthew 2:13-21.
The first fulfillment is regarding Herod. In Matthew 2:16 we read that Herod gave a decree that all the male children who were two years old and under in the region including the town of Bethlehem were to be killed. The introduction to the life of Jesus is that we see a ruler trying to kill all the infant boys in the land. The introduction to the life of Moses is that we see a ruler trying to kill all the infant boys in the land.
The second fulfillment is regarding Egypt. In Matthew 2:13-15 we see the Lord telling Joseph to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt. Now think about all the different places they could have fled to. They could have gone north from Galilee since Galilee was where they were from. But they were to flee to Egypt. Why does God want them to be in Egypt? Remember that Christ represents Israel. Jesus is the true vine, the true Israel because physical Israel failed. We see Isaiah prophesy about a restored Israel that will occur through the Christ. What happens in Genesis but God sends Israel and his family to Egypt. What happens in the first century but God sends Israel and his family to Egypt. Then God will bring Israel out of Egypt in the Exodus. Matthew makes this point also in Matthew 2:15,
This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:15 ESV)
It is a time of darkness where God’s promises appear to be threatened. But God is faithful and he delivers, both during the Exodus and now with the arrival of the Savior of the world, Jesus.
Typology in the Church
There is one more typology that we are to see and that is with us, the people of God. Did you notice the picture of Exodus 1? Every time the people are afflicted, they only multiply and spread all the more. Turn to Acts 8 and see this picture repeat.
And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:1–4 ESV)
The picture of the book of Acts is that the disciples are multiplying even though the Jewish authorities persecute his people and attempt to stop its growth. The Sanhedrin repeatedly tries to stop the growth of Jesus’ disciples. I have mentioned before that we live in an unusual time in world history where God’s people are enjoying peace. But we must not be lulled into thinking that this is normal or the way it will continue to be. The consistent picture of the scriptures is that God’s people are afflicted, yet they multiply and spread, continuing to be blessed by God. God’s blessing does not mean the absence of suffering. Rather, God allows suffering and affliction and accomplishes his purposes through it. Exodus is our story. God knows our affliction. But we must respond by continuing to proclaim the word of Jesus. We have saved with a purpose. We have been saved from slavery to sin to worship God and draw others to God. This is what it means to be God’s people. When afflicted and oppressed, we keep growing and spreading the kingdom of God.