Hebrews 11:23 Exodus 1:8-2:10
Civilizations and cultures are dynamic sorts of things – they are usually advancing or declining but not often stagnant. Translation: change is constant; often it is barely discernable, but it is there nonetheless. What we usually notice are the big changes, particularly the paradigm shifts that represent a change in our way of thinking or looking at the world in which we live.
Quite often those shifts occur when there is a change of leadership – election of new officers, inauguration of a new president, accession to the throne of a new dynasty. In general, the peaceful means of change to which we are most accustomed. Much of the period covered inExodus 1:6-7was peaceful in Egypt; as time passed, though, that changed – power struggles between factions, invasion by Canaanite shepherd-kings, finally the rise of the New Kingdom or the Egyptian Empire.
It was during this period of political and cultural upheaval that our story begins with a new Pharaoh rising to power, one who was unfamiliar with the great Hebrew statesman of a previous generation, Joseph. There are three elements of note in the account: the ruler and his policies, the response of those around him, and the rule of faith. First the ruler, Pharaoh, and his policies.
Pharaoh may not have known Joseph but he did know some about the “children of Israel” – he knew there were a lot of them, they were everywhere, and if they were so inclined, could represent a significant threat to his plans for the future. Now he had a problem – how to deal with danger in a way that minimized rather than encouraged it.
instructed his ministers of state v. 9-11
could most easily be “controlled” by Pharaoh
long-term policy – required years of persistent plodding
gradually take away freedoms, increase demands
do so in such a way that Israelites don’t catch on
do whatever it takes by way of oppression so as to reduce threat by strength and number
enlisted aid of midwives v. 15-17
tried to play the gender card
selective infanticide – keep the girls, kill the boys
if we can’t oppress them into submission, perhaps we can seduce or assimilate them
roused the general populace v. 22
follow the example of the taskmasters
make this a religious experience – sacrifice to the god of the Nile
get as many as possible involved in the heinous plot to eliminate Jewish threat
At every turn, Pharaoh was frustrated in his attempt to gain the advantage over God’s chosen people. Oppression didn’t work, infanticide didn’t happen, religious sacrifice didn’t help either. No matter what Pharaoh did, the effect was the exact opposite of what he intended.
“They treated them in a fraudulent manner, they reduced them to bondage by their exactions, they secretly concerted the destruction of their male children, and at length openly ordained that cruel measure, and all with the view of checking their increase, lest in time of war they should side with invaders in order to obtain their liberty. Surely the depths of Satanic policy were here reached, but vain was the cunning of man against the chosen seed.”Spurgeon, Treasury of David
Here again just as in the life of Joseph, what man intended for evil God used for good. All of the dire circumstances Pharaoh manufactured – harsh treatment, slavery, oppression, murder – God used to strengthen the children of Israel. God was sovereignly setting the stage for fulfilling the promise he had made centuries earlier to Abraham, the promise to judge the Egyptians and deliver the Jews. In so doing God plainly demonstrated that He was in charge on both sides of the cross-cultural exchange happening in Egypt.
Princes vv. 13-14
enemies of God’s people, sought to please Pharaoh
were just as frustrated by the results of oppression and ruthless treatment so turned up the heat
was God’s blessing his people that hardened the hearts of the Egyptians – the same sun that melted wax hardened bricks
hardship necessary to encourage Israelites to leave Egypt; even after they left, they wanted to go back –Ex. 17:3“Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” The good report of the spies wasn’t enough to encourage them to enter Canaan – Num. 13:26ff If, when they were on the doorstep of the Promised Land, they could not be encouraged to take what God had promised, they never would have left Egypt had they not been compelled to do so.
Midwives vv. 17-21
basically passive-aggressive: outwardly agreeable in Pharaoh’s presence, ignored his instructions on the job
did what was right even though Pharaoh had commanded otherwise
refused to sin against God by committing murder
midwives also were blessed by God for their proper moral behavior (although not for their deception)
Mother & Sister vv. 2:2-4
mom (Jochebed) continued to do what God had commanded at the beginning –Gen. 1:28
infanticide policy likely instituted (3 yr. period) between time of Aaron’s birth and that of Moses
both risked consequences by doing what was right
mom and dad are credited as being motivated by faith in God and his promise of deliverance
Princess vv. 5-10
Newsweek reporter Sarah Kliff; covered abortions for 2 years; well-versed in policy, but had never witnessed an abortion. Reaction surprised her – no physical discomfort to her, wasn’t prepared for emotional discomfort. “But my experience (among an admittedly small, largely pro-choice sample set) found a general discomfort when confronted with abortion as a physical reality, not a political idea.” (08/15/09, http://www.newsweek.com/id/212117/output/print)
Sounds like Pharaoh’s daughter, doesn’t it! Seeing the baby in the basket, the princess was confronted with the physical reality of her father’s policy. The baby, the river, the edict, the witnesses – what would she do? She did what anyone created in the image of God and not having a seared conscience would do – respect life and God’s image present on that life. A good opportunity for us to remember that even those who are far from the true God still do what is right much of the time.
A tangible reminder of Pharaoh’s evil policy had come to his very household in the shape of the young (age 2-3) Moses. How could he now continue to uphold his edict, having a Hebrew child as part of his own family?
C. Ruleof faith
Midwivesandfamily of Moses had:
trusted in the true God
had not succumbed to idolatry
consequently did not look to the king as the one responsible to meet their needs
feared God rather than the king
understood who the higher authority was
knew that obeying God meant obeying the kingunlessthat required them to break God’s law
were subject to the king to the greatest extent possible
disobeyed the king when God’s law required
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.Acts 5:27-29
knew the difference
“As much as it depends on [us], live peaceably with all men”Rom. 12:18doing “allto the glory of God”1 Cor. 10:31
Pray for wisdom to know when God’s law requires us to disobey the king’s edict, discerning between what we think are our rights and what is right in God’s sight.
Pray that our brothers and sisters around the world will have wisdom and courage to do the same.
Follow the rule of faith, courageously fighting the good fight in the cause of Christ.