The Rise of Israel: As I hinted last time, It appears that the book of Exodus was not originally separated from Genesis. It is clearly a sequel and continues on from the end of Genesis. “These are the names … ”So we move straight from the death of Joseph to a listing of those who first entered into Egypt.
I don’t intend to spend much time on technical arguments and issues that aren’t significant. I’ll just note that this passage tells us that seventy individuals entered Egypt. Elsewhere, different counts are given, but this is an issue of who are included in any given count, and what is the purpose of that count.
The seventy include Jacob’s children and grand children. These are the individuals who came down to Egypt under Joseph’s direction. They relocated in order to survive a major famine which had hit their area of Canaan, though as we know, it encompassed most of the area, including Egypt. Through Joseph’s preparations the family, as well as the people of Egypt, were able to survived the famine. The people and the ruler of Egypt had much to be grateful to Joseph for - and though most probably didn’t realize it - his God.
As the scene opens, all those who originally came from Canaan had died. Some 350 years have passed. God has greatly blessed the Jacob’s descendants. They have grown into a mighty people, great in numbers. By the time of the opening of Exodus, the Hebrew people are somewhere in the neighborhood of two million individuals.
A New King Over Israel:
So now let’s go back in time to Egypt. Things had changed in Egypt. The country had a new king, one who didn’t know Joseph. Whether this means Joseph had been actually forgotten, or simply relegated to stories of the past, isn’t clear. But enough time had gone by, that the benefits the country had incurred under Joseph no longer carried any weight.
This change in leaders had caused a shift in policy, for an additional reason. During the time of Joseph, the Pharaoh was from the Hyksos Dynasty. That king was of the Asiatic peoples who invaded Egypt. Though they adopted Egyptian culture, they were not Egyptians. This is why they accepted and appreciated Joseph as an ally in a land where their rule was resented.
But Amosis I (1580-1559 BC) defeated the Hyksos, and it was this man who was the grandfather of Thutmose I. The pharaoh may also have been either Amenhotep I (1545-1526 BC) or even Thutmose I (1526-1512 BC). No one can say for sure who this man was. In any case, as a race, the Hebrews had always been disliked by the Egyptians.
“… Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians.” (Genesis 43:32)
Now the Hebrews were seen as potential allies of any Asiatic peoples who might desire to come in and retake Egypt.
Keeping all this in mind, we hear Pharaoh express fear over both the number and strength of the People of Israel. While he wanted to use them as slaves, he didn’t want them to become a threat. Now whether this was a real danger, or simply Pharaoh’s paranoia isn’t clear. What is clear is the king was afraid, and he intended to do something about national security.
Principle: Within these first two sections is a principal we find through Scripture. It is: God's word is reliable. Back in Genesis 12:2-3 we saw God’s promise to make a great nation of Abraham’s seed.
“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”
Here in verses 9-10 we see the people have become numerous. We will look at the second half of this promise later in the study.
Second, God promised Abraham his seed would face great oppression in a land that was not their own.
“Then the LORD said to him, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions’” (Genesis 15:13-14).
Again, we will see this promise fulfilled, as we go a little further into the book. The point here is we can have absolute confidence in the Lord in our own lives, because we can see that all through history, God has always kept His word, and therefore He always will. That being the case, why do we live as if we doubt it? He promises:
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempt- ed, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Yet we often live as if the Lord has made a mistake, practical atheism. “We cannot endure this! Why doesn't the Lord do something?” The problem is, instead of using the way out He provides, we operate in our own strength. Then we wonder why things go so badly. Can you think of any examples of this in your own life, or that you have observed?
So here we see the rise of the Hebrew people - and simultaneously the rise of anti-Semitism. While it is called “fear of their numbers,” it is really hatred of their race.
One more point must be made. It is in verses 9-10, that the Pharaoh declared war against God. While later God will harden the king’s heart, here Pharaoh chose his own direction against the Hebrew people, against God. All that follows is a result of his choice. And this issue isn’t whether he realized what he’d done; he did it.